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Women: A fitting swansong for Grand Chief


AS THE SUN SETS on the career of Papua New Guinea’s grand chief Sir Michael Somare, what should be his swansong?

Sir Michael, the father of the nation, actively led the push for independence in the 1970s and for 43 years served the people of PNG in its parliament—18 years as prime minister.

He is the only prime minister to have seen out a full parliamentary term—aided by the Organic Law on Political Parties and Candidates that made it illegal for party members to defect to the opposition.

Arguably, it was thanks to this law, and to Sir Michael’s ability to successfully meld together and lead a loose coalition of political parties, that PNG gained a reputation as a politically stable nation.

This enhanced PNG’s attractiveness for overseas investors who consider political stability to be one of the main cornerstones of desirability for overseas investment.

The Grand Chief deserves go out on a high note

Those parliamentarians who are paying lip service to the respect and honour they feel for the Grand Chief would be better served to respect and finish what Sir Michael’s illness has prevented him from doing.

For instance: passing the law reserving 22 seats for women in parliament. Sir Michael was the initiator of the Equality and Participation Bill that this falls under.

The most profound act of respect for Sir Michael would be to finish the work he started.

Dame Carol Kidu: a fighter with a difference

With mic This week, Papua New Guinea’s only female parliamentarian, Dame Carol Kidu, lost her portfolio after the dramatic overthrow of the Somare-Abal government.  In 2007 Islands Business magazine declared her to be its Person of the Year and, to mark the occasion, she was interviewed by SAMISONI PARETI.  To honour Dame Carol Kidu’s career as a highly effective minister, we republish extracts ….

HANDBAG BY HER SIDE and wiping her thin-framed glasses, Dame Carol Kidu is one of the world’s hopelessly-armed fighters.

To begin with, there is no army for her to lead, nor a financier with deep pockets to fund her cause. Her armoury of weapons is non-existent. And she’s white, and a woman.

Yet within this seeming paradox, lies the widow’s strength. For Kidu fights a different fight, one that doesn’t require guns and ammunition, or in the context of the country of her late husband and their children, bows and arrows.

There are no arms, just her strong debate skills. No war manoeuvring, just sharp intellect and a strong sense of justice and fair play.

For that fighting spirit, her never-say-die attitude, her sheer grit and determination to take on the might of Melanesia’s largest and most vibrant male-dominated society, for being the face and voice of the poor and the down-trodden, Kidu is the magazine’s unanimous choice for the 2007 Pacific Person of the Year.

For a woman of her stature, her work in social development is of gigantic proportion.

In the context of the islands of the Pacific, the problems in Papua New Guinea are immense and complex. It can even be deadly inside the sprawling shanty towns of Port Moresby or the remote corners of the Highlands. Yet, size it seems doesn’t matter to Dame Carol Kidu.

Slowly and determinedly, she is making a difference. And she is getting people including the male leaders of PNG to sit up and listen. Her community development ministry is now reclassified as a senior ministry….

Being the sole woman parliamentarian, the only woman cabinet minister and being white, Dame Carol Kidu makes no bone about where her allegiance and interest lies; fighting for the poor, the down-trodden and the unfortunate of a country she and her children have come to call their very own.

Thrust into national politics of Papua New Guinea following the sudden death of her husband in 1993, just six months after his term as chief justice was unfairly terminated, Kidu is synonymous with the fight against domestic violence, child abuse, HIV and AIDS, poverty alleviation and community empowerment in the country of her late husband and their children.

As the minister for social welfare and community development, Kidu has been the small ‘general’ leading from the front….

Nobody, least of all Kidu, needs reminding of the enormity of the task and the challenge.

Young Buri and Carol For her, the fairy-tale [began] when the young, handsome Buri Kidu swept her off her feet with a rendition of the popular Neil Sedaka number, Oh Carol, at a school boot camp on Australia’s Gold Coast in the mid-1960s.

Later, when the idea of matrimony was raised in 1969, Buri laid everything bare about the difficult road with his Brisbane-born bride.

“Buri said, ‘Look, just understand one thing, if we marry, don’t ever ask me to choose,” Lady Kidu recalled in an interview she gave ABC TV’s Australian Story in 2004.

“And I said, ‘What do you mean?

“He said, ‘Don’t ask me to choose between you and my people. I’ll choose my people, I will not choose you.”

Continue reading "Dame Carol Kidu: a fighter with a difference" »

True love flows only from a heart….


ANY MOMENT from now, she will die. There’s no doubt about it. Death is already creeping slowly in, like the approaching dusk.

There is a gloomy ambience all around her, and the air reeks of death. Today or tomorrow, any moment, she will breathe her last. The beat of her heart will slowly tempo to a halt, and she will cease to exist.

Her stature heralds impending death. Her bones gain prominence amidst the wasting muscles and fat tissue. Her strength fades so badly that even her once so soft and curly hair, fails to stand firm on her rather thin scalp. The ears look as if they were withered by the sun, and the eyes have sunk deep into the skull.

As if afraid to look into the face of death, the eyeballs have turned upwards, such that only the white sclera is visible. Her mouth and tongue are flaked with white stuff that easily bleeds when tried to be removed. Water cannot be sipped, and food cannot be chewed because the flakes are very painful. She can talk no more, for her voice is suppressed by the terrible infection.

The bones of her limbs are clearly visible. Her arm bones so visible they look like baseball bats stuck in the side of her chest. The ribs stand out distinctly from the cage, moving with each struggling breath with.

Her abdomen looks as though it had been emptied of its contents. Urine flows out unrestrained, as she failed to muster up strength to contain it. The odour of urine and faeces is all around her.

As if spelled by the smell, no relative visits. That terrible day, which turns out to be her last, is the one she needs her family most, particularly her mother. But mother, a health worker, has frozen her account of tender-loving-care.

The one male in the world that she calls Daddy withholds his loving presence at her dying moment. Her brothers and sisters refuse to show she is their little sister, once so loved and cherished. As her moments tick away, the memory of her family fades, and she brushes aside remaining hope of seeing them again.

But a man sits on the bed by her side. He is the love of her life. Tears flow freely down his cheeks as he watched her sick body. He wishes he could look into her eyes once more, and see the colour and radiance of life. He wishes her lips could part again into the smile that once sent chills up his spine.

Continue reading "True love flows only from a heart…." »

Manus people fear lifestyle is threatened

Posakei-pongap ON MANUS ISLAND, the indigenous community has lived off the sea for generations.

The fisheries surrounding their island have shrunken precipitously, while rising sea levels and erosion have made farming on Manus more difficult than ever.

In December 2008, a storm of unprecedented size devastated the island, destroying homes and natural habitats.

“King tide comes, and the salt water destroys all the crops and the vegetation and nothing can grow anymore,” said Nicolas Villaume, a photographer who covered this story. “The king tide also destroyed lots of the coral barrier reef, and if you destroy that, then you destroy the nesting places for fish.”

Community leaders are now discussing a mass emigration to the mainland, but despite the slowly rising tide, many elders simply refuse to leave.

The Manus islanders are illustrations of a troubling trend: indigenous groups detrimentally affected by global climate change, a phenomenon they’ve played little part in creating.

A new “Conversations with the Earth: Indigenous Voices on Climate Change” exhibition at the Museum of the American Indian powerfully documents the impacts of climate change on 15 of these communities from 13 countries around the world.

During 2009, Villaume travelled the world–visiting communities in many countries including Papua New Guinea–to capture these stories. As a co-founder of Conversations with the Earth, an international organisation that empowers indigenous communities through the use of multimedia, he sought to use photography to help members of scattered communities connect with the world at large.

“The most important thing is to understand is that climate change is touching people today, right now,” he says. “And the first people being affected are indigenous populations, in many places of the planet, because they are 100% dependent on their ecosystem.”

Photo: Posakei Pongap, a Manus islander, in front of a field ruined by salinisation [Nicolas Villaume]

Source: Smithsonian Magazine

Companies may be sued over human rights

RECENT COURT RULINGS on the question of whether resource companies and other multinationals can be sued in US courts for alleged human rights violations overseas has made the issue ripe for Supreme Court intervention, possibly as early as next month.

Oil companies Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Exxon Mobil Corp. have been battling allegations that they played a role in human rights abuses in Nigeria and Indonesia, respectively.

Other cases on the same legal issue are working their way through the courts, including Sarei v Rio Tinto.

This case relates to allegations against mining giant Rio Tinto over its operations on an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea.

The case is currently pending before the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed to rehear it.

Human rights lawyers point out that so far the split in the circuit is 3-1 in favor of companies having liability, if several rulings in the Atlanta-based 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in recent years are included in the analysis.

Marco Simons, an attorney at Earthrights International, says he would not be surprised if the Supreme Court took the case, although he noted that the justices may want to wait until there are more rulings indicating a broad split among circuits.

"The Supreme Court typically doesn't take cases unless there's a circuit split where the issue is still being bounced around," he said.

Source: New York Times

Teaching black kids in London in the ’70s


I STARTED TEACHING after Enoch Powell’s divisive speech, during the rise of the skinheads and at a time of still blatant and overt racism.

I was a new graduate from teachers’ school and accepted the only job offer I had – to teach at a multi-ethnic high school in London.

It wasn’t a particularly bad area and had a fair mix of students. But the school did segregate by performance: three grades for each form – A, B and C – the A’s being the best, the C’s the worst.

