ROBYN READ | A Game Old Dame Blog
I am conflicted. It seemed to run at least as well, if not better, when I was here 40 years ago.
But I am seeing this Melanesian world through the prism of the sophisticated organisational expectations of a mostly efficient, developed society. This is not my world.
When I am here, Australian prime minister Rudd announces his new refugee policy – all boat people are to be housed on Manus Island and their care and processing are to become PNG’s issue paid for by Australia.
I am gobsmacked about the country’s readiness to implement such a complex policy in the light of some of the anecdotes I hear.
I admire a smart new fire truck and am told last week a house burnt down because people didn’t know the phone number of the fire station.
The paper has a little story of the disappeared consignment of crabs expected on the Kavieng flight. Did they make it on board or were they eaten on the short flight?
In true PNG manyana time the night’s only performance at the annual mask festival starts two hours after the programmed time.
The inaugural Cairns-Kokopo flight started while I was there. One visitor was assured in Cairns she could get her visa on arrival at Kokopo. She couldn’t and had to return to Cairns and then catch the next flight via Port Moresby.
On the second day, my friend received a text saying: “Flight crew drunk n didn’t show up in POM [Port Moresby]. Still waiting in Tokua [Kokopo airport]”.
In January two men with homemade guns robbed the beachside bar where I was staying. Two Australian men stumbling into it had also been robbed. When they ran to tell the security man at the gate, his radio wasn’t working and he didn’t know the phone number of his company. The next day, the police still hadn’t been notified.
We asked the hotel staff to ring a taxi; this was a problem as the mobile phone had run out of credit.
The previous week a newborn baby at a hospital about an hour away died because the doctor had to be picked up to attend and the ambulance was in for repair. No one had had a back-up plan.
I asked the manager of the hotel to print something. While he was away someone had borrowed the ink cartridge.
No one ever expects anything to arrive by post or to be delivered. It apparently sits in Port Moresby for a long time.
This year, for the first time, school attendance is free. The central government gave schools money to prepare. I am told many teachers now had new cars and computers. Other resources seem to be missing in action as the children are now crowded into the same rooms with many classes having up to 80 students to a teacher.
Leaving Kokopo, I have an internet ticket; I pass through the gate to the security lounge. Why does no one join me until after the allocated boarding time? Am I in the wrong place? No. The ticketing machine hadn’t been working so no one could be given a boarding pass.
And then there is the wonderful sign in the airport: PLEASE DO NOT FORGET TO DECLARE YOUR INFANT.
This Gazelle area is said to be the safest and presumably one of the better organised in the country. Last week army staff shot up the medical students’ quarters in Port Moresby in some payback. NGOs will not let their staff travel in Lae and Moresby except in armoured and armed cars.
Given its own issues, can PNG exercise a duty of care and speedy processing of refugees?
Given that only 3% of the PNG land is not in customary ownership and there are already shanty towns of refugees from Irian Jaya, just how could those granted citizenship under the Rudd scheme, settle?
It is enough to make me weep.