South Sea Gold, a novel by Keith Dahlberg. Amazon $12.15 (paperback), Kindle $3.00, ISBN -13: 978-1484991992, CreateSpace 2013. Order from Amazon here
KEITH DAHLBERG IS QUITE A GUY. He worked for 15 years as a physician with the American Baptist Church in Myanmar and Thailand, and then 30 years in private medical practice among the miners, managers, and drifters in the silver mining district of Idaho USA.
After retiring from practice, he worked as a supply doctor (what we call a locum) in America and abroad, including in the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea and in Myanmar, and Thailand.
And better still, Keith has been assiduous in ensuring that copies of the book have been sent to institutions around PNG for readers to borrow and enjoy.
The reviews so far have been good.
Dorothy Harper writes “The author chooses a country and culture that is obscure to many, if not most, of us to demonstrate that the engine that drives advances and economic prosperity is the same everywhere (unfortunately): greed and corruption.
“This story preserves our universal hope for the elements of honesty and right to surface. A great read.”
And reviewer M Stratton says, “This third in a series has all the elements of a good mystery: embezzlement, hired assassins, crooked corporations and government officials hand in hand, exposed by intrepid reporters.
“I especially enjoyed the cultural setting of village life and villagers' way of seeing and explaining their world. Though fiction, the story vividly exposes the ecological damage of the land and the villagers' way of life.“
Two of Keith’s earlier books are in their second edition and two have been honoured by writing awards: his early novels Flame Tree and The Samana Incident, a crime story set in PNG.
Apart from writing and medicine, Keith has pursued lifelong hobbies as a traveller and mineral collector. He and his wife Lois live in Kellogg, Idaho. They have four children, and nine grandchildren.
We’re proud to offer this extract from South Sea Gold…
Editorial page banner: WHOSE GOLD IS IT? by Jonathan Sinto
Papua New Guinea has been blessed by God, in the beauty of its landscape, its mountains, islands and seas, and in the glory of its diversity of peoples, languages, and traditions.
We are gifted with food from the fertile soil and abundance in the sea, for anyone willing to labor for their family and future.
Now we find that our land is rich in hidden treasures as well. Not only forests and farms, but abundant natural gas, oil, gold and copper under the soil and sea. These are not easily harvested. To bring them up from deep under the earth or sea requires special skills.
Some of our sons and daughters have enough education to learn such skills, as young people of other countries do. But we need to continue to improve PNG's schools and universities to train more workers in mining and other industries.
There is no scarcity of foreign enterprises who would like to come here. They are eager to come, for they need more of such resources for their own markets, and at the lowest price they can persuade us to sell.
Our country is rich in gold. Many are asking, "Then why are we so poor? Does our gold and our gas belong only to those who extract it? These new-found treasures belong not to just a favored few but to all the people of this nation.
Surely those who work in mining are entitled to the fruits of their labor, and those who build a mine or a gas well are entitled to a return on their investment. But they are not entitled to carry the whole lot off to their own country free of charge.
We have no claim to the diamonds of South Africa nor to the vast grain fields of Asia or America, although we may buy some, if we choose, compensating the people of those nations for what we carry to our own country.
Just so, foreigners may buy some of our gold, gas, or oil, but they may not take it all home as a prize. We need funds from the sale of our natural resources to build our roads, construct our hospitals and schools, without the greedy first lining their pockets, be they foreigners or our own countrymen.
What is our government doing to guarantee that a fair price is paid for our resources, to provide enough money to build this nation, without allowing it to stick to the fingers of the few?
Jonathan Sinto is Local News editor of the ‘Port Moresby Journal’. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.
Reaction was mixed as usual, even at the newspaper. The editor-in-chief thought it should increase the number of subscribers. The publisher thought it would hurt advertising income. Student and faculty opinion at the University was overwhelmingly favorable.
Those churches who commented from the pulpit were almost all approving; although one or two said the paper did not give enough credit to The Almighty. And one irreverent member of the opposition in Parliament asked who was the designated almighty this month?
Sinto's editorial, reported briefly by Matt Lin in the Hong Kong Chronicle, caught the attention of a board member of the China' government's SASAC commission. The board member visited Mr. Han, the CEO of South Sea Gold's overall operations for Africa and Asia, and demanded an explanation.
The frown on his face could only be a harbinger of official censure. The exotic tea and plate of fresh tropical fruit the CEO had quickly provided did nothing to ease tension in the room.
"Bring me up to date on your PNG operations," the SASAC board member said, as he laid his teacup back on the small table by his chair. "Is there some over-arching reason for the delays in copper production in PNG? Your Owego mine seems to be having one problem after another in speeding up production, and your other copper producers there have not been able to compensate for it.
“Need I remind you of SASAC's goals for providing electricity to the homes and factories of all of China's interior provinces? Our copper stockpile is shrinking. We still need millions of kilometers of copper wire, not to mention the increasing demands of the military and other industries."
He inspected his long, clean fingernails as he waited for Mr. Han's excuses.