I’VE SAID IT BEFORE and I’m bound to say it again, but PNG Attitude would be much the poorer without the flow of daily commentary that is sourced in its readers
As you’d expect, some readers are more prominent in offering their views but, each year, some hundreds of people take the opportunity to have their say through our Recent Comments section.
The discussion and debates that ensue often take the articles further than the author might have intended (including wandering into side tracks and even blind alleys), but they’re mostly entertaining and frequently provocative.
One of my jobs as editor is to ensure that the arguments flow freely without getting into water that is too deep legally or in terms of personal offence. Another is to find the time to clean up tortured prose that is defeating the writer’s intent to communicate a point of substance. A third is to exercise interventions from time to time, especially when I know a commenter has made a factual error.
Our Top 10 articles that triggered the most reader commentary in 2013 follow. All but one concerns a current issue of importance to Papua New Guinea, a number of them impacting upon its relationship with Australia.
1st 34 comments - Sorcery & sanguma: What Attitude experts have to say (Keith Jackson / June). When Francis Nii published an article in PNG Attitude querying whether the concept of sanguma (sorcery) might have some credence, our readers were quick to respond. It's a dilemma: if something is real to an individual, that is, if it is believed or witnessed to the point where it exercises a profound effect, is it in fact real? This article collated expert opinion on the issue.
=2nd 31 comments - To execute or not to execute, now there’s a question(Peter Kranz / May). The robust debate throughout PNG about prime minister O'Neill's proposals to enforce the death penalty resonated in PNG Attitude. A poll we conducted amongst readers was 60:40 against the new law, but attitudes within PNG seemed to be a lot tougher than this as people are sick of the horrific crimes have rocked the country.
=2nd 31 comments - Chinese businesses pose problems for PNG(Ishmael Palipal / May). With less than 10% of small to medium sized businesses in Papua New Guinea hands, Ishmael offered readers a strong polemic calling upon the government to enforce its own laws giving citizens preference in this sector. “These Chinese businesses should be removed from the country for they sell low quality goods, pay low wages to locals, operate filthy shops and send money out of the country,” wrote Ishmael.
=2nd 31 comments - PNG part of Qld? Nearly happened; would've been ugly (Phil Fitzpatrick / August) Well, it was a historical feature rather than a current hot issue that most drove our readers to the keyboard in August. “The Australian state of Queensland has got an absolutely horrific history when it comes to the treatment of its indigenous people. When the pastoralists began moving north into what was to become Queensland, they pursued practises which were designed to exterminate the Aboriginal population. They continued to do this for over 50 years.”
5th 29 comments - Theo Zurenuoc: Saviour or destroyer of cultural heritage?(Bernard Yegiora / December). Bernard valiantly, but it seems without ultimate success, attempted to weave a reconciliatory pathway between readers who looked on with anguish and even anger at the destruction of parliament’s heritage carvings and those readers who saw the carvings as ‘evil’ and the Speaker’s action as a genuine attempt to root out corruption.
6th 27 comments - Is sorcery real or just a myth? Here’s our dilemma (Francis Sina Nii / June). “All the hullabaloo and hype on sorcery in recent times has been focused on the sorcery killers,” wrote Francis. “This is fine as far as protecting the innocent is concerned. However, what hangs in limbo is the question of whether sorcery is real or just a myth.” This triggered an avalanche of debate on the veracity of the ‘dark arts’ which presaged December’s feisty encounter on the vandalisation of Parliament’s heritage carvings.
=7th 26 comments - Julia Gillard can offer PNG one big thing – visas(Keith Jackson / May). Julia Gillard’s three-day visit to Papua New Guinea could have helped resolve one of the biggest thorns in the side of the relationship with Australia – to free up visa arrangements for Papua New Guineans who want to visit Australia. While the then Australian PM offered some easing of business visas, and provided some weasel words around that, there was no authentically good news.
=7th 26 comments - What kind of ‘reformation’ does the Speaker have in mind?(Fr Giorgio Licini / December). Fr Giorgio’s attempt a calm and rational approach opposing the vandalisation of parliament’s objet d’art. "What the Speaker intends for 'Christianity' is not clear," Fr Giorgio mused. "He was raised in the Lutheran tradition, which all of us respect very much... But is it really convenient for the State to meddle in religious matters independently of the churches, and to promote a sort of Christian theocracy at the dawn of the 21st century?" It is a good question which needs much more discussion at the highest level of the PNG polity.
=7th 26 comments - Removing tambaran carvings is a stepping stone to change(Francis S Nii / December). ‘At least Speaker Theo Zurenuoc had the guts to sanction the [destruction] project,’ said Francis, who then presented a few arguments why heritage items representing the unity of the nation should be destroyed.
=10th 25 comments - The scum that they call politicians in PNG (Phil Fitzpatrick / October). “Let’s not mince words,” wrote Phil, and he didn’t as he hopped into those politician and bureaucrats in Papua New Guinea whose corruption, laziness and incompetence visit unnecessary deaths and injuries upon people. “The politicians are an international disgrace,” he said, “and the PNG parliament is one of the biggest cabals of thieves, robbers and rogues on the planet.” Well that got readers excited, and one of them – Oro Province Governor and MP Gary Juffa - weighed in wholeheartedly in support of Phil.
=10th 25 comments - Why doesn’t free education cover tertiary institutions? (Ishmael Palipal / October). Ishmael’s plea for more consideration to be given to tertiary students struggling to pay university fees sparked great debate amongst readers about whether this would represent a good use of the nation’s educational expenditure and whether it would produce the type of skills the nation needs.