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184 posts from August 2011

Claims LNG project could cause Hela unrest

An NGO in the Southern Highlands has warned that the impact of the LNG project on families in the Hela region could cause unrest.

Hela Community Care (HCC) says many families who have been displaced by the construction of roads, airstrips and other infrastructure for the ExxonMobil project have not been resettled or compensated.

Some landowners, particularly in the Hides area which is central to the project, claim they’re enjoying major benefits, including improved services and infrastructure.

However HCC’s John Tamita claims that the project has displaced many people and offered too few of them employment.

“It may be a disaster coming up,” he said.

“They’ve chopped the neck of a couple of Asians who worked on the new airfield in Komo.

“And most likely, its also going to be taking place here (Tari) too.

“A lot of our residences demolished; no payment; we are struggling now; our lives become useless, they didn’t consider us.”

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Cellphones help reduce health problems

MOBILE PHONE technology is being used to help reduce some of Papua New Guinea’s health problems such as the high infant mortality rate.

Although still struggling with both poor health statistics and rising poverty, PNG is a country which enjoys good cellphone coverage, despite its remote regions.

Ruth Bruce from Kinross Group has been making regular trips to PNG to introduce the health sector to mobile technology which gathers data from remote health outposts.

She says it enables central health officials to find out quicker about medical issues as they happen “rather than the problem getting worse and them finding out two or three months later when it has turned into a pandemic”.

“It’s that immediacy of working with people at the real front of medicine, or medical help, getting the assistance from what we’d call the back office: being able to know what’s going on, and help them,” she said.

Ms Bruce says the system was introduced in June 2010 in Western Province under the Sustainable Development Program and is also used in Bougainville.

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Women shamed & angered at HIV diagnosis


A WOMAN diagnosed with HIV said news of the infection came as a surprise because she was not the type of girl that "goes around from place to place".

A Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation Report on women living with HIV in Fiji and Papua New Guinea said the sense of disbelief and idea that "I am not that type of woman" or "I am not a prostitute" was expressed by many women.

The Report said this reaction demonstrated how women internalised the idea that HIV was associated with sex work.

"It also shows that women often feel that they are not at risk because they are married," it said.

The majority of women involved in the PIAF study were married, with only two involved in sex work.

"Some of the women felt that they had contracted HIV from their husbands who had been unfaithful and they were angry with their husband," the Report said.

One woman's husband worked at the mines as a rigger, travelled throughout the country and had many girlfriends.

"He was diagnosed and he got the result that he was positive, but he didn't tell me that he was positive," his wife said.

After two or three months, he was taken ill.

It wasn't long after that he was diagnosed with HIV, the woman said. "I got really mad with him. I felt like murdering him or something”.

Source: Fiji Times

The Sadam appeal: readers commit K2,500


YOU’VE ALL SEEN the segments on the so-called current affairs programs on television.

Sandwiched between the latest diet fad and the manufactured outrage at the most recent boat load of refugees is the mandatory sob-story.

Someone has stolen little Tommy’s bicycle from outside the bottle shop; the one he bought by labouring for years in the Sydney salt mines, the blubbering and obese single mum with a cigarette hanging on her lip tells the camera.

Or our rented fibro house inexplicably burnt down just before Christmas and all the kids’ presents are gone.

Or someone nicked Susie’s red Toyota Celica and she now has to walk two kilometres to her job at the brothel where she performs tricks to pay for her six fellow orphan’s tuition fees to law school.

And, you think, pull the other leg, it plays jingle bells.

You also wonder why the television station, if it is so concerned, just doesn’t quietly buy Tommy a new bike, get the kids some presents, and buy Susie another old rust bucket without parading them mercilessly on national television.

There’s no advertising profit in that of course and we all know that those gullible enough to buy this commercialised begging and exploitation also tend to be disposed to buying the junk that is advertised during the frequent and repetitive commercial breaks.

Sadam Which brings me to the near-blind Mavo ‘Sadam’ Manu and PNG Attitude’s little appeal.

Is this just another blatant sob-story hung out to attract the gullible and the soft-hearted?

I suppose we’ll never really know for sure.  This is a flight of faith on our part.  We do know that he is probably unaware that quite a few of our readers have been unobtrusively slipping the odd dollar or kina into an account for him to be delivered by hand in September.

I wonder what his reaction will be?  He looks like a proud and dignified man; he might be affronted by our arrogant presumption and refuse to accept our charity.  What will we do then I wonder?

And if we make too much fuss about it will his wantoks descend for their cut of the loot after we have gone?

I guess when all is said and done, we have to rely on professional journalism on the part of the Post-Courier, good faith and our intuition, and hope we are doing the right thing.

Then we will be left to wonder how many other Sadams there are out there genuinely struggling to make ends meet.

Are our meagre efforts a mere and insignificant drop in the vast ocean of poverty and despair or are they a principled message to our meaner friends that selfishness and greed is slowly killing our world.

I doubt whether Sadam fully realises where his nickname originated.  If he did he would be rightfully appalled at the evil connotations.  On the face of it, his life couldn’t be in such starker contrast.

I suppose we could muse about this and other inequities all day long.

Instead, we are just going to say, to hell with it, let’s give this esteemed gentleman a surprise on Independence Day – what he does with it is his prerogative.

For better or worse, we’ve collected K2,095.75 for him with another K400 pledged.

That’s a wonderful K2,500.  Many thanks to you all.

Fraudulent flier attacks resources expert


Fake ANU Flier AN ANONYMOUS GROUP of anti-mining campaigners has published a phony flier [pictured] designed to discredit resource management expert, Dr Colin Filer.

The flier, which falsely claims to have been issued by the Australian National University and published by Wikileaks, was given wide circulation on the internet at the weekend.

Dr Filer is convenor of the Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program at ANU and, having spent many years in Papua New Guinea as an anthropologist and academic, is widely respected as an expert in Melanesian resource development and management.

The flier claims to be a warning from ANU to “advice [sic] the general public” in PNG that “Dr Filer’s recent comments regarding the resource sector [see below] should be completely disregarded”.

It also accuses Dr Filer of having “various conflicts of interests [sic]” – which are not specified.

The misguided authors of the document do not seem to be aware that – in misappropriating the university’s logo and name to publish a fake document - they may have committed a criminal offence.

They also don’t appear to comprehend that, in disseminating this fraudulent communication, they have damaged any reasonable case that may be made challenging the views of Dr Filer and the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum.

A classic case of zealots going a couple of steps too far and, if I may mix metaphors, shooting themselves in both feet.

Miners should worry about resource changes

Filer_Dr_Colin A SENIOR Australian academic says the Papua New Guinea mining and petroleum industry have reasons to worry about the proposed changes to the country's mining laws.

The PNG government is reviewing existing laws to revert ownership of resources on, as well as under the land and seabed to the traditional owners.

Associate Professor Filer [pictured], convenor of the Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program at the Australian National University, says PNG is likely to end up with a messy piece of legislation and court challenges.

Greg Anderson, executive director of the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum has already warned that this will scare off investors and it'll be disastrous for the country's economy.

“It will make the industry very nervous indeed for reasons which Greg Anderson has outlined,” Dr Filer told Radio Australia. “But bear in mind, that the proposals that are circulating are not only changing the Mining Act, but the Oil And Gas Act as well. So there are knock-on affects in various parts of the economy potentially.”

Dr Filer said he did not believe the changes “could be sensibly made” ahead of next year’s general election because “all you would get is some appallingly messy piece of legislation, which would not make sense and everybody would end up in court”.

Mr Anderson has described the bill as "driven by short term populism and regionalism".

Dr Filer said the rights of landowners are well entrenched, but that the main question was “about stuff under the ground”.

He said there are only two countries in the world where landowners can be the owners of sub-surface mineral resources - the United States and Canada.

“There is no country in the world that I know of which grants ownership of sub-surface mineral resources to customary landowners whose rights must be said have not yet been established anyway,” he said. “Nobody knows who they are until such time as a process of landowner identification takes place.”

Dr Filer also said that the government had made it clear about that changes to the legislation “would not be retrospective, which is, of course, normally the case, because the government has made agreements to allow these projects to go ahead under the previous legislation.

“You can't retrospectively change everything without making the state liable to pay huge amounts of compensation to developers for breaking agreements.

“But what he [Greg Anderson] is saying is that kind of you can't really insulate the previous agreements from new changes to the legislation, because the landowners under those agreements will start to claim the same rights as would be granted to landowners under new agreements.

“So it would destabilise the existing relationship between landowners, companies and the government under existing agreements.”

Source: Radio Australia

Confidence the first victim of resources play


PAPUA New Guinea's plan to hand state ownership of mineral and energy resources to landowners may be great retail politics, but it will be a disaster for investor confidence -- both in PNG itself and in any company that has tied its future to the country.

The move comes at a time when it was all going so well.

Ten years ago PNG was a hard sell to Australians, typified by the flop of New Britain Palm Oil's float, even though the company had impressive credentials.

Investors would stick with the big players -- companies such as the former Lihir Gold -- that had the financial power to withstand the politics and landowner issues, but for junior explorers it was often just too hard, and many gave up and walked away.

The other factor is that the stakes are huge, the deposits enormous. For example, joint-venture partners Newcrest Mining and Harmony Gold have upped the resource at their Wafi-Golpu project to 26.6 million ounces of gold and 4.9 million tonnes of copper.

The extent to which the tide has turned is typified by the Mt Kare gold project. Contrast the difference over 20 years: back then, the CRA-owned mined was the subject of a huge goldrush by locals and attacks on its operations, leading the company to abandon the project. But this year junior Indochine Mining took control of Mt Kare, backed by the landowners.

Kula Gold's float in November was another sure sign that the tide of investor sentiment in Papua New Guinea had turned.

It raised $80 million through its initial public offering for a gold project on Woodlark Island, and that put it head and shoulders above the other debuting companies at the time. It still would.

There were other signs, too, that you could invest in a resources project with less political risk than had once been the case.

Landowner disputes -- like the group that threatened in 2004 to close down Highlands Pacific's Kainantu gold mine -- were fading into memory. Subsequently, Highlands was able to find partners for two enormous projects that for years no one wanted to know about.