I was given the job of teaching English to form 4C (the worst performing 14-15 year olds).  The class was 90% kids of black Caribbean origin, who had of course grown up in England.

I met many of their folks on ‘parent evening’ and understood they wanted the best for their kids, but knew they were up against the odds. They were sympathetic and helpful and hopeful that I could make a difference for their kids.

I quickly realised I was in for a hiding, and the only way was to try and get through to the kids. So I did a quick immersion course in black culture and tried to make my classes as relevant as possible.

We had to study some Shakespeare, so I chose Othello – and took my class to see a performance at Stratford. I illustrated it with comments from their experiences of prejudice against black people – and we found a contemporary-English version to read side-by-side with the original so we could talk about how language had changed.

For literature I chose amongst other books To Kill a Mockingbird and managed to hire the Gregory Peck film to show. We discussed it at length in class.

Then I thought we’d explore black music lyrics, and we had some lessons on Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix etc. This brought the ire of the school authorities down on me – as the music was too loud.

The school received a complaint from a white boy’s parents that I was teaching “too much black-stuff” but too their credit the school supported me.

Then came the social events. We had an annual cricket match – school versus parents. I happened to know that a father of one of my black students has tested for the West Indies team as a fast bowler, so encouraged him to join. The parents thrashed the teachers – largely because my ringer bowled out seven of them!

Then came the end-of-school picnic day out. I realised at the last minute that no-one had made an outing affordable or interesting to my students, so none was going. So I hired a mini-bus and said we’ll have a day at Clacton – it’ll only cost five pounds – ask your parents! You can do what you like! Fun-fairs, peep-shows, parades, circus etc – like a day at the Show.

They all came and we had a great time.

That was my last year there. On leaving, my 4C kids saved up between them and gave me a present. It was a lovely silver pen inscribed with the words “To Sir With Love”.

I still have it.

Ten years later I was walking though Wembley when I heard a cry from a construction site. It was a 25-year old black building labourer yelling out, “Sir!, Sir!”. He ran up to me and said – “Hey I’m Ivan – I was one of your students in 4C at high school, remember me?” Yes I did. He was one of the worst. But he had remembered.

He said “I’ll never forget what you did for us kids. Thank you”

That one small moment crystallised all that can be good about teaching.

Young Ivan wanted to learn to drive, but his family didn’t have a car, so I taught him after school in mine (an old Anglia). He managed to crash it into a lamp post and felt so sorry he saved up and gave me 10 pounds for the repairs.

His parents invited me around for dinner to say sorry.

The other teachers called him “Ivan the Terrible”, but I liked him.

When I left that school I asked the Head for a reference. He wrote “one of his faults as a teacher is that he feels too sympathetic for his students.”

I was rather proud of that.

Closest I’ve got to that feeling is teaching in PNG – but that’s another story.

Manus detention centre approved by cabinet

THE PNG cabinet has approved reopening the asylum-seeker detention centre to be run by Australian officials on Manus Island.

This is welcome news to the Australian government, which is struggling to deal with unauthorised boat arrivals to Australia.

In Port Moresby, prime minister Peter O’Neill said his government had approved the reopening of the Manus Island detention centre but it was up to the Australian government when it would be up and running again.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard welcomed the news and thanked Mr O’Neill for promptly considering the request.

“Arrangements are being made for a high-level delegation of Australian officials to travel to Papua New Guinea in the very near future to finalise a memorandum of understanding regarding the centre,” Ms Gillard said.

“We are committed to working in partnership with PNG to examine how such a centre might operate, including how it might best complement broader regional activities.”

Source: The Canberra Times

Croc Prize preparations move into top gear


Anthology Cover 2011 WITH THE inaugural Crocodile Prize awards now just more than a month away (they will be announced on Thursday 15 September), we’re getting down to the business end of Papua New Guinea’s national literary contest, an initiative of PNG Attitude and the PNG Post-Courier.

Phil Fitzpatrick has put the finishing touches on The Crocodile anthology, featuring the best entries in the contest. This will be launched at the awards ceremony.

Meanwhile the judging panel is hard at work selecting the prize winners in the categories of short stories, poetry, and essays.  And Dame Carol Kidu is judging entries in the award for women’s writing named in her honour.

The anthology was sent to the printers this week to ensure it is published in time for the awards.  At the same time, one of the organisers, Patrick ‘Big Pat’ Levo, features editor of the Post-Courier, is selecting his favourite entries for publication in the national daily over the coming weeks.

Over at the Australian High Commission at Waigani, preliminary preparations are being made for the Writers Workshop, to be held in conjunction with the awards, as well as for the prize giving ceremony and reception at the end of the day.

Twenty emerging writers have already accepted invitations to join the workshop, which will be facilitated by Phil Fitzpatrick, Russell Soaba and Steven Winduo, all published authors.

In addition to the packed program organised for 15 September, the workshop will devote time to considering practical matters such as how to get more Papua New Guinean writers published, whether to add a category for novels to the 2012 Crocodile Prize and how to secure more support from government and the private sector to boost indigenous literature in PNG.

Meanwhile, the best short stories, poems and essays – a number of which are world class - have been prepared for publication in the anthology and below we honour the writers for the hard work and rich creativity they have committed to this literary enterprise.

Short Stories (25 stories; 18 writers)

Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin, Jeffrey Febi, Bette Carinya Kare, Carolus Ketsimur, Eva Kuson, Pochon Lili, Martyn Namorong, Francis Nii, Patricia Paraide, Ignatius Piakal, Reginald Renagi, Leonard Fong Roka, Gina Samar, Bernard Sinai, Paul Waugla Drekore Wii, Imelda Yabara, Tanya Zeriga-Alone

Poetry (32 poems; 17 writers)

Hinelou Nini Costigan, Jimmy Drekore, Jeffrey Febi, Francis Hualupmomi, Icarus, Janice Isu, David Kitchnoge, Lapieh Landu, Mizraiim Lapa, Martyn Namorong, Gelab Piak, Ignatius Piakal, Fiona Potane, Reginald Renagi, Leonard Fong Roka, Bernard Sinai, Imelda Yabara 

Essays (19 essays; 15 writers)

Corney K Alone, Bapa Bomoteng, Effrey Dademo, Jeffrey Febi, Sharlene Kylie Gawi, Francis Hualupmomi, Icarus, Mathius Kin, David Kitchnoge, Lapieh Landu, Martyn Namorong, Reginald Renagi, Scott Waide, Joe Wasia, Bernard Yegiora

Image: Cover artwork of 'The Crocodile', the Crocodile Prize 2011 anthology

Corruption: The hope that O’Neill is genuine


PAPUA NEW GUINEA's new Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has just promised an array of reforms that are bound to placate those who feared last week's coup would lead to the kind of muscular misgovernance that has put neighbouring Fiji's economy into a tailspin.

The palatable reforms include an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), free primary education for all up to the age of ten, and the sale of the controversial A$51 million government jet, with funds to be redirected to health and education.

While all of the proposals are laudable, the sincerity behind some is questionable. As Dame Carol Kidu pointed out, O'Neill has but a year to implement these ambitious initiatives, and his plans are more than a little hazy on details. 

PNG is a notoriously difficult operating environment — extending universal primary education in particular will be a mammoth task – and as the hard-learned lessons of development show, throwing money at a problem in a developing country rarely makes it go away.

O'Neill's promise of an ICAC is dubious. Anti-corruptionism is a song loudly sung by PNG's notoriously corrupt elites, and O'Neill's record in this area is hardly blemish free. There's a more than decent chance that O'Neill is, as Kidu suggests, leading voters (and foreign donors) up the garden path, buying time to consolidate power.

One would hope that O'Neill is genuine, because the need to fight entrenched corruption in PNG could not be more pressing. Many have heralded the forthcoming $15 billion LNG project as having the potential to radically alter the course of PNG’s economic and social development. In truth, the odds are stacked in favour of the revenues exacerbating underdevelopment rather than alleviating it.

Both experience and logic support the premise that resource booms choke development. The easy revenues powerfully disincentize good governance (no need to earn your constituents' votes when you can buy them), and once established, corrupt behavioural equilibriums become notoriously difficult to uproot. Systemic incentives militate in favour of corrupt practices, and those who fight it find that the system fights back.

As Jenny Hayward-Jones pointed out last week, nothing in PNG's politics is set in stone. O'Neill has the opportunity to appoint credible statesmen and recapture public confidence in government. At the same time, however, he has to manage the expectations of the ambitious men who surround him.

He has neither the time nor the political maneuvering room to rewrite the rules of PNG politics, and will likely find himself dispensing favors to shore up support. If he wishes to break with the kleptocracy of the past, O'Neill will need to establish powerful incentives for himself (and any of those eyeing his position) to keep the redistribution of public funds to a minimum.

This where the Australian Government could step in. It has already done important work in strengthening law and justice in Melanesia, and there is a compelling case to be made for Australia mobilising funding for an independent anti-corruption commission that has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute high-level graft.

Whether O'Neill's ICAC proposal is genuine or opportunistic, Australia should take him up on it. Political will to fight internal corruption is rare, after all, and even the best-intentioned reformists falter without support.

The opportunity for Australian tax dollars to make a difference in PNG may have presented itself — why not seize it? 

