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Meet Bryan Kramer, Papua New Guinea's anti-corruption tsar

Bryan Kramer (2)
Bryan Kramer

KATE LYONS | Guardian Australia

SYDNEY - At the end of May, as Papua New Guinea’s most recent political crisis came to a head, huge numbers of people across the country tuned in to watch Peter O’Neill resign as prime minister and the parliament elect a new leader.

Many were watching an online livestream and as the parliamentary debate continued questions from viewers began rolling in, many of them along the same theme: “Where is BK?”

BK, as Bryan Kramer is sometimes known, has become a star of PNG politics, despite being just a first-term MP for the electorate of Madang, on the north-east coast of the country.

He is an anti-corruption campaigner who was instrumental in bringing to light the UBS scandal that helped to bring down O’Neill’s leadership, and was a key leader in the opposition movement, pushing for O’Neill’s removal.

Continue reading "Meet Bryan Kramer, Papua New Guinea's anti-corruption tsar" »

Caroline Tiriman - the story of the runaway broadcaster

KEVIN McQUILLAN | Business Advantage PNG / Paradise, in-flight magazine of AirNiugini

PORT MORESBY - Caroline Tiriman was just 16 when her father helped her run away from her Rabaul home to Port Moresby, on a path that eventually led her to become one of the most recognised broadcasters in Melanesia.

Every morning at 11am at high school in Rabaul, Tiriman and her eighth-grade classmates would listen to the ABC news and current affairs program Ring for the Record.

“I didn’t know where it was coming from. And so I used to wonder how did these people get into that radio,” she says with a laugh.

The presenter was usually an Australian, but sometimes it was Papua New Guinean Pearson Vetuna, who later became her boss.

Continue reading "Caroline Tiriman - the story of the runaway broadcaster" »

The amazing story of PNG’s first professor of surgery

A Surgical LifeKEITH JACKSON with Rob Parer, Robert Brown and other sources

Now in Remission: A Surgical Life, by Ken Clezy, Wakefield Press, 472 pages, December 2012. ISBN-13: 978-1459643420. Paperback $36.99; Kindle Edition $8.43. Available from Amazon USA

LONDON - Ken Clezy AM OBE is a surgeon whose vocation has taken him many places, not all of them safe.

When three colleagues were shot dead at a Yemen mission hospital he escaped only because he had gone home for breakfast.

In Port Moresby, where he was the first professor of surgery at the University of Papua New Guinea, doctors and nurses still say, “Mr Clezy did it this way”.

He performed brain and spinal tumour surgery in PNG for many years and was a pioneer of non-operative management of the ruptured spleen in adults.

But his particular expertise was in the reconstructive surgery of deformities caused by leprosy.

Continue reading "The amazing story of PNG’s first professor of surgery" »

Return to the regiment: Lt Les Peterkin & the Governor-General

Lt Les Peterkin and Lt Col Paul SimadasLES PETERKIN

Les Peterkin, 85, lectured at the Australian School of Pacific Administration in the 1960s, teaching a generation of young education officers bound for Papua New Guinea in the finer and more brutal arts of physical education. I particularly recall his fiendish rope course, at which I failed. Les is also a noted ceramic artist and his Super 8 movies of PNG in the 1960s recently featured in PNG Attitude  - KJ

NEWCASTLE – Last Saturday I attended the 119th Regimental Dinner of the Sydney University Regiment hosted at Saint John’s College.

Let me explain. Four years ago, when I rejoined the Ceramic Collectors Society in Sydney, of which I had been president in the late 1970s, I met Paul Simadas, who has just finished his term as president.

Lt Colonel Paul Simadas is a professional soldier and was commanding officer of the Sydney University Regiment from 2000 to 2002.

Continue reading "Return to the regiment: Lt Les Peterkin & the Governor-General" »

Life with Foxcy: death, warfare & great misfortune

Peter Ipatas on Foxcy's shoulders  2006
Foxcy (far left) and fellow students bear Governor Sir Peter Ipatas at Laigam in 2006 


WABAG - The young boy thought his mother was sound asleep and tried to lie down beside her as he had always done, clinging to her warm body for comfort and safety.

He did not understand why some people gently lifted him and placed him some distance away to play games with other children.

He was too young to realise that the lifeless form he saw people sitting around and crying over was gone for good, never to be with her favourite, and last, child.

His mother had treated him with special care after she had lost a girl before he was born. She had four children - two boys and two girls - but Foxcy was her favourite.

Today Foxcy Yambai from Laiagam in Enga Province is 26 and he seems to have been born to suffer loss and misfortune all his life. First his mother and then, when he was in Grade 7 in 2004, his father, this latter tragedy severely disrupting his education.

Continue reading "Life with Foxcy: death, warfare & great misfortune" »

Unfinished journey: Francis Nii & the struggle for PNG literature

Francis Nii & the green hills of Simbu
Francis Nii in his wheelchair amidst the green hills of Simbu - a monumental contribution to the literature of Papua New Guinea from his bed at Kundiawa Hospital


PORT MORESBY - The twisted metal of a motor vehicle accident in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands nearly brought Francis Nii’s story to a dramatic end.

The crash, at the start of 1999, left him forever paralysed from the waist down and brought his promising career as an economist and financial adviser to a sudden halt.

Francis, now 56, speaks softly and chooses his words carefully, but behind this gentle nature is an immense inner-strength that has served him well in the most trying of circumstances.

“There were moments I saw death coming,” he says.

“But every time I looked at the faces of my three daughters, there was this immeasurable power and energy unleashed in me to fight to stay alive and see them grow to womanhood and live lives of their own.

Continue reading "Unfinished journey: Francis Nii & the struggle for PNG literature" »

‘Up your game’, journalism winner Ben Bohane tells Oz media

Australian photojournalist Ben Bohane  currently based in Port Vila  Vanuatu
Australian photojournalist Ben Bohane currently based in Port Vila,  Vanuatu (Johnny Blades)

NEWS DESK | Pacific Mornings | Radio Australia

Link here to listen here to Ben Bohane speaking with Tahlea Aualiitia on Pacific Mornings

MELBOURNE - Ben Bohane has been announced as the winner of the Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism.

The $10,000 grant was available to an Australian journalist wanting to do a project on a story that was under-reported in the Pacific.

Mr Bohane is an Australian photojournalist, author and TV producer who has been covering the Pacific for decades.

When accepting the grant Mr Bohane said that under-reporting in the Pacific with Australian media is a real issue.