A Chinese player signed up for the Ramu project, which will produce 31,500 tonnes of nickel a year -- and will go into production after landowners lost their court case against it -- and Xstrata took the lead at Frieda River, one of the world's largest copper-gold deposits with 11 million tonnes and 18 million ounces respectively.

And, most amazingly, in the past two weeks leaders on Bougainville were saying they were prepared to talk about reopening the Panguna copper mine, closed by protests in 1989.

The owner, Bougainville Copper, has high hopes of returning to the mine -- which would have been inconceivable a decade ago.

Regardless of the merits of the PNG government plan to hand resource ownership to landowners -- and you can see its point about the continuing poverty in the country -- the issue will be investor confidence.

Source: The Australian

Greens want Manus detention inquiry

THE AUSTRALIAN GREENS say the Gillard government has some tough questions to answer on its plans to reopen the Manus Island detention centre.

The Australian government and Papua New Guinea signed a memorandum of understanding on reopening Manus to process asylum seekers on Friday.

Greens immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she'll be pushing for an inquiry into the deal.

"We do need to have parliamentary scrutiny," Senator Hanson-Young said.

She wants the probe to explain who will be sent, how much it will cost and whether children will be detained there.

"Last time Manus was open, under John Howard for one month the bill for one lone person was $216,000," she told ABC TV.

"I don't think the minister can give the answers, [the government] is struggling to give the answers on Malaysia."

Senator Hanson-Young said the government should go back to the drawing board.

"This is a mess," she said. "I don't think the government are winning any favours from anyone on this, and the solutions put forth by the opposition aren't cutting through either."

She has grave concerns for unaccompanied children caught up in the tangle.

"Why are we treating children like pawns in this awful human chess game?" she said.

Source: ABC, AAP and Sydney Morning Herald

Lawyer late … and court approves dumping


Tiffany_Exterior THE SUPREME COURT in Waigani has thown out an injunction to prevent Ramu NiCo from dumping mine waste into the Bismarck Sea.

Speaking by phone from Port Moresby, lawyer for the plaintiffs, Tiffany Nonggorr [pictured] told me that on 27 July she had filed for an injunction to prevent MCC Ramu NiCofrom pursuing a planned deep sea tailings program (DSTP).

This followed an appeal to the Supreme Court following an earlier National Court decision that gave the company the green light to dump mine waste.

The case regarding the injunction was listed for 9.30 Friday morning. When Tiffany Nonggorr arrived at court at 9.34, just four minutes late, she found that the case had been dismissed for want of prosecution.

The three judges - Justices Kariko, Davani and Hartshorne - ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to prosecute their case based on the lateness of their lawyer.

Ms Nonggorr then filed an application at 11 am to have the ex parte orders set aside.

She argues that the court had not followed proper procedure by informing the clerk of the court to go out three times and call the names of all plaintiffs to appear before the court.

The Chief Justice is expected to hear her application tomorrow.

Ms Nonggorr said that, considering the gravity of the case and its national and international ramifications, the court has to consider the matter.

She commented that the Basamuk case has had a lot of hurdles. “Everything is just 17 times harder,” she sighed.

Ramu to get started after court decision


THE EMBATTLED $1.5 billion Ramu nickel mine is expected to start ore commissioning activities in September.

This followed a decision on Friday by the PNG Supreme Court to dismiss the application for an injunction to stop the project from using the Deep Sea Tailings Placement (DSTP) system and pipeline.

The unsuccessful plaintiff had first taken the DSTP case to the National Court in February this year, however, the National Court ruled in favour of the project owners, forcing the plaintiff to turn to the Supreme Court.

The court hearings were focused around a claim seeking permanent injunction to restrain the operation from committing an alleged nuisance arising from mining activities, in particular constructing and operating a DSTP.

Highlands Pacific, which holds an 8.56% interest in the project, said on Friday that the dismissal of the injunction application, with costs to be borne by the appellants, was heard by a panel of three Supreme Court judges.

While the plaintiffs have also appealed the July ruling of the National Court to the Supreme Court, no date has yet been set for an appeal, and as such, Highlands Pacific said that it would have no impact on the current commissioning plans.

“There remains strong community and government support for Ramu and now the operator can focus on the task of commissioning and ramp-up for the benefit of many,” said managing director John Gooding.

He noted that the project should commission its first autoclave in the coming months, and produce its first nickel and cobalt in the weeks after, as part of a conservative ramp up over the next 12 to 18 months.

Source: Mining Weekly

Conspiracy theory surrounds leaders' deaths


THEY WERE GREAT MEN. Francis Ona and Joseph Kabui.  But these two great leaders from Central Bougainville died without seeing Bougainville become an independent island nation. 

Portrait Back in those years when they were divided, the late Francis Ona [pictured left] formed the Meekamui government and the late Joseph Kabui the Bougainville People’s Congress and they never talked to each other face to face.

Ona’s followers said that with Ona as leader, Bougainville will be an independent nation while Kabui’s followers said no.

Now, as they are both gone, only their names, mean something to the Kieta and Central Bougainville people. Their first names were Christian; their second names were in the Kieta language.

Ona means change.  His loyal followers know that another Ona will emerge as the name suggests and will lead them to the promised land.

Kabui means grows.  When you cut a coconut tree, after a few months it will put forth buds. Another Kabui will grow up soon.

Ona’s death, they said, was from suspected malaria; while Kabui died from a suspected heart attack.

In biblical times, nor did Moses the greatest leader see the Promised Land.

A couple of years ago we got a copy of the names of 50 Bougainvilleans who were on a death list starting with Ona, Kabui, Kaouna, Ishmael and Chris Uma.  The list went on.

A supporter asked me after the news of Kabui’s death, is the death list still active even though there is peace on the island?

Just before Kabui’s death, he was under too much pressure from within the Autonomous Government and from other Bougainvilleans as well as Papua New Guineans.

Two days after he passed away, a PNG diplomat was telling me it was a good thing Kabui passed before he included PNG in the Invincible* deal, because the deal died with him.

Joseph Kabui did the deal in the best interests of every single Bougainvillean.

I believe the deaths of the two great leaders was not natural but involved foul play.

However, as their names say, there will be great new leaders who will come up to lead the children of Bougainville towards the freedom for which they been crying so long.

Long live Mekamui, Bougainville.

Reposted from Mekamui Wordpress for PNG Attitude by Leonard Fong Roka

* The late President Joseph Kabui had approved a deal with Invincible Resources to acquire 70% of Bougainville’s lucrative mining rights. But the move was unpopular with some Bougainvilleans, with one MP saying it could spark another civil war - KJ

Australian-funded PNGDF recruits graduate

A TOTAL of 108 basic course recruits from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force passed out of the Goldie River Training Depot on Friday.

The recruits underwent a 16 week course where students were instructed in the basic aspects of soldiering including; drill, fieldcraft, weapons handling, communications, discipline, leadership and fitness.

The parade, hosted by PNGDF Brigadier General Francis Agwi, was attended by new Defence Minister, Guma Wau.

In his speech, Mr Wau thanked the Australian Defence Force for assistance given under the Development Cooperation Program.

Through this assistance, the Australian government has continued to provide significant support to enable this type of training to continue.

Under the Program, soldiers will be selected for additional training or employed as apprenticeship tradesman.

Approximately 30 will be posted into the Engineer Battalion, Lae, after completing another round of employment training aimed at developing the skills of a field engineer.

Twenty will be posted to each Infantry Battalion, 1 RPIR and 2 RPIR, where they will undergo more initial training before being designated as qualified riflemen.

The remaining personnel will be assigned to logistic positions or the Navy and Air Transport Wing.

Some may be selected in future for additional training as officer candidates.

"Australia is pleased to provide support to assist Brigadier General Agwi's '4R' strategy for implementing the PNG government's goals for capability rebuilding the PNGDF," said the head of Australian Defence Staff, Colonel Mark Shephard, who attended the march out.

Australia provided K265,000 support in clothing and sporting wear, Barracks maintenance, stationary, fuel and oil, hire equip, field rations, personal support items, medical training aids, and IT support for instructors to allow the course to occur.

Source: Australian High Commission

Santos sees no threat to LNG plans


SANTOS HAS assured investors its multi-billion-dollar LNG project planned for Papua New Guinea is on track and that the company does not believe controversy over land-ownership is a threat.

The Adelaide oil and gas company has reported a big jump in first-half profit from $198 million last year to $504 million in the six months to 30 June.

Chief executive David Knox said he is confident the PNG LNG project will produce in 2014, despite the country’s mining minister yesterday saying the country will give ownership of resources to landowners.

Source: The Australian

Bank says PNG is 'the new lucky country'


PAPUA NEW GUINEA has been identified by the ANZ Bank as the luckiest in the region because it is a resource-rich country whose trade and economy is significantly driven by commodity exports compared to its Pacific peers.

The country's value of exports, said the ANZ Pacific Economic Quarterly Report, was by far the largest in the region at about $6 billion in 2010 followed by Fiji and the Solomon Islands.

Minerals, particularly crude oil, gold and copper, constituted about 76% of total export values; non-mineral products include cocoa, coffee, palm oil, forest products, and petroleum products.

In contrast, mineral exports constitute a small portion of the exports of other Pacific nations.

The report said that in PNG, gold contributed one-third to export values over the five years to 2010 and also dominated mineral exports with a more than 40% share.

Copper was the second largest contributor to total exports, averaging 25% over the five years. Crude oil fell behind copper from 2005 as the existing oilfields were depleted.

"The Ramu Nickel mining project will support mining exports when production commences at the end of 2011, and should provide an offset to the OK Tedi mine, which is expected to scale down production in 2013.

“Moreover, the multi-billion-dollar LNG project will boost oil and gas exports when production kicks off in 2014 and should contribute significantly to PNG's export to GDP ratio rise," the report said.

Source: The Fiji Times

Barbed wire the preferred solution on Manus


THE GOVERNOR of Manus Province, Michael Sapau, says any Australian-funded refugee processing centre should be a secure detention centre rather than an open facility.