Danielle Romanes is a development economics and political science post-grad student interning in the Lowy Institutes's Myer Foundation Melanesia Program

Source: The Lowy Interpreter

In light of such wisdom, I am found wanting


Dedicated to Russell Soaba’s Story Board

There was a battered old kerosene lamp
of which my bubu had inordinate pride
He kept it lit at his bedside mat
besides the firelight at night
I’d always wondered why he’d bothered
to keep that relic of times long past
He’d always wondered why I’d ask
for his purpose seemed sure enough
And although my MagLite made him gasp
he said,  “Such things will come to pass”.

Awash in fire and lamplight both
we’d sit together of a night
ruminating each on the other’s plight
Mine modern –carefree, careless curiosities
His ancient –careworn, careful custodianship

On those brightly lit city streets
of which I had inordinate pride
Electric bulbs burn overhead
besides the television light at night
Too tired to ponder, why even bother
to regard such technological badges
Those wondrous gizmo’s and cool gadgets
for my purpose seemed sure enough
And although my modernity makes me laugh
he said, “Such things will come to pass”.

Awash in streetlamps and headlight beams both
there are no quiet sitting places
Every rambling soul has a lonely plight
In a brightly lit city with its haunted inhabitants
or a village hut darkened by my bubu’s ghost

Published in the Writer’s Forum of The National, 8 July 2011 (reproduced here with some editing).  You can visit the Story Board, "views and opinions on PNG literature", at

Doubts raised over viability of TB centres

AUSTRALIAN-FUNDED medical centres in Papua New Guinea will do little to curb the number of people crossing the Torres Strait for tuberculosis treatment, an Australian doctor says.

Cairns-based respiratory specialist, Dr Graham Simpson, said the AusAID funded centres would not be accessible to many remote communities.

"Transport difficulties in the Western Province are huge," he said.

Dr Simpson said it would take some people up to eight hours or 100 litres of fuel to reach the new centres.

"Even if there is fuel, they can't remotely afford it so they just can't get to Daru [island] and Daru can't really get to them."

"So it's a lot easier to nip in a canoe and come over to one of the outer islands."

Source: Australia Network News

2012 U19 cricket World Cup group draw

TEAM GROUPINGS for the 2012 Under 19 cricket World Cup in Australia have been finalised by the International Cricket Council.

2000 and 2008 champion India has been drawn in Group C along with Papua New Guinea, West Indies and Zimbabwe.

Defending champion Australia will head Group A, having been drawn alongside 1998 winner England, Nepal and Ireland.

Group B is made up of the last event’s runner-up and two-time winner Pakistan, New Zealand, Scotland and Afghanistan.

Sri Lanka, South Africa, Bangladesh and Namibia make up Group D.

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat highlighted that the tournament has proved to be an important stepping stone for elite young cricketers aspiring to play international cricket.

He said it is an opportunity for them to develop and test their skills in a high-pressure situation against the world’s best at this level.

“In the past, we have seen some quality players come through the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup, including star players like Inzamam-ul-Haq, Yuvraj Singh, Brian Lara, Ian Bell, Virat Kohli, Eoin Morgan, Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla,” Lorgat said.

“I expect next year’s event to be no different in producing future world stars,” he added.

Actions must honour words, says Act Now

COMMUNITY ADVOCACY group, Act Now, has welcomed the announcement by Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister Peter O’Neill that his government will establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption.

"Act Now is very pleased the prime minister has pledged to establish an ICAC and has recognised the crippling effects of corruption in PNG”, said program manager Effrey Dademo.

“Act Now has been campaigning against the blatant stealing of public money and we see the introduction of an ICAC as a necessary step to tackle the problem, but it is only the first step of many that will be required.”

The prime minister told parliament he was acting “in response to the public outcry against the rampant corruption and mismanagement of public money” and is committed to “investigate, charge, prosecute and jail persons, or groups, or companies that have illegally profited from the State’s coffers”.

Act Now says while Mr O’Neill’s words are very heartening and mark a clear separation of his own government from that of Michael Somare, everyone will be watching very closely to see that his actions match his rhetoric.

“As well as looking to the future, and ensuring a well resourced ICAC, the prime minister must ensure the recommendations of previous inquiries like that into the Finance Department are implemented and people already implicated are prosecuted”, said Ms Dademo.

Poem: The darkness of neon lights


This poem is a rearrangement and rewording of a quote from the Constitutional Planning Committee 1975, with inputs from a couple of good friends

Tonight at Kaugere looking over the shanties

We see the glittering brightness of Overseas*

Creating the darkness of neon lights

It is the loneliness and despair in the urban cities.

It is the alienation of land from rural people

That feeds the babes of rich people

We see true social security and happiness

Being diminished in the name of progress

The pursuit of large scale industries

At the expense of indigenous communities

Our social, cultural and spiritual blights

Caused by the darkness of neon lights

* ‘Overseas’ is poetic license used by the slum dwellers of Kaugere in Port Moresby to refer to the bright lights and exclusive suburbs of wealthy classes in town and on Touagouba Hill

O’Neill says ties to Australia will strengthen

NEW PRIME MINISTER Peter O'Neill has outlined a broad agenda for his unity government, including closer ties to Australia and the establishment of an independent commission against corruption.

In a wide-ranging speech to parliament on Tuesday, Mr O'Neill also promised free education to students up to Year 10 as part of the 2012 budget, and an immediate reinvigoration of the nation's police force.

"In our external relationships, this government recognises that Papua New Guinea is not an island unto itself - we live in a global village," Mr O'Neill said.

"We will strengthen our relationships, particularly with our neighbours Australia and Indonesia."

The Somare government had encouraged a "look North" policy, supporting closer ties to China rather than Australia.

Mr O'Neill's government has begun working with the Australian government on its proposal to reopen the Manus Island asylum-seeker detention centre, with the two countries believed to be near a deal.

Mr O'Neill said a bill will be introduced at the next session of parliament to establish an ICAC with powers to investigate public, political and private sector corruption.

"In response to the public outcry again to the rampant corruption and mismanagement of public money, I will move decisively to appoint a public prosecutor to immediately investigate, charge, prosecute and jail persons, or groups, or companies who have illegally profited from the state's coffers," he said.

Mr O'Neill said a team of special investigators, vested with prosecution powers, will be engaged, to investigate the controversial K125 million Kokopo deal, among other corrupt dealings by the Somare government.

Meanwhile, deputy prime minister Belden Namah has urged Papua New Guineans to support the new government as it instigates investigations into the disappearance of millions of kina in public funds.

Mr Namah, also called for cooperation from public servants, the private sector and civil society as the government tries to institute corrective measures.

He also accused the opposition of using disruptive tactics to prevent the new government from governing, urging it to allow for the smooth transition of powers and responsibilities.

Sources: AAP and NBC News

Poem: The forgotten generations


We are our fathers’ sons
We speak our mothers’ tongue
We’ve been taught on how to serve
See us now living on the edge
Promised us a brighter day
Than show us a better way

Aiya oh!
I smile but is this my face?
Aiya Oh!
I live but is this my place?

We are our fathers’ armour
We thrive on our mothers’ humour
We’ve been told, land is a friend
See us now such chaotic blend
Fear not for what we are
Hear us for who we are

Aiya Oh!
I dream but where is my choice?
Aiya Oh!
I scream but is this my voice?

We are our fathers’ bones
We sense our mothers’ tones
We’ve been shaped from primitive
See us now, pray for more positive
Shake our hands not our hopes
Take our scopes not our lands

Aiya Oh!
I breathe my intoxicated street?
Aiya Oh!
I stand but is this my feet?

Aiya Oh!
I try to run but is this the way?
Aiya Oh!
I like to live but who will pay?

Marie Mondu, 29, was born Bundi.  She works for Caritas Australia as a research officer in two highlands provinces of PNG after completing university five years ago. “I love creative art,”she says, “and people and places amaze me. Lyrics and freelance poetry is my strength, which I have been improvising on to encourage youth participation in HIV advocacy.”

Transparency International warns of unrest

Transparency International PNG says it fears there'll be social unrest in the country if some highly anticipated legislation is not passed before next year's general elections.

They include the creation of 22 reserved seats for women in parliament and the creation of two additional constituencies of Hela and Jiwaka in the highlands.

President of Transparency PNG, Lawrence Stephen said this while commenting on the sudden change of government.

“Everybody was taken aback,” he said. “On the one side, people are in need of a change. There was a sense in the country that things are not just working properly, not just to do with the prime minister being ill, but to do with a whole attitude that seemed to be developing where the leadership was not this apparently responding well.

“On the other side of it, it seemed to be very sad and possibly illegal for this sort of move to take place in the way it did and, when we watch as the speaker simply refused to listen to anybody other than the people here who now support him, that became even more disturbing.

Mr Stephen said he wondered whether the government could deliver on the most urgent pieces of legislation.

“Clearly the women's groups are hoping to see this law [for reserved seats] go through the parliament, but in past experience, when people are deciding the priorities of the parliament, they tend to put some things last and that seems to have been one of the things that drops off the agenda.

“The new electorates are extremely important, in particular, the new electorate of Hela, because many people who are looking at this as an opportunity for decisions to be brought closer to the people, power to be distributed in other ways and we can expect all sorts of social unrest if things are not handled quickly and carefully.

“The Jiwaka province is also a potential worry,” Mr Stephens said.

“Unfortunately, the reality for Papua New Guinea is that we have many things hanging over us and tend to postpone the important decisions and important actions until things break apart.”