"Honestly, our news editors are failing the Australian people by not prioritising more reporting from the Pacific," Mr Bohane said.

Continue reading "‘Up your game’, journalism winner Ben Bohane tells Oz media" »

Plea to Marape: New PM asked to reinstate sacked whistleblower

Brian Alois
Brian Alois - "a Papua New Guinean of integrity, a person of whom the country should be proud"


PORT MORESBY – “Dear Prime Minister,” wrote Martyn Namorong in an open letter on Monday. “Please reinstate Brian Alois or, even better, appoint him as the secretary for works so we taxpayers don't get ripped off.”

Now in case you don’t recall this matter, Alois was suspended by the Works Department last year after he blew the whistle on how the Papua New Guinea government was being cheated on inflated road contracts.

At the time, Alois was the Momase regional works manager and also president of the PNG Institute of Engineers.

Speaking as Institute president at a national planning summit, he had highlighted how the government was paying well in excess of what it should for road construction and maintenance projects.

In doing so, he mentioned a 300-metre stretch of road in the National Capital District which had cost K80 million to construct.

Continue reading "Plea to Marape: New PM asked to reinstate sacked whistleblower" »

Marape’s pledge of hope & reassurance to the people of PNG

James Marape bilas
James Marape in the traditional bilas (finery) of the Huli people


PORT MORESBY – Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister James Marape is ready to fight crime and deep-rooted corruption in a country overburdened with billions of kina in foreign debt and poor delivery of basic services like health and education.

PNG’s eighth prime minister, Marape has been a member of parliament since 2011 and has held several important ministerial portfolios.

He did not mince his words in his maiden speech as he warned investors not to approach him, his ministers or public servants with bribes but to earn their money through honest hard work.

“Don’t offer inducements to me or any ministers or public servants,” he said.

Marape also warned public servants and politicians to earn their salary and not to ask for special favours from investors.

Continue reading "Marape’s pledge of hope & reassurance to the people of PNG" »

See who I met at Grand Papua Hotel - & some thoughts I had

Daniel and Keith
Daniel and Keith with copy of Survivor and traditional Enga caps


PORT MORESBY – We had quite a lunch at the Grand Papua on Friday.

By ‘we’ I mean Keith Jackson AM, who wrote the Foreword to my latest book ‘Survivor’, his lovely wife Cr Ingrid Jackson, a councillor in the shire of Noosa on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, and their son Ben, a communications specialist working with the Australian aid program in Papua New Guinea.

After we finished, the Jackson family met Hon Wera Mori, commerce minister and member for Chuave in Simbu, where Keith had come as an 18-year old to teach - and has remained a friend of PNG ever since.

Wera and Keith exchanged contact details and spoke for many minutes.

(As it happened Wera had been a student at a school at which Keith’s close friend Murray Bladwell had been principal and Keith was able to put them in touch after 50 years.)

Continue reading "See who I met at Grand Papua Hotel - & some thoughts I had" »

History as a fuzzy photograph in a box in the wardrobe

Young kiaps in their prime (right to left) Don Reid, Phil, Charlie Brillante, unknown, Mt Hagen 1968


TUMBY BAY - Over the last year or so, quite a few old kiaps have been setting out on that final journey to the patrol post in the sky.

And many of them have come from that last generation of contract officers to be recruited prior to independence.

This is quite unnerving for those of us of that generation who are still upright and breathing.

I’m getting a distinct feeling that part of Australia and Papua New Guinea’s joint history is rapidly falling away into the past.

Doug Robbins passed away earlier this month and I’ve just heard that Don Reid has followed him. I didn’t know Doug but Don was someone I encountered early on in my own kiap career.

I don’t know whether it was official policy or just how things worked out but when I was a cadet patrol officer I was teamed up with Don to learn the ropes.

I’m not sure whether he drew the short straw or simply felt sorry for me. In any event we became good friends and he taught me what I needed to know to survive.

Among other things he was great at detecting my bullshit.

Continue reading "History as a fuzzy photograph in a box in the wardrobe" »

How Susan graduated after a 34 year fight to get a degree

Susan Wangjil and her father on campus
Newly graduated Susan Wangjil with her father on the campus of the University of Papua New Guinea


PORT MORESBY - It was a great relief when Susan Wangjil finally graduated with a science degree after 34 years of continuous education.

Susan is from Alkena village in the Tambul District of the Western Highlands Province and she graduated as a Bachelor of Science, majoring in biology, from the University of Papua New Guinea on 26 April.

She had started Grade 1 at Alkena Lutheran Community school back in 1986, and in 1995 completed Grade 10 at Tambul High School. But she did not receive an offer to progress to the next level of education.

Susan had no choice but to return to her family where she stayed for a year and said to herself that completing Grade 10 should not be the end of her education.

So, in 1997, she decided to enrol at the Mount Hagen College of Distance Education to improve her Grade 10 marks. The following year, she was accepted into Nazarene School of Nursing at Kudjip in Jiwaka Province.

Continue reading "How Susan graduated after a 34 year fight to get a degree" »

Caroline Evari: ‘Choose to rise above every circumstance….’

Caroline Evari
Caroline Evari
Betty Wakia (2)
Betty Wakia


BETTY WAKIA: Why did you decide to call your recently published collection of poems, ‘Nanu Sina’?

CAROLINE EVARI: ‘Nanu Sina’ simply means ‘my words’. I chose this title because, as you read through the book, you will notice most of the poems are basically my own thoughts related to my personal experiences and observations.

BETTY: Can you tell us what sort of poems are in this book?

CAROLINE: The book is divided into four parts - Conflicts, Relationships, Hope and Family. In each, you will find poems that resonate with the theme. For example, under Conflict, you find poems that talk about war, doubt and fear and under Relationships there are poems about love and friendship.

BETTY: How did your environment and upbringing colour you’re writing?

CAROLINE: Both have had a huge impact on my writing. Growing up, I never openly shared my challenges with the people around me. Because most of the poems have been extracted from my Grades 11 and 12 school journals, they are basically my way of expressing my fear, disappointments, hopes and dreams for an envisioned future. My journal was a place for me to confide in, so I wrote and wrote without stopping because I found writing a way of relieving stress.