As a delegation of Australian officials arrived in Papua New Guinea to begin negotiations on the centre, Mr Sapau said he had submitted a long list of infrastructure projects he would like Australia to pay for as a condition of the province's support.

The arrival of the delegation, which consisted of officials from the Immigration Department, came as the chief executive of Manus's only hospital said malaria was endemic to the area.

"It's a day-to-day problem. It is always there," Otto Numan said.  Dr Numan said 10,525 cases of malaria were diagnosed in 2009. Manus has a population of 65,000.

Mr Sapau, citing security concerns, said his preference was for a closed facility rather than an open one. "I think it would be better that they be more or less be in an enclosed area," he said.

"The last thing we want to see is, you've got a suicide bomber or something. You want to avoid a situation where something nasty happens."

Australian opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison leapt on Mr Sapau's preference for a secure facility, saying it was at odds with the Coalition's alternative model on Nauru, which proposes an open facility where asylum-seekers are subject to a curfew.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen declined to comment on Mr Sapau's remarks, citing the ongoing discussions between Port Moresby and Canberra.

Mr Sapau said he had submitted a position paper on behalf of his province to the national government in Port Moresby. It contained 28 proposed infrastructure projects, including a local broadband network, although Mr Sapau said the list was "negotiable".

As well as being the governor of Manus Island, Mr Sapau is a backbencher in PNG's new national government headed by Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. Mr O'Neill has backed the plan to reopen the Manus Island centre, which along with Nauru formed part of the Howard government's Pacific Solution of offshore processing.

The new centre is expected to be a permanent facility capable of accommodating 400-600 people. Last week, Mr O'Neill said his government's support for the centre, which would be paid for and run by Australia, was unconditional.

"We don't attach any strings to the current arrangement," he told the ABC.

At the top of Mr Sapau's list of priorities were upgrades for local schools, hospitals, roads and the airport. "This is something we've been looking at for a long time," he said of the proposed airport upgrade.

"To open up Manus as a northern gateway into the country, say from Asia, from the US, to Guam. So were looking at upgrading the airport to international standard."

Source: The Australian, ABC and AAP

Simbu life: The curse of the masalai


MY GRANDPARENTS came from the Nolkummabuno tribe near Goglme and lived in a village called Kigletnigle.

Grandmum told me there were certain parts of the valley and nearby mountains where masalai-people lived and you must not go there or they could do bad things to you.

Being Catholic, she explained this by saying maybe they were evil angels who came to earth after being cast out of heaven.  From her description they sounded a bit like trolls or goblins.

If you had the misfortune of seeing one, bad things will happen to you.  They can take revenge by hurting a part of you that may have hurt them (e.g., making you blind if you look at them, or poisoning your leg if you tread on one).

They are ugly but small. Not completely evil, but malicious and best to be avoided.

One day when Grandma was young, she was out looking for a plant called Mingai which is used for stakes in the garden.  It grows in clumps surrounded by a circle of grass. 

She accidentally wandered into a spirit-place, but saw some great Mingai stalks, so cut them down and took them home and used them as intended in the garden.

The next day her right arm swelled up and was very painful.  Her family took her to the nearest clinic and the medical orderly (a local man) could find nothing physically wrong with her. 

But he asked what she had been doing and she explained about cutting the Mingai.  He advised her to go home and consult with the village elders, as she may have offended the masalai of that place where she cut the plants.

She did so, but the next day her arm was worse, so the village elder decided to try and placate the spirit people.  They made a mumu and prepared an offering of pig's heart, yams, taro and money, placed this on a banana leaf and went to the edge of the place where she cut the plants.

The village 'wise man' placed the offering on the ground and proceeded to cut her right arm with a special sharp leaf while pleading with the spirit-people to remove their curse as Grandma had not meant any harm to them.

He said they had informed him that she had unknowingly cut down part of their house, but as she was just a girl they would remove the curse.

It apparently worked, because when she woke up the next day her arm was better.

She never trespassed on masalai places again.

Bougainville to take Melanesian approach

THE AUTONOMOUS PROVINCE of Bougainville hopes to resolve a long standing impasse in the south of the main island by taking the traditional Melanesian approach of reconciliation.

Despite six years of autonomy, few government services are available around the district of Konnou because the security of workers can’t be guaranteed.

Former civil war combatants, led by Damian Koike, have been blamed for the crime and violence, which has claimed many lives.

President John Momis wants face-to-face talks with Mr Koike, who he says is concerned he could face arrest at such an event.

Mr Momis says to have a permanent peace the government will need to take a traditional Melanesian restorative justice approach.

Restorative justice focuses on the needs of victims, offenders and the involved community instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender.

“To assist him to pay compensation, and vice versa, because there are people on the other side who have, in fact, dealt death blows to people on Koike’s side,” Mr Momis said.

“It’s a complicated situation and we are just trying to get to the bottom of it and work out a mutually acceptable peace arrangement.”

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Kevin Conrad and PNG govt part ways

CLIMATE CHANGE AMBASSADOR, Kevin Conrad, who has been representing Papua New Guinea but lives in New York, is to be replaced by the new O’Neill government.

Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah said that it was undesirable for someone with little knowledge of the culture, tradition and lifestyle of the people, and cannot understand and solve landowner issues, to represent PNG.

“I want the office of climate change to be restructured and there will be no ambassador living overseas,” Mr Namah said.

“The office must be here and the ambassador must live in PNG, not overseas.

“Let some of our own men who know landowner issues very well take on the responsibility so that they can address the issues easily.

“We want change and have PNG on the safe side, the old regime is gone and this is a new regime,” he said.

Mr Namah, who is also Minister for Forests, thanked former Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare for getting political independence but said the O’Neill government will bring economic independence.

Source: PNG Exposed Blog

Deal signed for Manus detention centre

THE AUSTRALIAN government has reached an agreement with Papua New Guinea to open an asylum seeker detention centre on Manus Island.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says the deal was signed in Port Moresby this afternoon.

The two countries will work together on plans to establish the detention centre, and Mr Bowen says he hopes it will be open as soon as possible.

Under the deal, Australia has agreed to provide financial assistance to help PNG deal with asylum seekers who enter that country.

Source: ABC News

An attitude more akin to a leprosy ward

Kitchnoge_David This article by DAVID KITCHNOGE was published as a comment in PNG Attitude yesterday but merits more prominence as a lucid explanation of why Papua New Guinea’s relationship with Australia fractured after independence….

WE WILL FOREVER be grateful to Australia for granting us our independence on a golden platter and for its continued financial assistance. Make no mistake about that.

However, I believe (with the benefit of hindsight) that the reason PNG has regressed over the years is not because of financial constraints but more so due to ill discipline in financial and operational management.

We do not need more money than we already have. We can do a lot more with what we have but for incompetence, inefficiency and downright corruption. Our issue is not about the quantity of financial resources but rather the quality of our spending.

And this is where I think the close relationship between our two countries could have been exploited better.

After granting us independence, Australia simply shut the doors on our face and kept pouring in money and expected us to somehow build a modern PNG just at the dawn of our emergence from a largely traditional lifestyle.

More people to people engagement would have been better as this would have immensely helped in shaping the mindsets of Papua New Guineans and help us to see the world from a modern perspective.

A relationship similar to what New Zealand has with other smaller Pacific Island countries.

It has sadly taken us more than three decades to finally become aware of the differences between a modern state driven by a cash economy and a traditional community driven by a barter economy.

I think we will get better from here on. But Australia would have helped us cross that bridge much quicker had it not been for its attitude towards PNG as a leprosy ward.

Long road to top for man from Bougainville


Beno_Brendan TEENAGER BRENDAN BENO has a big future in the Australian Football League after more great displays in the International Cup for Papua New Guinea.

It wasn't for some time after Brendan arrived at the under-18s match between PNG and the Australian Boomerangs indigenous side a few years ago that officials realised the enormity of the trek he'd made to get there.

Beno turned up in thongs and shorts, looking tired but keen to play the Australians. He eventually let on he'd hitched a ride in a boat from his home in Bougainville, hitched a couple more car rides and made it to the ground with 10 minutes to spare after a journey of over 1,000 kilometres.

''He had a bit of a sleep and shower and by the second game, he was superb," Andrew Cadzow, the AFL development officer for the South Pacific, said.

Beno is now an international scholarship holder with the Brisbane Lions and lives at the AFL's PNG Academy in Port Moresby, where he's getting an education and hoping to become a senior player.

He is in Australia representing PNG in the International Cup. If his side makes the finals, he will have the chance to play at the MCG.

Beno is a man of few words, but said yesterday his favourite player is Lions champion Jonathan Brown. "He's big and strong," he said. "I met him last year when I was in Brisbane and he told me to work really hard and one day I'll be in the Brisbane side.

"I hope that happens. Brisbane's a nice place, nice people down there and I'll be spending a lot of time down there."

The 17-year-old 173-centimetre forward has a genuine future in the game, Cadzow said.

"He's a very good small forward, very smart on the field, a bit of a Stephen Milne-type player but with better hands. He's very elusive and always kicks goals off both left and right feet.

“He's a Bougainville boy and we saw him playing in a representative carnival as an 11-year-old. We weren't sure of his age so he played in our PNG under-14 side for four years.

"Now he's full time at Port Moresby at the PNG Academy. Brisbane saw him 18 months ago and signed him up. He'll move to Brisbane next year, I'd imagine. I think he's got a genuine future. He'll be listed. His endurance is very good at this age, which is generally poor. Brisbane is pretty excited about it and he'll be there working hard next year."

Continue reading "Long road to top for man from Bougainville" »

Tales of the unexpected: A spidery story


Tarantula I ADMIT TO a great respect for spiders. And there are many living in Papua New Guinea that deserve respect. There are funnel webs, orb spiders, huntsmen, trapdoors and even bird and mouse eating tarantulas.

You may remember the Car From Hell (CFH) from my earlier excursions on PNG Attitude. Despite it being an old Nissan it had the modern arrangement of wing mirrors - at least on the driver’s side – the static plastic cover enclosing a mirror controlled by a button inside the car.

I used to drive the CFH with all windows open - as the aircon didn't work and Moresby was usually pretty warm.

