Monday, 17 December 2012

Australia and Papua New Guinea in 2013


Papua New Guinea’s tumultuous year of 2012 will be coming to a head shortly and questions are already being asked what 2013 will bring.

The beginning of 2012 was awash with a sense of national disenchantment, with the country facing a new year in the wake of the turbulent and heady political days of August 2011 fresh in people’s minds. Not least of all our observant southerly neighbors.

There was a sense of uncertainty about 2012.

Questions burned in pockets of society. Discussions dragged well into the late hours of nights of early January in the country’s burgeoning online population about what the coming year held in store for PNG.

H.E., Ian Kemish, Australian High
Commissioner to PNG
Would the ongoing political instability, (no, uncertainty) carry forward into the mid-2012 national elections? Would the country have national elections at all? What shape and form would this national election take should it eventuate? And who would the likely winner be?

The economy had enjoyed a decade of uninterrupted expansion and economic pundits were forecasting similar growth. Would it be sustained in 2012? Would the country’s social difficulties be mitigated by continued growth?
Much of what has come to pass would have answered those burning questions.

The country had relatively safe and successful national elections, albeit one fraught with disputes. The economy continued its merry way towards unprecedented growth levels, backed up towards the end of the year with a massive national budget handed down by the country’s ever optimistic Treasurer and Planning Minister.

People settled back into routine existence post-elections, and our neighbors’ anxieties about instabilities in the country politics seemed to subside somewhat.

But in all these, commentators and leaders of one of our most ardent allies have realized, through various assessments, that at the people to people level, many of their own do not have as great an understanding of Papua New Guinea as we do their country.

Australians are now being told to do more on an individual level to develop their understanding and appreciation of their nearest and northern most neighbors. To understand “what makes us tick.”

Australia’s Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr completed a whirlwind tour of the country not too long ago, taking in various centers in our Highlands provinces, complete with the traditional pig presentation, and flew back into Port Moresby for a joint Ministerial Forum.

The success of this forum (and its resultant Communiqué) has been overshadowed by talks on the engagement of 89 Australian advisors to the district and LLG level as consultants. The Australian High Commission here rejects this notion and is adamant that nothing in the communiqué attests to this.

Sir Puka Temu, our Minister for Public Service (and the progenitor of this notion) remains steadfast. The question on the minds of some is not so much as to who is right here. Rather, who has been missed out on whatever may have transpired on the periphery of the joint ministerial forum.

Amidst all the confusion in government and social commentary circles, the Australian High Commissioner to PNG, H.E., Ian Kemish delivered a candid assessment of the year as has been for PNG to the Australian Institute of International Relations as part of its Fernberg Lecture Series.

Mr Kemish is no stranger to the country, having lived and gone through primary school here and being part what he called an “Australian Tribe”, one made up of “Australians for whom PNG is part of their personal history.”

His appreciation of the country’s idiosyncrasies and the nuances of our “Melanesian Way” carried through in his thought provoking message to his fellow Australians. He described contemporary Papua New Guinea to his compatriots as a country riding the wave of economic prosperity, but continuously dogged by poor social indicators, crime and corruption.

A country always seemingly on the brink of some disaster or other, whether it be natural or manmade, political or social.

But his reference to Papua New Guineans as a people whose tenacity and strength of character always seems to win through, perhaps best summarizes his belief that the people of PNG can see themselves through whatever difficulties they may be faced with.

In his words, “the most helpful Australian approach to PNG is one which understands that it is only Papua New Guineans who can bring about lasting change.”

Immediately on the back of His Excellency’s perceptive assessment, another Australian leader has come out to suggest that perhaps not enough is being done for public diplomacy and people to people relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea and to correct the skew.

Richard Marles MP
Richard Marles is the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs.

He recently asked whether Australia and Channel Nine’s popular Today Show had any interest in furthering Australia’s public diplomacy through highlights of PNG in its daily program content.

The Today Show is carried live into Papua New Guinean homes everyday though relayed telecast by EMTV and on the Imparja channel for cable viewers.  

Mr Marles sees the PNG-Australia relationship as the “most important bi-lateral relationships we have in the world”, and one which is growing in scope and significance. “Yet this is a bilateral relationship which does not have the prominence that it deserves in our national discourse”, he continues.

Mr Kemish was also forthright when speaking of Australians; “the assumptions we have made will increasingly need to be questioned, and the weary cynicism that has crept into our national thinking about PNG over time is unlikely to be much help to us in the years ahead.

“Our perspective on Papua New Guinea will need to understand that greater prosperity, security and stability for Papua New Guineans is in our own interests – as Australians, and as Queenslanders.

“To suggest, however, that self interest is our only motivation is to misunderstand the depth, and warmth, of the personal links that underpin the Australia–PNG relationship.”

So what hope do we have for 2013?

Our tenacity and collective strength of character as a people has brought us through the turbulent later days of 2011. Has seen us hold relatively successful elections which, considering the enormous impediments we face geographically and logistically, was a success by any measure.