Continue reading "Caroline Evari: ‘Choose to rise above every circumstance….’" »

'Rise up': female police inspector’s battle cry to women

Julie Palakai - Blazing a trail for change (AFP)
Julie Palakai - "Dressed in crisp police blues and wielding a large silver sword, she proudly marches judges, superior officers and other dignitaries - almost always male - up and down guard of honour lines"

NEWS DESK – France 24 / AFP

KOKOPO - In a nation where sexual violence is endemic, women are still targeted and attacked for witchcraft, and female representation in parliament is non-existent, police chief Julie Palakai is blazing a trail for change

The 43-year-old inspector, a domestic abuse survivor and 18-year veteran of the force, is one of the most senior female police officers in Papua New Guinea -- and is calling on the nation's women to take a stand against sexism with her.

"Women must strive and rise up against any discrimination, abuse and sexual harassment in the workplace," she tells AFP.

"For young girls who are still struggling: Do not give up but strive for the best to achieve your goals and to find a better and happy life. Nothing is impossible," she insists.

Human Rights Watch named Papua New Guinea "one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman" in a report which estimated 70% of women would be raped or assaulted in their lifetime.

Continue reading "'Rise up': female police inspector’s battle cry to women" »

The PNG roots of Australia's most celebrated architect

8 month old Glenn Murcutt in PNG
Eight month old Glenn Murcutt in Salamaua with his liklik papa

LUKE SLATTERY | Australian Financial Review | Extract

You can link here to the complete article by Luke Slattery

SYDNEY - Glenn Murcutt surveys the treetops of his lush and layered rear garden and searches for words from his first language, a Papua New Guinean pidgin.

“Crocodile, if I remember correctly, is pock-pock,” says Australia’s most decorated architect, and a smile of unbridled delight bursts across his broad face.

“The word captures the sound of the croc’s air bubbles breaking the surface of the water. Chicken is cockaroo. And airplane,” he says as he clicks his fingers, “is balus.”

We have been talking, in the modest Mosman semi he renovated 13 years ago, about architecture and its challenges; about life, love and loss.

Earlier, when discussing architectural “ego” statements and look-at-me “buildings of the moment”, his voice had tightened, taking on a censorious edge.

A little later, recalling the death of his elder son, Nick, of cancer just when the 46-year-old’s career as an architect was flourishing, Murcutt’s voice had dropped and faltered as his lively blue-grey eyes filmed with tears.

Continue reading "The PNG roots of Australia's most celebrated architect" »

Daughter’s Easter pilgrimage honoured father’s heroic death

Markus Lohtmann
Army Chaplain Markus Lohrmann - "a very compassionate and caring person; a very loving person; a very Godly man"

BRIAN ALBRECHT | Cleveland Plain Dealer (USA)

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio – Two years ago on an Easter afternoon, Marcia Luecke waded into the waters off a Pacific island beach where her father had died during World War II, and honoured the sacrifice of a man she never knew.

Luecke was only 18 months old when her father Markus Lohrmann, an Army chaplain, leaped into the waters off Goodenough Island in Papua New Guinea on 6 March 1944.

Lohrmann had been aboard a small boat with other soldiers when the engine suddenly quit. They were unable to radio back to their base for help.

As the craft drifted, potentially toward Japanese-held waters, the chaplain offered to swim to their base on the island.

Two other men joined him, but when the soldiers reached the beach, the chaplain was not among them.

They swam back and found his body. Efforts to resuscitate Lohrmann on the beach failed.

Seventy-three years later his daughter stood on that very same beach, the highlight of a journey that included evading a crocodile, and a forced, emergency helicopter landing.

But it was important for her to be there.

“I was never able to be with him, so I wanted to at least be at the last place he was, where he was called to heaven,” she recently said.

Continue reading "Daughter’s Easter pilgrimage honoured father’s heroic death" »

The strength of a priest & the sadness of works abandoned

Father Abel Michenaud
Fr Abel Michenaud had seen his share of tragedy


NORTHUMBRIA - The man in the photo is Father Abel Michenaud. It might be obvious he was a Frenchman.

Fr Abel was as enthusiastic about his evening glass of rough vin rouge as he was about his ubiquitous cigarette.

He was born in time to be inducted, when in his teens, by Nazi invaders as a forced labourer in one of many notorious slave camps near Nantes

As a result, Abel came to Papua New Guinea as no stranger to tragedy. The daily trek to his work as a slave, flanked by armed Nazi guards, regularly involved avoiding fresh French corpses, the bodies of people who had been shot overnight.

He became a Roman Catholic priest and in 1973 was in charge of the remote Sacred Heart mission station at Kamulai in the Guari section of Goilala sub-district.

Continue reading "The strength of a priest & the sadness of works abandoned" »

Musings of a songwriter – never know what’s round the corner

Simon Jackson - "Song writing's a bit like living in PNG; not sure what's round the corner, if anything"


Simon Jackson is a software guru (day job) and a talented songwriter (night job), whose music has come under serious attention for its inspired melodies and moving lyrics. Simon was born in Port Moresby and did his early schooling there and in Rabaul and Bougainville before settling in Australia and then New Zealand. Here he writes of his most recent and highly praised album, ‘Two Thieves’….

AUCKLAND – I'm working on a new album - well two actually, although I'm also in two minds about the piano-based album I was planning, Livin' The Dream’.

I’m not sure why I'm backing off this but I'll probably get around to finishing it at some point.

That’s song writing. A bit like living in Papua New Guinea. Never sure what’s round the corner. If anything.

My recent 'Two Thieves' album is doing OK - mostly streaming on Spotify. It got a good review on 'Indie Band Guru' (below) which I was happy about.

'Two Thieves' is not going to make me rich but I'm pleased I did it. It feels like I achieved something, and I love the music. I probably should promote it more, but I'm busy writing.

Continue reading "Musings of a songwriter – never know what’s round the corner" »

Sean Dorney lends his name to Pacific journalism award

Sean Dorney (Vanessa Gordon)
Sean Dorney (Vanessa Gordon)

SYDNEY - Veteran reporter Sean Dorney has given his name to a $10,000 journalism grant, to be awarded annually by Australia’s Walkley Foundation starting this year.

The Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism will support a major work of Australian journalism about an underreported issue or development in the region.

Walkley Foundation chief executive Louisa Graham announced the grant on Friday in the presence of Sean Dorney.

“Having recognised Sean’s outstanding contribution to journalism, we were very aware of his decades of inimitable work in the Pacific,” Ms Graham said.

“We’re delighted to be collaborating with Sean on this grant. It’s a practical and powerful way to empower a journalist and a media outlet to report on the Pacific, and to continue Sean’s impact and legacy in the industry he loves.”

