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Bizarre turns to weird as heritage destruction continues

KEITH JACKSON

Lintel detail & the empty space todayWHILE PRIME MINISTER PETER O’NEILL has claimed to have intervened to stop further destruction of traditional carvings in Parliament House, there is evidence that the ransacking continues at the behest of Speaker Theo Zurenuoc and with the active support of Community Development Minister Loujaya (Toni) Kouza.

Today, over the public entrance to Parliament House, once highlighted by a magnificent heritage carving, there rests an unadorned lintel (see photographs).

In private emails, many PNG Attitude readers have urged us to continue to publicise the issue and to do what we can to stop what has been termed "an assault on the people’s heritage".

“Many Papua New Guineans are shocked and disgusted by what has happened or may still be happening at the House of Parliament,” one reader wrote.

“Some concerned people went to Parliament yesterday and the outer lintel stretching across the front of the building has been removed and the destroyers were promising the removal of a large carved post inside, as well as some Trobriand carvings around the Speaker's chair.”

Another report said that a truck from the Museum had retrieved the chopped up lintel. “The lintel is made of very hard wood (kwila, garamut?), so removing it must have been a major undertaking.”

Museum staff claimed to our correspondents that a helicopter will be required to remove a huge carved pole inside Parliament House.

Meanwhile, Museum director, Dr Andrew Moutu, who has been active in gaining public support for the carnage to cease, said he asked the police arrest Speaker Zurenuoc but encountered various bureaucratic obstacles.

Mr O’Neill told the Post-Courier newspaper that he had walked down to the Grand Hall to see the four-tonne pole, which was the next artefact on the Speaker’s blacklist, and immediately asked Mr Zurenuoc to stop the work.

"It is unnecessary for us to remove items of our national heritage," Mr O’Neill said, adding that PNG has freedom of religion and Papua New Guineans rights to worship should be respected.

Mr O’Neill also denied a statement by Minister Loujaya Kouza that Cabinet signed off the plan to destroy the carvings.

"There is no truth in that. Cabinet didn’t give approval for anything to be removed from the National Parliament. The Minister has no authority to speak for Cabinet and there is no such authority," he said.

Loujaya (Toni) KouzaSpeaking of her meeting with a Messianic group on a recent visit to Israel, Ms Kouza said, "The wealth of this nation we have seen but are circulating amongst the elites - the minorities. Our resources are spiritually hiding under the idol gods…. The Government declares that the God of Israel is the God of PNG."

Ms Kouza vowed to press ahead despite condemnation from ordinary Papua New Guineans, academics, the National Museum and Art Gallery and the Catholic Bishops Conference and will host the Israeli "prayer warriors" in Port Moresby in March next year to complete the "cleansing" exercise Mr Zurenuoc started.

"I thanked God for the Speaker Theodore Zurenuoc for the cleansing of the House," she said.

 

Comments

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Steven Gimbo

This sect has gone far enough, and I thought PNG had a separation of state and church? So why is it that the sect has got itself so intertwined with fabrics of our politics, even to the extent of moving to have the constitution rewritten?

And now even for their influence to enter the House of Parliament (which is a sacred icon in itself) to move for the destruction of icons which have very much been a part of PNG for a long time, in uncalled for.

The Minister and Speaker, along with their religious advisers, must be made to answer for such.

Peter Kranz

Sir Michael has spoken out about this. And the PNG Trade Unions Council has called for the arrest of the Speaker Zurenuoc.

But I reckon a student march on the Parliament is called for.


Giorgio Licini

AGAIN ON RELIGION AND CARVING

By Fr Giorgio Licini – Catholic Reporter

When I enter a museum, a government building or even a church in Rome and I spot a statue or a representation of emperor Caesar Augustus, of course I don’t believe that he was God, though my Roman ancestors were inclined to do so.

At the same time I don’t feel any need or uncontrollable motion to tear the statue down and break it into pieces. And this is not just because I would end up in serious trouble with the law, but because what my ancestors achieved through carving, sculpture, painting and architecture just amazes me, it makes me feel more humble than proud.

The fact is that a generation cannot reproduce the marvels of the previous one. We do new things, of course, but why destroying what others did in the past?

PNG old people may have believed that certain representations were to enhance the forces of evil. So what? Are we forced to believe the same? I don’t think so. Are we compelled to destroy their works of arts? I don’t think so either!

This is the phenomenon of “iconoclasm” (destruction of symbols, traditionally religious symbols). Europe has not been immune from it. It has been a recurrent phenomenon which has given rise to enormous religious and cultural battles.

Eventually it boils down to the debate on the possibility for arts to evoke (not necessarily to represent) the divine and the supernatural.

Generally speaking, in Christianity the pro-arts position in the debate has certainly prevailed over the centuries, but iconoclast movements from time to time have caused significant losses to the Western cultural heritage.

Christ explicitly tells us that true religion is to care for the orphans and the widows, but this is exactly what makes us overcome what people of the past may have meant about good or evil with their works of art. That's why - in my opinion - we respect them and treasure their artifacts.

A House of Parliament, anywhere in the world, may certainly accommodate new things of the present. But why remove those of the past?

Michael Dom

I feel like I have been beaten and robbed.

I cannot find it in my heart to forgive Theo Zurenuoc and Loujaya Kouza for their senseless act of desecration on our House of Parliament.

Any good they may have done or do in future will forever be tarnished by this black sin they have commited against their own country people.

If we could strike their names from history I fervently wish that this would be done. But for my behalf; so let it be written.

George Kuias

Papua New Guineans are Papua New Guineans. We must not be influenced and brainwashed to destroy our cultural heritage.

It is here to stay for future generations. How come the resources are spiritually hidden by idol gods? This is all bullshit.

George Kuias

Why is the founding father of this nation Sir Michael T Somare and other former Prime Ministers so silent on this issue. They should be defending all this from happening.

Steven Gimbo

I am sad and angry! Sad and angry, that two people can get away with desecrating the Parliament House, as if they are redecorating their own home!

Arthur K Menalim

This blatant display of ignorance hits me hard in the heart.

In developed countries you can find our "heathen idols" celebrated in museums, travelling exhibits, universities, what have you.

In PNG we think they are the devil's work. How low have we gone?

Johnny Blades

Where does Belden Namah stand on all this?

Peter Kranz

I fully support your campaign to protest against the cultural terrorism that is taking place at PNG Parliament house. There was another editorial in the PC about this yesterday which revealed the influence of Messianic Judaism (a misnomer if ever there was one) on the few perpetrators after a recent visit to Israel.

Google "prayer warriors" and you will get an insight into these extreme right-wing, mostly US based evangelicals who seem to be behind this.

I have long worried about the influence of such groups in PNG. They are the ones behind the move to rewrite the PNG constitution to replace references to 'culture' with 'God', and also seem to be the ones pushing to outlaw any non-Christian religions.

It is disgraceful vandalism and I believe criminal and possibly treasonous.

Nevertheless I appreciate that as webmaster you have to balance the stupid comments with the sensible. Maybe "give 'em enough rope..." is the way to got. Give the zealots a chance to explain themselves.

I am sure the good sense of the average PNG Attitude reader will prevail and the vandals true agenda will be revealed.

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