The rain is coming
Startling sequel to PNG’s acquisition of 17th century bible

We want PNG authored books in our schools

Michael Dom and PNGMICHAEL DOM

PAPUA New Guineans need to be reading literature that was authored by Papua New Guineans.

But PNG authors have not been supported to create literature that encompasses our heritage, tells PNG stories in novels, expresses PNG perceptions through poetry or explains PNG thinking through essays.

The Crocodile Prize is a national literary competition established to provide incentive and support for writers, poets and essayists to do just that.

It started on a wing-and-a-prayer and is now supported by several companies and private individuals who believe that literature is an important tool for the development of a national identity.

There has also been support from individual government agencies, namely the Minister for Culture, Arts and Tourism, the Minister for Planning and the Office of the Governor of Oro Province.

The Minister for Education has been patently absent.

The revenue of this not-for-profit organisation is about K100,000 a year and goes towards prizes for the authors and purchase of books (as many as we can get!) for distribution through private networks.

There is a plan for a budget submission to be made to parliament seeking more support for the Crocodile Prize, particularly in its task of publishing Papua New Guinean authors for Papua New Guinean readers.

In the light of a recent purchase of a bible of religious and spiritual importance to many Papua New Guineans, it is clear that, with goodwill, funding can be made available for providing literature that enlightens our understanding of who we are and what we are doing here.

Culturally appropriate development is founded on the expressions of a people, and these expressions can be found in their literature.

The fact that PNG has never had a supported and self-sustaining literary should be of concern to all citizens in a truly vibrant democracy.

On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Papua New Guinea’s Independence, it is paramount that we make a decision to change this.

A group of people associated with the Crocodile Prize want the PNG government to fund an Independence gift to the children of Papua New Guinea in the form of making the annual Anthology available to all PNG schools.

Very importantly, we want support for a budget submission under the Ministry for Planning to effect the self-sustaining organisation of the Crocodile Prize and also support, through appropriate arrangements, for a guild of PNG writers, essayists and poets.

We’ll let you know when the petition is ready to sign.

Comments

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John Kaupa Kamasua

Francis - Excellent work by SWA in terms of literacy in Simbu.

Those of us in other provinces will definitely need to learn and take a leaf out of what SWA is doing.


Honourable is the word to describe what you are doing.

Francis Nii

Here in Simbu,the SWA team is gradually making a penetration into the enclaves of the provincial education set up through our program, Simbu for Literary Excellence, that we started last year. This year the event is taking place on the 15 May at Kondiu Secondary School.

As I am writing this comment, I am at the Kundiawa Lutheran Day High School Library with the rest of the SWA members and 10 English teachers from different high and secondary schools marking the essay, poetry and short story entries. We will get it done by 4 pm today.

Prizes will be awarded at Kondiu and thanks to you Michael for sponsoring of some of the prizes.

We are involving 20 schools but nothing in our awareness and briefings with the principals and head teachers campaign about them buying our books.

We donate books and always talk about helping the students to excel in their language and literature skills through reading, writing and speaking English.

The program is going to demand the schools to buy books and that's the time they will start asking for books. This is the direction SWA is endeavouring.

I am sharing this information for the benefit of writers from other provinces to mull over.
__________

Yes, it's time for writers in other provinces to emulate the Simbu writers and establish their own provincial organisations. Nothing will empower PNG literature as much as emergent writers groups operating locally and combining nationally as the need arises - KJ

Michael Dom

Thank you, Ed Brumby, for your kind and measured words of encouragement and advice. I respect your comments on this agenda which touches an area within your expertise.

It is a huge task isn’t it. And I think there are people working at it already.

The whole thing seems difficult but doable to me, and I hope I’m not treading on people’s toes.

The petition is a timely action.

The policy submission is a progressive action.

To me they are complementary.

Phil Fitzpatrick

One of the spinoffs of this campaign could be markets for PNG writers and, importantly, the establishment of a home-based publishing industry in PNG.

Maybe the pollies could be won over with an economic argument?

I've heard that a particular politician controls and has an economic interest in the purchase of books by the Education Department.