Sean Dorney has had a 40-year career as an ABC journalist in Papua New Guinea and throughout the Pacific islands.

He retired from the ABC four years ago and is facing the challenge of living with motor neurone disease.

“It is essential that Australians know what is going on to our immediate north and east,” Mr Dorney said.

Continue reading "Sean Dorney lends his name to Pacific journalism award" »

My life’s journey with Dr Bill Standish

Sarah Garap
Sarah Garap - "It seemed as though he actually came to say goodbye"


Sarah Garap is a community development specialist and was one of the first women health inspectors in Papua New Guinea. She is an activist for women and human rights issues and is co-founder of two women's organisations in the Highlands - Kup Women for Peace and Meri I Kirap Sapotim

CANBERRA - A journey describes life in this broken world.

My journey with angra (brother) Bill Standish is a story of more than 20 years, beginning in 1994. I will write a tribute to him when my head is cleared from the shock of his passing.

For now, it’s this journey to the Australian National University on 1 March this year.

I have always stayed with Bill and Sue in all my trips to ANU – 1997, 2003, 2018, and 2019.

In March he picked me up at the airport when I arrived at 10 pm.

He gave me his old Vodaphone so I did not have to buy a new one.

He took me to ANU for my placement; to see admin and meet people.

Continue reading "My life’s journey with Dr Bill Standish" »

Legendary Clelands continue to support heritage & literature

Bob Cleland
Bob Cleland and his family contributed greatly to the development of Papua New Guinea


PORT MORESBY - The fingerprints of the Cleland family’s hard work remain throughout Papua New Guinea – from the administrative machinery in Port Moresby to the misty heights of the Daulo Pass.

The Cleland legacy goes back to the 1950s and the family’s story is one of love for Papua New Guinea and its people, and deep respect for its sovereignty and heritage.

Author and former kiap Bob Cleland says that at that time “a unique thing was happening.

“The traditional inhabitants and the newcomers were developing concurrently, side-by-side, with the same aims and aspirations.

“Government, private enterprise, Christian missions and village people were all pulling together in the same direction.”

Bob’s father, Sir Donald Cleland, was the distinguished Administrator of the then Territory of Papua and New Guinea from 1952-66 and played an important role as it prepared for Independence.

Under his direction, the first elected House of Assembly (the predecessor of the post-Independence parliament) was elected in 1964.

Sir Donald also worked to remove discriminatory barriers – restructuring the public service in order for Papua New Guineans to take a predominant role and ending the divisive liquor ban that applied only to Papua New Guineans.

Continue reading "Legendary Clelands continue to support heritage & literature" »

Sir Joseph Nombri & the emergence of the Chimbu elite

Sir Joseph Nombri
Sir Joseph Nombri


KUNDIAWA - After the Europeans came to Chimbu their laws were introduced among the people and any old ways that were unacceptable to the general principles of humanity were forbidden.

The common Chimbu traits of peace, love, friendship, giving and family were encouraged so travel and communication among the tribes became easier.

In the beginning tribal leaders were the first to embrace the new ideas. The leaders were made Luluai and Tultul and others became policemen, postal boys, translators and held other responsible positions serving the colonial administration all over the highlands and the coast.

Dinga leader Aina was known as an engineer supervising the building of airstrips and roads throughout Chimbu and the highlands.

Kumga chief Tumun, Golen chief Ninkama Bomai, Karimui leader Inuabe Egaiano and Kamare chief Launa were tribal leaders who became some of the first elected leaders to embrace the white men’s ways.

Continue reading "Sir Joseph Nombri & the emergence of the Chimbu elite" »

It’s International Poetry Day, so we asked along Ray Sigimet

Raymond Sigimet
Ray Sigimet - "A simple poem or story with a simple message can inspire change"


DAGUA - I started writing poetry as a form of personal expression when I had my first piece published on PNG Attitude in September 2015.

It was a poem about my daughter who was born in 2011 and it expressed the awe and wonder she brought into my life.

My daughter exuded an inner strength and zest for life which inspired me.

She was also growing really fast and, when she started talking about going school, I realised that I had to leave something for her to enable her to find her strength and remember me later on in life.

This was when I started to jot down a few stanzas and lines.  

In my poems, I mostly write about things or issues that I read, hear or see happening in the country or region. I am always in awe of Papua New Guinea and try to capture in my poems its social changes and challenges.

My poems are mostly about life, politics and justice, land and development, family and home, spirituality, and self and identity.

I believe that humans have shared experiences that transcend time and space and when these are captured effectively in a simple poem or story with a simple message, the reader is able to relive those experiences, relate to the poetry and perhaps be inspired to create change.

Continue reading "It’s International Poetry Day, so we asked along Ray Sigimet" »

Late Terry Shelley receives one of Rotary's highest awards

Joe Shelley Wes Nicholls
Joe Shelley receives a humanitarian award on behalf of his late father, Terry, from Rotary director Wes Nicholls


BRISBANE – The late Terry Shelley was both a successful businessman in Papua New Guinea and a generous philanthropist.

He dedicated his working life to the welfare of the people of the Highlands and was always one of the first to contribute when PNG Attitude and other organisations initiated projects to benefit the ordinary folk of PNG.

Two years ago he worked with me on a massive undertaking to provide library books and related materials for dozens of schools in the Chimbu Province.

This was where Terry had started his career in the 1960s as a cooperatives officer and where he was a familiar figure for the rest of his life as an entrepreneur and benefactor.

A few weeks ago, Wes Nichols, the international director of the Rotary Club of Toowong in Brisbane, visited Goroka to present Terry’s son, Joe, representing his late father, with the Paul Harris Fellow award and medallion.

This prestigious award marked the Rotary Club’s recognition of a man who was a true humanitarian and an adopted son of Papua New Guinea.

Continue reading "Late Terry Shelley receives one of Rotary's highest awards" »

PNG & the unsolved mystery of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart posing by her plane in Long Beach  California  1930
Amelia Earhart posing by her plane in Long Beach, California, 1930


PORT MORESBY - While experts have done a tremendous job trying to determine what led to the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the world’s most celebrated female aviator, there are people in the Pacific Islands who have their own ideas about what happened after her last port of call in Lae, Papua New Guinea.

From 1937 until now, aviation investigators have failed to establish any leads in the search for Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan.

But the mystery continues to engage attention. Many people have invested much time and money in seeking to solve this enigma.

