WABAG - As heated argument raged on the government’s intention to ban Facebook, there was an instant reaction to my Facebook article complaining about how the government was not supporting Papua New Guinean authors.
Two foreign friends I met 27 years ago in America also reacted to my post. They are Sameh Abdullah from Eygpt and Dmitry Radyshevsky from Moscow who currently lives in Israel.
Sameh continues to work as a journalist in Cairo while Dmitry runs the Jerusalem Summit, a world Zionism organisation which he founded. He has written extensively and published books on the subject.
Another Russian colleague, Alexandra Backlanova Popoff has published several books and her latest, ‘A Biography of Vasily Grossman’, is to be released by Yale University Press.
Of my two other female colleagues, Chemi Whitro from Tanzania, remained in the US. She became an actress appearing on the stage plays and in movies, including in a film starring Mel Gibson.
But back to my Facebook post, which I wrote to show how important it is to maintain these contacts with people and how vital it is to promote the written word as a permanent monument to the subjects and times we write about. I am in contact with many friends I met in America whilst on an Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship program in 1991. Some have written books like me. One girl from Africa stayed on in the US and became an actress.
Another of my friends, Muhammad Hanif published the critically acclaimed novel ‘The Case of the Exploding Mangoes’ after he returned home. The book was based on the plane crash that killed General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, former president of Pakistan. It won the Best First Book Award in the year 2009 in the Commonwealth Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. The book is the basis of an up-coming Indo-Pak film starring Irrfan Khan.
I notice, on Facebook, that two of us from Kandep are published authors – Robert Iki Leso and myself but there could be others. Robert published ‘Building Blocks’ an English text book which has been acclaimed by many including teachers who use it as a text book in the classroom.
He saw the need for students to master the English language. Instead of only telling students how important it was to read and write – he wrote everything down in the text book.
I have published five books: ‘Climbing Mountains’, a small supplementary reader suitable for Grades 6 – 8; ‘Remember Me’, a collection of short stories by several Engans; ‘Can’t Sleep’ –a collection of poems, essays, stories and satire by many Engans and expatriates; ‘I Can See My Country Clearly Now’, based on my travels around the world; and ‘Survivor’, true stories about life experienced by women in today’s PNG.
What Robert and I have done is to write things in a permanent form so others can be inspired – sources from which people can learn from to improve their own lives.
Many politicians talk about putting PNG on the world map. How they think they can do it I don’t know. But certainly ordinary people have done just that. Take for instance sportsman and women - Markus Bai, Justin Olam, Toea Wisil, Dika Toua - no doubt they have put PNG on the world map by their sweat.
Then there are painters, carvers, singers, actors, comedians, poets, writers and authors who also have put PNG on the world map. The only difference is that the government has been fast to pay hefty sums to sportsmen and women who have won gold at international meets like the Olympics. That’s showing appreciation. But what about proud achievers in other fields?
But I don’t mind if the government does not give us recognition. I keep on writing. It’s a skill that God gave me. I know that buildings and infrastructure - even if they are constructed with the strongest of steel and the finest of cement - will collapse or definitely be pulled down and replaced.
But what Robert and I have written will stay written. Even this piece is permanent if the reader can clearly see what I mean.
I join those who are against the government banning Facebook in PNG. It is an effective communication tool that can hold the country together and place the world on our finger tips.
I can write, fax, telephone, send a telegram or email my friends around the world but take Facebook away and it will cut me off from my friends scattered around the world.