Has seen us overcome threats of constitutional, political and social crises. Not least of all a real threat of military instability on several occasions.

Better health and education are usually our primary concerns. Improved infrastructure, better governance and economic management. Many of what we as a country hope for come new year, year in, year out.

For our neighbors, I hope that we will reach a stage where the average Joe in Leichardt will finally hear of the existence of my local team, the Port Moresby Vipers. And he need not worry about reciprocity. I already know about his team the Wests Tigers.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

AusAID to help Moukele village

MOUKELE villagers from Fishermen Island, 15 kilometers off the coast of the Moresby South electorate, are the city’s leading suppliers of fresh fish.

These hardy fishermen and women have the doubly grueling task of catching fish by night and making daily boat rides to the city at break of dawn, to sell their catch at Koki market.

It’s a tough life, with many dangers, made even tougher by the absence of any health care facility on the island. Currently, residents have to seek health services on the mainland and many seriously ill patients, and women in labour, have died on the long journey.

Their prayers for a health care facility has been answered; the Australian Government has approved K64,351 on November 30, 2012 for the Moukele Community Development Committee (MDC) to construct an aid-post on Fisherman Island. The funding is made available through the Strongim Pipol Strongim Nesen Program small grants scheme.

The committee’s chairman Keimelo Gimapau thanked AusAID and the people of Australia for the gift, describing it as “a blessing indeed”. 

He said: “An aidpost on the Island will make our lives a lot better, there are some non-government organisations and self-help groups already in our communities but usually they lack money and resources. 

The help of a powerful donor like AusAID will make all the difference, particularly for the very young, old, disabled and sick.’’

The MDC were amongst five communities in the National Capital District to benefit from a total AusAID gift of K363,739 for community development projects. Other recipients were:

  • The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) will receive K76,376 to bring 20 female and seven male adult literacy trainers from around the country to review the literacy skills training manual, which will be used to teach more than 3000 people;
  • The Cheshire Disability Services of Papua New Guinea will receive K72,618 to train 120 community-based rehabilitation volunteers, community leaders and partners to advocate for the rights of people living with disabilities in Port Moresby and neighbouring villages. 
  • University of Papua New Guinea will receive K70,393 to allow art students studying at the university to share their education by teaching 10 youths from the Morata Settlement and 30 secondary school students to use basic drama, photography, poetry, music and dance to reach out to other young people in schools and settlements. This peer-group mentoring will raise awareness of issues which affect young people, such as safe sex and gender equality; 
  • The Meduna Koita Community in the Moresby South Electorate will receive K80,000 for a water supply project that will make life much easier for the community’s 171 residents who will no longer have to cart water from the nearest source, five kilometres uphill at Mahuru village.
SPSN Program Director Jeremy Syme said: “AusAID through the SPSN Program is committed to improving lives for communities across Papua New Guinea, but communities must be equally determined to ensure that the projects are delivering. 

These gifts are from the people of Australia to the people of Papua New Guinea and are gifts that come with expectations - expectations that you will spend the money wisely, appropriately and most importantly for the purpose you have requested. 
It’s also vital that it benefits as many people as proposed and that you find ways to sustain it and let it grow.’’

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Papua New Guinea: Australia’s Closest Neighbour in Transition

Full Transcript of address by His Excellency Ian Kemish AM, Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening.
Let me begin by thanking Her Excellency the Governor and Mr McCosker for this invitation to Government House to speak to you about our dynamic nearest neighbour, the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. The Governor’s commitment to promoting dialogue in Queensland on international affairs is very welcome, and in no way surprising to those of us who knew Penny well as a dedicated and thoughtful senior member of the Foreign Service.
H.E Ian Kemish AM
I also thank the Australian Institute of International Affairs through Vice President Rebecca Hall for this opportunity.
Your Honour the Chief Justice, it is a privilege to speak before you today. I remember well your own strong interest in global affairs from a conversation we had several years ago in Berlin. And I am conscious of your ongoing support for the judicial links between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
I extend particular appreciation to Mrs Jane Prentice MP for her continuing support for the relationship with PNG. Jane has been a frequent visitor to PNG in the last several years, helping underline the point that our national interest in that country is, and must always be, bipartisan.
One of Jane’s contributions to PNG, made in a previous capacity with the Brisbane City Council, is represented by the visible presence on Port Moresby’s roads of former Brisbane buses, servicing schools and providing local transport. In fact they retain their Brisbane destination signs, which their PNG drivers adjust according to whim. So it’s not unusual to be driving, say, near the traditional water village of Hanuabada and to pass a bus apparently on its way to Strathpine via Garden city and Wynnum North. The sight is sometimes enough to make this Queenslander slightly homesick.
I look around the room and I see many who have lived and worked in Papua New Guinea. They are members of a special and surprisingly numerous Australian tribe – those Australians for whom PNG is part of their personal history. I happen to be a member of that tribe myself. I was raised in Papua New Guinea in what was, in retrospect, an era of hope – the decade prior to Independence, when my parents and their contemporaries were working, in the narrow timeframe available to them, to prepare the first generation of leaders to shoulder the burden of self-determination.
I count as members of this same tribe those Australians whose forebears fought and died at places like Milne Bay, Sananda, and Isurava on the Kokoda Track. And the more than three thousand Australians who walk the Track each year. And indeed, those veterans of the Papua New Guinean campaigns who are still with us. We were privileged to host a return visit this year, 70 years on from the Kokoda campaign, of a group of former diggers – all men in their late 80s and 90s. They joined me only a few weeks ago at a service with former Papuan carriers and soldiers in Popondetta. To be present at their reunion, and to listen as one of the old Australians recited a poetic tribute to the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, was a truly moving experience.
There’s also a community of present-day Australians who find it difficult to get the country out of their system – business people working on the commercial relationship, engineers and service providers working in the mines, professionals who keep returning for one more project, one more posting. (I am happy to say that there are several repeat offenders at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby.)
The focus of these modern day links is this state of Queensland, with the strongest concentration of links – naturally– in the far north. Communities such as Cairns see the current rapid expansion of the PNG economy as representing a substantial opportunity for their own recovery. Two-way trade with PNG is worth AUD 7.2 billion, and Australian companies have won contracts with the LNG project worth at least three billion. Investment in both directions is in the billions. Queensland companies are by far the most active in this activity.