Source: Radio Australia

Cricketers qualify for Under-19 World Cup

AFTER A SHAKY start to the tournament, PNG'S Under-19 cricket team has secured qualification for the Under-19 World Cup by picking up its fourth win in the last five games.

The team continued its rise up the table by easily beating Ireland. The other five teams to qualify for the World Cup were Scotland, Nepal, Ireland, Namibia and Afghanistan.

Seamer Norman Vanua starred with the ball for Papua New Guinea, picking up two early wickets that started an Ireland top-order collapse.

When the Ireland lower order was fighting to get a defendable total, Vanua came back and removed the last two batsmen, Ireland only managing to score 155.

PNG reached the target quickly, but not without losing five wickets.

A quickfire 30 from Vagi Oala got the chase off to a rollicking start but the run-rate slowed slightly as wickets fell. PNG were always comfortable, though, and got home – and through to qualification - in 29.1 overs.

The performance of the Under 19s matches recent improvements seen in the senior team and marks a real resurgence in PNG cricket.

Source: ESPN

Agreement reached to reopen Manus centre

THE ABC IS reporting that the O’Neill government has given in-principle support to Australia's proposal to reopen the detention centre on Manus Island to process asylum seekers.

The Australian government had been negotiating for some months without success with former prime minister Sam Abal to achieve this outcome.

The decision will come as a great relief to the Gillard government which is under serious political attack for its failure to develop an effective solution to one of Australia’s hottest political issues.

Negotiations were given fresh impetus by last week's unexpected change of government that installed Peter O'Neill as prime minister.

The report said that, during a phone conversation with Ms Gillard last week, Mr O'Neill agreed in-principle to reopen the centre.

A spokesman says "the issue has been resolved" and "Manus will be made available to the Australian government".

Details, including how many people will be sent to manus, are still to be decided.

Nor is it clear when an agreement will be finalised.

Save Sadam's Eyes.   Readers pledge K1,382

ALMOST BLIND, Mavo ‘Sadam’ Manu urgently needs specialist treatment, and PNG Attitude has taken on his cause.  Make your donation to the 'SPSS The Crocodile' account at Bendigo Bank.  BSB 633 000.  Account number 141 021 527.  Reference ‘Sadam’.  Read Sadam's story here.

Refugee children may go to Manus Island

THE AUSTRALIAN government is hoping the new O’Neill administration in Papua New Guinea will move quickly to allow the re-opening of the detention centre on Manus Island.

Australia is forging ahead on talks with PNG to reopen the Manus centre at the same time it is fighting a High Court challenge aimed at stopping refugees being sent to Malaysia.

While confident of winning the Malaysia case, a government source said a permanent facility on Manus Island would take some of the political heat out of the Malaysian plan.

The source said that children could be sent to what would be an Australian-monitored facility instead of to Malaysia, which has a poor record in human rights.

The government believes it needs both the Manus and Malaysia options to end people smuggling.

Talks with the interim Abal government foundered despite strong Australian pressure to re-open Manus Island.

But the Australians believe the O’Neill government will be much more sympathetic.

Read more:

Let’s be honest with our people, I implore…

Dame Carol MORE DETAILS have emerged of the extraordinary first day's sitting of Papua New Guinea's new parliament under the prime ministershkip of Peter O’Neill.

A boycott of proceedings pending a legal challenge to the legitimacy of the new government left the opposition benches empty except for one member - the ousted community development minister, Dame Carol Kidu.

Lady Kidu, facing down 59 male members of the new government, took a lonely seat at the back of the opposition benches.

From this humble position she launched an impassioned speech questioning if ''we have thrown our constitution to the wind … the ends do not justify the means''.

She congratulated Mr O'Neill on pledges to urgently address corruption, education, health, crumbling roads and infrastructure, but cautioned that ''we do not get caught up in the rhetoric … we have heard this sweet rhetoric over and over.

''Let's be honest with our people, I implore you.''

Lady Kidu had been in South Africa representing Pacific health interests and missed last week’s dramatic events which saw defections from the government enable Mr O'Neill to win the leadership.

Source: Brisbane Times

So this sinking has really numbed us


Yesterday I was in government
Just listen and no two toea comment
I was the king of the world, like Jack
Until the my friends stabbed my back
Yesterday went like a dream
Life can be very mean

I had my moments on Titanic
But its sinking was no picnic
Yeah we looked strong in numbers
So this sinking has really numbed us
Yesterday went like a dream
Life can be very mean

When our captain left the deck
Its cocky crew turned their back
That iceberg in Singapore
Crushed Titanic in the core
Yesterday went like a dream
Life can be very mean

The bow and stern of Titanic
Lie in watery grave of Sepik
Will a House stand, if divided?
Will It live or will It be dead?
Is Yesterday just a dream?
Can Life be very mean?

The case for Christianity in national affairs


AS DEBATE ON reforms to our sex laws and other moral questions intensify, conversation often flows to Christianity and its application to our national legislative programs and social engineering projects.

Why should its precepts and principles be applied in shaping our society? Why should it have prominence over other religious or irreligious opinions? Why do we even call Papua New Guinea a “Christian country”?

Increasingly people question the merits of calling PNG a “Christian country”. Christian leaders often say our constitution declares PNG a “Christian country” so we must therefore adhere to Christian principles.

They are mistaken. Our constitution does not make such a declaration. However it does subscribe explicitly to Christian principles.

I’d like to put forward the following argument in light of the preamble to the constitution—our “Declaration of Independence”. What does it really say?

The preamble contains the “spirit” of the constitution and, by extension, the nation. In law, the spirit of a document is a significant aid to interpretation.

Without the letter the spirit is ineffective and dead; but without the spirit the letter is without ultimate meaning, without coherence and is vulnerable to abusive interpretation.

Whilst many argue on the “letter” of the constitution, few really understand its spirit.

Our founding fathers and the drafters of the constitution—after nationwide consultation and affirmation from the people—put into the preamble a pronouncement of certain fundamental beliefs and values that as a nation we would (or should) live by.

These foundations provide a coherent ethos for our nation. Such an ethos is necessary for our society to maintain some coherence and, dare I say, order.

Some of those principles include: the declaration of being “united as one nation”; the memory of our ancestors; the people-power basis for our democracy; the prominence of the dignity of the human being and community; the rejection of violence and encouragement of peaceful consensus; and hard work and equitable sharing of benefits for all.

These are but few of the foundation pillars set for our country. Among them, the preamble declares—in fact it pledges!—to “guard and pass on to those who come after us our noble traditions and the Christian principles that are ours now”.

The writers included Christianity as a major facet for our national society. This has, through ignorance of the real wording of the preamble, been taken to mean that the constitution declares PNG to be a “Christian country”.

Perhaps it’s only a matter of argument whether it’s a declaration or not. But for me it’s quite clear. Our declaration lays down a pledge to do two things for the Christian worldview in PNG: to guard it and to pass it on.

Christian principles form part of the fundamental philosophical makeup of our nation, meant to permeate not only the private lives of us the citizens but every objective strategy we think up for progress as a nation.

As a people we are called by the supreme document of our land, to guard those Christian principles we had wisely adopted. So when challenged by philosophies and ideologies directly contradictory to those Christian principles, the Christian principles be given prominent consideration. That is our duty under the constitution.

And if our first basic social obligation (under that same preamble by the way) is anything to go by, we are called to “respect and act” in the spirit of the constitution. Notice it does not say we must respect and act according to the “letter” of the constitution.

Our writers knew the fallacy of leaning on the letter alone. We must be guided by that “spirit”—and therefore by extension the Christian principles.

For those naysayers who insist we are not a nation built on Christian principles, our constitution leaves no doubt (unlike the American declaration of independence which is not as explicit) that it is indeed part and parcel of our pillars.

And further reading of the writings of John Momis, Sir Michael Somare and the late Bernard Narakobi will confirm this explicit subscription to the Gospel of Christ. And to say otherwise would be to disagree with the spirit of the constitution...the same one that gives us the right to argue one way or the other.

Where there is a need for coherence in our society where shall we get it? Should we spin a bottle on every separate issue and apply that worldview to which it points; regardless of the contradiction and incoherence in society?

I contend that we need no such exercise. Our preamble—the spirit of our nation—provides such a coherence, it defines us sufficiently.

If we should look everywhere but there we may end up sufficiently confused, frustrated, without direction and without identity. And even if we gain so much ground yet we may effectively get nowhere.

God Bless Papua New Guinea.

Near neighbours are sometimes too near


AUSTRALIA’S prime minister, Julia Gillard, was quick to telephone her congratulations to her new counterpart in Papua New Guinea.

She rang Peter O’Neill on 3 August, just a day after he assumed office, reflecting the hope in Canberra that PNG’s incoming government might manage the affairs of state better than its predecessor—if it manages to survive an impending challenge in the Supreme Court.

The chairman of the local branch of Transparency International, Lawrence Stephens, also applauded Mr O’Neill’s promise to fight corruption.

Some in his cabinet have promising reputations, including the new minister for public service and sport, Bart Philemon, and Sir Mekere Morauta, himself the prime minister from 1999-2002, who played host to Mr O’Neill’s faction at his Toaguba Hill residence in Port Moresby last week as they prepared their parliamentary coup.

But some caution is necessary. PNG’s governments are notorious for corruption, and ever run the risk of turning the state into a fully-fledged kleptocracy.