One night I took the car to the shops and checked the wing mirror before turning into Boroko drive.

I noticed a shadow moving across the mirror. It grew larger. It had legs.

Intrigued, I pulled up next to a lamp-post and was surprised to see a giant huntsman spider about the size of my hand crawling out of the space between the cover and the wing mirror, and looking at me through the mirror.

It stayed on the mirror refusing to move.

I quickly wound up the window and decided to shake it off. I drove along the Poreporena Freeway as fast as I could go, but Shelob hung on tenaciously and was still there looking at me.

I was sweating. Dare I open the window? I had visions of this giant arachnid leaping on my face and devouring me with poison bites.

I managed to get to Boroko Food World, stopped and gingerly got out of the car. The spider had gone. But where?

I bought my dinner and drove home - free of fear. Shelob must have dropped off and decided to feed elsewhere.

But when I pulled up at my apartment, I looked in the wing mirror again and saw two giant spidery legs slowly emerging. I've never parked and exited a car so quickly.

The next day CFH got a thorough washing with a high-pressure hose. But I still have memories of seeing those spindly legs creeping out of the mirror next to my face.

Is it still there?

Barrick security: Abuse, rape and renewal


WE PARKED our land cruiser by the side of the dirt road, high in the mountains covered with lush, green vegetation. In the distance, framed by greenery, was a vast, flattened plateau, a gold mine owned by Canada-based Barrick Gold.

Next to the mine were the waste rock dumps – the scene of the alleged crime. Even from afar, we could see the illegal miners on the gray rocks.

I sat on a bench in the back of the truck across from Mary, a short, heavy-set woman with cropped curly black hair. She seemed to be in her late 30s, and her teeth were stained from betelnut. She was trying not to cry.

She had been standing on the waste dump, she said, selling bags of betelnut to the illegal miners panning for gold when the cars carrying Barrick security guards pulled up.

They leapt from the cars and began sprinting toward the people working on the dump. Everyone ran. But Mary, fumbling with her wares, tripped and fell on the rocks. The guards caught her, and brought her back to one of the cars.

The guards taunted her and told her she would either go to prison or pay a massive fine for mining illegally. Then they asked her if she wanted to go to prison or if she wanted to go home.

Mary had heard what happened to women who were caught on the waste dump, and she believed the guards were asking her a question: Would she rather go to prison or let all five guards rape her in return for letting her go?

Mary said prison. The Barrick guards didn’t listen.

Barrick, valued at $47.6 billion, is the world’s leading gold producer. Since the Papua New Guinea Porgera joint venture mine opened in 1990, the mine has produced more than 16 million ounces of gold. At today’s prices, that would be worth more than $20 billion. Barrick took over the mine in 2006, and production is expected to continue until at least 2023.

While rumours of abuses like gang rapes and beatings had long been associated with the mine, Barrick Gold – the world’s largest gold mining company in terms of production – had denied these claims as unfounded.

But when we went and investigated these abuses, allegedly committed by the mine’s private security staff, we found information corroborating the allegations.

While Mary told me the details of the gang rape, she often had to stop and collect herself. During these moments, I’d look out the window or at the floor.

Whenever I interview a woman who has been raped, I wonder if it would be easier if I were also a woman. I’m not sure. In these situations, I always have a good female translator with me.

 I tend to take things more slowly and quietly, giving the woman space to tell her story – or not tell it, if that’s what she wants. It’s extremely difficult and uncomfortable no matter who you are.

In short, the five guards ignored her plea and did what they wanted. They punched and kicked her while they raped her. Then they left her badly hurt, lying on the rocks, still on Barrick’s property. With the help of a stranger, she limped home – a long walk, mostly uphill.

Continue reading "Barrick security: Abuse, rape and renewal" »

Philippines - PNG air travel is boosted


Philippines_737 THE GOVERNMENTS of the Philippines and Papua New Guinea have agreed to increase flight entitlements between the two countries.

Carmelo Arcilla, Philippines Civil Aeronautics Board executive director, said the two countries agreed to amend their air services agreement by increasing entitlements to 600 seats per week from the current 150.

Mr Arcilla said demand for tourism is growing between the two countries, but the market is still small. At present, no Philippine carrier flies to PNG but Air Niugini flies twice weekly to Manila.

Source: The Manila Times

Bold change mooted in minerals ownership

Chan_Byron IN WHAT IS a radical move, Papua New Guinea's mining minister Byron Chan [pictured] says the government is reviewing existing laws to give ownership of minerals to traditional owners.

The mining industry has responded by expressing grave concern that such a move will scare off investors and be disastrous for the country's economy.

Mr Chan, the member for Namatanai and son of former prime minister Sir Julius Chan, said resource owners are living in very poor conditions despite the relatively small population and the world class mining projects in PNG.

He said by restoring ownership of minerals to landowners, the government hopes to allow them to participate in the exploitation of their resources and improve their livelihoods.

“The law states that the state owns everything six foot under, both on land and sea,” Mr Chan said. “We'd like to replace that possibly almost immediately to revert the ownership back to the landowners and relinquish the state from owning anything from six foot below land and sea, that's what we're looking into right now.”

Mr Chan said the government’s proposal would not affect existing licences.

Nevertheless, Greg Anderson, executive director of the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, was quick to respond.

“That is of great concern to us because you have to have central government control on issuing leases and an organised system,” he said. “If we tried to deal with landowners on exploration titles, I think it's just going to be a nightmare.”

“It means you're going to have a dual system in the country and I think it's extremely naive, because the government made a statement that they wanted to remove all the landowner problems,” Mr Anderson said.

“Do you think the Engans and the Hulis and everybody else is going to be satisfied with one system for them and one system for all the new projects. I don't think it's going to work.”

But Simon Ekanda, a spokesperson for landowners, said it was about time ownership of mineral resources was given back to landowners.

“We own what was underneath and on top and above and the Constitution recognises the customary law, the landowners get rights to own what was underneath and on top and above.

“So we already own it and you see how this country can move the next five years when this law has been changed and people will have money in their pocket.”

Mr Anderson said: “ I've got to talk it through with the government exactly what they mean, but we do not like the principle this issue of private ownership, because I don't think it's workable in Papua New Guinea.”

Source: Radio Australia

Trends in cousin marriage in the Buin area


INCEST IS CONSIDERED immoral in today’s laws and religions throughout the world, but in the southern tip of Bougainville, a patrilineal society in Buin has practised incest since time immemorial.

In Melanesian societies, land is the source of life; it is the means of survival for the family, clan and tribe. Maintaining landrights was the paramount duty of marriage arrangements in Buin as in all matrilineal societies of Bougainville.

In the Buin district, cousin relationships are part of cultural survival. Although other cultures reject the practice, it is still right to the Buins (and in some other few areas of the world, notably in Pakistan and South Korea).

Buin society is patrilineal, that is, children of a marriage are members of the father’s clan. They receive land through their father’s family not their mother’s and this is justified by the high bride price paid for a woman compared to other societies in Bougainville.

The reasons for such marriage arrangements have been to maintain purity of the descent line, to provide an intimate knowledge of spouses, to ensure that the property from the father’s line will not pass into the hands of outsiders, and to make sure the family legacy is kept intact in the family’s name.

Incest unfortunately results in a high probability of congenital birth defects, and these can be witnessed in many villages in the Buin area.

But in today’s Buin society, new trends have surfaced. Most youths see these arrangements as wrong and will not marry their cousins.  That said, however, they tend to use their cousins as sex objects.

As engaging in sex with one’s cousin is culturally permitted, there are no repercussions, and some young people take advantage of this situation.

The females are seen as free sex objects by their male counterparts within the extended family circle. The males, since they are immune from trouble, use their cousins in a promiscuous way and, later, embark on marriage n a distant place.

Disaster capitalism triumphs on Manus Is



AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER Julia Gillard referred to arrangements for the proposed reopening of the Manus Island detention centre as a 'partnership' with Papua New Guinea.

It is wishful thinking to consider people smuggling a regional problem that bothers our neighbours as much as it does us. 

The partnership consists of Australia funding the detention centre and PNG providing the location. In reality, PNG is not worried about people smugglers but supports the partnership because it sees the detention centre as a boost for the local economy.

Earlier this year, ABC correspondent Liam Fox visited Manus and discovered overwhelming support from locals for the mooted reopening of the detention centre.

Business owner Ken Kuso told him: “I think it's good news for me, when they established the asylum seeker centre in Manus last time, actually I benefited yes, the Australian government planted a lot of money to this small island community and we really benefited from it.”

Profiting from the misery of others is the odious principle underlying 'disaster capitalism'. Disaster capitalism was conceived by extreme neoliberals at the University of Chicago who argued that profit rather than humanitarian concern should be the motive behind disaster management. 

A background paper from the Edmund Rice Centre explains that disaster capitalism is “financing a new world economic order … Each new disaster can generate great excitement as reconstruction becomes a big business”.

The authors suggest the concept also applies to Australia's asylum seeker detention centres, which are run by multinationals such as the British firm Serco.

Manus locals enjoying an economic windfall from the detention centre is hardly a serious manifestation of disaster capitalism. But it does represent a small-scale example of the increasing global phenomenon of business profiting from human misery.

What is worse is that it is at the heart of the Australian government's pitch to the PNG government, at least implicitly.

The desire to stop people smuggling is not the reason that PNG has agreed to the facility. If there was no economic benefit, it would have declined to proceed.

The Australian government might argue that PNG's motivation is a matter for PNG. But in going ahead with the Manus solution, Australia is complicit in the exploitation of the suffering of asylum seekers for financial gain.

Not only is Australia providing the opportunity for this to occur, it is condoning it. If PNG looks to Australia for moral leadership in the treatment of asylum seekers, they are misguided.

Source: Michael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street

You can help give Sadam the gift of sight

Sadam ALTHOUGH BLIND for 21 years, there is still hope that Mavo ‘Sadam’ Manu from Domara village in the Cloudy Bay area of the Abau District will see again.

This good man, who lost his wife and his sight all within 12 months, but bravely brought up his three kids single-handedly, needs funding for specialist treatment.