The prominence given to PNG art at the freshly opened Asia Pacific Triennial at the Gallery of Modern Art is another kind of reminder of the links enjoyed and promoted, on behalf of Australia, by this state. The Sepik artists who constructed the HausTambaran, or Spirit House, at the entry to the exhibition, have certainly been made to feel at home here. So much so that they welcomed Roxanne and me to “their place” when we walked into GOMA on Saturday.

But Papua New Guinea is a blind spot for many other Australians. With some notable exceptions, the interest of the Australian media in PNG is superficial, and as a consequence our understanding of the dynamics in PNG is quite limited. We often hear an alarmist view that highlights the implications of PNG’s undoubted problems for our own selves. It is a shame that this low level of understanding can even sometimes be the case in Queensland – a state whose most northerly island lies less than four kilometres from the PNG mainland.

Most Australians would be astonished by the extent to which Papua New Guineans understand what makes us tick. They are closely familiar with our politics and our popular culture, including of course the personal histories of every member of each team in the Australian National Rugby League. I tell you in absolute seriousness that there are more Maroons supporters in PNG than in Queensland. I have never felt more like a Rock Star than when, with Mal Meninga, I led the Kangaroos out of Port Moresby airport terminal earlier this year. The crowd chanted the name of every one of our procession as we came into public view. Well, everyone’s except mine.

Ladies and gentlemen, my central theme this evening is that Papua New Guinea is a country experiencing rapid transition, and that the changes underway there have significant implications for both PNG and Australia – and particularly this state of Queensland. We need to keep up.

PNG was the seventh fastest growing country in the world in 2011 – a year that sealed a decade of uninterrupted expansion. It is estimated to have grown by a further 9 per cent this year. Further substantial growth is expected in 2013. Industry has made the largest contribution to growth, boosted by the construction of the 16 billion dollar liquefied natural gas project.

Demographics tell another important part of the story. The population is probably growing by as much as three per cent each year, and has now reached something like 7 million – that makes PNG second only to Australia in the Pacific region, with double the population of New Zealand. Currently 40 per cent of Papua New Guineans are younger than fifteen. By 2030 the population will have grown to 10 million. It is projected to be approaching the current population of Australia by 2050.

This combination of economic and population growth is not without implications for regional dynamics. PNG is set to take on more of a leadership role in the Pacific – we have already seen the Government of Papua New Guinea begin to exert a firm leadership role in encouraging Fiji back onto the democratic path, and PNG has for some years now been a strong troop contributor to RAMSI - the Regional Assistance Mission in Solomon Islands. There are now PNG military observers with the UN in South Sudan and Darfur. PNG’s declared attitude to the asylum seeker processing centre on Manus Island is that PNG should be making a contribution, as a serious regional player, to what is a serious regional problem.
The profound changes underway in PNG come with some serious challenges, putting strain on health and education services, and making the country more challenging to govern. Administrative capacity has been struggling for years to keep up with rapid demographic change, which is seen most acutely in the growth in informal settlements on the edge of key centres such as Port Moresby and Lae – a major contributor to the law and order challenge in these centres. The security situation, while generally misunderstood and often distorted, remains a significant impediment to the country’s development.
The health sector is still in very bad shape overall. At 733 deaths per 100 000 births, maternal mortality is the highest in the region. Preventable diseases remain widespread. Pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria claim the most lives. Tuberculosis is also serious, including but by no means only in the border region of Western province, adjoining Queensland in the Torres Strait. With some impressive work by Papuan New Guinean health workers, supported by resources provided by AusAID and others, TB mortality rates in that region have fallen by 80 per cent in the last year, and the World Health Organisation has described the work of TB detection and treatment there as best practice.
As Australians we can be pleased that our aid program has played an important role in mitigating the difficulties that have arisen in post-Independence PNG. It has saved thousands of lives. Its achievements over the last twelve months have included the delivery of 1.5 million text books to almost 4,000 schools, the construction of hundreds of classrooms and teacher accommodation blocks, and subsidies to eliminate school fees in the first three years of school. 

