STEAMSHIPS Trading Company, which describes itself as having a “pre-eminent position in the (PNG) community”, has at the last minute reneged on a commitment to sponsor this year’s Crocodile Prize.
The pledge, first given by Steamships in October last year and restated on several occasions over a seven month period, was to renew its support for the Short Story Award it first sponsored in 2011 (see the photo at right from happier days) and claims credit for in its annual report.
The most recent affirmation that Steamships would continue to sponsor the award was on 23 May.
A week later Corporate Relations and Public Affairs Officer Wanita Wakus, without explanation, announced in an email, “I'm sorry to say that we're unable to continue with the sponsorship this year”.
The Crocodile Prize Organising Group, COG, had already agreed to a request from Steamships to cut the value of its sponsorship from $5,000 to $2,500 as a protracted discussion took place over seven months. (You can download the email trail here.)
During this period, as COG proceeded in good faith, Steamships’ sponsorship was advertised extensively in PNG Attitude and on the Crocodile Prize website.
One angry COG member exclaimed, “Does it mean Steamships is pulling out after all the assurances and six months of promotion at this final month? This is inconceivable, loathsome and mendacious act.”
A weekend review of COG’s finances to find means of funding the Short Story Award reduced the budget allocated to publishing the 2014 Anthology from $15,000 to $10,000.
This will cut the Anthology print run from 1,500 to 1,000 books – a heavy blow to PNG readers.
Given that these books are often shared between many readers, Steamships action represents a slap in the face for thousands of Papua New Guineans.
We are not letting Steamships’ disappointing action go unremarked and a second article tomorrow reveals how the company seems to have breached its own corporate values.
Meanwhile readers can help by taking to the social media to express their concern about Steamships decision.