In the 1930s, Earhart was nothing short of a legend. She put herself into the history books as the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic, the first woman to fly solo non-stop across the United States and the first person to fly the hazardous route between Hawaii and California.

Continue reading "PNG & the unsolved mystery of Amelia Earhart" »

Recalling gentleman Jim Humphreys & his applied mathematics

Jim's new maths made a short appearance in the School Paper when KJ was editing it. "It took months to get the article to Jim's satisfaction," Keith recalls. "But it still confused everyone."


MELBOURNE – I feel sure that Jim Humphreys would be horrified that anyone would recall his impact on more than a few Papua New Guinean and expatriate primary school teachers during the late 1960s.

For the most part, Jim was a private, reserved and self-contained chap, not given to Friday nights and weekends in pubs or clubs or parties.

Outside of working hours, he kept much to himself. He was, indeed, something of an enigma.

That said, he was, for a short few years, a valued colleague and mentor.

Jim achieved prominence in the PNG primary education sphere when he was anointed by Education Director, Ken McKinnon, to champion the implementation of the ‘new maths’ through the application of TEMLAB: the Territory Mathematics Laboratory.

Physically, TEMLAB was a boxed set of lesson plans and teaching apparatus comprising attribute blocks: a collection of wooden pieces in various shapes, sizes, colours and thickness which were designed (if I remember correctly) to provide a logical underpinning to the teaching and learning of mathematics.

Continue reading "Recalling gentleman Jim Humphreys & his applied mathematics" »

‘In Like Flynn’ - movie of Errol Flynn in PNG just doesn’t do it


TUMBY BAY - I’ve just watched a terrible film that purports to represent the early adult life in Papua New Guinea of famous Tasmanian actor, Errol Flynn.

Flynn went to PNG at age 18, seeking his fortune as a planter and gold miner. He spent five years on and off in the country before embarking on an acting career.

In 1929, using the proceeds of his Papua New Guinean gold mining, he bought a yacht in Sydney called Sirocco and, after getting her seaworthy, sailed it back to PNG accompanied by three friends.

In his own words Sirocco was “forty feet at the water line, cutter rigged, she was never intended to sail outside the smooth waters of the harbour”. She was over 50 years old when Flynn bought her.

The voyage took seven months and ended in tragedy when Sirocco was wrecked on a reef off Port Moresby and one of the men drowned.

When he was a famous actor and rich, Flynn had another yacht built and called it Sirocco. Clearly he had a great regard for the little cutter.

Flynn was a talented writer and the voyage on the original Sirocco is detailed in his 1937 book ‘Beam Ends’.

Continue reading "‘In Like Flynn’ - movie of Errol Flynn in PNG just doesn’t do it" »

Sean’s daughter walking Kokoda to clobber motor neurone disease



BRISBANE - In April I will be walking the Kokoda Trail to raise funds for a small, not-for-profit called the MND and Me Foundation. 

MND is Motor Neurone Disease, which, sadly, my father, Sean, was diagnosed with a few years ago. 

It is a struggle every day and, but for the exposure given to it by a few high profile sufferers (the late Stephen Hawking being one), it is one of the many diseases that is not very well known unless someone in your circle has been afflicted.

I will be walking the Trail with a group of family and friends, all of whom are fund raising in support of the MND and Me Foundation.

Continue reading "Sean’s daughter walking Kokoda to clobber motor neurone disease" »

The pink aeroplane, government paperwork & PNG airstrips

Ian Rowles poses near one of his later aircraft, also a Cessna 185, at Lae airport in 1974


GOLD COAST - How do write about someone who died a long time ago and yet who is still so alive in one’s memory? Start at the beginning I suppose.

In 1969, as a liklik kiap (Cadet Patrol Officer) at Pindiu Patrol Post on the Huon Peninsula, I distinctly recall the arrival on the airstrip of a bright pink Cessna 185. “Who the hell is that,” I asked the OIC?

“That’s Rowlesy,” I was told. “They call his plane the Pink Panther.

Ii was easy to see why. The aircraft had been painted a cheerful candy pink. It stood out like the proverbial country pink-painted dunny.

Continue reading "The pink aeroplane, government paperwork & PNG airstrips" »

Living at ground level, Part 2 – More musings from Stan

Stan Gallaher portrait
Stan Gallaher


POPONDETTA - This guy Eliza, my night security, is from the Southern Highlands and he is married to a very pretty young lady from there, all have legs like fence strainer posts.

His lady is very church-minded and her and a group of church people, three ladies and seven guys, most from the highlands, walked to Port Moresby a month ago, nothing new, people been doing it for years. They did the crossing in two and a half days, f---- amazing.

They left Kokoda station in the morning and walked all day and all night with a one hour stop, the next day they did the same thing and then took a short cut and connected to a logging road that comes close to the top of the Kokoda Gap, got on a logging truck into Port Moresby.

The same day they got to Port Moresby they put one of they guys on a plane back here so people knew they had arrived and to prove they had done it in two and a half days.

That’s a four day walk during daylight hours, 12 hours a day by an extremely fit man to the point where they took the short cut. To do it in the time they took and in the dark is worth recording. She came back a week later well worn out but very pleased with what she had done, can’t say I blame her.

Continue reading "Living at ground level, Part 2 – More musings from Stan" »

Living at ground level, Part 1 – Stan's 'PNG factor'

Stan Gallaher in the wheelhouse
Stan Gallaher in the wheelhouse


Stan – a wild man of Papua New Guinea – died in Port Moresby three years ago and his son Luke Gallaher thought we’d find one of his letters of interest. It was written to his family in Australia in December 2002 and offers an insight into life in Papua New Guinea on the ground floor – where money is tight and relationships direct.

“My father made friends and enemies of prime ministers and was Kostas Constantinou's golden boy at one stage,” Luke says, “and was famously know in PNG as a man who would give the shirt off his back to anyone. Some say he couldn't see colour in people.” After Stan’s death, Luke made sure he obtained Australian citizenship for three of his half-siblings who now live in Australia with Luke and his family. Here’s Stan’s story written in his own inimitable style….

POPONDETTA - Its 0630 hours Sunday here and we have overcast skies just starting to lift, the sun burning the mist off the ground and birds have been at it in the mango tree for the past three hours.

PNG music playing in all the houses up and down the street, each trying to play their stereos higher than their neighbours, kids starting to give mums heaps waiting for breakfast, the normal shit that goes on every morning with the exception that its Sunday.