The downfall of Sir Michael Somare’s administration is widely attributed to popular discontent about its venal cabal of senior ministers. But neither is the opposition squeaky clean.

Mr O’Neill himself was implicated in a corruption scandal involving the National Provident Fund in the early 1990s. Many of the others who broke ranks to join him have shady reputations, including the speaker of parliament, Jeffrey Nape, who for many years bent the rules to keep Mr Somare in office.

In the hard-knocks school of Melanesian politics, reformists—like Mr Philemon and Mr Morauta—often have to broker deals with less reputable politicians if they are to stand any chance of forming a government.

For Australia, the only good thing that Mr Somare’s 2002-2011 government had to offer was stability, compared with its ever-changing predecessors in the 1980s and 1990s. The Australian government’s response to Mr O’Neill’s election stands in sharp contrast with its behaviour during the most recent prime ministerial election in PNG, back in August 2007.

John Howard’s Liberal-led coalition held office in Canberra, and—in the midst of the PNG election campaign—the prime minister called for the release of a confidential report that recommended charges against Mr Somare for breaching his country’s constitution. Mr Somare was able to blame for Australia of interfering with PNG’s politics and he won the election handily.

The opposition—with Mr Morauta and Mr Philemon playing pivotal roles—was routed, in part because it was labelled as a vehicle for the import of foreign ideas, including not only quasi-imperial manipulation but also “good governance” and anti-corruption policies.

Much has changed since 2007. The Labor government that assumed office in Australia later that year shifted the emphasis away from "good governance" and towards combating poverty and the UN's Millennium Development Goals. Tensions have calmed since then, but in ways that have done little to enhance Australia's official influence. During the past decade, a mineral resources boom driven by Chinese demand (like that in Australia) has made PNG less dependent on overseas aid.

Australian officials who had been accustomed to having easy access to the highest levels of government found themselves left waiting in musty corridors for brief audiences with busy ministers. The huge ExxonMobil project in PNG's Southern Highlands has accentuated those trends.

Australia—once the colonial power—has spent close to $15 billion on aid to PNG since its independence in 1975, but living standards there have barely risen. Impoverished squatter settlements have mushroomed around Port Moresby and urban crime-rates have soared. In many rural areas, the state is simply absent; it provides neither schools nor clinics nor police officers.

The current resources boom offers some opportunities to turn this around. PNG has been growing at a breakneck speed, averaging 6.6% a year from 2006 to 2010, and seems likely to maintain speed. Moreover Australia plans to double its total international aid by 2015, and PNG will remain a major recipient.

If government funds are frittered away on plush houses for PNG ministers in tropical northern Australia, or cached in secret bank accounts in Singapore, the risk is that rising popular hostility to state corruption will spark new episodes of urban disquiet, such as were witnessed across the country in May 2009.

But if its revenues are spent judiciously, today's boom could build the skills and infrastructure for self-sustained growth. The natural resources themselves are present in abundance.

Much now depends on the politics: in the months before the elections scheduled for mid-2012 but also, on the conduct of the government that follows.

Source: The Economist

Pressure in aftermath of O’Neill ascendancy

THE NEW Papua New Guinea government is under pressure to have urgent legislation passed through parliament in time for next year’s general election.

Paul Barker of PNG’s Institute of National Affairs says there are expectations from various interest groups and regions that three major bills should be passed.

He says each will significantly alter the parliamentary landscape.

“They do have to address whether they’re going to retain the governors’ positions or not,” Mr Barker said.

“They’ve also go to address the 22 (reserved) seats (for) women’s bill which was being pushed by former Community Affairs Minister Dame Carol Kidu with support from the former Prime Minister (Sir) Michael Somare.

“There is also the question of the two new provinces and whether they’re going to go ahead.”

Meanwhile the PNG opposition has filed another court challenge to have the election of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill declared unconstitutional.

Ousted Forest Minister Timothy Bonga has submitted the challenge, arguing the prime minister's position was not vacant and that the parliamentary process was unconstitutional.

It follows a Supreme Court decision last week to dismiss an application by ousted Attorney General Sir Arnold Amet.

The court found Sir Arnold had no legal standing to challenge Mr O'Neill's election.

Another application to stop Prime Minister O'Neill from performing his role and to appoint cabinet ministers was also thrown out.

The courts said they cannot restrict the prime minister, as parliament voted for him following the constitution.

Sources: Australia Network News and Radio New Zealand International

Poem: I have a mother, do you?


I would like to submit the following poem from my 11-year old daughter, Nemora Poawai, who is the younger of twins because I think it is a lovely one. She wrote this poem on the eve of Mothers’ Day and left it on my table so I could read it when I came to work on Monday morning, and I did - Kari Poawai

I have a mother, do you?

That’s great that you have one too

I would have no other than to have her as a mother

We talk to each other from day to night

She’s like a big light

That shows me the way day and night

That’s why I love her and because she cares about me.

Dame Carol Kidu dropped from ministry


Person of the Year IN WHAT CAN only be described as an extraordinary development in Papua New Guinea politics, the sole female parliamentarian in the 109-seat national parliament has been dropped from the ministry.

Dame Carol Kidu, the distinguished and respected Minister for Community Development, was omitted from the 33-strong ministry announced yesterday by prime minister Peter O’Neill, extinguishing the only senior political voice for the nation’s 3.5 million women.

Lady Kidu, 62, an Australian-born politician, is the leader of the Melanesian Alliance Party and has been a courageous and dignified pioneer in pressing for a greater role for women in PNG national affairs.

Born Carol Anne Millwater in Shorncliffe, Queensland, she moved PNG after marrying Buri Kidu, who became Sir Buri Kidu after being knighted in 1980 on his appointment as the first indigenous Chief Justice. She was widowed in 1994 after S rt Buri died of a heart attack.

Lady Kidu entered politics in 1997, and was elected MP for the Port Moresby South seat, being re-elected in 2002 and 2007.

She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in January 2005.

In 2007, Islands Business magazine named her Person of the Year in recognition of her efforts towards poverty alleviation, against domestic violence and child abuse, against HIV and AIDS and in favour of women's empowerment.

In February 2009, she was made a knight of the Légion d'Honneur by France, for "her dedication to helping women, young girls, children, the physically and mentally impaired and her commitment to fighting discrimination".

Lady Kidu has also received honorary doctorates from Vudal University (Madang), the University of Queensland and the University of Papua New Guinea in recognition of her services to the people of PNG.

More recently she has been in the forefront of moves to have more women elected to the national parliament by means of special seats, a campaign that caused considerable unease among her male counterparts but which excited the Papua New Guinean people. 

Continue reading "Dame Carol Kidu dropped from ministry" »

New Crocodile award honours Lady Kidu


Torso ORGANISERS OF The Crocodile Prize literary contest have announced a fourth award, this time for a female writer, which will honour the service to the community and to women of Dame Carol Kidu, until yesterday the Minister for Community Development.

Lady Kidu, a much respected figure throughout Papua New Guinea and the only female politician in the national parliament, graciously agreed to have the award created in her name.

The K1,000 Dame Carol Kidu Award for Women’s Literature is in addition to the prizes for poetry, short stories and essays/journalism announced last year and which are being judged at present.

All women (and girls) who entered The Crocodile Prize contest in any category before 30 June will be eligible for the award.

The winner will be announced at a ceremony at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby on Thursday 15 September.

Lady Kidy & Simbu Roses 
Lower photo: Lady Kidu and the Roses of Simbu [Peter Kranz]

The seven principles of sovereignty and PNG


STUDYING SOVEREIGNTY and reflecting on its place and impact in society in a Third World country like Papua New Guinea makes me doubt the meaning of being an ‘independent and sovereign’ state.

The concept is well enshrined in the PNG constitution and many other areas such as the Eight Point Plan (1972), the National Goals and Directive Principles (1975) and the current political roadmap, Vision 2050.

All these state that PNG must work towards strengthening and protecting her sovereignty. As Papua New Guineans, we have being moulded by our politicians not to be critical of the political, economic and social changes that occur around us.

This is a culture with very negative impacts today.

Sovereignty is authority over one’s own existence. It can apply to the individual, the community and the nation-state.

Academic Alistair McConnachie states that there are seven principles of sovereignty.  Let me pinpoint exactly where our country stands on these principles.

A sovereign state must develop these principles in the shortest timeframe. Dragging its feet will make the nation weak and vulnerable to external control that may lead to puppet-sovereignty.  In my view this is what PNG is today suffering from.

We celebrate PNG as a resource rich country but in our towns and villages the economic and social indicators depict the worst scenario: poor health services, unemployment, high cost of living, and so on.

I want to discuss my views about PNG’s position in regard to each principle of sovereignty.

Continue reading "The seven principles of sovereignty and PNG" »

PNGDF & ADF treat 700 in remote Papua


NINETEEN PNG Defence Force soldiers undertaking training to join the Long Range Reconnaissance Unit have just completed the practical phase of the Combat Medic’s Course.

The soldiers headed to the Central and Gulf provincial border to practise their new treatment skills on the local community. The soldiers were taught and supervised by four PNGDF medics as well as two Australian Defence Force medical personnel.

In conjunction with the local Catholic Health Service and the District Health Service, the soldiers tended a total of 698 patients along the Akufa River and its tributaries, north-west of Bereina.