PNG Attitude’s target is K2,000 of which, thanks to generous gifts of K200 from Drekore_Jimmy Jimmy Drekore [right] overnight and Tanya and Corney Alone and the Renbo Smile Club, now stands at K1,800. 

 Read Sadam’s story here.

You can deposit your donation into the SPSS The Crocodile Account at the Bendigo Bank BSB 633-000 Account Number 141 021 527, making sure to reference ‘Sadam’.  The funds will be delivered personally to Sadam in Port Moresby by Phil Fitzpatrick and me next month - KJ

The climate refugees of the Carteret Islands

Carterets THE CARTERET ISLANDS in Papua New Guinea are not on most maps of the Earth; they’re just too small to merit inclusion at one square kilometer of total land mass spread among a cluster of coral atolls.

But they just might make it big in the history books — as the former home of the world’s first true climate refugees.

“The Carterets lie in a circular reef infringed by many reefs in a lagoon, very beautiful but going down really fast through shorelines degradation,” reports Ursula Rakova, a local resident.

“Over the last 20 years, [the] Carterets have been experiencing rising sea levels, and our chiefs got together and initiated an organization which could fast-track our relocation.”

Carteret beach The oceans rose roughly two millimeters per year over the course of the 20th century, creeping up the Carteret’s shores.

The islanders may have made a bad situation worse by fishing with dynamite, destroying protective reefs in the quest for food after refugees flooded the islands during Bougainville’s war to secede from PNG in the 1990s.

But sea levels could rise metres more by this century’s end as warmer ocean waters expand and the meltdown of vast ice sheets in Greenland continues. That would be the end of the Carterets — and many other small islands.

The 1,700 or so Carteret islanders may be among the first people to move. That’s because scientists estimate the islands will be drowned by 2015.

A 19th century sea captain dubbed the Carterets “Massacre Islands.” The massacre now is of the traditional foodstuffs of the inhabitants: taro, breadfruit and the like, poisoned by intruding salt water that is also fouling drinking water.

Storm surges — and even waves at high tide — now routinely wash over entire islands in the group.

The PNG government has authorised Carteret residents to move, and at least five families already have permanently relocated to Bougainville as part of what the islanders are calling Tulele Peisa, or “sailing the waves on our own.”

The move is expected to take at least a decade to complete, according to Rakova, who is helping lead the relocation effort.

“The sea that was once a friend to us is basically now destroying the lives of my people,” she said. “When we move it means some parts of our culture will be destroyed, will be left behind because we need to adapt to the new situation.”

Source: Yale Climate Media Forum

'Grey ghost' is a relic of World War II

Flying Fortress 

THIS WELL PRESERVED Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was originally bound for the UK under the terms of a lend-lease agreement before being assigned to operate in Papua New Guinea.

In 1943, under the command of 1st Lt. Raymond S. Dau of Arlington, Virginia, the bomber took off from Port Moresby to attack a Japanese convoy off Lae.

But anti-aircraft fire crippled the B-17, forcing the pilot to crash land near Black Cat Pass

The crew survived, but radio operator Robert Albright later died from his wounds.

The abandoned aircraft remains intact and has become a popular tourist attraction in the area, gaining the nickname the Grey Ghost.

Source: Urban Ghosts Media.   Photo: Alf Gillman

Here’s an idea: Send them to Manus!


AUSTRALIA’S PLAN to alleviate the stress on the planned Malaysia Solution with a Papua New Guinea Solution is a costly adventure in regional politicking.

It took a regime change in PNG to strengthen Australia’s desire to reopen the Manus Island detention centre but there is still a long way to go before any processing centre will be operational.

The move was one of PNG’s new Prime Minister Peter O’Neill first decisions after dramatically coming to office earlier this month.

The Manus Island centre was set up in 2001 as part of John Howard’s costly Pacific Solution, a direct response to the Tampa incident. In 2007 Oxfam and A Just Australia released a report, Price Too High: Australia’s Approach to Asylum Seekers, that calculated the Pacific solution cost $1 billion over five years. This worked out to a processing cost per person of $500,000. In total, there were fewer than 1,700 asylum seekers in Nauru, Manus and Christmas Island.

In the PNG the last inmate on Manus was Aladdin Sisalem, who was there alone from July 2003 until he was granted asylum in Australia in June 2004.

Sisalem, born in Kuwait to a Palestinian father and Egyptian mother, made several claims during his stay that he was beaten by PNG defence force members but one of the most unusual stories came later that year when Sisalem was reunited in Melbourne with Honey the Cat, a Manus Island tabby he befriended during his incarceration. With the moggy gone, the centre was mothballed and has remained empty ever since.

In late 2009 when then PM Kevin Rudd was facing increasing heat over asylum seekers, I reported that the PNG government would consider reopening the centre if Australia requested such a move. The Manus Island governor Michael Sapau was more eager to get the centre operational considering the income it provided for his home.

Rudd’s people did not respond. After all, they were somewhat wedged because the Pacific Solution was one of the first Howard-era policies the Labour party tore up when coming to power.

But by July 2010 then foreign affairs minister Steven Smith, under new PM Julia Gillard and amid a hastily conceived East Timor solution (which turned out to be more of a failure than a solution), was briefing PNG on hopes to reopen the Manus centre.

At the time PNG’s then foreign affairs minister Sam Abal said: "sometimes I face resistance from within" regarding the plan. Behind the scenes this resistance became louder. Senior PNG bureaucrats did not enjoy the previous Manus Island program, finding Australian immigration officials difficult to deal with.

There was also resentment to becoming the dumping ground for Australia’s problem. Officials I spoke with expressed compassion for the plight of asylum seekers. Another concern was that asylum seekers in the centre received better conditions, food and health support than locals on the remote island.

But despite all this PM Gillard, facing more scrutiny, dipping polls and growing public support for a hardline Opposition, pushed the issue with PNG. By May 2011 Pacific Islands Parliamentary Secretary Richard Marles, along with senior Immigration officials, were in PNG trying to nut out a deal to reopen the centre.

Continue reading "Here’s an idea: Send them to Manus!" »

Leo Austen: the forgotten kiap


Leo austen LONG BEFORE Kennecott discovered the fabulous copper and gold deposit at Mount Fubilan. near the headwaters of the Ok Tedi, and six years before Charles Karius and Ivan Champion launched their famous 1926 expedition to cross New Guinea from the Fly to the Sepik, another of Hubert Murray’s dedicated “outside men”, Leo Austen, led several pioneering patrols into the area.

Always a meticulous man, Leo wrote up his patrol reports in great detail and must have wondered why Murray had overlooked him when choosing who should go on the famous first-crossing patrol.  No doubt he shrugged and put it down to the typical luckless lot of the average Assistant Resident Magistrate.

Leo was born Leopold Novak Augstein in Brisbane in 1894.  He was working as a clerk when World War I began and immediately enlisted.  He landed with the first troops at Gallipoli and served in France where he was wounded.

He returned to Australia in 1918 as a lieutenant and, with his brothers, changed his Austrian surname to Austen to avoid the anti-German sentiment after the war.

Like many of his fellow soldiers, the war changed him and he felt out of place and became restless.  He joined Murray’s Papuan Service on 3 April 1919 as a temporary Patrol Officer based at Daru in the lonely Western Division.  He went on to lead many great patrols, there and elsewhere.

In 1926 a Chair of Anthropology had been set up at the University of Sydney, partly to train Cadet Patrol Officers of the then separate New Guinea Department of District Services.  Hubert Murray was a great believer in on-the-job training but he allowed some of his officers, including Leo, to attend the lectures.

Leo eventually obtained qualifications as an anthropologist and began a parallel career producing many learned monographs and a book on Papua.

The 1930s was a period that saw a massive upheaval of traditional societies in Papua as the influence of the Europeans spread.  Leo was one of those “enlightened” officers who sought to restore and maintain the traditional cohesion of those societies.  He was particularly successful in encouraging the revival of the paramount luluais in his favourite haunts in the Trobriand Islands.

Leo became part of the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) during World War II and was one of the 15 District Officers who attended the major ANGAU conference in February 1944.

Towards the end of the war he was the presiding magistrate at the trial of a number of local people accused of collaborating with the Japanese.  Leo was a sympathetic listener to these people, who explained that the Japanese had told them the Australians had been defeated and would never return. 

Although he found them guilty and imposed the mandatory death penalty he fully expected, as was the practice, for the sentences to be commuted to prison terms.

The army had other ideas, however and turned up at the trials with a jeep load of rope.

Continue reading "Leo Austen: the forgotten kiap" »

In defence of customary land use in PNG


THE PHRASE “landowner issues” is a misnomer and gives the wrong impression that Papua New Guinea’s traditional land owners are somehow a deterrent to progress.

This week I'm in the Lower Ramu region to see for myself the land of a rainforest tribe of New Guinea being taken from them without proper consent.

Papua New Guineas customary land ownership is legally recognised by the Constitution. It is generally estimated that around 97% of the land in PNG is under customary ownership.

Some people find this an impediment to progress. However, a recent land grab has led to over 11% or 4.2 million hectares of PNG’s total land mass being acquired under dubious Special Agriculture and Business Leases (SABLs).

The case of SABLs highlights the real motives of those who view customary land tenure as an obstacle to development.

It seems that such individuals and institutions greedily envy the land owned by indigenous Melanesian tribes. They dominate discussions on land reform and are well placed to influence government policy.

The fact is that many indigenous tribes are actually open to discussions on land use for development. The problem is that those who wish to have access to the land are intent on exploitation not development.

Many local tribes are frustrated when exploiters who dress up as developers, hoodwink them into extracting resources from their land while they see very little development.

Whether intentionally or not, public servants and politicians mislead customary landowners in order to facilitate the entry of foreign corporations into customary land.

Many communities are thus divided. Some members buy into the lies or are actually bought off to side with the exploiters while others are skeptical and oppose the exploitation.

After 36 years of independence, it’s obvious that none of the resource extraction projects have meaningfully contributed to the well-being of Papua New Guineans.