The number of female court magistrates has been increased, thanks to the Australian aid program, from 10 in 2004 to 685 in 2011. In this field, and all others, there needs to be a much stronger role for women in decision making if he country is to reach its true potential. Courts, corrections facilities and community centres have been built. Essential drugs have been distributed by AusAID to thousands of remote health centres. 

The official assistance offered by Australia is complementary with the efforts of the churches, who continue to provide at least 50 per cent of the health and education services in the country, and of NGOs and volunteers, many of who are Australian.

But Papua New Guineans want more from their own Government. And following a period of considerable turmoil they now have a government that clearly wants to tackle the challenge of improving health and education services, and is more serious about dealing with the scourge of corruption in the public sector.
So it is in many ways a time of hope. The new Government of Papua New Guinea is acutely conscious that significant, albeit lesser economic opportunities have been missed before, and seems determined to avoid this happening again. This is a Government that wants to change things. It has the benefit of widespread support in the Parliament, and looks set to enjoy at least thirty months, under new constitutional arrangements, of political stability.
To understand Papua New Guinea – the maturity or otherwise of its institutions, the commitment of its people to democracy – it is important to appreciate what really happened in the twelve turbulent months leading to Peter O’Neill’s finally undisputed emergence, on 3 August this year, at the head of this new and energetic government.
It is a story of painful generational succession - one which tested the country’s constitution and political institutions more than any other moment in its post-independence history. It was a crisis that lasted exactly a year and a day.
If you will permit me a digression, the day it all began – the 2nd of August last year - was a unusual day for me.
It was the day I became the first Australian High Commissioner in more than twenty years to visit the site of the enormous Panguna mine on the island of Bougainville. You will know that Panguna was once the largest copper mine in the world – until a dispute focused on landowner and environmental concerns morphed into a bitter struggle by secessionists to break Bougainville away from PNG. This became, in the 1990s, the worst conflict the Pacific had seen since the dark days of World War 2. The mine lies dormant for the moment, and its future is intertwined with the future of the island. All this is another story, but it is worth mentioning in passing as an abiding strategic issue of importance to Australia.
In any case, if you had been there on the morning of the 2nd of August last year you would have seen me walking – with dignity I hope - under the raised boom-gate that is still used by former members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army to control access to the Panguna district. You would have seen me towing, by its foreleg, a very large pig – the ceremonial price for Australia’s re entry into the area. I understand from reports I heard later in the day that it was delicious, but cannot confirm this.
It was an eventful day. Late that afternoon, on the long drive back to Buka town, our vehicle became stuck at mid-point when fording a rising river. My young colleagues – a group of impressive young women – and I managed to extract ourselves from the vehicle and escape the raging stream with the assistance of hundreds of locals who magically appeared on the scene (as they always seem to when an expatriate encounters trouble). It was as I climbed to the top of a grassy river bank, barefoot, muddy and soaked from the neck down, that I received a text advising that Peter O’Neill had just been elected on the floor of Parliament. And it was in that state that I made my congratulatory phone call to him. Such is the romance of diplomacy.
For Papua New Guinea, the twelve months that followed were marked by two separate but related crises. The first, which peaked in the December/January period a year ago, was essentially a dispute between O’Neill and the man he had overthrown – Sir Michael Somare – over who was rightful Prime Minister. The court backed Somare, and Parliament strongly backed O’Neill. In circumstances that would have challenged any constitution, the Public Service, the PNGDF and the Police Force largely accepted the principle that a Prime Minister must have the backing of Parliament. We appeared, for a while there, to have two of everything in Papua New Guinea: Governors General, Prime Ministers, military and police commanders. But O’Neill was the effective Prime Minister throughout.

There were several moments in this first crisis when attempts were made to get the security forces involved. This is an important point. On each of these occasions the leaders of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary and the PNGDF showed remarkable maturity. They refrained from becoming involved despite the significant pressures placed on them. And they exercised very good judgment in the disciplinary approach taken in dealing with the small disaffected elements within their midst that were tempted to support one side or another.

The populace certainly did not behave as if there was a crisis. Papua New Guineans understood clearly the political dispute, but it was quite striking how people remained calm, and how everyday life and business continued as normal in Port Moresby, and across the country.

I certainly wasn’t short of advice at this time – from the Australian media and commentators - about how Australia should conduct itself. The Australian Government was active behind the scenes: encouraging restraint and persuading the parties, through confidential dialogue, to keep what is a political dispute in the political arena. At a local level we undertook some successful, creative diplomacy with the police and defence forces to keep the temperature down. But in the end it was Papua New Guineans who kept a lid on things.