Continue reading "Living at ground level, Part 1 – Stan's 'PNG factor'" »

Spearhead for women's rights: the career of Dame Carol Kidu

Wedding of Carol to Buri Kidu in 1969
Wedding of Carol to Buri Kidu in 1969

MARY FAIRIO | Women Tok PNG | Edited extracts

Link here to read the complete profile of Dame Carol Kidu

PORT MORESBY - Dame Carol Kidu travelled a remarkable journey from her suburban Australian home to Pari village in Port Moresby, and was to break the political glass ceiling to become Papua New Guinea’s first female opposition leader.

Entering politics in 1997, Dame Carol achieved remarkable policy victories especially focused on women, children, disabled people and minority ethnic groups in two consecutive terms as Minister for Community Development.

Born Carol Millwater on 10 October 1948, Carol spent the first 20 years of her life in Shorncliff, Queensland in a lower middle class Australian family. She has described her family as “not poor, but we were not rich, they struggled to get us educated”.

Her parents created an environment of compassion for others and emphasised that everyone was equal. Carol developed an important social consciousness.

In 1969 when Carol was 16 and in Grade 11, she met and fell in love with Buri Kidu, a Papua New Guinean, at Tallebudgera Camp School on the Gold Coast.

Continue reading "Spearhead for women's rights: the career of Dame Carol Kidu" »

Best of our new years: A serologist reminisces

2009 - Dr Peter Booth  first director of PNG blood bank  with assistant  1962
The late Dr Peter Booth,  first director of PNG blood bank with assistant,  1962


CHRISTCHURCH - The old hospital at Saiho, 18 miles and 18 rivers from Popondetta. Bush materials, flat swampy ground, a tropical paradise and absolutely lethal. Infested by mosquitoes all full of talciparum malaria, not chloroquin-resistant in my day.

The lab was much the size of an average garden shed, and, when it contained two burly Melanesians - Edward the technician and his mate - and myself, it seemed like Wembley Stadium on Cup Final Day.

l was even more envious after lunch with the Saiho Medical Officer. He was a single man with a mind well elevated above the humdrum, so he failed to notice that his housekeeping was being deplorably neglected by a handful of slovenly Papuan houseboys, who served up an abominable lunch: slices of bread being fried in pig grease on top of old 40 gallon drums. It smelt delicious.

Continue reading "Best of our new years: A serologist reminisces" »

Best of our new years: Recollections of a kiap

2007 - Lloyd Hurrell and Kukukuku man
The late Lloyd Hurrell and Kukukuku man


TWEED HEADS - The Cadet Patrol Officer - who is usually aged between 18 and 25 when he enters the Australian School of Pacific Administration for grounding in such subjects as colonial administration, law, anthropology - gets experience soon enough.

And if he goes into the field with a bright-eyed idealism, it is a good gleam for him to carry. Authority can so easily turn into arrogance - and even the Cadet is at once in a position of considerable authority over natives.

The School represents Australian realisation that well-administered and well-assisted colonial peoples do not revolt and side with the governing nation in war. ASOPA added modern training to a pre-war tradition. About this tradition there is nothing pukkah or military or old-school-tie.

It was ‘Made-In-New Guinea’, and with it goes a spirit of belonging to something that belongs to New Guinea; and that means going through with a job when there would be reason enough to give up or turn back by ordinary standards - but not by New Guinea standards, of what men can do, or forbear to do, if they have enough of staunch wisdom and courage.

It is a tremendously respectable thing in the eyes of the native people, this tradition. So it should be in Australian eyes and, indeed, in the eyes of a world which will have difficulty in pointing to anything quite like it anywhere else.

Some people mock & deride refugees. Here’s why you should not


Henry Lowig
Professor Henry Lowig

NOOSA - On Saturday, Father Bob Maguire [@FatherBob] was attacked on Twitter by journalist Chris Kenny, former politician Alexander Downer and once Labor now Liberal political-hopeful Warren Mundine.

The elderly priest who describes himself as “patron of the unloved and unlovely” had drawn a comparison between the barbed wire that fenced in the World War II concentration camp at Auschwitz and the conditions prevailing for refugees on Manus and Nauru, a link which had enraged the three chumps.

I tweeted in response to them: “My father-in-law lost most of his family in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. My wife is horrified at the Australian government's treatment of refugees. She recognises the same elements of cruelty & inhumanity, sickness & death, present in Manus & Nauru.”

I note here, in further defence of Father Bob, the words of the Auschwitz Memorial: “When we look at Auschwitz we see the end of the process. It's important to remember that the Holocaust actually did not start from gas chambers. This hatred gradually developed from words, stereotypes & prejudice through legal exclusion, dehumanisation & escalating violence.”

Continue reading "Some people mock & deride refugees. Here’s why you should not" »

I was in the depths of despair when PNG Attitude came to help

Sylbeez Hive Learning Centre
The school finished 2018 with just seven students, the eighth is Marlene’s daughter Darhlia. At right, wearing a cap, is teacher David Kataka


LAE - So many kind hearted PNG Attitude readers have given my two children and me a wonderful Christmas. Your help has made us happy, as we have had a really tough time lately.

I write this article to tell my story and show that I work hard to try to make things happen. The kindness of readers pushes me forward to keep doing what I do.

Thank you for your kindness. I wish you all a prosperous new year.

My children’s father brought me to Lae from Port Moresby in 2005 when my son was around five months old.

In 2006, I got a job at the Salvation Army school as its deputy principal. At the end of 2009 I was offered the role of principal with a full sponsorship to do a master’s degree in leadership at Divine Word University. But instead I resigned because I wanted to start a learning centre for the sake of my son, who had a  disability, and other children with parents who worried whether they were properly taken care of.

So I wrote a letter to the Lions Club here in Lae asking if I could use their building in Eriku to operate a learning centre and if I could pay the bond fee and rentals at the end of January 2010.

Continue reading "I was in the depths of despair when PNG Attitude came to help" »

Oh how we miss this feisty, jocular teller of legends


Patrick & Alfred
Big Pat Levo with the diminutive Alfred Kaniniba

NOOSA - You’re leaning back after a few Christmas Day jugs saying to yourself ‘my work here is done, I can skive off for a bit’, when suddenly a long absent presence storms the inbox.

It has a name and its name is Patrick ‘Big Pat’ Levo, scion of the Gulf crocodile eaters, plantain procurers and sago suckers. Not to mention buai bashers.