The Panguna mine on Bougainville brought death and massive environmental damage. The Ok Tedi mine in the Western province has raped the Fly River. Recently, the Porgera Mine has uprooted locals from nearby land. At Misima, dead fish continue to greet villagers. Logging operations have not changed the lives of landowners for the better.

PNG has fisheries, forestry, mining, petroleum, oil palm and various other economic activities, but has very little to show. Customary land owners around the country have given up their land to facilitate these activities yet many remain frustrated by the lack of progress.

Clearly the people of PNG are being robbed by state actors and the exploiters. I wish to encourage Papua New Guineans to stop calling these exploiters ‘developers’.

They’re not developers but thieves who just want to rip you off your birthright. They call themselves developers but there is no development in the areas they operate.

Continue reading "In defence of customary land use in PNG" »

Labor MP criticises Manus Island plan

A LABOR PARTY backbencher has publicly criticised her own government's plans to reopen the asylum seeker detention centre on Manus Island.

Anna Burke, federal member for the Victorian seat of Chisholm, says the move is a return to the policies of John Howard's government.

"I personally think Manus Island is basically going back to something we said we wouldn't do, which is the Pacific Solution," she told the ABC.

PNG's new government has approved the re-opening of the Manus Island facility, which was mothballed by Kevin Rudd's government.

Meanwhile, a poll in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald showed that a majority of Australians are against the offshore processing of refugees, preferring that they be dealt with in Australia itself.

Source: ABC, AAP and Sydney Morning Herald

Newcrest talks up prospect of new gold mine


A GOLD DEPOSIT inland from Lae is so rich the explorers need more time to investigate.

Newcrest Mining has extended the pre-feasibility phase of its 50% owned Wafi-Golpu operation.

The latest PNG resource will need start-up capital of $3 - 4 billion to get production underway in 2017.

It is expected to produce between 600,000 and 800,000 ounces of gold, with up to half a million tonnes of copper.

Chief executive Greg Robinson informed investors the exploration of the massive deposit has been so successful the company needs more time to assess the best mine location.

“So we feel its prudent to continue with another three to six months of heavy exploration work around Golpu,” he said.

Greg Robinson says Golpu will be in the lower cost range once gold production starts.

On Monday, Newcrest announced a better than expected full year profit of more than $900 million, prompting the company to announce a special dividend of 20 cents a share.

Source: Papua New Guinea Mine Watch

Change of govt “not legal”, says Dame Carol


Dame Carol DAME CAROL KIDU was not asked to serve in the new O’Neill cabinet and, if the question had been asked, she says she would have declined because the change of government was “not legal”.

Following conjecture from readers, PNG Attitude asked Dame Carol whether she had been asked to serve as a minister in the new government.

“No I was not asked to serve in the O’Neill cabinet,” she said, “but it did me a favour because I would have refused even though it would put my staff out of work.”

Dame Carol she would have taken this position because “I believe that what happened is not legal - although I understand the frustration that MPs felt about the problems with the former government.

“In spite of that, however, we, the politicians, are answerable to the Constitution and to say that we were expressing the wish of the people is not sufficient, especially as the people will be expressing their wish next year.”

A national election is due to be held in Papua New Guinea in about nine months time.

Dame Carol also stated that she was not inclined to “walk out” on Sir Michael Somare, who had protected her place in the ministry.

“He has always stated that my place in cabinet is non-negotiable when pressure was put on him to give it to a party that gave him more numbers.

“I am only one number on the floor and the usual ratio is three [members of a party or group] gives one ministry. There was often pressure on him in the power politics game to remove me from my ministry.”

Responding to PNG Attitude’s question of whether she had been asked to stay on as a minister, Dame Carol said, “The simple answer is that the question was not put to me.

“I was actually in South Africa at a global commission meeting on which I represent the Pacific region, but I saw Peter O’Neill the day before I left and told him I would not be on the floor in the first week.

“He made no mention of anything that was being planned so I was obviously very much off their radar.”

Dame Carol added that she was “obviously sad” that she will not be putting to the parliament several initiatives she has been working on for five years, like the social protection policy and the disability convention, “but that is the nature of politics.”

Solomons coastwatching memorial unveiled


Memorial and plaque 

A MONUMENT to commemorate the bravery and loyalty of indigenous Coastwatchers and Scouts during World War II has been dedicated in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara.

While the new memorial particularly recognises those who undertook coastwatching roles on Guadalcanal, New Georgia and elsewhere in Solomon Islands, the dedication ceremony also recognised the entire South-West Pacific network of Coastwatchers, including those who operated from Bougainville and other locations.

Speaking at the unveiling on the 7 August, former Solomon Islands Prime Minister and chairman of the Trust which constructed the statue, Sir Peter Kenilorea, noted that many of the major battles fought in the (then) British Solomon Islands Protectorate during the war were virtually unknown to the present generation of Solomon Islanders.

He also pointed out that the bravery of Solomon Islands Scouts had not been adequately recognised.

However, with the opening of the memorial, he said that names and places such as the Battle of Savo Island, Iron Bottom Sound, Mount Austen and Bloody Ridge would become better known to a new generation, which could be proud of the courageous and vital role played by Solomon Islands Scouts and Coastwatchers.

Royal Australian Navy Defence Advisor, Commander Geoff Turner, outlined the history of the Ferdinand network of teleradio operations established in the 1930s by Commander Eric Feldt of the RAN.

He mentioned the importance of the role played by the administration officers, planters, missionaries and others who reported from behind enemy lines as Japanese Imperial forces swept south in 1942 from their base in occupied Rabaul.

Without the help and protection of local people, Commander Turner noted that the mainly expatriate Coastwatchers would not have been able to survive.

The new monument, located near the Point Cruz wharves in Honiara, was designed and constructed locally.

It was officially opened by Solomon Islands governor-general, Sir Frank Kabui, in conjunction with the 69th anniversary of the landings made on Guadalcanal and Tulagi by US Marines on 7 August 1942.

Three surviving Solomon Islands Scouts [below] who fought in the campaigns were present at the ceremonies, while the US Marines were represented by officers from Guam and Hawaii.

Source: Photos and story by Martin Hadlow

Indons dismiss media reports on W Papua


THE INDONESIAN Military (TNI) has questioned the validity of documents cited in Australian media reports on its sprawling military presence in Papua, saying the reports were sympathetic to Papua’s push for independence.

The documents, Anatomy of Papuan Separatists, were published by Fairfax newspapers on Saturday and claimed residents of the resource-rich province were “easily influenced by separatist ideas” and that armed groups stood “ready for guerrilla war”, but had proof of just one weapon for every 10 men.

The 19 documents, dating from 2006 to 2009, indicate that Kopassus runs a vast network of spies and informants as part of its campaign to control the region and monitors the activities of foreigners in the region and around the world.

Among the documents was a list of accused separatist supporters, such as Australian journalist Naomi Robson, Australian Greens leader Bob Brown and senior Uniting Church pastor John Barr.

More than 40 US Congress members, including Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, are also named agitators as are South African anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu and Sir Michael Somare.

“We must be careful and question the validity of the reports. There is no such thing as a repressive or militant approach. What we do is always a welfare approach, where we help Papuans have better lives,” TNI spokesman Rear Admiral Iskandar Sitompul told The Jakarta Post.

Source: The Jakarta Post

Landowners in $38m Brisbane CBD deal

A NEW IRELAND company has purchased a prime property in the centre of Brisbane for its landowner shareholders.

Mineral Resources Lihir Capital has bought the Brisbane property, Flight Centre House, for $38 million.

The capital group is owned by landowning villagers from Lihir Island who are registered members of the Lihir Mining Area Landowners Association.

Business development manager Kible Bonga said it was a dream come true for the 14,000 landowners who will benefit after the Lihir gold mine closes.

He said the deal in the Brisbane central business district was their third property investment following two earlier purchases in Cairns.

Source: Firmin Nanol, Australia Network News

Rare fish to N America from new exporter

Butterfly fish - ornate ECOAQUARIUMS Papua New Guinea Ltd has released photographs of a very unusually patterned ornate butterflyfish spotted in its collection area.

This is one of several unusual fishes observed by EcoAquariums in advance of the new company’s planned export of marine aquarium animals to North American markets later in 2011.

EcoAquariums holds the sole license issued by National Fisheries Authority (NFA) to export marine aquarium life from PNG, which is known for fishes such as the lightning maroon clownfish and the promise of a truly sustainable and equitable marine aquarium fishery.

“Rare fishes like this butterflyfish and some of the unique clownfish morphs we are seeing will, I think, reignite excitement for PNG’s marine aquarium fishery,” says Daniel Navin, director of EcoAquariums.

Navin says his fishers will not target the ornate butterflyfish unless it is for a very specific client who is prepared to meet the animal’s husbandry needs. “The point is that we have some pretty amazing and unusual fishes here in PNG, and our fishers are keen to begin collecting for aquarists desiring uniquely beautiful, incredibly healthy and sustainably collected animals.”

Clownfish In 2010, PNG captured the enthusiasm of aquarists worldwide with exceptional fishes like the clownfish [right].

Navin was hired in 2010 by Seasmart, the company awarded the contract to explore establishing a sustainable marine aquarium fishery in PNG. When the joint NFA-Seasmart trial program ended late last year, Navin approached NFA for a license to export aquarium animals.

“PNG NFA is among the Pacific’s most progressive, sustainably-minded fisheries agencies,” Navin says, pointing to PNG’s tuna fishery as an example. “NFA has poured millions into tagging programs and establishing one of the Pacific’s largest no-take zones.”  It has already invested $5 million.

“They want their aquarium fishery to be the most sustainable, equitable and well-managed in the world, and we at EcoAquariums are fortunate to be building on very solid work,” says Navin, referring to the detailed reef surveys, total allowable catch numbers and training of local fishers.

“We believe there is a market for equitably-traded, sustainably-collected and mari-cultured marine aquarium animals, and we’re looking to target that market, while being both fiscally responsible and inventive in our approach.”

Source: Advanced Aquarist and EcoAquarium PNG

Somare Jr tells new govt: watch your step

SIR MICHAEL SOMARE, recovering from a life-threatening condition in Singapore, is upset over 'the chaotic moves' made by the O’Neill government. So says his son Arthur Somare.