The soldiers were based at Akufa and visited by boat and foot the villages of Inaukina, Malipoi, Maipa, Imounga, Ioi, Piunga and Engafa.

They attended to the wounds and diseases as well as assisting with recording pikinini statistics. The local health workers treated people using medicines provided through the recent health centre and aid posts kit distribution supported by AusAID.

Pharmacy “It was great to see the medicine’s from the kits being used in the most hard to reach villages where people need them the most,” said Colin Wiltshire, AusAID’s representative in Central Province. 

"It was a good example of cooperation between the PNGDF, the District Government and the Catholic Health Service and was greatly appreciated by the local people,” Warrant Officer Class Two Dave Turner of the ADF Defence Cooperation Program said.

Source: Australian High Commission, Port Moresby

Peter O’Neill meets with Fiji minister

THE FIJI foreign affairs minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola has met briefly with new Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill.

Ratu Inoke is in Port Moresby for the Pacific (African Caribbean Pacific) trade ministers meeting.

The meeting will determine the way forward for negotiations on a regional economic partnership agreement with the European Union.

Ratu Inoke said he discussed “bilateral matters” with Mr O'Neill.

As partners in the Melanesian Spearhead Group, former prime minister Michael Somare and Fiji’s military ruler Commodore Frank Bainimarama developed a very close relationship.

Both leaders used the MSG forum to criticise Australian and New Zealand policies in the region.

It remains to be seen whether Mr O’Neill will cooperate with Commodore Bainimarama in pursuing the same approach.

Source: Fiji Times

Couple back in Darwin after helping PNG

Corruption couple 

A NORTHERN TERRITORY couple have returned to Darwin after three years in Papua New Guinea with Australian Volunteers International.

Kate Wheen and her partner, George Butler, went to PNG in 2008. Ms Wheen working on issues including HIV and climate change and George with the anti-corruption watchdog.

Ms Wheen said Port Moresby was like Darwin, but with more political unrest. "You couldn't walk on the foreshore at night," she said. "It was like a big melting pot of cultures.

“Everything was fortified and had barbed wire - but we got used to being security conscious. It is good to be back here."

She said spending so much time in the country had helped to break down cultural differences. "We felt like part of the community. I consider myself a true PNG-o-gram."

"We plan to go back to Papua one day. "But I love Darwin - I enjoy being back."

Source: Northern Territory News

Police quell rumours of a military coup

PAPUA NEW GUINEA's top policeman has issued a dramatic statement guaranteeing there will not be a military coup in response to last week's dramatic events that saw Peter O'Neill installed as prime minister.

Port Moresby was abuzz with rumour this morning that a contingent of soldiers loyal to former prime minister Sir Michael Somare and deputy Sam Abal had flown from Wewak to the capitalto take part in a military coup.

Police Commissioner Anthony Wagambie issued a statement aimed at quelling the rumour late this afternoon after receiving calls from journalists throughout the day.

"If there are people out there planning anything, then they better have second thoughts because the law will come down hard on them," Mr Wagambie said a statement.

"Police are gathering intelligence to ascertain where, how and why the rumour started."

"A coup cannot happen and will not happen. I can guarantee that."

He said both the police and defence forces were loyal to the government and condemned the rumour for spreading anxiety.

Commissioner Wagambie and defence force chief Brigadier General Francis Augawi had been summoned by Mr O'Neill to a meeting earlier today.

They both assured the PM that the rumoured coup would not take place.

Mr O'Neill could not be reached for comment.

Mr Wagambie said police were searching for a "certain NGO activist" who they said started spreading the rumour via text message and on the internet late last week.

Source: Television New Zealand

Moresby upper end property market stalls



THE LONG ANTICIPATED stabilisation in Port Moresby property prices is now evident as increased supply spills on to the market and anecdotal evidence suggests that the market may have already peaked.

This view is supported by real estate participants who have seen a softening in demand for both commercial and up market residential accommodation.

Clearly such high returns do not go on indefinitely and suggests a market that is moving to being fully priced.

This growth has been driven as much by internal catch up as it has by the LNG project. The LNG project has put additional pressure on upper end residential and commercial space.

However to attribute the growth in prices to LNG alone ignores a number of other important factors. One was the reform of the financial system in early 2000 which led to a more flexible consumer focused lending regime by the banks.

Other important factors include political stability, an increased aid focus on Papua New Guinea and a general resource boom emanating from Asia.

While growth has been phenomenal over the last decade, this year has seen stabilisation. Increased supply is a large factor but also there are strong concerns within the PNG banking system that a “bubble” is about to burst and hence a reluctance to lend on property assets.

The better view in our opinion is that any correction in the property market will not be a bust but more of a consolidation with minimal impact on the economy.

Slow assent to Bougainville mining

BOUGAINVILLE PRESIDENT John Momis says he is not happy with the current slow progress it is taking to draw down mining powers from the Papua New Guinea government to the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Mr Momis said mining is a means to generating more revenue for the autonomous region and constant progress needs to be made to ensure his government is able to eventually tap into mining for alternative revenue opportunities.

He said the slow progress was attributed by authorities involved to lack of capacity that Bougainville had.

Mr Momis said his government would find a way to develop the capacity needed and urged all stakeholders to think outside the box.

He added that his government is working closely with landowners and the national government to ensure all mining issues in Bougainville are resolved.

Sources: New Dawn FM and PNG Mine Watch

Young missionary recounts PNG experience

A large amount of material on Papua New Guinea crosses my desk, and some of the most lurid and unreliable stories are published by people who describe themselves as “missionaries”.  Here’s one - KJ

Branderhorst CAITLIN BRANDERHORST calls herself a Christian thrill-seeker.  Which doesn't involve roller coasters or skydiving. It’s spreading God's word that gives her a thrill.

Branderhorst, 19, has returned home to the USA from a missionary trip to Papua New Guinea where she spread God's word to the Pukari tribe.

After attending high school in Costa Rica, Branderhorst spent five months at a disciple training school in Australia. She had hoped to do missionary work in Indonesia, a largely Muslim country.

"Papua New Guinea wasn't exactly in my top 10 places to go," she said. "I was going to the most uncivilised country in the world." All she had were God's word, a backpack, two sets of clothes and a mosquito net, she said.

Once she landed in PNG, Branderhorst was driven through the jungle until the road ended and there was just ocean. There was a man in a bamboo boat who would take her to the Pukari tribe.

There had just been a cyclone off Australia and the waves were high, she said, making the boat ride very bumpy.  "The driver, who supposedly did this all the time, was praying in tongues," she said.

When the boat descended on where the tribe was, hundreds of people were on shore waving palm branches, welcoming the missionaries.  The last missionaries to visit the Pukari tribe in the 1800s were speared and eaten, she said.

One day, a man with a spear came running up to her very fast and stopped right in front of her.  "All of these thoughts came to my mind. I was thinking I am going to become a martyr; ... my parents are never going to know I am dead because I am in the middle of nowhere.

"I looked behind me and the whole village was laughing. It was a joke."

The Pukari people's diet consists of wood and leaves.  "That's what they ate every day, and that's what we had to eat every day," she said.

The closest hospital is a three-day walk in the jungle. There's no sanitation, no toilets, she said.  It was difficult for Branderhorst to communicate because the Pukari speak 800 different tribal languages and Branderhorst's group only had one translator.

"When I prayed in faith, I saw God work at a whole new level," she said.  Branderhorst said she cried when a 70-year-old tribal woman came up to her and thanked her for sharing about Jesus.

Branderhorst didn't just come into doing missionary work. Her parents, Mark and Connie Branderhorst, were missionaries in Latin America. Mark Branderhorst said he didn't know where his daughter was going to do her work.

"I had to look it up on a map, and I did a little research," he said. Branderhorst said he is proud of his daughter for her missionary work. "She has not shied away from His will in her life," he said.

Caitlin Branderhorst said she knows that God is passionate and missionary work is what he wants her to do.  "Half the world doesn't know him," she said. "That's our job."

Source: Visalia Times-Delta

Seabed staked out as mining gets harder


NAUTILUS MINERALS, a Canadian company planning an underwater mine for copper and gold off the Papua New Guinea coast, said countries will try to stake out the seabed as mineral deposits on land become harder to mine.

“Like anything where there’s a geopolitical uncertainty, people will look to maximise their position,” Tony O’Sullivan, chief operating officer of Toronto-based Nautilus, said in an interview in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

“New copper projects are becoming more remote, are becoming deeper and are becoming metallurgically more challenging,” O’Sullivan said.

“I don’t think there’s a view that we’re running out of copper or there’s a scarcity but I think there’s a view that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to develop on land.”

The current average grade of copper deposits is 0.6% dropping from about 1% in 1990, compared with 6.5% for Nautilus’ $407 million Solwara project located at a depth of 1.6 kilometres in the Bismarck Sea.

The project, 30% owned by the PNG government, is expected to start at the end of 2013.

Source: Bloomberg

Hendra virus, horses & the blek bokis


A TOPICAL SUBJECT in Australia at the moment is the Hendra Virus (and also Lisser Virus) and the fact it is carried by flying foxes (aka blek bokis).

Recently, horses just along the road from our property at Boonah died from Hendra virus. The horse owner’s dog then tested positive and was put down.

Our vet, who attended the horses, fortunately tested negative for the disease.  Worrying.  It’s a bit hard to ignore something when it’s that close to home.