Reluctant as I was to receive this missive from Big Pat on the birthday of Jesus (or, indeed, any day at all), I could not help but see that it contained a pome (poem) written in pottery (poetry).

I remarked to myself, because no one else would listen, that this was more than passing strange, it was high speed and reckless overtaking of strange.

A strangeness that begets a sudden and nervous, "What the feck is going on here".

So without further ado, as the man said after his 45 minute introductory speech, I offer you the blank verse of Big Pat, if not Papua New Guinea's leading journalist then surely its tallest, and wittiest:

Continue reading "Oh how we miss this feisty, jocular teller of legends" »

Christmas’s Past: Of rats, false teeth & Euclidean geometry

Terry Shelley - entrepreneur, philanthropist & humorist - died on 28 December last year. We miss him

TERRY SHELLEY | 25 December 2009

GOROKA – I want to report for PNG Attitude on a couple of incidents that happened here during the year so that the B4s may know all is not doom and gloom.

One of the night shift workers came to me one morning stating he had liklik worry.

When I asked what the problem was he explained he had taken his false teeth out to eat his Navy Biscuit and, when went to pick them up, he saw a rat racing off with them.

Unfortunately he was unable to catch the rat before it disappeared down a hole.

He requested if he could have the teeth replaced as they were his front ones. Goroka Hospital came to the rescue at K20 per tooth.

On another occasion I requested my welder to measure the circumference of a screening barrel.

He replied: "Maski, em hat tumas.

I was just about to give him a good old serve when he pulled out a tape measure and measured the diameter. Then he punched the number into his Nokia Mobile.

He then said: “Em ia, em mak bilong em."

I was astounded and asked him: "Yu savi long pi r²?”To which he replied "Nogat mi savi long 3.146," or whatever the number is.

Who said there was no progress in PNG?

The single mother in PNG: Just how does she do it?

Brian and BriannaDOMINICA ARE

GOROKA – This past 4 September, I gave myself a huge pat on the back, congratulated myself and hugged my twins Brianna and Brian so tight they gasped for air.

I had made it. We had made it. We had survived their first year. A single mother and two small twins. Honestly, I couldn’t even believe it.

Time flies so damn fast when you’re having double fun.  I was full of glee and so proud of myself that I could hardly concentrate at work.

I almost burst with happiness as I dwelled on the struggles I rose above in that first year. The feeling was superb. I spoilt the children with cupcakes afterwards.

True, the journey was not all rosy; there were several setbacks. But we survived. Most importantly, my babies are happy and healthy and that’s all that matters.

Continue reading "The single mother in PNG: Just how does she do it?" »

Mark Lynch's extraordinary life: 'My heart's still in PNG'

Mark LynchSCOTT BEVAN | Newcastle Herald

Photo - Mark Lynch talks with Scott Bevan (Jonathan Carroll)

NEWCASTLE - Sitting in Talulah bar and cafe at The Junction, Mark Lynch looks very much like a manager, which is what he was for many years. He wears a crisp business shirt, and his hair and beard are neatly trimmed.

Yet hanging from his chair is a beautiful indication of what has occupied much of his life. It is a string bag, or bilum, hand-made in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea in 1964.

“It would have been used for carrying spare bow strings,” Lynch explains.

More than 50 years since the bag was crafted, Lynch uses it to hold more than just bits and pieces. The bilum also allows Lynch to carry his love for Australia’s nearest, but barely known, neighbour.

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Let’s see if we can give Marlene & her kids a better Christmas

Marlene PotouraKEITH JACKSON

Marlene Potoura lives in Lae and is a struggling teacher, accomplished writer (but there's no money in it) and devoted single mother. She scratches together a living to enable her two children to have an education and a future. Marlene – who lives in poverty - has been robbed twice this year. Crime in Papua New Guinea occurs throughout society, but it’s at the bottom where it’s most cruel. Poor stealing from poor. Let Marlene explain….


LAE - I’m feeling angry. In the early hours of Wednesday last week, my kids and I got robbed again.

Two Samsung phones. An electric sewing machine. Wrapped gifts my kids bought for their friends. New wrist watches I bought for my kids. Over K200 in cash. Sun glasses. And other shit.

Worldly things they are. That’s my only comment. I was robbed senseless on 23 February and again last Wednesday. There was no laptop this time. I learned that lesson well.

Continue reading "Let’s see if we can give Marlene & her kids a better Christmas" »

Hanuabada – PNG’s 'gay village' - offers sanctuary & hope

Kapera Patrick outside his home in Hanuabada (Peter Parks  AFP)STAFF REPORTER | Agence France-Presse

PORT MORESBY– As an openly gay man in Papua New Guinea, where sex between men is illegal and stigma and violence widespread, 24-year-old Kapera Patrick (pictured outside his home in Hanuabada) remembers thugs pelting him with abuse, stones and bottles.

His life changed when he was taken in by a family in Hanuabada, a settlement in Port Moresby that has become a haven of tolerance, offering sanctuary for dozens in a gay community that is gradually coming out of hiding.

A ramshackle collection of thousands of dwellings built on stilts over the water and connected by rickety and treacherous wooden planks, Hanuabada is a world away from the sanitised parts of the capital that recently played host to Asia-Pacific leaders.

Continue reading "Hanuabada – PNG’s 'gay village' - offers sanctuary & hope" »

The story of Yothu Yindi drummer, Ben Hakalitz

Ben HakalitzSCOTT WAIDE | My Land, My Country

LAE - Nearly half a century ago, when Ben Hakalitz first picked up the drumsticks, little did he know that he would become one of the most travelled Papua New Guinean musicians.

Now 52, Hakalitz is a master of the trade; a drummer whose skills are highly prized and sought after by the industry.

He was born at Angau Hospital in Lae the 1965 to a Morobean mum, Anna, and a Bougainvillean dad, Joseph.

Musical talent ran in the Hakalitz family. As a gifted self-taught guitarist, his dad spent his free time jamming with friends and family. It was in this household that the young Ben grew up.

“I picked up the sticks when I was very young. We used to bang away at mum’s saucepans. Then I started playing in the school band.”

Continue reading "The story of Yothu Yindi drummer, Ben Hakalitz" »

Waide reinstated! People power gives PNG govt a wake-up call

Scott on the job
The essence of Scott Waide's life - giving the people of PNG a voice in their own lives and country


LAE – Over the last 48 hours, I have been very  humbled by the incredible support my family and I have received from people  both here and abroad.