Through this first crisis we – and more importantly, the PNG people, took the view that the only hope of restoring real political stability lay at the ballot box, in the national elections scheduled for June-July this year. This is why we were all so concerned when a second crisis emerged in February-March this year, as powerful negative forces within the PNG Parliament began to suggest that the constitutionally mandated election should be deferred, perhaps indefinitely.

For a moment there appeared to be a real risk that PNG would walk away from its proud democratic record, which has seen it hold elections every five years since Independence.
But the people spoke in no uncertain terms, staging peaceful protests in support of their right to vote. The local media cleared its throat, and letters to the editor sent a consistent message. Slowly Parliament came to accept that its mandate would in fact expire, and elections would be held.
It was in this context that Australia moved to provide unprecedented support to PNG to help ensure the success of the elections.
AusAID’s support to the elections totalled $18.2 million, including additional surge support to assist the PNG Electoral Commission in areas including procurement, logistics, training and human resources, through the deployment of 23 Australian Civilian Corps specialists. The Australian Defence Force moved over 2700 PNGDF and police personnel throughout PNG, enabling them to provide the much-needed security for elections in the Highlands, and delivered over 204,900kgs of election material. The AFP built a new radio communications network to assist the PNG police to exercise its responsibilities.
But once again, the best part of the story is what Papua New Guineans achieved themselves. To conduct an election in PNG – a country with more than 800 distinct languages and with some of the world’s toughest topography – is no mean feat. It takes place over a fortnight, involves more than three thousand candidates and 9800 polling places, and requires almost five thousand small polling teams to travel – by helicopter, boat and foot – to some of the remotest places on Earth to deliver the poll.
As Senator Carr said last week in Port Moresby, if Papua New Guinea can deliver an election in such circumstances, then no other country has an excuse not to trust the people, and not to stage a democratic election.
Was it a free and fair election? Well, it was a relatively safe election, and I have no doubt that the overall result reflected the will of the people. In many coastal and urban areas the polls would have been familiar in their conduct to anyone with a western perspective. In some parts of the Highlands this was not the case, and the motto “Vote early, vote often” had particular application. But let me give you two brief anecdotes that will put this last comment into perspective.
In one region, a corrupt local candidate arranged to procure the ballot papers intended for a remote community, and to have the papers filled out by his own supporters. The community in question walked en masse for two and a half days out of their mountain fastness to the local provincial centre, demanding – and ultimately obtaining – their democratic right.
And in a case witnessed by High Commission monitors, a community of seven clans found itself in a situation where insufficient ballot papers had been provided. Consultations were held, and it was agreed that the papers available should simply be divided evenly into seven – irrespective of the size of the respective clans. All agreed that this was in the best spirit of consensus making, and would best reflect the collective will. We Westerners should hesitate before we criticise.
But what now? What lies before this new Government in PNG?
Translating economic growth into real development will be the ultimate test. Whether the country’s leaders can achieve this is the core question in Papua New Guinea today.

The new leadership grew up in an independent Papua New Guinea. This makes them more confident in dealing with Australia. It naturally makes them more inclined to be selective in their international dealings, taking each external relationship on its merits. We need to understand and accept this.

So when we take a step back and imagine the future shape of Australia’s nearest neighbour, we should be imagining a country led by people more inclined to be assertive and selective in their dealings with Australia, with a population approaching contemporary Australia. Over time it will likely play a different kind of role in regional affairs. It will remain confronted by very significant development challenges, and yet have access to unprecedented new wealth.

It stands to reason, then, that our relationship with PNG will change. We already recognise that development cooperation is already only one part of our relationship, and that others – trade, business and investment – are becoming increasingly important. 

The initialling last week by Foreign Ministers Carr and Pato of a broad-based Economic Cooperation Treaty, to replace the Development Cooperation Treaty as the agreement at the heart of the relationship, points to another kind of structural shift.

But Australia will have an important supportive role to play in PNG’s development into the foreseeable future. Over the years, our focus will increasingly be to help PNG unlock its own resource potential, and to translate increased revenues into broad-based development. Education, and skills transfer, will need to remain at the heart of this. The Queensland TAFE system is already participating actively in this sector. Our detailed and intensive work to assist PNG in developing sovereign wealth funds to properly manage resource revenue is also very important.
The most helpful Australian approach to PNG is one which understands that it is only Papua New Guineans who can bring about lasting change, but which remains committed to supporting those who are willing to lead in a positive direction. And on early indications, the current Government of Papua New Guinea is very much in that category.
Ladies and gentlemen, we will need to keep up with the changes underway in Papua New Guinea. The assumptions we have made will increasingly need to be questioned, and the weary cynicism that has crept into our national thinking about PNG over time is unlikely to be much help to us in the years ahead. Our perspective on Papua New Guinea will need to understand that greater prosperity, security and stability for Papua New Guineans is in our own interests – as Australians, and as Queenslanders. To suggest, however, that self interest is our only motivation is to misunderstand the depth, and warmth, of the personal links that underpin the Australia–PNG relationship.