Still on medical leave, the 75-year-old leader is yet to comment publicly on O’Neill’s parliamentary coup early this month. But he's conveyed his disquiet through his son.

Former public enterprises minister, Arthur, entangled with proceedings from a leadership tribunal, said the new government had taken power and “divided the loot” while his father lay on his sick bed.

Sir Michael, who has just begun to talk and walk, is upset the new government “started rummaging through things while he is still on the sick bed”.

“That old man spent his life for the good of this country, but it seems that nobody cares or appreciates the work of such a man like him,” Arthur said.

He said the O’Neill government was making PNG “constitutionally chaotic” and warned Peter O'Neill against making major decisions ahead of an expected Supreme Court challenge over the new government’s legitimacy.

Arthur Somare also said ministers and public servants should refrain from major decisions until the constitutionality of Mr O'Neill's government had been decided by the Supreme Court.

"The interim regime in Waigani and public servants need to act with due care and in recognition of the serious constitutional challenge now before the Supreme Court regarding the way forward for this nation," he said.

Officials from East Sepik, Sir Michael's home turf, have also filed a Supreme Court reference alleging no grounds existed for parliament to declare Sir Michael’s prime ministership vacant when MPs ousted acting prime minister Sam Abal on 2 August.

Mr Somare also called on "all public service heads to record every issue and transaction that is not normal government business."

"We will conduct an audit on what transpired in the event the Supreme Court determines that prime minister grand chief Sir Michael Somare remains the lawful holder of this high office."

Sources: AAP et al

Rise in sorcery killings forces law review


WHEN THE FORMER administrator of Madang Province died suddenly early this year, doctors attributed his death to stroke. He was known to suffer from a heart condition. However, his relatives did not think so.

They were certain his death was caused by sorcery and were determined to find out who was responsible. This did not come as a surprise to many Papua New Guineans. The late administrator came from Simbu, a province that has become notorious in recent times for the execution of people suspected of being 'sorcerers' and 'witches'. Many of them have unfortunately been defenceless elderly women.

As expected, the media soon reported that a villager had 'confessed' to using sorcery to kill the late administrator. The picture of the 'confessor' in the newspaper clearly showed he had been beaten up with bloodied and swollen face and was guarded by men armed with machetes. He also named eight other 'sorcerers' who he said had collaborated with him in causing the death.

Coincidentally, another senior politician from Simbu, Joe Mek Teine, also died hours after that day from stroke. Teine, a lawyer by profession, was the chairman of the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission and had been reviewing the law on sorcery and sorcery-related killings when he passed away. The commission was gathering views and submissions on the issue from people nationwide.

The practice of sorcery and witchcraft is firmly entrenched in PNG society and has not diminished despite more than 100 years of Christian and Western influences. Most Papua New Guineans, no matter how highly educated and sophisticated they may be, still believe and fear sorcery and witchcraft.

The rise in sorcery killings is proof of the failing authority and influence of state institutions and governance systems brought about by the deterioration of basic services and infrastructures throughout PNG.

Sorcery-related killings are common in PNG; however, in recent years, there has been an alarming increase in the highlands region. The former Minister for Justice and Attorney-General Dr Allan Marat in response to community concerns ordered a review of the law on sorcery and sorcery-related killings.

The commission is in the process of reviewing the laws, assessing the effectiveness of penalties given by the courts, determine if the laws need to be modified, and recommend appropriate legislative amendments.

Continue reading "Rise in sorcery killings forces law review" »

Exhibition: Aroaoa - the story of a people


My Future EARLY THIS YEAR, Ratoos Haopa and I made the journey to visit his tribe, the Aroaro people of the Ihu District, Gulf Province.

A people of rich ancestral knowledge and story telling history of which Ratoos illustrates through his every painting.

Located along the Vailala river the village of Maelava became our home for a week, before we traveled down to the coast.

During our stay, we participated in community meetings and talked to people to hear their concerns. In some way we wanted to try to address them in our capacity as contemporary artists by bringing about attention to issues they face.

People were quite upset with the logging being done in the area by company Rimbunan Hijau (RH).

Paga Corals After several failed attempts at bringing RH to court the villagers still do not fairly benefit from the logging happening in the area, sadly they are reminded everyday of this when they see the barges with stacked logs floating down their river.

There was confusing information being disseminated by local level government as too what InterOil's interest were in developing the area and it left people feeling both fearful, anxious and excited as to what the future would bring.

The story of the Aroaro people is the story of rural PNG, the story of our land, it's resources and what it might mean for us and our future.

Reproductions: My Future by Jeffry Feeger; Paga Corals by Ratoos Haoapa Gary

Joint exhibition by Jeffry Feeger and Ratoos Haoapa Gary.  To 20 August.  Gallery: Steamships Hardware Compound, Waigani.  Saturday 9am-12 noon or after 11am Tuesday to Friday

Those elaborate sung highlands tales


MOST OF US who have a connection with the Australian anthropological scene are familiar with the Australian National University’s E-Press.

The press publishes open access, full-length, fully edited and peer reviewed works which are available in paper, HTML, for mobile, PDF, the whole lot.

As someone who’s published with them before I’ve been impressed with their professionalism, and as someone who works on topics frequently addressed by the Press’s authors, I’m impressed by the quality of the content they produce.

Sung Tales This month, the press helped solidify its reputation as an important scholarly publisher by releasing Sung Tales from the Papua New Guinea Highlands, edited by Alan Rumsey and Don Niles. This volume is a great example of how to do open access, and do it right.

Anyone who has spent any time in the highlands of PNG will have heard (or heard of) these lengthy, beautiful, and exceptionally elaborate chanted tales — they are a hallmark of the region and the people who specialise in performing them are well-known and admired for their abilities.

We are talking like Iliad type tales here people: genuine epic poetry. And yet somehow they have never really achieved the attention that they deserve from researchers — I know that when Alan Rumsey asked me about sung tales in Porgera I was like: “uh yeah… they do that… it’s cool… uh.”

This book aims to fix all that by documenting and exploring this genre of performance. The story of how the thing got put together is pretty epic: a research project that took about a decade; interdisciplinary collaboration between anthropologists, linguists, and ethnomusicologists; the work of academics from around the world, Papua New Guinean bards, and Papua New Guinean academics.

This is nothing if not collaborative ethnography. The result is a book that covers an area of hundreds of miles, a gaggle of language and ethnic groups, and includes a collection of tightly integrated texts.

The best thing about the volume is not just that it is free for download, but that the ANU E-Press’s website includes mp3s of these tales themselves . Check out, for instance, these brief recordings of bits of Melpa and Ipili sung speech.

The site also includes a brief video of a man singing as well as transcripts of an interview that exists in somewhat edited form in the book itself.

Anthropologists are often excited by ‘multimedia’ possibilities presented by ‘cyberspace’ but most experiments with multimedia come off as ungrounded in a solid research question or the needs of the argument — often they just appear included because multimedia is ‘the future’ (at least this is how people talked in the 90s).

Here, in contrast, the open access online format enables the editors and authors to make the recordings an essential part of the book — and of course, to make them available to Papua New Guineans themselves, free of charge, as long as they have an internet connection.

Source: Savage Minds.  Alex Golub is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He studies mining and petroleum development in Papua New Guinea, as well as American culture

PNG mining is coming in from the cold


WITH ITS ASTONISHING resources of gold, base metal and hydrocarbons, Australia’s nearest neighbour Papua New Guinea is fast regaining favour with the miners after a spell in the doghouse.

While any decent-sized resource house has long had a presence there -- Barrick's Porgera mine was established in the 1930s -- the fragile nation has also been synonymous with a string of mining disasters.

Think Ok Tedi, which BHP Billiton abandoned because of environmental problems, and the lingering civil unrest at Bougainville, home of the mothballed eponymous copper mine.

Given soaring commodity prices, miners are again willing to overlook the civil risks and the technical and logistical dangers of operating in such dense and hilly terrain.

Another theory goes that the speculative money has tired of the overheated West Africa story, with PNG seen as no more of a sovereign risk and perhaps even less of one than Australia. One resource publication rates PNG as the 24th-best place to operate, two notches above Australia.

Newcrest Mining views its half-owned Wafi-Golpu prospect as one of its key growth projects. Newcrest also owns the bounteous Lihir gold mine on Lihir island.

And last month the giant Ramu nickel project -- controlled by Chinese interests but 8.56% owned by the locally listed Highland Pacific -- got the kick-along it needed when the National Court threw out a landholders' challenge relating to the venture's proposed deep-sea tailings treatment.

"It's rugged working up there but it's very prospective, with an Australian-style system of tenure," says Goldminex chief and PNG veteran Sandy Moyle.

Meanwhile, broker Austock asks out loud whether Gold Anomaly could be the next Porgera, which produced about 30 million ounces of the lustrous stuff since 1989. Indochine is another to watch, having acquired the Mt Kare mine from local interests.

Another active in the neighbourhood is the polymetallic Mil Resources. Mil plans to drill its Golden Peak and Poi prospects, after having raised $3.6m earlier this year.

The ultimate sign of revival, however, is whether the Bougainville mine can be restarted, 22 years after being abandoned by the Rio Tinto-controlled Bougainville Copper. We're not holding our breath.

Source: Criterion, The Australian

O’Neill ascendancy came as a shock to some


Polye O'Neill Namah 
THE OPPOSITION’s nomination of Works Minister Peter O’Neill as Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister on 2 August came as a shock to many.

But there were clues in some earlier press comments. Last year, O’Neill and the opposition agreed he would become the next prime minister if he crossed the floor before the mid-year challenge.

And although Deputy Prime Minister Sam Abal was acting prime minister during Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare’s continuing absence in Singapore following heart surgery in April, the opposition succeeded in declaring the prime ministership vacant without following constitutional procedures.

The National Alliance-led government’s collapse arose in three phases. First was Somare’s coalition’s gradual loss of public support over the last few years on the back of failing government services across most the country and allegations of corruption over the dispersal of development funds.