We now find from the authorities that “there was no prior record of the disease being passed on to domestic dogs and cats outside the laboratory.”

CSIRO reports that horses, cats and guinea pigs can excrete virus in their urine. So now we have a dog that became infected. What’s next, one may ask?

Some Papua New Guineans eat flying foxes and don’t seem to suffer problems.

Yet no one appears to have heard of the disease outside Australia.

Could it be in danger of spreading, given the roaming nature of bats and their quest for food?

Papua New Guineans have dogs, and one would think that those dogs would at some stage have been in contact with bat effluvia or with horses and donkeys in PNG that have been in contact with bats.

So do PNG people have some immunity or is this an entirely new disease?

Dame Carol not in new O’Neill ministry – yet

THE HIGHLY RESPECTED Community Development Minister, Dame Carol Kidu, was a notable absentee from the 14-member caretaker cabinet announced by new prime minister Peter O’Neill.

The rest of the ministry is expected to be announced this weekend, and Lady Kidu, who has carved out reputation for integrity and competence when not everyone around her has been so virtuous, is expected to be in it.

The cabinet members are all closely aligned with the move which deposed acting prime minister Sam Abal and which, after months of confusion, brought to an end the Somare era.

Among those appointed were Don Polye and William Duma who had both been dumped by Sam Abal – an act that eventually led to disgruntled members of the government joining them to topple Mr Abal.  They sit alongside their former Somare cabinet colleagues Moses Maladina, Ano Pala and Job Pomat

Meanwhile Papua New Guinea's national court has rejected a bid to restrain the powers of the new government saying it would cause a constitutional crisis. Mr Abal had asked the court for an injunction preventing the Ogovernment from exercising its powers while he challenged his removal in the Supreme Court.

But Justice Les Gavara-Nanu refused the request saying such an injunction would effectively mean there would be no government. He said the public service would grind to a halt and there would be serious consequences for people across PNG.

It was the second failure in two days by Mr Abal to use the courts to try and return to the prime ministership.

The full caretaker cabinet is:

Peter O’Neill – Prime Minister
Belden Namah - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Forest and Climate Change
Don Polye - Finance and Treasury, and Lands and Physical Planning
William Duma - Petroleum and Energy, and Arts, Culture and Tourism
Bart Philemon - Public Service and Sports
Sir Puka Temu - Agriculture and Community Development
Sam Basil - Fisheries and Health HIV/AIDS
Francis Awesa - Works, Transport and Civil Aviation
Sir Mekere Morauta - State Enterprises
Dr Allan Marat - Justice and Attorney General, Labor and Industrial Relations
John Boito - Internal Security and Correctional Services
Theo Zurecnuoc - Education, Higher Education, Mining
Job Pomat - Bougainville Affairs, Inter-government Relations, Commerce and Industry and Housing
Moses Maladina - National Planning and Rural Development, and Defence
Ano Pala - Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration

Sources: Post-Courier and Radio Australia

The case for West Papuan self–determination



THE NATIONAL Resilience Institute (Lemhanas) of Indonesia this week suggested the use of anthropology to better understand Papuan aspirations in order to help the government maintain stability in the unstable area. 

This view holds that anthropology is necessary because there are various tribes and more than 400 languages in Papua. Moreover, anthropologic perspectives are necessary to determine the appropriate manners of raising awareness among Papuans regarding their relationship with the central government, which has granted special autonomy privileges for the provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Behind the notion is the need to invite anthropology experts to study this as part of soft approach to better understanding Papuan aspirations.

In recent years, human rights issues gained ground in current international relations. In international political terms, the right of self-determination is considered a debatable topic. There seems to be an opinion war between the realists and the liberalists who believe in their own principles between states absolute rights and collective human rights.

The former USA President Woodrow Wilson, in his Fourteen Points Article, introduced the concept of National Self-Determination to the world for the first time on 8 January 1918.

One of Wilson’s main purposes was to keep world peace. In his theory, Wilson argued that national self-determination meant societies’ right to administrate their residents. He emphasises the right of communities not the rights of ethnic groups (Lynch 2002).

In his book Rights: a Critical Introduction, Tom Campbell defined self-determination as the right of people to decide their own destiny and how they experience their life (Campbell 2006). Moreover, self-determination means the others should not determine someone’s life because it is universal people’s right (Freeman 1998).

This definition is very broad. So, in my words, I will define self-determination as the right of communities to attain freedom.

Based on the former Yugoslavia experience about the emergence of new countries, the right of self-determination was recognized worldwide as a fundamental right. Internationally, we can find several independence movements, which pursue secession such as in Sudan in the Africa region, Kosovo in the Eastern Europe, and Tibet in the Asia. In Asia, the fight for self-determination in Papuan region of Indonesia is a noticeable case.

After a brief history and definition of self-determination, it is time to address the question of whether self-determination for Papua is a satisfactory alternative resolution. This essay will argue that self-determination for Papua should be considered.


Continue reading "The case for West Papuan self–determination" »

Corruption fighters need more resources

THE HEAD of an independent policy think tank in Papua New Guinea says the police are desperately under-resourced to deal with corruption and need the banking sector to play its part in stopping illegal transactions.

The Institute of National Affairs’ director, Paul Barker, says the police’s Financial Intelligence Unit only has a handful of staff and the new government needs to allocate more resources to halt money laundering and financial fraud with public funds.

He says the banks and police must work together to avoid banking becoming a bottleneck to the country’s growing commerce.

He says greater co-operation and interaction between the police and the banking sector is needed to minimise illegal transactions and catch the perpetrators.

“The rules have been to some extent announced by the police,” Mr Barker said, “the banks feel that it’s just been a burden thrust on them without consultation and hopefully over the next week or two there’ll be some sort of dialogue that will be opened up.

“Positions will be clarified, dialogue will occur and there’ll be some sort of resolution of this.”

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Relocated B'ville villagers in dire straits

A LEADING ACADEMIC and adviser to the Bougainville Autonomous government says the communities who have suffered most from the Rio Tinto owned Panguna copper mine are those that were relocated from villages at the mine site or from sites affected by mine tailings.

The mine was closed down in 1989 after it sparked a bloody civil war but, with Bougainville due to hold a referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea within the next ten years, moves are afoot to re-open the mine.

Landowners from the six mine lease areas are now going through a process to set up representative organisations to negotiate with the Rio Tinto subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Limited.

Anthony Regan, a Research Fellow at the Australian National University, said the people who were relocated had their houses burned by the PNG army and police in 1989 and now live in squatter camp conditions.

“The septic tanks sunk into the rock are completely full, to the brim, so when it rains, and it is very high rainfall up there, water rushes down over the top of the septic tanks and there is raw sewage running through the villages,” Dr Regan said. “The fact that people have avoided death by cholera and typhoid is amazing.

“There are now thousands of relocated villagers and they have no rights to timber, to the saksak leafing used for roofing. They have no water supply, they can't grow cash crops and tensions are developing between them and the original owners whose land is running short for their own purposes.”

Dr Regan said landowners wanted to have separate associations for each lease area because there are quite distinct needs in each area.

“It will be a matter for each association to carefully document the needs and the problems of the people within their lease area and bring those to the table through the umbrella association,” he said.

“In the process of setting up the associations, the Autonomous Bougainville Government is getting a tremendous window on the issues that are facing the people, because in these long and detailed consultations the administration is having, their problems are being put right on the table.

“I was in the tailings lease in a series of meetings and the people are very clear, they know what their problems are and they are identifying them with tremendous clarity and great emotion.

“They really feel they have suffered, they are aware that they are the real victims of mining, and they are not opposing mining, for the future for the most part, but they are saying if it is to happen again, then it has to be done very differently and they, amongst others, have to be looked after in very different ways.”

Source: Radio Australia

Your chance to input Australia's PNG policy


SAM RIORDAN is a bright young man who works with Australia’s shadow foreign minister, Julie Bishop, as an adviser specialising in PNG affairs.

Sam accompanied Ms Bishop on her recent successful visit to Papua New Guinea.  And, by the way, I’m told he’s a keen reader of PNG Attitude.

On Thursday he met with my colleague Bob Lawrence in Canberra, and he’ll soon be paying me a visit in Sydney to discuss matters of concern to all of us who read and contribute to PNG Attitude.

So here’s an invitation, especially but not exclusively to those of you who are in Papua New Guinea: What issues would you like me to raise with Sam Riordan?  What policies do you think the Australian government should be pursuing in PNG?  In what areas do you think the Australian government is failing at present?  What are the priorities for action?

Now I think any of us who read this website regularly would have a pretty good idea of the answers to those questions, but it’s probably useful to focus on them in the context of conveying a strong message to Australia’s alternative government, which sits just a breath away from taking office.

I must say that, along with many other observers, I’ve been impressed with the way in which Julie Bishop has come to appreciate the importance of the PNG – Australia relationship.

Kevin Rudd was supposed to be the key man but, as one reader pointed out recently, he’s been too busy pursuing a seat for Australian on the UN Security Council to give the region the attention it merits.

I’ve met with Julie Bishop’s advisers on a couple of times previously, and I’ve been impressed both with their grasp of PNG affairs and their ability to make things move on the policy front.

Last year, on a visit to Canberra, I met Richard Marles, the parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island affairs, who subsequently penned a number of articles for PNG Attitude.