Thank you.
Ian Kemish AM, Australian High Commissioner to PNG

Friday, 7 December 2012

A time of Growth Must Be a Time of Saving

Commentary by Nathan Dingu

Most Papua New Guineans are very familiar with the story of Joseph – one of the sons of Jacob – Israel who was betrayed by his own brothers but someone who eventually turned around saved his brothers and thus an entire nation and an entire people!

It is what it is – a story of the Bible that happened many years ago – that is, if you believe in the Bible but a story that we can relate to today. Let me bring you all back to our nation Papua New Guinea.

Social network commentator and
PNG patriot, Nathan Dingu

In the year 1997 our country faced some its toughest times in history – yes – we faced a nationwide drought that many died from. 

I personally can remember the ‘frost bites’ in the highlands that turned many gardens into ‘black’ firewood. Indeed during that time many people right around the country required government assistance to survive.

After 1997 we faced some of the toughest economics times – where we saw exponential crime rates, unemployment and some of the worst economic times our country has every faced.

Come 2002 – we had many Christians – prayer warriors praying right around the country and we saw a break-through – all of a sudden we saw exponential economic growth that our country has faced in its brief history – we are still living in those times as a nation and I wish this could continue forever – I am sure most of you do as well.

Now let me bring you back to the story of Joseph. Joseph was made governor of Egypt – because he could interpret a dream the Lord had given to the king of the land. Let me tell you that story, the king saw in his dream, seven cows (if my memory serves me correct) – they were quite well fed, very healthy and of the best stock. Then came along seven other cows which were very bony at that (Skeletons I would presume) that came up and ate the other seven fat cows.

We Joseph – with insight the Lord had given him interpreted correctly that Egypt and the rest of the world at that time would face seven (7) years of exponential growth followed by seven(7) years of famine. Well exactly that was what transpired and through Joseph, Egypt was able to save the rest of the world from hunger including his own brothers, father and family.

Now – I do not wish to sound like a dooms dayer – but we all know that the world’s economy is in dire straight. What we are seeing in Papua New Guinea in the simplest of economic terms is a resultant factor behind what the world is facing. We are seeing a higher demand on commodities and thus higher prices, especially minerals such as gold, silver, and copper because there is simply more demand for it. 

On top of all this – it bothers me somewhat that I am seeing so much cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunami’s – to be honest anything can happen – for the good or for the bad. But all in all, I thank God that Our nation has continued to sail through rough seas in these times but the honest truth is this – we must be a nation that is prepared. 

Yes, on top of all our development agenda’s – what is our government’s agenda towards self sustainability? Rice – yes the wonderful, fast to cook – good to eat, rice that is fast becoming the staple in all households throughout PNG – both rural and urban – where is it grown. Does our government have any plans towards growing our own rice. We have the farmlands, we have the water we need – but how much of this is grown in PNG.

The same can be said about, lamb, chicken, flour etc – how much of this is being grown in PNG. We must understand that as a nation we have to be prepared – it does not matter if we continue to have economic growth for the next 100 years or not – we must be prepared for the worst. Having PNG – grow its own food is a priority.

You see, why I am saying this is because of this fact – before we saw this economic growth we are seeing now – God showed us how it feels to be hungry – even in a country so richly blessed. We thus must realize that yes in this time of economic growth we must also prepare ourselves or work towards a self sustainability approach that we can sustain ourselves even without Gold, Oil and LNG.

I hope a government takes this article as a warning to prepare PNG now before it is too late. Let us look back at the time of Joseph and let us not take everything for granted!

(Thoughts to ponder over the weekend- Merry Christmas All)

Nathan Dingu

Public Marks International Anti-Corruption Day at Ela Beach

More than 200 people gathered at Ela Beach today to pledge their commitment towards eradicating corruption and promoting good governance in the country.

The anti-corruption message formed by participants on the sands of Ela Beach
The event was organized by the PNG Chapter of Transparency International to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day.

Participants formed a human banner which spelt “WE LOVE (in the shape of a heart) PNG” on the sands of Ela Beach and were photographed by an aerial team flying over the waters between nearby Manubada Island and Downtown Port Moresby.

TIPNG said that the aerial photograph was intended to encourage all Papua New Guineans to fight against corruption, and to promote better living.

TIPNG Board Secretary, Mrs Gail Edoni, while addressing the event, encouraged individuals to think seriously about the damaging effects of corruption and take courage to say “no” to it.

The anti-corruption organization provided various ways through which members of the public can combat the corruption issue, including informing themselves of the rule of law and what the government has pledged to do to fight corruption, and through reporting incidents of corruption to the authorities.

TIPNG also encouraged people to teach children that corruption is unacceptable, to refuse to pay or accept bribes, and to hold leaders accountable for their actions which may contribute to increased incidence of corrupt activities.