Support also came from friends in the media, academia, law enforcement, the military and many other circles too many to name.

I have since been reinstated to my job as deputy regional head of news at EMTV

I wish to thank our media friends here and overseas, especially.  Thank you for your support and your words of encouragement.

Thank you to my immediate and extended family and to the strangers who offered support and words of encouragement in Port Moresby, Lae and remote parts of Papua New Guinea.

My news teams both in Port Moresby, Lae, Kokopo, Madang and Mt Hagen demonstrated the highest level of professionalism and maturity by remaining away from everything that has happened.  I am proud to lead this team of young journalists, camera operators and support staff.

Continue reading "Waide reinstated! People power gives PNG govt a wake-up call" »

APEC official 'Silver Fox' believed to be operating illegally in PNG

David Johnson (aka Silver Fox)
David Johnson (aka Silver Fox)


MADANG – Investigations show that Australian David (Silver Fox) Johnson, who claims to be an APEC official, may have been operating illegally in Papua New Guinea.

This is the same David Johnson who in October threatened entrepreneur Emmanuel Narokobi for sharing on Facebook an article about the controversial arrival in PNG of 40 Maserati luxury cars.

Following this incident, I made further inquiries into Johnson's dealings in PNG and established that his company, Karama Consultants Limited, is operating illegally for failing to obtain IPA Certification - a requirement by law where a company is majority foreign-owned or controlled.

In December 2015 Johnson acquired the company in partnership with Michael Ekri in Lae – the shareholding was 60% Ekri (a PNG citizen) and 40% Johnson.

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Citizenship issue for PNG-born Australians deepens

NICK O’MALLEY | Sydney Morning Herald

Nancy Bird Walton
Nancy Bird Walton whose PNG-born relatives, all Australian citizens, face deportation

You can read Nick O'Malley's article which contains some rare photographs here

SYDNEY - Nancy-Bird Walton's younger brother John was just 15 when the merchant ship he served on in World War II was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-180 off the New South Wales coast.

He was one of 19 survivors rescued by the USS Patterson and is the last of them still alive.

Ms Walton went on to become one of Australia's most celebrated pilots, an Officer of the Order of Australia, and her name would one day appear upon Qantas's flagship A380 aircraft.

By war’s end John Bird had been awarded honours by both Australia and the United States, having served in the merchant navies of both nations.

He moved for a time to the Australian protectorate that is now Papua New Guinea, where he married his Papuan wife and had five children before returning to Australia.

Each of the children was immediately registered and granted Australian citizenship, and when they turned six they were packed off to boarding school in Sydney.

Continue reading "Citizenship issue for PNG-born Australians deepens " »

Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare – an appraisal

Michael Somare  1974
Michael Somare, as chief minister in 1974, a year before independence, hands out the new PNG flags to school children


Sir Michael Somare is on a protracted farewell tour of Papua New Guinea as the 82-year old inaugural prime minister who led PNG into independence moves into retirement. Chris Overland looks at his legacy....

ADELAIDE - I first met Michael Somare in 1969, when both he and I were much younger and slimmer than we are now.

As I recall, he was chairing a parliamentary select committee seeking the views of the people on Papua New Guinea becoming self-governing and, eventually, independent.

I was a mere Assistant Patrol Officer at the time and thus a person of no consequence at all, so I imagine that our fleeting conversation would have not even registered in his memory at the time, let alone later.

However, from that brief meeting I formed a strong impression of him as a very determined man, certain of PNG's destiny as an independent country and quite unwilling to accept anything less from an initially reluctant colonial power.

Continue reading "Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare – an appraisal" »

A Kiap’s Chronicle: 20 - Bougainville landfall

The  Brown family  Michael  Pamela  David & Bill
The Brown family in 1966 - Michael, Pamela, David and Bill


At the author’s request, this chapter is presented out of sequence. The intermediate chapters (17-19) will be published soon

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES – It was 1966, the family and I had just returned from six months’ leave in Australia and I had resumed duty at Maprik in the Sepik District.

It was then that incidents in Bougainville and a government report changed the course of my career.

The incidents related to opposition to the mining exploration activities of Conzinc Riotinto Australia. The report, on the same issue, related to the January 1966 visit to the site of a possible mine at Panguna by the Director of Lands, Surveys and Mines.

The Director, DS Grove (1), himself a former kiap, wrote that critical problems were not being addressed and that the Assistant District Commissioner at Kieta, Max (MJ) Denehy (2), was over-committed and had no experienced field staff to assist him.

Continue reading "A Kiap’s Chronicle: 20 - Bougainville landfall" »

As he farewells the nation, Michael Somare visits an old friend

John Momis & Michael Somare - builders of the nation
President John Momis greets Sir Michael Somare at Buka airport - both men were architects of the PNG nation


BUKA - Together they united a nation of more than 800 tribes and languages and began a friendship that has lasted for 50 years.

That bond between the father of the nation, Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare, and the father of the constitution, Grand Chief John Lawrence Momis, is close and their friendship today remains as strong as it ever was.

Sir Michael, who is 82, came to Bougainville this week as part of his farewell and thanksgiving to the people of Papua New Guinea.

His political career spanned from 1968 until his retirement from parliament just last year. He was PNG’s first and longest serving prime minister.

Dr Momis, who is nearing 80, was a Catholic priest from 1970-93, He became active in politics and was elected to parliament in 1972. He co-wrote the PNG constitution and, following the end of the civil war, he was appointed Bougainville governor from 1999 until 2005. He has also served as PNG’s ambassador to China.

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Bertie Ahern has personal experience of travails of civil war

Peter O'Neill and Bertie Ahern (The National)
Peter O'Neill and Bertie Ahern (The National)


DUBLIN - One of the reasons former Ireland prime minister (Taoiseach), Bertie Ahern was chosen to head the Bougainville Referendum Commission is that he has been involved with successful conflict resolution processes in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Ukraine and with the Basque people of Spain.

Ahern’s parents and grandparents themselves experienced the trauma of revolution and civil war.

His father, Cornelius (Con) Ahern, was involved with the IRA (Irish Republican Army) way back in the 1920’s in the Irish war of independence against the English.

Ireland did gain independence from Great Britain but immediately civil war broke out between the IRA members who accepted the proposed treaty with Britain and those IRA members who opposed it.

Con Ahern, who opposed the treaty, was on the losing side of the civil war, and as a result was imprisoned in the ‘Tintown’ prison camp in Curragh, County Kildare, for some of that time being on a hunger strike.

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