Don't know if this is true.

Ed Brumby

Michael: Thank you for taking the lead in making a concerted effort to enable PNGean students to read literature written by their fellow countrywomen and men.

A petition or, as others have suggested, a project-based submission may well be a good start.

But this one off/one time approach should also be followed up by a larger campaign to have PNG literature embedded as a policy requirement within the national schools curricula.

The writings of Leonard Fong Roka, Francis Nil, Baka Bina, Marlene Potoura, Busa Jeremiah Wenogo, your good self and so many others, as well as the Crocodile Prize anthologies, deserve their rightful place within the curricula.

Having this policy implemented requires assertive lobbying of relevant ministers and senior bureaucrats in education and tourism, arts and culture and other influential politicians and business and opinion leaders.

It also requires co-opting and using the mainstream print and broadcasting media, as well as the social media as vehicles to promote this worthy and necessary cause.

The Simbu and Port Moresby writers groups are, I believe, well-placed to take the lead in lobbying for this policy initiative.

As we all know, bureaucrats can be hard to budge when it comes to matters of policy.

National pride may not be a sufficient motivator to convince them of the virtue of the proposed policy - although it should be in this instance.

So, any proposals and lobbying should also address their concerns regarding cost, distribution and, most importantly, support and supporting material (teacher notes and assessment, students notes etc) to enable teachers and children to make the best use of, and to get the most from any home-grown literature.

This will be a huge task, of course, and not for the faint of heart.

But there has never been a better time to take it on.

Michael Dom

Thanks Daniel, I can relate to your experience.

The example of James Joyce, to me, is that even some of the greatest writers in the world had to get their words out by buying and distributing it themselves.

So for us not-so-great authors...sori tumas wantoks, traim ken.

Most people are basically hypocrites when it comes down to buying good literature.

They want to read really good writing, to expand their mind, to titillate their ting-ting; they want to earn renown as speakers by using great language; they want to be considered as intellects and associated with greatness by quoting literature and the words of great authors - but support authors?

All we get for support is a big F-U and buy it yourself!

In my opinion the Crocodile Prize is a unique opportunity to the government to be seen to be doing something - and actually really doing something - by providing some of the best contemporary writing to school children.

The work that fills the pages of the Crocodile Anthology is writing that has passed through the crucible of competition; it has been forged by the desire to win an award and recognition.

This means that it has passed several tests and the assessment of critical readers and thinkers as well.

The writing is by no means perfect, but that is probably half the point of getting it published and read - how else are we going to find the James Joyce of Papua New Guinea?

I can imagine readers taking a look at the work in the Crocodile Prize and saying to themselves,"Michael Dom calls that poetry, what a wanker - I can do better than that!"

For the rest of Papua New Guinea to remain ignorant and/or uncaring about the Crocodile Prize will be, well, in a word, stupid.

Especially now that our cultural identities are under threat and being questioned beyond the realms of what they truly confer on us - it is even more vital that writers, who express the inner workings in the very heart and soul of their society, are supported.

If Papua New Guinea is really mature at 40 years old - then prove it.

Let's do something that we know is good for us, rather than something that we merely hope will be good for us.

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

Michael, something else I wish to highlight to us as writers is a tweet by Ryan O'Neill about the book by James Joyce 'Dubliners' which sold 379 copies after one year. It reminds me of something I did myself.

I published a small supplementary reader with Oxford University Press called 'Climbing Mountains.' I purchased some of these copies myself and distributed them to my friends and teachers.

Now, I plan to buy some more copies to give as prizes to the top three students in English in Grades 6 - 8 at Lagalap Primary School. I will also give cash prizes to top students in all grades - an initiative I started last year (2014).

I am sort of spoon-feeding my own friends, the community and authorities that what I have written is important.

Michael Dom

Hello Everybody,

I just want say to those of you who have been Commenting and Like-ing this issue over the last few days - thank you.

You are acting in support of your own rights as citizens of Papua New Guinea.

Francis Nii

Which is our interest, petitioning the government against the acquisition of the 400 year old KJV bible or get the government to buy the anthologies? There has to be a demarcation and it is not hard to do that.

Meddling both issues is bound to be counter-productive given so much fire has already been thrown at the Speaker Theo Zurenouc, the Parliament and the government...adding more fuel to the fire is bound to produce undesired outcome.

I supported the idea at the first place for anthologies buying project submission alone and not accompany a petition.

I think I have made myself clear, Mike.

You can still go ahead and petition the government. And don't forget Robin's point as well.

Phil Fitzpatrick

Maybe, while you're organising the petition etc., you should work out which MPs might be supportive and try to get a fifth column going in the parliament.

In my past strategies dealing with politicians I always found it advantageous to let them think they thought of whatever it is you want them to do.

As I mentioned in an email, we sent a pile of anthologies to Gary Juffa to hand out to all the MPs, so they should be aware of its existence (assuming that they arrived and Air Nuigini hasn't got them stored somewhere).

Keith has pointed out that being aware of something doesn't necessarily translate into action, so some lobbying is required.

Maybe set up a hit squad to tackle any vulnerable MPs. Maybe just concentrate on the literate ones.

Michael Dom

Francis,
With respect, I will be systematic in responding to every single line of your query because I believe it is symptomatic of the less progressive thinking that disadvantages Papua New Guineans from making full use of their democratic – and God guaranteed rights! – To have better leaders and look to a better future for all.

(1) Why not make a budget submission only with as many signatures as possible in support instead of a petition?

My position is that the budget submission is a formal process carried out by an elite group - us - working together with the respective Ministry. This is good and proper.

In a formal process any supportive signatories are usually people of prominence, leaders and recognized members of society. Ol man igat nem bai soim olsem ol tu i wanbel, eh laka.

The petition is the voice of the citizens who are also in support of the formal process.

Anyone in the public can put their name on the petition. Em blong mipela iet.

Take it to your local market places and see what happens. Take it to your church, if you’re not afraid of getting thrown out.

(2) If the budget is not funded than we can consider petitioning the government.

What is your experience with petitioning governments after a budget has already been approved?

Bai ol Memba toromoi liklik poket moni insait long sore-kap na ikam givim long yumi o nogat?

I for one will not accept anything less than the best treatment from my government – but then I have never given anything less than my best public service, so my attitude is probably all wrong.

Why wait?

Let’s find out today if our MP’s want to support a national literature. Tomorrow it will be 40 years of non-support. Maybe they want to have their names go down in history for doing something truly great and patriotic for the children of their country.

Francis – bai yumi askim ol iet, sapos ol tok nogat, bai yumi askim ol ken na ken. Bai ol igo we?

(3) A petition-driven budget may not be good and can be counter-productive.

I thought the statements regarding the petition were clear enough. We want unanimous support from government – that means every MP on both sides of Parliament and the bloke sitting front and centre.

How hard is that, when what we are asking for is a pittance?

Here’s what I wrote:
A group of people associated with the Crocodile Prize want the PNG government to fund an Independence gift to the children of Papua New Guinea in the form of making the annual Anthology available to all PNG schools.

Very importantly, we want support for a budget submission under the Ministry for Planning to effect the self-sustaining organisation of the Crocodile Prize and also support, through appropriate arrangements, for a guild of PNG writers, essayists and poets.

If those statements are unclear then please edit them so that they are clear.

Most people use the term counter-productive when a course of action doesn’t work to find a convenient excuse why their efforts did not work out. I’m still trying to find a counter-productive reason for why my K2 million proposal was not supported but the K120 million jet was purchased.

I think maybe it was just bad luck.

Maybe my arse is not high enough up the ladder for it to be taken for a ride on a jet plane at the expense of the People of Papua New Guinea.

(4) It may also hinder others from giving their support.

Why should it hinder their support when we are specifically asking for their support?

The MP’s as citizens too are allowed to sign the petition.

(5) A normal project submission like any other submission without even making any reference to the bible and the saga surrounding it may be a good way to go about it.

Yes, I do know how some budgets get approved and it is not exactly by the formal process either. We have ample examples of how the government can use the public purse for anything they like under the sun and even hidden from the sun.

Let’s strike while the hammer is hot.

The KJV saga has everything to do with this petition. Let’s not deny it.

Spending K700, 000 for a book that will never be read by ordinary citizens is yet another example of leader’s spending money according to what they think is best for the country.

Why is it that what our leaders think is best for the country always turns out to be such an expensive enterprise with very little outcome further down the road?

Outcome of securing the KJV: Hope and pray that 111 MP’s change their lives, which is like waiting for a miracle.

What about something that an intelligent, creative and hard working group of people think is good for their country?

Outcome of supporting our cause: By 2050 about 15 million future Papua New Guineans (that’s excluding the children currently in school) will have read the five Crocodile Prize Anthologies. No miracle required.

What about finding out if the good people of Papua New Guinean will support this?

Michael Dom

Firstly, I will admit to being sincerely pissed off with the government.

This is my right as a citizen.

It is a right guaranteed by a force more powerful than the Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister, our constitution or the King James Version Bible - take a wild guess.

Secondly, here is a story about the use of government budgets.

I once delivered training to over 125 villagers at five villages in three districts of Eastern Highlands Province, in five days, with a colleague, traveling up from Lae in a Hilux with various materials and information gift packages. We spent K5,000 for the whole operation.

Anyone who has done anything in the highlands will tell you that that is a very small budget. I returned about K2.25 to the government coffer from the funding initially provided and called it a good day.

That K5000 was the remaining funds in a project from which successful outcomes guaranteed me study at one of the most prestigious universities in Australia and the world - I live in the campus where the technology that created Dolly 2 was confirmed.

(And most people look for miracles in a book that they will never even read.)

In the same year a project which my team leader and I had submitted for a budget of K2 million to conduct a nationwide, three year long intensive R&D program aimed at revitalizing aspects of livestock production was rejected. Fair enough, that's the way submissions work, you win some, you lose some.

We never even received feed back from our submission, we just know that another group was funded and not ours.

That same year the National Agriculture Development Plan was approved for K120 million. I don't need to explain what happened with that plan.

We kept our proposal and resubmitted again when we had the opportunity. But we were again unsuccessful.

And that same year the government spent K120 million to buy a jet plane.

Now let me take a break before I come back to respond to Francis Nii.

Bomai D Witne

Angra Dom, in a country like ours where other forms of information such as radio, TV, newspapers, internet and so on are inaccessible by our rural population, in particular the students, a little support from our MPs to buy and supply books to schools would be a good way forward.

If politicians need further enlightenments, Simbu Writers Association would be in a better position to enlighten them.

Robin Lillicrapp

Bearing in mind that educational outlays are regarded by modern day systems to require philosophical synergy to match the designed "outcomes" built into those curriculums.

PNG Attitude has embarked upon a unique program of indigenous writing and creative enterprise with a flavour all of its own.

Don't be surprised if resistance to petition is met at high levels due to prevailing ambitions within those ranks of bureaucracy.

The Croc Prize serves to mentor and inspire the nation in original works of authorship, punching way above its weight.

Well done, contributors and organisers.
_________

I think Robin is correct in his view that there will be resistance. After all, with a couple of honourable exceptions, that has been our experience so far. And let's remember how the Australian High Commission snipped a cool $3,000 from the project late last year. The funds were to be used to distribute anthologies to PNG schools and libraries. Hard to believe, eh - KJ

Francis Nii

Why not make a budget submission only with as many signatures as possible in support instead of a petition. If the budget is not funded than we can consider petitioning the government.

A petition-driven budget may not be good and can be counter-productive.

It may also hinder others from giving their support.

A normal project submission like any other submission without even making any reference to the bible and the saga surrounding it may be a good way to go about it.

Jimmy Awagl

Angra Dom - Wonderful piece which speaks for the voiceless majority.

In the hearts of the Writers, Authors and Poets it's a painful cry to raise this issue and it's about time it was addressed.

Petition the government to buy books authored by Papua New Guineans and also the anthologies for all the schools in PNG.

The would address the desire reading and writing in the country.

Buying books written by Papua New Guineans should be a law for the Education Department to consider annually.

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