Organizers of the event also acknowledged the support of sponsors such as Helifix Operations for the helicopter services, Digicel for sponsoring 200 red T-shirts, and all participants at the event. 

Its Christmas Time...So What?

By Abu Nawas
Its Christmas Time, I know that, buts that because I have marked down each day with a tick on my wall calender in the kitchen starting from January one 2012, when on that day in the screaming sun and heat my next door neigbors and I sat under the Okari tree, shared jokes and laughs, made a fire, skewed up fresh prawns all the way from Daru, and ate it charcoal cooked satay and washed it down with some chilled icy cold white cans. It was a great day so I marked it down with a tick.
Social commentator and satirist Frank A Makanuey

So here is the thing. If I did not mark down the days on my calender, there is no way I would have known that its Christmas time, and to know that December 25 is just a couple weeks away. I would not have a clue that December 25th is just a few short weeks away.

I don't know if my neighbors and every one around me, the people in houses next door, the people in the houses down the street, the people in the houses on the next block and the people I meet everyday know on the way to Hohola, even know that its Christmas time. I mean even if they know its Christmas time, they would not show it.

I casually reside this days at Gerehu (I wanted to be close to Ben Yamai, my brother from another mother), I sell buai at the HLM, I visit Hoks every day. Hoks by the way is short for Hohola, and see my childhood neighbors. Most people there are my age, you know 50 something and some are still virgins. Sadly most of our parents, you know the old people who started living there in 50's and 60's have gone up to heaven. All of them it seems, even my own. Anyway that's what they tell us at funeral services. So I am wondering if truly they have gone to heaven, I won't be surprise if they would have probably already met Jesus in person there. If I know some of them, they are probably gee -ieng up Jesus for a birthday bash. Who knows maybe, a charcoal cooked satay prawns and some chilled ice cold white cans would not go astray.

I am absolutely bewildered and I cannot for the life of me, understand why, it is Christmas time, and no one is showing the spirit of it, and the solemn reason behind the celebration of the Christmas occasion by decorating their houses with Christmas decorations, balloons, lights, and planning gatherings, meetings, dining, like what you would cook, who will cook and so on and so forth. There is no Christmas Trees in most of the houses down my street or at Hohola. They probably don't even know why Jesus conceived by the Holy Spirit and planned to be born, so they can be saved as part of the masses of mankind.

I have heard that Christmas times in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and even next door in West Papua that it is a big thing. I am told you could feel the excitement in the air. It's electric. Its full of festive mood, glad tidings and good cheer and bidding all around. You could see it in peoples smiling and you could feel it in the handshakes, hugs and kisses. There is a Christmas tree in every house. Decorations and balloons are hung. Mothers go shopping and food are stored away and kept for Christmas. Christmas Carols can be heard from every houses down the street. The most popular Christmas Carol of them all "Silent Night" can be heard blurring from stereo's in many houses down the street and all around. Many different versions of the "Silent Night" is played. My personal favorite is the version with the reggae beat. Its awesome.

I don't see it here, and I cannot see happening and I am wondering why. Is it because, we are not religious like our Pacific Island neighbors? Or maybe that we simply cannot afford to celebrate Christmas, like buying a Christmas Tree, balloons and the rest of the decorations. Are we just too poor to even afford a simple wholesome meal, something different, some thing special. Are we too poor to even afford to buy a special shirt or jeans or dress or whatever to wear on the occasion and celebrate the birth of Jesus, understand his existence, show appreciation, pray, gives praises and eat a special meal. Is lack of money forcing us not to celebrate the meaning of Christmas.

Well I think the sad fact is the most average and below average Papua New Guineans cannot afford to celebrate the Christmas and what it stands for and reason behind. I hope in time we see a change but I doubt it every much. I give up hoping for a change, so what I will do is just get ready and buy firewood, order some prawns from Daru, store some white can cartons, buy ice, clean the esky and wait for event after the Christmas. I will buy a new wall Calender for my kitchen, hung it next to the old one. When January 1, 2013, rolls by, I will mark it down it, take the old calender, the 2012 one, from the kitchen wall, roll it up and use it to light the fire to cook the satay prawns.

Enjoy the festive season, take care, love your spouses, love your children, dont do the things I would do, be safe....and I will see you soon.
From the centre of the Mauswara station, HLM, the paradise of laughter and insanity, here is Wishing one and all a Happy Xmas, & prosperous New Year to you.

Abu Nawas Whispers

Opposition Concerned over permanent appointment of Chief Ombudsman

The Opposition has expressed concern that the Ombudsman Commission is still without a permanent head with the country facing many controversial leadership issues.

Deputy Leader of Opposition and Bulolo MP Sam Basil said that the Ombudsman Commission is the chief enforcer of the Leadership Code and a watchdog over governance.

“It is unacceptable – and improper – for it to function without a Chief Ombudsman for too long,” the Deputy Leader said.

He added that “an acting appointment leaves whoever is in the chief ombudsman’s chair in a vulnerable and insecure position – subject to manipulation.”

