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13 March 2014


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Thanks, John. Well put!

The urban poor and your so-called "working class" are the worst hit by rising cost of living. They struggle to make ends meet. Income tax and ever-increasing social responsibilities are among the worst causes (personally speaking). The 'working class' live each day hoping for a better tomorrow, that is; either to have some fast cash to go repay debts and get into business or to strike a well-paid job. In an attempt to relieve oneself from economic burdens, individuals are easily tempted to "steal from public funds" or get fast-cash through colluding with officials. That's the reality of day-to-day PNG! Politics is seen as a get-rich-quick avenue. For every successful person in PNG, more than half would still have benefited form "dirty money". I know I am assuming but anyone can prove me wrong in this.

Otherwise, we are all in this deep pit of third world "living each day".

Thanks Michael.

Last line:

"Inap nau. Yumi wanpela pipol tasol ya, stap long as bilong grass na kaikai pipia stap. Noken longlong. Sanap wantaim na kisim strong gut."

Enough of this. We are one people, all of us in the base of the grass roots eating dirt. Don't be foolish. Stand together and be very strong.

Literal translation:

"Ol Memba bilong yumi isave pinis olsem dispela kain buruk is stap namel long mipela ol pipol, olsem na ol i save kisim sans blong ol long sutim bel blong ol manmeri igo ikam.

(Em nau Minista Maru i mekim stap - igo raun nating long Sepik na hariap tru niupela projek ikirap nau, oloman! Ol save man bilong Sepik kirap nogut long stopim o statim o pasim o fixim?)

Inap nau. Yumi wanpela pipol tasol ya, stap long as bilong grass na kaikai pipia stap. Noken longlong. Sanap wantaim na kisim strong gut."

"Our Members are well aware that there is this kind of division between us, the people, that is way they take their chances and entice peoples desires here and there.

For example what Minister Maru is doing now - making a quip trip to Sepik and all of a sudden there is a new project starting up, oh man! The intelligent people of Sepik are shocked, arguing about whether they should stop, start, close or fix things?"

Hi Johnny Blades, regarding my Tok Pisin comment, Barbara also made a couple of comments which express the same sentiment.

Ministers pop back into their Provinces for ad hoc visits to set-up 'impact projects' (a buzz word) without any kind of proper and thorough consultation with stakeholders.

Village folk either do or don't know better about the repercussions the projects may have on their livelihoods and they want a piece of the pie anyway.

Any advice that may be offered from people who don't live in the village, blood related or otherwise, will be taken with scepticism.

It's Dr Cox recognition and expression of that intangible division that I found particularly revealing.

Johnny would also like a translation of the Tok Pisin - KJ

Worth reading Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace webpages on Wilmar in Indonesia - particularly Kalimantan.

FoE quotes a World Bank report on the amount of bribes used in the land grabbing for oilpalm.

Wouldn't want them on my traditional land if I had owned any.

Commodity speculation by banks is rising at large rate and was reported in a recent article in press and one of those is Morgan Stanley which has shares in Wilmar.

The sooner PNG's ILG Registration Act is rescinded the better it opened the door for the Sepik SABL and Wilmar.

Thanks for this article. I believe these demarcations are also applicable in NZ, glossed over by a facile media and consumerist fanaticism that lures communities into ways that are not sustainable.

Michael, forgive my poor grasp of Tok Pisin but I can't quite understand your sentence about Richard Maru:

(Em nau Minista Maru i mekim stap - igo raun nating long Sepik na hariap tru niupela projek ikirap nau, oloman! Ol save man bilong Sepik kirap nogut long stopim o statim o pasim o fixim?)

Can you please provide an English translation for me of this?

So, the Elites find it easy to manipulate the Grassroots as the educated members from the village are away from the village as part of the Working Class.

The Working Class usually keep in contact with their families back in the village. Many plan to retire back to the village. They get very upset when they find the Elites are doing things which exploit the Grassroots. e.g. the SABLs take away their land rights - which will make it hard for the Working Class when they retire.

The Elites probably plan to retire to Cairns.

The interactions between the Elites(backed by the police) and the Grassroots (backed by the Working Class) and the Working Class (spread throughout the world) - can be seen at the moment in the proposed development of the Sepik plains area into the world's largest oil palm plantation.

Latest news - All eight landowners charged with posting banners are out on bail of K500 and heading home now. That's K4,000.00 in total.

So for making and holding banners that said - 'OIL PALM PROJECT BULDOSE. STATE TEAM MUST DO PROPER
they have to pay K4,000.

These men are the grassroots but their children, the educated elite who work in Moresby, Fiji, NZ etc, are in touch with them and have encouraged them to stand up for their rights as landowners.

Maru, as the local MP, is using the Police to support him.

I know I keep returning to what George Santayana and many others have observed: ‘Turn your back on history and you’re doomed to repeat it’.

Yet whenever I see PNG social problems raising their head again there seems to be an awful inevitability that keeps being ignored by those who offer comments.

The real issue is nothing new. PNG people had a society that worked when her people were living in small isolated groups. As the country started to coalesce into a nation, thanks largely to a few Australians and those PNG government officers who did the hard yards, the societal paradigm changed. There is no going back.

When England was invaded by the Romans and then the Saxons and then the Scandinavians each successive wave of invaders and conquerors changed the rules and in effect, disinherited those who had run the place before them. The same happened in Africa.

PNG was brought into the modern age by Australia and then left a power vacuum to govern itself due to short sighted politicians on either side of the Torres Strait and international influence from those (read the UN and African members) who were pushing their own barrows and who then conveniently retired or sank out of the public view rather than be held responsible and accountable.

Fact: The system of PNG land tenure and land ownership is unsustainable. Until this is recognised by those who are still trying to cling to the traditional model and they now start looking at history, they and those who support them will continue to grieve and come to grief.