These were savaged by readers who saw them as evasive and uninformative and, despite his senior adviser indicating Mr Marles would make a further response, he did not and that seemed to be the end of the relationship.

But with the Gillard government faltering, here’s another opportunity for readers to provide an input to Australia’s political thinking on PNG.

The invitation is out there and I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions.

The matriarch of Mindre village speaks out


Balim_Dupain DUPAIN BALIM is from Mindre village along the Rai Coast of Madang Province, where she is an advisor of the local Lutheran women’s group at Biliau circuit.

She is also an advocate of the Lutheran Church’s Decade to Overcome Violence project and has travelled widely throughout Madang, Morobe and East Sepik Provinces.

Last Sunday Dupain sat on her woven coconut under the shade of the mango tree and listened as the verdict of the National Court decision on deep sea tailings was being conveyed to the people of Mindre.

She was the only woman to speak during a meeting dominated by male voices.

When the meeting ended I walked over to her and asked if she was willing to have a chat.

When I asked her what was the main concern for women of Mindre village, Dupain replied, “Wara! Mipela save hat wok long wokabaut long Yaganon long kisim wara.” [Water! We (women) have to walk to Yaganon River to fetch water]

She then continued in Tok Pisin, “i nogat gutpela helpim long kisim marasin. Ol i mas apgreidim eidpos long kisim marasin. Ol mama igat bel ino save go long taun long karim bebi. Nogat bebi klinik. Ol lain husait igat moni save go long taun.” [There is little medical assistance. They (the mining company and government) must upgrade the aid post (at Ganglau village). Pregnant women cannot go to town for deliveries. There aren’t any Well Baby Clinics. Only families who can afford to travel to town can attend Baby Clinics.]

The people lost their main cash crops of coconut, betel nut and cocoa when their plantations were cleared to make way for the nickel-cobalt processing facilities. Today only those who do manual labour for the miners are able to earn an income.

Mipela ol lain stap nating nogat moni. Nogat wanpela gutpela senis!” she remarked. [Those of us who aren’t employed by the mine don’t have any income. There hasn’t been any positive change]. The lines on her face revealing how emotional the issues were.

Then in a dignified voice, she looked at me and said, “mi bin laik go wokim aweness long ol lain wok long Ramu Nico tasol kaunsil i tok maski yu meri, ol i nonap harim tok blong yu.” [I wanted to carry out awareness (on violence) amongst the workers of Ramu Nico but the local councilor said ‘you’re a woman, no one will listen to you’]

Through a blind man’s eyes


EVEN THOUGH you are living with a disability, how you live your life does not have to differ from anyone else.

People living with disabilities are able to live life to the fullest and do what abled bodied people can do. Take a leaf out of Sadam’s book.

Sadam is vision impaired but he can perform normal everyday tasks just like those who are blessed with the gift of sight.

This reporter witnessed this blind man go about his daily chores without a worry in the world. A feat that is quite amazing for one who cannot see his way around.

Sadam intends to undergo a proper eye examination and he is busy tending his peanuts and kaukau (sweet potatoes) to sell to meet the costs.

From Domara village in the Cloudy Bay area of Abau District in the Central Province, Mavo Manu was not born blind and had lived a normal life from since birth. Born in 1962, he was nicknamed ‘Sadam’ but he succumbed to blindness in 1990.

Sadam married his beautiful wife from Domara in 1980 and produced four beautiful children, three girls and one boy. Life was normal for them until 1989 when the good Lord took away his dear wife’s life.

Having just discovered his disability and with four young children to bring up without a mother’s love and support, Sadam struggled to provide for his children.

“No matter with the disability I had, I sacrificed myself to bring up my kids. To make ends meet for my kids’ school fees and other necessities in life, I weaved mats to sell as this was the only avenue I sourced income,” he said.

His vision is 80% and his greatest wish is to seek medical assistance. But he cannot save the required money for the medical examination as he is concentrating on his last born son’s school fees who is in grade seven at Domara Primary school.

Sadam has seven granchildren from his three daughters.

With the aim to go for the eye examination, he is planting peanuts and kaukaus to sell and pay the remainder of his child’s school fees this year while the rest of the money will go towards his medical examination.

Despite his disability, Sadam has stood up and taken on the role as mother and father to his children.

This man though being blind, had sacrificed his time and effort in doing whatever that is possible for a change in life.

Phil Fitzpatrick comments: “This was in the Weekend Courier last week.  I wonder if PNG Attitude readers would like to make a donation?”  Phil, if you can identify how to get the money to Sadam, I'm good for $100 - KJ

Muddy succession: Ousting of the grand chief


Darkest Hour THE TOWERING figure in post-independence Papua New Guinea, Sir Michael Somare, has been officially removed from office, and one of his former ministers, Peter O’Neill, voted by parliament to replace him.

Mr O’Neill, the son of an Irish-Australian kiap (district officer), promises to lead a government no longer based on “materialism and power-hunger”. He will not have long to live up to those ideals. An election, due by mid-2012, is usually the signal for parliamentarians to clamour for handouts.

Sir Michael’s departure is a landmark in the politics of the country of 6.7m. Widely known as the “Grand Chief”, he was first elected to parliament in 1968, led the country to independence in 1975, held the top job until 1980, returned as prime minister from 1982 to 1985, and again from 2002 until this year.

He presided over a mineral-resources and logging boom, and built his National Alliance into the dominant party in a fractious parliament.

But recently things have not gone his way. In April Sir Michael, who is 75, collapsed during a court hearing at which he was suspended from office for two weeks for failing to file financial returns.

He was flown to Singapore for heart surgery. In May Sir Michael’s wife and ambitious son, Arthur Somare, declared that the Grand Chief would no longer serve as prime minister, acknowledgment that Sir Michael was unfit to resume duties.

In the four months that PNG has been without its leader, the governing coalition has fractured. Sir Michael left his confidant, Sam Abal, as acting prime minister. He soon fought with and sacked several ministers, including Don Polye, a power broker in the highlands, and Mr O’Neill, the works minister and former treasurer.

The two crossed the floor, to join veteran opposition leaders. In a country where party loyalties matter less than ministerial portfolios, they took with them 48 defectors from the government. Meanwhile, in June the body of a young woman, the girlfriend of Mr Abal’s son, was found in the acting prime minister’s garden. The son has since been arrested.

The new prime minister represents a constituency in the Southern Highlands, where ExxonMobil and the state are developing a $16 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, due to come on-stream in 2014. Thanks to this, the country’s elite are awash with cash.

The Southern Highlands has a history of tribal fighting accompanying elections. Once settled with bows and arrows, conflicts are now fought with high-powered weapons, often acquired by exchanging cannabis across the Indonesian border a six-day walk to the west.

Mr O’Neill will have a hard task calming landowning factions out for a cut of the LNG cash, keeping a lid on the volatile highlands, and consolidating his grip on the fractious parliament in Port Moresby.

Source: The Economist, London

Tok sori: Criminals repent publicly in PNG


Repentance DURING 2010, the Ukarumpa centre (where we live in Papua New Guinea) and neighbouring village were under significant criminal activity—house break-ins and invasions on an almost nightly basis.

Of course, it was a very stressful time for the local people and our colleagues alike, but God was at work nonetheless.

Over Easter 2011, one of the village pastors conducted an evangelistic crusade. As a result, the criminals wanted to apologise to the director of our organisation in PNG.

The village pastors recognised, however, that the young men would still need to make a public apology to all the people who were impacted by their former criminal activities.  Praise God that public apology took place on 2 July.

On that Saturday a number of our colleagues went to the neighbouring village. The local pastors prayed and preached from God’s Word.

The former criminals presented a drama that demonstrated how they had turned their lives over to Jesus, and they closed with a song that spoke of Jesus as being their only friend.

Then each young man publicly apologized for his crimes and the hurt that he had caused. A few made a point to apologise directly to the owners of the houses they had broken into.

The village community then gave a tremendous gift of garden food—their traditional demonstration of love. It took two vehicles to bring the gift back to Ukarumpa centre where it was presented to all our colleagues during the Sunday morning meeting.

The worship service that morning overflowed with testimonies of how God was at work in their own hearts!

Some of our colleagues recognised and repented of their lack of faith and belief in how God works through prayer. Some commented on a lack of balance between justice and grace and forgiveness by the missionaries at the Ukarumpa center.

But as the director stated in his report of the recent events in PNG—“We are all on a journey” of spiritual growth—those serving in PNG, the Papua New Guineans themselves, and even those here at home who support the work of Bible translation through gifts, prayers, and encouragement.

Our prayer is that this story of revival in PNG will be an encouragement to you as you make that journey.

Source: Jon and Missy Damon’s Blog

O’Neill expected to appoint strong cabinet

NEW PRIME MINISTER Peter O’Neill has already named several former top ministers in his new cabinet and is expected to go further.

Mr O’Neil is unveiling a cabinet line-up of great experience.

He’s indicated that former foreign affairs minister Don Polye and former resources and petroleum minister William Duma are to return.

Ex-prime ministers Sir Mekere Morauta and Sir Julius Chan are also expected to take up roles

They will be joined by former attorney general Dr Allan Marat, who was dumped controversially last year, as well as Sir Michael’s former deputy Sir Puka Temu.

Former longtime Somare treasurer, the highly respected Bart Philemon, is also likely to be on the front bench.

The full ministry is expected to be announced this weekend.

Source: Radio New Zealand International