Reverse this pernicious, disrespectful asylum deal
PNG detective novel is more than plain fiction

Musings on refugees & PNG’s readiness-reality gap

ROBYN READ | A Game Old Dame Blog

Tolai buai seller(Photo - Robyn Read)THE EXPATRIATES HERE in Papua New Guinea are philosophical about the dysfunctionality of society. It is just how things are.

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.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Peter Kranz

Deb - not fair. Robyn has a valid point to make. And I waited 8 hours at POMGH to get an x-ray for my wife only to be told the machine had broken down and there was no-one to fix it.

Yeah, all countries have their problems, but to deny them makes things worse.

Frank K Daosak

So what's the point of highlighting all the negative isolated incidents? You don't have to come back if all you want to write about is negative negative negative...

Manuel Hetzel

Oh yes, in the Good Old Says everything was better. For the chosen few!

We know that certain things don't work in PNG. What use is it to list them here again, as is done on a daily basis in country, yacht and whatever other expat clubs throughout PNG?

To me, whether PNG can actually deal with this task is secondary. The country has accepted many things from outside it didn't need and wasn't ready to deal with.

Take the meri blaus. Take the mines. Take LNG. Take the many expat "consultants" doing so much good (just, for whom?).

But I wonder why some people always need to portray PNG as a dysfunctional shithole. The list of great things in this country is so much longer than all of these pathetic listings of things that go wrong.

But making PNG look bad seems to be so fashionable that even O'Neill has now taken it up. As Susan Merrell put it: "[PNG] will now be known as a worse hell-hole than the world’s worst hell-holes." Well done.

Deb Dewberry

Yet another patronising expat. Give me strength. Go back to where you came from!

D Warriner

If Lae gets a new hospital its a good deal. My staff call it 50/50 that's your chances of leaving.

Francis Sina Nii

It may be true that situation on the ground may not be conducive for PNG to successfully implement the asylum deal.

However, elaborate use of hearsay and isolated incidents to portray PNG in that kind of manner to exemplify one's point is a total hogwash.

All of PNG is not the kind of trash that you painted.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)