IT WAS THE MONTH of the great asylum seeker deal between Kevin Rudd and Peter O’Neill and our readers are still not allowing anyone to forget it. A feisty lot, our readers.
But if there was a group (politicians aside) which drew your wrath, it was the reptiles of the Australian media – whose hyperbole, ignorance and plain ill manners about Papua New Guinea and its people were, not to put too fine a point on things, excessive.
Nowhere was this epitomised more than in Claire Harvey’s comment in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph that “PNG is a shithole…. and now it's our shithole.” This had our readers’ keyboards melting in indignation.
These words were an unattributed echo of US President Lyndon Johnson’s 1960s statement about right wing Latin American dictators - "They may be bastards, but they're our bastards."
It was ugly then and it’s ugly now.
And so on with the most commented upon articles in July, with 62 of those comments relating directly to the asylum seeker issue….
1st 21 comments- Australia out: Asylum boat people will be sent to PNG (Jonathan Swan) When Kevin Rudd announced that asylum seekers who arrived by boat in Australia without a visa would be packed off to Papua New Guinea with no chance of ever resettling in Australia, there was an outpouring of emotion on both sides of the Torres Strait. It turned out to be an issue that presented more by way of heat than light – and, to their shame, where most of the protagonists failed to address the dreadful prospect of death of innocents by drowning at sea. In my view, Peter O’Neill remained statesmanlike and resolute.
2nd 17 – PNG solution's twisted genius snookered everyone (Claire Harvey) It was thoughtless and crude: “Kevin Rudd has outplayed absolutely everyone. Not just Julia Gillard, who in attempting to clean up the mess Rudd had left for her came up with a boats solution that should have worked but didn't get the chance - because it needed legislative approval the Greens and Liberals were never going to grant. But also, and perhaps most importantly, Rudd's PNG plan has exposed the intellectual dishonesty of the ‘refugee lobby’.”
And then came the denouement that set the bells ringing….
'But but but but but but but,’ they have spluttered, ‘but but but but ... ‘ But PNG is a shithole?
Yeah. It is. And now it's our shithole - and you know what else? It's a signatory to the United Nations' 1951 Refugee Convention.
3rd 15 - Anger over MSG support for illegal Fiji regime (Radio New Zealand International) When a small Fijian political party expressed irritation over support for the illegal regime by the Melanesian Spearhead Group, it initiated a debate about the effectiveness or otherwise of the Fiji military-led regime’s solutions in a broader political and economic context.
4th 14 - Never believe what you read – especially right now (Phil Fitzpatrick) “It was only when John Howard turned these latest unfortunate souls [asylum seekers] into desperate pawns in his bid for re-election that the issue became prominent,” wrote Phil. “Since then politicians of all persuasions have been capitalising on the public’s xenophobia. This latest round of hysteria has uncovered some interesting truths. Chief among these is to never believe what the media says.”
5th 13 - Baby Kevin awaits the make-up call from Big Kev (Liam Cochrane & Firmin Nanol). Kevin Rudd’s re-ascension to the leadership again brought his highlands namesake, Baby Kevin, to prominence. But unlike five years ago, when the baby was named, many readers didn’t see the story as cute but as something of a slur on a more sophisticated PNG.
=6th 11 - The classrooms are full – but the students can’t read (Inter Press Service). A well evidenced article on the contradiction between PNG and Pacific Island nations celebrating rising school enrolments and new data revealing the shockingly low literacy rate.
=6th 11 - Poetry should be about goodness, beauty & hope (Michael Dom) Having essayed that PNG poetry should embrace a more positivist and optimistic view, in the face of observations from other poets Michael later allowed that the darker side has a relevant role in the poetic form.
=8th 10 - Falling apart! Is anyone actually running PNG? (Phil Fitzpatrick) “I recently attended a conference in Port Moresby. There was a sprinkling of academics from the University of Papua New Guinea, as well as professionals from both the public and private sectors. It was a convivial affair with scintillating conversation. We all impressed each other with our wit and wisdom. No doubt the papers we presented, if they are published, will be lauded far and wide. Sitting in the aeroplane on the way home, still basking in the fading glow of those few days, it occurred to me that with such a dynamic intellectual elite PNG should be rolling in hay.” Phil on why Conferenceville is often far from real life.
=8th 10 - Another day in the independent State of Manus (Phil Fitzpatrick) A clever allegory that takes us a few years into the future and the Independent State of Manus which just happens to be an Islamic republic.
=10th 9 - Murder perpetrators: frustrated locals or Chinese triads? (Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin) Sil conjectures about the impact of Asian immigrants on the social fabric of PNG and who are the real perpetrators of Asian killings – frustrated Papua New Guineans or Chinese triads?
=10th 9 - Médecins Sans Frontières opens clinic for abuse victims (Helen Davidson). Médecins Sans Frontières’ 9 Mile clinic, is the first frontline clinic to offer treatment for both medical and psychological injuries of victims of physical and sexual abuse in Papua New Guinea. Project head Paul Brockmann said: "The use of violence as a response is simply more shockingly common here than in any other places where I've worked."