Second was the increasing frustration among opposition members with Somare’s compliant speaker, Jeffrey Nape, who for five years refused to hear the opposition’s procedural points or allow votes of no confidence. Prolonged and unconstitutional adjournments of Parliament also meant that even government members could not monitor (and only rarely question) the ministers.

And third was the pernicious rivalry within the coalition and the National Alliance Party itself.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling on the political party ‘integrity law’, known as OLIPPAC, allowed MPs to not only to leave their parties but even to vote against their own party.

In the current sitting, the Speaker accepted the opposition’s claim that the prime ministership was vacant. Refusing to hear the angry protests of key government ministers, the Speaker allowed a vote to fill the vacancy. Some 48 members of the coalition, including the majority of the National Alliance, crossed the floor, giving O’Neill a vote of 70 to 24.

While the (former) government challenged the constitutionality of this ‘parliamentary coup’, on 5 August the National Court accepted the fait accompli, and implied the old government had also accepted it by voting in Parliament. Abal will challenge this ruling in the Supreme Court.

The media had focused on the divisions triggered since Somare promoted Abal to Deputy Prime Minister in December 2010, replacing Don Polye, who held aspirations to succeed Somare.

Although a respected and honest politician, Abal made fierce enemies. He sacked William Duma, whose management of licensing under the Petroleum portfolio and the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project had been under serious questioning. He also sacked the man now PM, Peter O’Neill, from the Treasury and Finance portfolios.

Tensions grew among government ministers. Public attention was focused on the Polye–Abal feud within Somare’s party, and it became clear there would be some form of challenge to government. Under the Constitution, a vote of no confidence had to be initiated within days of parliament sitting on 2 August, but who would be the new PM?

The issue came to a head at an Opposition meeting on 1 August, and it seemed that Polye had majority support among the alternate government camp for the top job. However, he reportedly baulked at the position — perhaps to avoid in-fighting with Abal, from his own province. O’Neill seized the moment, positioning himself for his formal nomination as prime minister. Polye is now his treasurer.

Continue reading "O’Neill ascendancy came as a shock to some" »

Former mastas have their noses rubbed in it


Slouch-Hat WHILE AUSTRALIA’s Westminster system introduced civilised law and justice concepts to Papua New Guinea in colonial times it has not eradicated the spirit of ‘payback’ enshrined in their cultures over centuries.

Payback within family, clan and village groups remains a binding custom in PNG society to this day.

The spirit of payback, like many other cultural traditions in PNG is not understood by most Australians. The relationship between our two countries has drifted over the years since independence.

Up till that time young Australian patrol officers (kiaps) lived and worked throughout the country as administrators, explorers, teachers, health workers and policemen.  Many married local women, raised families and took out citizenship after independence.

Australia established the International Training Institute in Sydney to train PNG and other developing country citizens in public service administration. Bright young students were identified for educational scholarships in Australia.

Others were trained in our military academies and served side-by-side with Australian soldiers in the Pacific Islands Regiment. Some returned with Australian wives to raise families in PNG.

These programs drifted into obscurity after the 1980s. Our corporate knowledge of the complexities of the ‘Melanesian way’ remained with Australian administrators, businessmen, miners and farmers who chose to remain in PNG.

PNG’s corporate knowledge of our Western ways declined with the closure of the Institute and the decrease in the flow of students to Australia following the development of a university system in PNG.

Our relationship was later relegated to aid agencies which introduced PNG to an ideology of patronising dependence. The country has since been awash with highly-paid consultants who fly in and out without as much as a courtesy call to the relevant PNG Minister or Departmental Head.

AusAID has approved and built projects without informing local MPs. PNG citizens, including former Australian citizens, are treated like lepers when they apply for a visa to visit Australia.

The ultimate snub was delivered when an overzealous security boofhead took PNG’s then prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, aside at Brisbane airport and frisked him. We humiliated PNG’s Grand Chief it was little wonder that some PNG MPs began to call for a ‘look north’ policy.

There is a strong feeling they would like us to take our aid and shove it. There is certainly no shortage of possible suitors. China, Japan and Malaysia have close ties and significant investment in PNG. Indonesia shares a common boundary.

Continue reading "Former mastas have their noses rubbed in it" »

The 10,000 year old roots of the Wahgi valley


Jackson_Noah WE SHOULD BE clear: by indigenous, we do not mean primitive.

Although some of the Papua New Guinea villages where I’m staying do not have power or electricity, farmers can still check coffee prices with their cellphones. Others have rigged up small solar panels to illuminate their homes at night.

Indigenous literally means native. And because some of the groups I visit are very isolated, there is a strong sense of roots, culture and place. There are also a number of challenges.

When I stay in these small villages – exploring, socialising, cooking meals with farmers, community development officers and extension officers — I’m engaged in conversations about climate change, soil quality and other issues that affect the coffee and the land.

While some nearby farmers are migrants to the area, and others are just first or second generation farmers, there is a sense of indigenous knowledge on many farms I’ve visited.

I write from a small plantation, set in the Wahgi Valley, where there are 12 clans. Each clan speaks its own unique language, in addition to Pidgin and some English.

Taro Taro was first cultivated in these swampy soils more than 10,000 years ago. Three thousand years later, bananas (native to the region) were cultivated.

There is evidence that this is one of the original global centers of agriculture; the people of the Wahgi Valley do not seem to have been passive recipients of domesticated agriculture. How do we know? Proof of the domestication of these staple foods wasn’t found elsewhere in Asia for another 3,000 years.

As I explore the area’s forested farms, some of the farmers’ children point out the features they know I’ll be interested in: drainage systems that allow water flow and mounds where water tolerant plants such as maize, sugarcane and yam grow. Coffee is a relatively new crop here. Many of the farmers in the area are just second generation coffee farmers.

Nonetheless, there is a strong history of indigenous knowledge to draw from. Forest fruits are collected and tended to in small nurseries in a way that closely mirrors the development and maintenance of coffee nurseries. Children who play in the coffee gardens and help their parents benefit from firsthand lessons and transfers of knowledge.

Continue reading "The 10,000 year old roots of the Wahgi valley" »

Seabed can be safely mined says scientist


AS ENVIRONMENTAL concerns heat up amid growing interest in minerals exploration and mining of the Pacific Ocean seabed, one scientist is advocating the search for more inactive hydrothermal vents as a way of safely mining the sea.

Dr Sven Peterson, a minerologist at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Germany, said inactive vents were less likely to host marine life, so mining them would pose lesser danger to the ocean’s ecosystems.

“At water depths of 500 to 5,000 metres which the mining industry will be interested in, there is no light but we still see oases of life there. This, of course, is of concern among biologists who do not want mining to happen at these oases in the deep.

“So, mining companies might want to go for inactive deposits where there is no vent fauna like mussels, shrimps and tubeworms that biologists want to protect,” said Peterson.

Environmental issues surrounding seabed mining, specifically mineral extractions from Seafloor Massive Sulphides, which occur in hydrothermal vents, are surfacing because these vents are also home to unique marine life, some of them not found anywhere else in the ocean.

There are worries that this, being a new area even for science, leaves industries and governments with little to go on with when gauging or assessing the extent of the impact and ramifications of seabed mining upon ocean life.

So far, there have been indications that mining the seabed, when it does take place, would most likely begin around active hydrothermal vents, such as the case for Nautilus Minerals, the world’s first seabed minerals miner whose Solwara 1 project is located at 1,600 metres depth in the Bismarck Sea is scheduled to begin production in late 2013….

While calls have been made, especially by Greenpeace for the setting up of more Marine Protected Areas where all extractive uses of the sea are banned, Peterson believes the ecosystems in the seafloor are self-preserving, and if mining the seabed is done smartly, the destruction can be managed.

Source: Islands Business

Under the long arm of Indon intelligence


IT WOULD seem an unremarkable venture - a group of American tourists visiting a cultural centre in the Papuan town of Abepura.

But to one observer the event (lasting, as he later reported, precisely 35 minutes) was laden with potential significance.

The man in the shadows as the visitors watched a traditional dance was an informant for Indonesia's elite special forces unit, Kopassus. In a subsequent report, he noted that, while the visit had been ''safe and smooth'', there was no room for complacency.

It was a point heartily endorsed by his Kopassus contact, Second Lieutenant Muhammad Zainollah, who alluded, in a report to his own commander, to the risk of foreign tourists ''influencing conditions of Papuan society''.

''Politically, there needs to be a deeper detection of the existence hidden behind it all,'' he warned, ''because of the possibility of a process of deception … such as meetings with pro-independence groups.''

One of hundreds of intelligence briefs from Kopassus intelligence posts in Papua obtained by The Saturday Age - and part of a cache of 19 documents that includes a detailed analysis of the ''anatomy'' of the separatist movement pushing for independence from Indonesia - the note is bizarre, even amusing, but also revealing.

The Indonesian government runs a massive network of spies and informants in Papua, illustrating the level of paranoia in Jakarta about its hold over the resource-rich region in the western half of the island of New Guinea.

Situated in the easternmost reaches of Indonesia's sprawling archipelago, the Papua region is a source of continuing embarrassment for Indonesia - a country that has otherwise made substantial strides as a democratic and economic power.

Despite being granted special autonomy 10 years ago and targeted for accelerated economic development, its indigenous Melanesian people are the country's poorest and many are deeply unhappy with Jakarta's rule and a heavy security presence.

The documents, which date from 2006 to 2009, reveal that independence activists and members of the OPM-TPN, the small armed resistance, are under intense surveillance, but so too are many ordinary Papuans and civic leaders who do not advocate independence but are concerned about the advancement of their people, or are influential in the community.

''Everyone is a separatist until they can prove they are not,'' says Neles Tebay, a pastor and convener of the Papua Peace Network that is promoting dialogue with Jakarta….

''[The troops] are trained to see Papuans as the enemy,'' he adds. ''I'm not saying all the troops are bad but if one group of them is threatening the indigenous people then it creates widespread fear. Also, they are always interrogating people. It's very threatening.''

Photo: Sit-in protesters in Abepura demand referendum over future with Indonesia [West Papua News Info]

Source: The Saturday Age.  Read more at: