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76 posts from September 2018

Separating fact from fiction - history is seldom pure & never simple

CAW Monckton
Early Papuan magistrate CAW Monckton - suave here but had a 'shoot and loot' approach to law enforcement


ADELAIDE - One of the perennial problems for historians is separating fact from fiction.

History is a notoriously murky subject, capable of being interpreted or reinterpreted because the facts change or new facts emerge or, sometimes, simply because we choose to perceive the facts differently.

This is why there can be so many histories of the same event or time or place in which different authors reach different conclusions about what happened.

Thus, Geoffrey Blainey and Manning Clark, both eminent historians, wrote very different histories of Australia. To this day, aspects of Australian history emphasised (or de-emphasised) by each of these great scholars are hotly contested in the so called 'history wars'.

I have recently read a splendid book called 'The English and Their History' by Robert Tombs, in which the author takes a very different and forensic view of English history to that usually reflected in classical scholarship.

Tombs’ exposes how myth, confusion, bias, misunderstanding, misreporting and omission have all contributed to what the English understand to be their collective history.

With this in mind, it is a bit frustrating for me to read that Papua New Guinea supposedly has “a longstanding tradition of military-style and heavy-handed policing, and some of my fellow countrymen assert direct links between this behaviour and that of some kiaps under the previous Australian colonial administration.”

Continue reading "Separating fact from fiction - history is seldom pure & never simple" »

Pacific islands: New diplomatic battleground for China & the West

Payne Zinke
Australian foreign minister Marise Payne & US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at the Pacific forum in Nauru

LEE JEONG-HO | South China Morning Post

HONG KONG - Pacific island countries have become a new diplomatic battleground as China and Western nations vie for influence in the region, and as Beijing ramps up efforts to squeeze Taiwan’s international space.

That presence is expected to be more visible in the coming months, with Chinese President Xi Jinping planning a summit for regional leaders in Papua New Guinea in November – just before the APECsummit is to be held there.

And with US President Donald Trump absent from the summit this year – vice-president Mike Pence will go in his place – analysts say Beijing will be trying to position itself to fill the leadership vacuum.

“It will certainly increase US allies’ concerns about Washington potentially withdrawing its commitment to the region … they may instead try to build relations with China,” said Zhang Baohui, a political science professor and director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

Continue reading "Pacific islands: New diplomatic battleground for China & the West" »

Despite re-engagement, Australia is out of step with Pacific

Edouard Fritch and Marise Payne
French Polynesian President Edouard Fritch, and Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, leave their handprints at the signing of the Boe Declaration (AFP)

NEWSROOM | Radio New Zealand

AUCKLAND - An academic in security studies and Pacific geopolitics says it is disturbing Australia is driving a strong security agenda while undermining the importance of climate change action by Pacific leaders.

Anna Powles from Massey University's Centre for Defence and Security said Australia is demonstrating its lack of regard for Pacific issues.

Pacific Island leaders at the recent forum in Nauru called on the United States to return to the Paris agreement on climate change.

Tuvalu prime minister Enele Sopoaga said Pacific leaders would not tone down their message to the US, implying Australia had wanted a more diluted signal.

"I think it shows that Australia is out of step with the Pacific and Pacific countries and leadership, despite their step up in terms of re-engagement with the Pacific,” Dr Powles said.

“The number one tension point is obviously on climate change and allegations that they've tried to water down, sought to water down the communiqué, are deeply disturbing.”

She said Australia's intention to set up the Pacific Fusion Centre to boost security of maritime areas and transnational crime was positive but she hopes it is not just a one way arrangement and efforts are made to build Pacific security capabilities as well.

Continue reading "Despite re-engagement, Australia is out of step with Pacific" »

Tkatchenko extols China role as PNG air link about to launch

Justin Tkatchenko
Tkatchenko - collaborating with China on how the PNG relationship can move to the next level

LEVI J PARSONS & ZHANG NING | Xinhua | Extract

PORT MORESBY -- Papua New Guinea's business relationship with China is moving ahead in "leaps and bounds", according to Justin Tkatchenko, PNG’s minister responsible for APEC.

"Over the last six or seven years, the China-PNG relationship has grown extraordinarily," he told Xinhua.

"We've already got most of the biggest Chinese companies here already, investing huge amounts of money, time and effort looking at opportunities for new projects and new investment.

"The relationship that we have together is a perfect working relationship when everybody's working for one aim and one goal and that is to have mutual benefits all round, not just for China, not just for PNG, but for the region," he said.

With PNG gearing up to host the APEC leaders' meeting in November, a massive Chinese-led infrastructure boom already underway and direct flights from Shanghai set to take off before the end of the year, Tkatchenko believes China will have a "big role" to play in the long term growth of PNG.

Continue reading "Tkatchenko extols China role as PNG air link about to launch" »

Phil’s latest novel examines whether freedom means happiness

Happiness-and-freedomPHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - Freedom is the state of having free will and living without undue or unjust constraints. It is an idea closely related to the narrower concept of liberty.

Our leaders say that our presence in a democratic and sophisticated society provides us with freedom.

This is a perverse sort of logic because, in the developed world, the individual is tied to the state from the moment of their conception right through to the day that they die. That is hardly freedom.

The more democratic and sophisticated the society in which we live the less we are free. If you doubt this fact try not paying your taxes or registering your car for a couple of years.

Freedom is a concept that relies heavily on its relationship to other factors.

Conservatives believe that freedom is about a minimal level of outside influence, particularly from government and its laws and regulations.

For others freedom has a more utopian aspect, whereby everything unpleasant and undesired is eliminated from life.

Continue reading "Phil’s latest novel examines whether freedom means happiness" »

Professor watches cell phones transform life throughout PNG

MEDIA UNIT | University of Rochester Papua-New-Guinea-cell-phones

ROCHESTER, USA - Robert Foster, a professor of anthropology at Rochester, has a longstanding interest in Papua New Guinea that started in 1984 with his doctoral research.

He later researched cultural attitudes toward Coca-Cola and, visiting again in 2010, he found PNG transformed by another product - cell phones.

“The coming of the cell phone in Papua New Guinea just couldn’t be ignored,” he said. “There was a moment when they were nowhere, then a moment when they were everywhere.”

Continue reading "Professor watches cell phones transform life throughout PNG" »

BCL works to build the power of literacy in Bougainville

Lit Week
Young performers at the Bougainville literacy week celebrations. Schools from across the region sent troupes to perform cultural songs and dances.

GENEVIEVE ITTA* | Bougainville Copper Ltd

ARAWA - Written information is all around us and those with the ability to read, write and understand it have a distinct advantage over those who cannot.

It’s an unfortunate reality that many of our young people cannot read and write and, sadly, the same applies to many adults.

Learning to read and write, regardless of age, are empowering, as literacy helps us to take advantage of opportunity and to live better and more rewarding lives.

It also provides self-confidence and opens all sorts of doors to further learning, vocational training and employment opportunities.

Literacy is a powerful enabler. It helps us to make informed decisions and choices. For example, the ability to understand information about the upcoming referendum on independence undoubtedly makes it easier for literate people to participate in this process.

Continue reading "BCL works to build the power of literacy in Bougainville" »

NZ offers to legislate to save refugees; Australia says rack off

Mungo Maccallum
Mungo Maccallum - "The suffering, trauma, dementia and death no longer have any real point: we do it just because we can"

MUNGO MACCALLUM | Pearls & Irritations | Extract

CANBERRA - Our new foreign minister, Marise Payne, assures us that the Pacific Solution is still in place and the men, women and children held as asylum seekers in overseas detention can stay there until they rot.

This policy has always been arbitrary, and arguably against international law – it is clearly against international standards of human rights. But last week Payne took it to a new level of cruelty.

During the Pacific Islands Forum at Nauru, the New Zealand deputy prime minister, Winston Peters, repeated his country’s long-standing offer to take 150 refugees from Nauru.

Knowing that the island and its corrupt and despotic ruler Baron Waqa were wholly owned subsidiaries of Australia, Peters went straight to Payne, who equally promptly said no.

Continue reading "NZ offers to legislate to save refugees; Australia says rack off" »


Port Moresby lawyer and PNG Attitude contributor Oala Moi would like to contact a representative of the estate of Thomas Shacklady, composer of ‘O Arise’, the national anthem of Papua New Guinea.

(Read more here about the career of Chief Superintendent Shacklady, pictured left.)

If you are able to assist in any way, Oala would be grateful if you could get in touch by emailing him here.


APEC façade hides a law & order crisis that is ready to ignite

Tawali Dive Resort where 20 tourists were taken hostage at gunpoint recently. Milne Bay and its many beautiful locations have become a tourism mecca over the last few years. Have PNG's raskols begun to work out that where there's tourism, there's lucrative pickings?  


PORT MORESBY – Our promise to the world that Papua New Guinea will provide a safe and secure APEC has been undermined by a recent increase of criminal activity including serious incidents at some of PNG’s supposed safest locations.

More than 20 tourists were taken hostage and robbed at gunpoint at Tawali Dive Resort in Milne Bay over the Repentance Day long weekend and on Saturday a group was held-up at Varirata National Park just outside Port Moresby.

Tawali, an East Cape resort only accessible by boat, has been the target of three robberies in as many years – an example of the decline of law and order in Milne Bay previously considered one of the safest destinations for local and international tourists.

At Varirata at the weekend, raskol opportunists targeted a young family and stole their belongings and their car.

Continue reading "APEC façade hides a law & order crisis that is ready to ignite" »

Police minister will "personally fix" crime issues during APEC

Jelta Wong
Police minister Jelta Wong says crime will drop during the APEC summit - but its what follows that has many Papua New Guineans deeply concerned


PORT MORESBY -- Papua New Guinea's police minister Jelta Wong says there should be no concerns about safety for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in November and participants will have the "best security" for the event.

The APEC economic leaders' meeting brings together 21 member economies as well as thousands of media representatives, delegates and support staff.

With such a huge logistical undertaking, PNG police and its armed forces have spent over a year performing drills and training exercises to make sure everything is "perfect" when APEC participants arrive.

According to the minister, equipped with the latest security surveillance gear and communications technology from China, authorities now have the capability to detect incidents before they happen.

"PNG wants to see, touch and embrace the world leaders because this is the first time they've come to our country," Wong told Xinhua.

He said domestic crime rates will fall during the summit. He said if there is any issue during the event, he will personally travel to the location and make sure it is fixed, “24 hours a day”.

My culture, my pride

Mt Hagen women
Women from Mt Hagen, Western Highlands


PORT MORESBY - No-one can teach you how to be a Melanesian. There are unspoken nuances we intuitively know: they are in our blood, the blood of a proud people - warriors, headhunters - refined over thousands of years.

Our Melanesian culture grounds us in our environment, it was built for us and suits us and served our ancestors and is still serving us today. In our domain we maintain our own –  the Sepik is as good as New Ireland is as good as Enga and so on.

On a bigger stage, our culture is as good as any in the world. We can take our stand proudly in the tribal council. We are survivors, for we have survived as one nation made up of a thousand tribes.

Continue reading "My culture, my pride" »

Great minds and small minds


PORT MORESBY - It is mental greatness that separates the great souls of history from the mediocre. Great mind accomplish great things.

The great minds in history like Mandela, Einstein and Newton engaged the power of their minds to change history, while small minds drifted with life’s vicissitudes.

I want to posit here the contrast between great minds and small minds. It’s an analysis that may help us develop our mind, change our life and become an agent of change in the world.

Continue reading "Great minds and small minds" »

Trail of Woe: Bucks versus benefits; the ugly side of Kokoda

Bell 1 - Kokoda Trail entry
Kokoda trail or trial? Rashmii Bell's 10-day trek investigated who benefits from Kokoda tourism and why there's a need for urgent corrective action


The first of a series of articles about the need to improve the conditions and sustainable development of the tourism industry on the Kokoda Trail. The articles document my observations and conversations with Papua New Guinean guides, carriers, campsite owners and communities as I trekked the Trail from 6–17 August.

ON THE TRAIL - In 2017, I was invited by the Australian-based social enterprise, Kokoda Track Foundation (KTF), to facilitate two rural school book-making workshops in Oro Province.

While designated to act only in as a volunteer, all research, design, delivery and facilitation was assigned to me by the Foundation. On both occasions I achieved the assigned outcomes.

And so, having donated my time and talent to this organisation, it was with disappointment and regret to have it deny my sole and rightful authorship of ‘Butterflies along the Track’, the KTF’s Kokoda75 commemorative children’s book, funded by Australia’s foreign affairs department.

Continue reading "Trail of Woe: Bucks versus benefits; the ugly side of Kokoda" »

A putrescent Moresby loses control of its appalling waste problem

Sil - Despoiled Waigani Swamp
Waigani Swamp and its peatlands disappear under a burden of landfill and waste washed in by  seasonal rains


PORT MORESBY - Managing solid waste is one of the biggest problems in Port Moresby and it is strange that it receives so little attention compared to other urban management issues.

In fact, it could be said that the quality of waste management services is a good indicator of a city’s governance.

The yellow and green coloured 44-gallon drums placed along streets and in suburbs and markets have been bent and broken over time.

Truth be told, there are no suitable rubbish bins and public toilets in the city.

There is also no routine collection and disposal of rubbish.

Port Moresby’s long dry season intensifies the stench of human faeces and urine and the sour odour of heaps of rubbish.

For more than 20 years, I foraged Waigani swamp for supertala (fish) and wild ducks and have gradually witnessed dismantled car parts, tyres, containers, plastics and much more engulf my hunting ground.

Solid waste dumped into drains in the northern part of the city accumulates for months until finally the rains come and sweep it into the Waigani swamp. In the south the rains drive the waste into the sea.

Continue reading "A putrescent Moresby loses control of its appalling waste problem" »

Bullish BCL “totally committed” to resuming mining at Panguna

Mark Hitchcock
Mark Hitchcock

MEDIA RELEASE | Bougainville Copper Ltd

PORT MORESBY - In its latest six-monthly market update, Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) confirmed it remains active in Bougainville and is totally committed to advancing the objective of resuming exploration and profitable and sustainable mining at Panguna.

BCL’s PNG general manager, Mark Hitchcock, said while the first half of 2018 had presented new challenges for the company, it remained optimistic about the future and continued to engage constructively in Bougainville.

“We are pleased to retain strong levels of support among the project area customary landowners and we continue to further build relationships with key stakeholders,” Hitchcock said. “This extends to supporting worthwhile community projects.”

In April the company was granted leave in the PNG national court to seek a judicial review of a decision by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) not to grant an extension of BCL’s exploration licence EL1. This matter continues.

Continue reading "Bullish BCL “totally committed” to resuming mining at Panguna" »

Kiaps attack 'slander' as PNGAA promotes fake hanging claim


"The last reported case of cannibalism in the Sepik was in 1964 when a group of men raided a neighbouring village for meat – as their ancestors had for thousands of years. All seven offenders were hanged by “kiaps” – Australian patrol officers who were the law of the land until PNG’s independence in 1975" – extract from an article in The New Daily republished in Una Voce

SYDNEY -  That slander, the third paragraph of ‘Cooking: The Curious Culinary Secrets of PNG’s Last Cannibalistic Tribe’ published in an online newspaper, The New Daily, on 9 March 2018, would probably have disappeared unnoticed if it had not been picked up and republished in the September 2018 edition of the Papua New Guinea Association’s magazine, Una Voce.

PNGAA's seeming imprimatur of an article that reflects adversely on the Territory of Papua New Guinea’s kiaps—District Commissioners, District Officers, Assistant District Officers and Patrol Officers—and on the Australian government's administration of what was then a United Nations trust territory is astounding when one considers the Association’s history, prestige and its membership.

Continue reading "Kiaps attack 'slander' as PNGAA promotes fake hanging claim" »

Dramatic revelations on tax evasion & illegal logging in PNG

Taking on the logging piratesFREDERIC MOUSSEAU | Policy Director, Oakland Institute

The full report on 'The Great Timber Heist Continued' is available at

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - In a just released investigative report, ‘The Great Timber Heist-Continued: Tax Evasion and Illegal Logging in Papua New Guinea’, the Oakland Institute has made public new evidence of financial misreporting and tax evasion in the logging industry in Papua New Guinea.

Following its 2016 report, which alleged that financial misreporting by foreign firms resulted in non-payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes, the new report reveals drastic worsening of this pattern in recent years.

According to the financial records, the 16 studied subsidiaries of PNG’s largest log exporter, the Malaysian Rimbunan Hijau (RH) Group, have doubled their financial losses in just six years while increasing their exports of tropical timber by over 40%.

Despite decades of operations in PNG, logging companies barely declare any profits.

Continue reading "Dramatic revelations on tax evasion & illegal logging in PNG" »

Is the world’s latest breed of ‘strong men’ leading us to chaos?

The cult of the 'strong man'CHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - Now that we are some 50 years or so into the post-colonial era, it is painfully apparent that many former European colonies are struggling to make a go of independence.

It turns out that creating and maintaining a viable democratic nation state is much harder than anyone previously thought, including those of us fortunate enough to live in places like Australia.

As our recent local troubles have shown rather graphically, we cannot afford to take for granted that democratic norms will persist if those we elect decide to ignore long standing conventions and put spite, revenge, self-interest and ambition ahead of the national interest.

Continue reading "Is the world’s latest breed of ‘strong men’ leading us to chaos?" »

Is there a middle class in Papua New Guinea?

Benedict Imbun
Dr Benedict Imbun is a Papua New Guinean expert in human resources, business ethics and business administration working in Sydney


SYDNEY - The development status of a country is arguably judged on the size of a middle class in the population more than any other characteristic such as economic and social indicators (e.g., levels of economic growth, infrastructure, educational and health achievements).

One of the primary reasons could be that the size of the middle class in many ways typifies not only the consumption pattern of the country, it also nurtures relevant economic, social, and political beliefs, values and ethos which forms its fabric.

The argument would be that aspirations a middle class harbours usually perpetuates and consolidates the mode of socio-economic and political achievements of the country, so is there such a middle class in Papua New Guinea?

In recent years, commentators and scholars have observed an emerging middle class in PNG increasingly spurred on by the country’s unprecedented economic growth since the 2000s. Others have lamented the ‘very limited’ growth in the middle class, making it difficult as a force to be reckoned with.

The argument in this narrative would be that the middle class as a social group in PNG is struggling to emerge in a society fraught with complex difficulties.

Continue reading "Is there a middle class in Papua New Guinea?" »

How the civil war took my mum & gave me my new parents

Bougainville Revolutionary Army  2000
Members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army on parade in 2000 after the ceasefire in the civil war


A true story from a collection of writing from the Devare Adventist High School in Bougainville edited by Alphonse M Huvi

DEVARE - In July 1994, during the Bougainville crisis, my mum was shot dead along with several other people in an ambush that was set up by members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army from the Siwai area in South Bougainville.

The incident happened at Tonu village after Sunday church service while we were returning to a government care centre.

I was two years old at that time and can’t remember much about it. The ambush had been set up on a hilltop near the track we usually took.

As we reached the hilltop, the BRA people started shooting in a crossfire, killing three people and wounding several others.

Continue reading "How the civil war took my mum & gave me my new parents" »

Ol i go pinis

Village_alcester_trobriand_islands (galen_frysinger)RAYMOND SIGIMET

Ray’s Tok Pisin poem, ‘They’ve Gone’, considers the issue of people who leave their village homes to find work (and money) in Papua New Guinea’s cities and towns. But, he asks, who will remain to run the schools and courts, grow the food, catch the fish and make sure the rural coast and countryside, where seven million of PNG's eight million people live, will be looked after - KJ

Ol i go lo lukim win moni
Na lusim gutpla pasin lo rot
Bai husait nau givim skul na kot?

Ol i go lo lukim kala lait
Na lusim mun lait stap lo ples
Bai husait nau raun na bungim pes?

Ol i go lo lukim planti kar
Na lusim bus rot antap lo maunten
Bai husait nau wokim lek na bihainim gen?

Continue reading "Ol i go pinis" »

Police commissioner calls Madang MP a "mix race bastard"

Baki and Kramer
Police Commissioner Gary Baki & Madang MP Bryan Kramer - Baki has a reputation for being hot-tempered; not the best attribute for making good decisions


MADANG - Yesterday afternoon at 6pm I was at Biliau village on Manam Island when I noticed my phone registered five missed calls from of police commissioner Gary Baki.

I was on the Island to carry out an assessment of the extent of damage and plight of the Manam people following a massive volcanic eruption on Saturday morning but I was also aware that Bailiau was the same village where journalists were attacked on Sunday.

I was in the middle of speaking to villagers when commissioner Baki called. I also received a text message from him.

The message read - "Mr Kramer, it’s the police commissioner, can you answer your phone."

Continue reading "Police commissioner calls Madang MP a "mix race bastard"" »

Laughs & wisdom in 2 new children’s books by Marlene Potoura

6 Whacky Tales for YoungstersPHIL FITZPATRICK

6 Whacky Tales for Youngsters by Marlene Dee Gray Potoura, CreateSpace, 80 pages, US$5.38 from Amazon Books

My Brother Warrollu by Marlene Dee Gray Potoura, CreateSpace, 86 pages, US$5.38 from Amazon Books

TUMBY BAY - We haven’t heard from Marlene for a while. She’s had a few problems but has sorted them out. And like any true writer she’s been busy writing through it all.

Humour plays a big part in her books for children, as does reality and these two new ones are no exception.

Here’s a sample of what to expect. Let’s start with 6 Whacky Tales.

Sebastine gets suspended from school, because he ‘holed’ a meat pie in the principal’s mouth.

Continue reading "Laughs & wisdom in 2 new children’s books by Marlene Potoura" »

View from an outback mountain: do individuals count for much?

Mt Finke Cairn
The cairn at the top of Mount Finke - a trip into Australia's vast outback triggers thoughts of whether we individuals really count for much


ADELAIDE - I have just returned from a 10 day trip through the outback country on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. This included traversing Goog’s Track, which runs north from Ceduna to intersect with the transcontinental railway at Malboona.

The 200 kilometre long track is mostly composed of a series of steep red sand hills (363 of them apparently, not that I counted) and is a severe test of vehicle and driver.

It took three days of hard driving to reach Malboona, which consists of a rather forlorn looking railway siding. No-one lives there. The nearest habitation is a mining camp at Tarcoola, which is some 40 kilometres distant.

Despite its rugged nature, the track does pass through some startlingly beautiful country. Recent rains have brought out an abundance of wild flowers and small shrubs. Their fragile beauty tends to create the quite false impression that the Australian outback is a welcoming, even soft, environment. It is not and never has been.

Continue reading "View from an outback mountain: do individuals count for much?" »