Unfortunately, education seems to be lacking in this area. I wonder why? Could it be that those who are profiting from the current regime don't want everyone to know the real situation?

In a world increasingly desperate for natural resources, those who regard their traditional land tenure rights as a protection against being disinherited will inevitably be either forcibly removed or find they have been outmanoeuvred by those who have money and influence both in and outside the country. If that doesn’t happen in the first instance, then it will by subsequent action.

PNG must now look to quickly striking a workable balance before all that is near and dear evaporates or is ‘purloined’ by those who have money and influence.

Unfortunately, the history of human nature abounds with examples of how most will wait until it’s too late before they realise they had their opportunity and they were too selfish to use it.

Am I being overly cynical? Well look at the rest of the world’s history, both recent and ancient, and tell me I’m wrong.

As far as I can understand what is happening in the Sepik it is a case of the predatory elite (the politicians and their lackeys) versus the educated elite (teachers, lawyers, engineers, doctors and nurses etc who work all over PNG and beyond) who are supporting the people, their relatives, still living a traditional life back in the villages.

These village people elected Maru. He comes back to them with a SABL that covers a huge area of the Sepik and with grand plans to turn it into the biggest oil palm plantation in the world. The village people don't understand everything that he says. He doesn't check to see if they understand everything.

The Malaysians are very happy. They are to put all the villagers into kampongs and they will be their labour supply. The Malaysians can just do what they like with the land. The village people have lost all their traditional rights to their land.

The educated elite, who are widely dispersed, get to hear all about it. They return to their villages whenever they can and talk things over with their families.

They find that the man they elected is now no longer listening to the Grassroots people. He takes his ideas from the Malaysians. The educate elite now see the problems looming and want to help their families, the Grassroots people.

They want to be able to discuss things with Maru. But Maru has probably already signed agreements with the Malaysians on behalf of the villagers who elected him. Maru has not done enough consultation with those who elected him as Port Moresby is a long way from Yangoru-Saussia.

The educated elite are now wanting to have consultation with Maru on behalf of their relatives who live back in the villages. But Maru is throwing into jail anybody who objects to what he wants.

The educated elite want things to be done in a non-violent way. But Maru has turned to the police and violence may now occur. The Grassroots will retaliate in the only way they know. Burn things down etc.

Is this similar to what happened in Bougainville?

Yep, agree with you Michael.

The distinctions are clear in Oz (even if governments deny it and claim we are classless) but haven't yet quite gelled in PNG. In particular the distinction needs to be made between the elites and the ordinary workers.

In fact it's highly likely that some of the 'grassroots' are financially (or materially) better off than the salaried workers.

Maybe the nomenclature needs refining. Bikbel, Wokman na Grasroot. You're the poet, come up with some names!

I don't think it's just semantics either, to solve a problem you have to define it. The problem being that struggling working class people are being lumped in with the fat politicians, fat public servants and fat businessmen.

What I'm saying is that in the long run there are class distinctions evolving in PNG that seem to be following the classic Marxian mold.

Agree about the need for unity too.

I've worked for a few Aboriginal groups up against mining companies and a classic tactic of the miners is to cultivate a rival group of Aborigines to take on the protesting ones - the old divide and rule idea. United we stand, divided we fall.

Okay, Phil.

Specifically, what Dr Cox (that has potential for sexy slogans, e.g. Dr Cox to fix it! etc - no offence meant) outlines in these paragraphs speaks, what I believe is a revealing truth for the PNG context;

"Simplistically categorising the PNG middle class as ‘elite’ fails to capture their experience of economic precariousness.

Moreover, when low-level bureaucrats, teachers and nurses are described as ‘elite’, the operations of the real powerbrokers are obscured. The middle class of PNG should not be dismissed as an elite group, somehow detached from and unrepresentative of the true grassroots.

This poses too great a gap between the ‘working class’ and the ‘grassroots’, where there are often overlapping personal networks and political concerns."

I read this as a wake-up call to those who would divide us, the common folk, into factions based on the tenuous assumptions that
(a) all working folk get money so they're doing well and they are the elite
(b) those folk who had a university education are intelligent and they are the elite
(c) thise who live in houses in the city, where the services are must be the elite
(d) and etcetera.

Cox provides recourse for us to distinguish the 'predatory elite' (Namorong) fron the 'parasitic group' (Good) and concludes;
"Of course the ‘working class’ enjoy privileges that set them well apart from their village relatives (and that are often envied) but maintaining the categorical opposition between ‘elites’ and ‘grassroots’ obscures the plentiful interactions between these groups within PNG."

Wake up PNG.

Ol Memba bilong yumi isave pinis olsem dispela kain buruk is stap namel long mipela ol pipol, olsem na ol i save kisim sans blong ol long sutim bel blong ol manmeri igo ikam.

(Em nau Minista Maru i mekim stap - igo raun nating long Sepik na hariap tru niupela projek ikirap nau, oloman! Ol save man bilong Sepik kirap nogut long stopim o statim o pasim o fixim?)

Inap nau. Yumi wanpela pipol tasol ya, stap long as bilong grass na kaikai pipia stap. Noken longlong. Sanap wantaim na kisim strong gut.

Just like Australia and the rest of the developed world - an upper, middle and lower class.

The middle class carry the biggest burden while the upper class lick the cream and the lower class clean the toilets.

Karl Marx has said it all before.

Michael, I concur with you.

I can't agree enough on the plight of the working class describe here.

Very good research which I'd like to obtain a full copy if possible. My email is:

Albert - At present, the only publication I know of is this brief paper:

At last some light.

This guy is fucking brilliant!

If that's what a PhD is good for you'd get my vote John Cox.

We'd have a hard time convincing O'Neill about permanent citizenship though.

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