He said a permanently appointed Chief Ombudsman would be able to provide effective leadership in the fight against corruption and breaches of the Leadership Code.

“This Constitutional Office must be restored back to its former glory. This can only begin with an activated and expedited appointment of a permanent Chief Ombudsman.”

The Bulolo MP called on the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and the Ombudsmen Appointing Committee to expedite the appointment process, saying that with new amendments to laws pending, and leadership cases outstanding, the appointment of a Chief Ombudsman is paramount.

“Ministers and departmental heads – and even Members of Parliament overseeing K10 million per district – all need the accountability and monitoring provided by the Ombudsman Commission especially with a high deficit 2013 Budget which requires strong fiscal discipline.

“This appointment – preferably before Christmas will signal - to Papua New Guinea and our international development partners and diplomatic friends that we are serious about good governance,” he said.

Never Fear

EU Ambassador MArtin Dihn gives EU-designed umbrellas to John Toguata and Emmanuel Narokobi, Board Directors to the PNG Chapter of Transparency International to take cover from the "storm" the the EU-funded and TIPNG implemented "Open Parliament Project"will trigger amongst the country's political elite when underway.

Picture by Alexander Rheeney 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Lae Secondary Goes Online with TFI Internet Library

By Telikom PNG Public Relations

Information is changing everyday and having access to on-line educational material is the way to go if students are to keep abreast with latest information to enhance their learning.
LaeSec IT teacher Martha Aaron

In realizing this need Telikom Foundation Incorporation (TFI) continues to roll out its CleanIT project to schools around the country.

Lae Secondary School was the first in the Morobe province to get connected to the CleanIT internet library recently.

A total of 55 computers belonging to the computer lab were connected to the CleanIT internet library via Telikom PNG high speed ADSL broadband network. With the installation of this internet library students will now have access to educational websites at the click of a mouse.

IT teacher Martha Aaron in thanking TFI on behalf of the students, principal and teachers said the installation of the CleanIT internet library will see the benefits go a long way in the student’s education as up-to-date information is important for student’s learning.

Two More PNGDF Officers Leave for UN Mission

By Lt Barnabas Malken – PNGDF Media Unit

The Papua New Guinea Defence Force last Saturday sent two of its officers to UN Peacekeeping Missions in South Sudan on the African continent.

This now brings the number of PNGDF officers serving as Observers on UN Peacekeeping Missions in Africa to four.

Majors Raphael Yapu and John Bindie have been deployed to Juba in South Sudan and were farewelled at a small reception at the Jacksons International Airport last Saturday.

Both were farewelled by Joint Forces Commander Colonel Gilbert Toropo, PNGDF Defence Attaché to United Nations Colonel Michael Daniel, Joint Operations Centre Staff officer Lieutenant Colonel Tony Aseavu and the two majors’ family.

Colonel Gilbert Toropo who spoke on behalf of PNGDF Commander Francis Agwi during the farewell ceremony said past officers had set a high bench mark for PNGDF and the country, making special mention of Major Bruno Malau who had been previously deployed to the Joint Operations Centre at UN headquarters in Darfur.

Toropo said Malau had set a fine example and urged them to continue maintaining the standard he had set.

Papua New Guinea’s Defence Attaché to United Nations Col Michael Daniel during the occasion spoke highly of them saying that Major Yapu and Major Bindie are the representatives of the country and PNG Defence Force. He urged them to go and give the best sort for the country.

Colonel Daniels said he will be monitoring their performance at the United Nations headquarters in Washington DC and reminded them to maintain a high standard of discipline while on duty. 

Large PNG Delegation Attends Fisheries Meet

PNG through the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and National Fisheries Authority (NFA) has sent at least 40 people to attend the Ninth Regular Session of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC9) meeting in Manila, Philippines.

Ministers Zeming and Tomscoll at the meet with other PNG officials
This meeting has commenced on December 2 and ends on December 6, 2012. The PNG contingent is led by Mao Zeming, Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources and at officials’ level by the Managing Director of NFA Sylvester Pokajam.

The other PNG delegation comprises Nixon Duban, Member for Madang and Minister for Internal Security (Police); Tommy Tomscoll, Member for Middle Ramu and Minister for Agriculture and Livestock; Jim Kas, Governor of Madang; Sylvester Pokajam, Managing Director of National Fisheries Authority, Department of Foreign Affairs representatives, Department of Attorney-General representatives, NFA board representatives, the provincial fisheries representatives, the fishing industry representatives and the NFA’s fisheries scientists and technical team.

Papua New Guinea’s participation as a Commission Member is triggered by the fact that it has one of the most lucrative tuna fishing grounds in the Western Pacific Ocean. In fact, PNG contributes more than 60 percent of catch in the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) sub-regional grouping of the most lucrative tuna fishing grounds in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. At the global scale, 20 percent of total global tuna stock is found in PNG waters.

This means that total annual raw materials of tuna fish that can be harvested from PNG waters is about 700,000 metric tones which is about US$ 2 billion annually in dollar value.