KELA Kapkora Sil Bolkin has been a consistent and popular writer for many years and his work submitted to the Crocodile Prize began has consistently been of high quality.
He has also authored a significant book, launched in Canberra in 2013, The Flight of Galkope, a magical combination of Simbu history and myth brought to modern times with a thoughtful discussion about the prodigious Simbu diaspora.
Sil never ceases to surprise with the range of topics he addresses in his essays. Stylistically, he walks in the footsteps of the great essayists.
His work is informative, topical, funny or quirky and, very importantly, offers a personal touch. He writes in a style we are beginning to recognise as from the ‘Simbu School’ of writing. He has no respect for stultifying political correctness.
Readers always look forward to Sil’s next piece and he attracts plenty of comments, as a good essayist should.
In 2014 Sil provided a particularly thought-provoking array of writing topped by his revealing – and prize-winning - story about criminal complicity between Asian businesses and the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary in Port Moresby. It won him that year's Crocodile Prize essay award.
He was undertaking post-graduate study at the Australian National University when The Flight of Galkope was launched by Charles Lepani, PNG’s high commissioner to Australia, in Canberra (see photo above).
I flew down from Hervey Bay for the event to be dismayed when the publisher lost the entire shipment of books. We were undeterred: the book was launched with the single proof copy.
The books arrived the following day and, as we were both flying out that day, Sil met me at the airport and presented me with a copy.
Now he’s back in Papua New Guinea the essays have begun to appear again. Sil hasn’t lost any of his bite and readers can look forward to a steady stream of incisive pieces on subjects that would not normally be canvassed.
Sil Bolkin is a substantial and significant Papua New Guinean writer.
Papua New Guinea as a banana republic: Chinese Li Wu suborns officials
KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN
A recent incident I witnessed at the Taurama Shopping Centre in Port Moresby ended up posing some important questions for all Papua New Guineans.
An argument started between a Tari man in a Chinese kaibar and the Chinese man on the other side of the counter. Moments later, a towering Chinese man came out and punched the 1.5 metre Tari man into submission.
He was beaten and bruised to the point of exhaustion and, as you might expect, two of his Tari wantoks came to the rescue and nearly punched and kicked the tall Chinese man to death.
The public who witnessed the incident were divided in their support. The pro-Chinese mob said the Chinese had created employment and paid taxes through their businesses. They said Papua New Guineans do not create employment but sit and gamble (bom or 7-leaf) or talk politics and wait for free handouts.
They added that Papua New Guineans finding themselves with some money become one-day-millionaires and go on a drinking spree and sing until dawn. They concluded that PNG men and women have no business acumen and should not talk about Chinese business aggression.
On the dissenting side, the pro-Taris said most of the Chinese come into the country through back door deals with politicians and immigration officials and corrupt every system in place. They said being citizens of a superpower doesn’t give Chinese the right to break the laws of a small country and trample on its citizens.
As the arguments went on, they almost erupted into another melee but police officers speedily arrived on the scene, and this was most interesting.
Two police cars arrived containing high ranking officers. The Chinese called these senior police officers by name and chatted with them. It was evident they were friends. The policemen ignored the bruised Tari man.
I started taking photographs but an obese policeman demanded that I delete them on the spot. I deleted the shots while he watched. One of the policemen said, “You journalists write bullshit.” I told him I was not a journalist and didn’t even know how to write.
No one could find out the reason for the argument because the Tari man could not speak good Pisin and the Chinese culprit could only speak Mandarin. People tried to ask the young women in the kaibar to explain what went wrong but the Chinese told them not to talk.
Anyhow, no arrests were made. The Taris were told to go home and refrain from being such nuisances and one of the Chinese came out of the kaibar and gave the police servings of rice and stew in takeaway cartons and some Coca Cola.
One of the policemen took the plastic bag without saying thank you and looked in the direction of the crowd, swore and told us to disperse. Maybe swearing at the public was an indirect way of saying ‘thank you’ to his Chinese friend for the free lunch.
When the police left, a veteran public servant said the Chinese keep a black book that contains the names of the 80% of PNG politicians and bureaucrats who are given Li Wu.
Li Wu in Chinese Mandarin is ‘gift’ or ‘present’ and Her Li is a congratulatory gift. Most politicians when they are elected and ministers when they are appointed receive Her Li, the public servant said.
He added that around 80% of top police officers are on the payroll of Chinese businesses. Occasionally you hear people on the streets of Port Moresby say, “Em ol polis bilong LGNA” or “Em ol polis bilong RH”. LGNA and RH are, of course, Asian companies.
The incident at Taurama Shopping Centre seemed to confirm what the veteran civil servant had said about the black book and the various police officers in PNG in the pay of both government and Chinese and other Asians.
The Chinese are able to call top ranking police officers who within minutes will arrive to provide protection. The top officers release the Chinese and get junior police to assault Papua New Guineans.
One has to ask, “Does the Li Wu to politicians and top bureaucrats make Chinese businessmen and women in Papua New Guinea immune to the laws of the independent state of Papua New Guinea?”