Archive for March, 2012

Hats off to the students of the University of Papua New Guinea who today showed their disagreement on the new Judicial Conduct Bill.

Today they marched down the street of Port Moresby to the parliament house and presented their petition to Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc as Papua New Guineans expressed their support through mobile phone messages that flooded the students phones.

The new bill gives government the power to suspend judges.

The students said that the Judicial Conduct Bill is dangerous and abusive of established Constitutional and legislative processes and Offices already in operation and force.

They said, “we believe this Act of Parliament is wrong!”

Random calls around the country pledged full support of the student action saying, this Act is wrong and it must be repealed immediately.

Three Rabaul Shipping ships went ablaze at the weekend in Buka.

Now what? The Bouganville government has distanced itself from this act. The media reports, this was the rebels doing and by doing so US9 million dollars went up in flames. But the discussions on Facebook are interesting.

That this act will affect the islands region, that the general travelling has never been safe and that air transport is too expensive.

Here is what Ben Yamai says about this incident. “This incident was not an act of freeing people from oppression. It was a criminal act with little or no regard for the consequences which the greater part of Bouganville and the New Guinea islands region will suffer. People and cargo transport will now be severely hampered.”

Ben Yamai goes on to highlight some very critical areas that have been neglected over the years, and a fatal accident of February 2 where MV Rabaul Queen sank in Finschaffen taking with it 229 passengers, gives Papua New Guineans the opportunity talk about them.

The areas Ben highlighted are: incompetency of maritime regulatory agencies, high airfares, and general neglect of leaders to ensure transport services in this country is safe and affordable.

Safety does not seem to be a priority in the public transport industry in this country. Only months before the Rabaul Queen tragedy, an Airlines PNG aircraft went down in Madang taking with it 28 people. But Rabaul Shipping has been in the spotlight with one of its boats running aground in Kimbe in December 2010, and only after a week of the Rabaul Queen sinking the same boat ran aground again in Kimbe.

And so here the discussion centres around laws, the boats and the access of services.

But Barbara Maxtone-Graham takes us further to point out that “when a peoples are pushed to the edge they will push back…regardless of where in the world they are.” She reminds us that “while it’s easy to list off the reasons and the wrongness of this…perhaps this is also an opportunity to address the depth of feeling and hopelessness of a peoples who would carry out such acts.”

What is US9 million dollars lost compared to 229 lives lost? The torching of those ships is a call for the Papua New Guinea government to start looking after its people and the transport sector has been overlooked since independence.

While Peter Sharp has tried to make transport services available he has not helped to regulate the public transport industry so that its customers are safe. Instead he has capitalised on the demand. As Simon Merton pointed out Peter Sharp may benefit from a hefty insurance payout but where does that leave this country with its transport woes?

ImageIt has been a long time since humanitypaid attention to mother nature and the world is collapsing bit by bit in all corners. In the Pacific it is becoming an everyday worry.

It seems human beings have run out of solutions that the only one left is large sums of money for unsustainable solutions. How can money fix a world that is falling to pieces? Would alternative energy do it? Would REDD do it?

Mother nature is not asking for money, instead it is screaming for a change in the way human beings are doing things. Only the willingness of human beings to make some really big sacrifices will save this earth and the already impacted populations.

Interesting is a lot of talk about best ways to help but almost all of them call for huge sums of money yet the simple solutions are in the south where traditional indigenous knowledge have been consistently applied in many rural communities in the Pacific and other nations in the south. For instance in Papua New Guinea many are relying on fresh organic food they access only a few steps away from their houses. No fuel burnt to bring in these food and no chemicals to grow those food.

Off course some people ask, how can we recreate a relationship with nature? In the world today there are about 370 million indigenous people who get by, most of them without a kina (dollar). In Papua New Guinea, a country of 6.2 million people, about 80% of this population just live on their natural environment. Now how’s that for survival?

As the climate change impacts become more pressing, many people are looking for money based solutions, that often require more disruptions to the natural systems. It is time human beings stopped wanting more, stopped burning more and stopped digging up more. It is time people stopped looking elsewhere for solutions and start looking within.

The changes Papua New Guinea is experiencing today came around some 12,000 years ago and it is making its round again. Surely the people at that time found ways to live and to this day some of these knowledge and skills are still present in some local communities.

A few months from now in June, Papua New Guinea will join large delegations who will convene in Rio, Mexico and this will be an opportunity for humanity to decide in favour of mother nature. The disappointments of Copenhagen and Durban should not be repeated.

In terms of ways forward in PNG it is not clear when the PNG government will come up with a clear direction as the country continues to see more floods, more landslips, more broken roads, moredisrupted schools and more. Imported solutions may help however, the calls are urgent and it would help to unpack some skills and knowledge already presentthat are being stepped on and pushed to the side.

Our Pacific Ways reflects on Our Pacific traditions for inspiration to move Our Pacific People forward.

It challenges the current systems of exploitation and asks: What if we did things Our Pacific Way?

What if we told you that Our Ancestors were the best navigators using the sun and the stars to travel the Liquid Continent?

What if we told you they were the best naval architects who built ocean-going vessels for international commerce between our island nations?

What if we told you that agriculture developed here first independent of any outside influence?

What if we told you that Our Ancestors lived in harmony with nature before the rest of the world knew anything about sustainable development?

What if we told you that tuberculosis and leprosy were introduced to Our People?

What if we told you that land was stolen from Our People to build Churches?

What if we told you that Colonial Administrations hung Our People in public the same way Blacks were lynched in America?

What if we told you that Fiji became independent when it overthrew the British Monarchy and that Solomon Islands is a colony of Australia?

What if we told you of the French domination of the Polynesia and the violation of Hawaiian sovereignty by the United States?

What if we told you of Nuclear testing and the displacement of Our People?

What if we told you about neo-colonization and the systematic exploitation of Our People and Our Resources?

WHAT IF… WE NEVER TOLD YOU?

….And so with-in the contemporary context of the Pacific it is now up to us to define Our Ways Pacific Ways as opposed to the failed model of development that is witnessed with the collapse of western economies.

Our Pacific Ways of land management should allow every generation to have a say about how land is used.

Our Pacific Ways of resource management should allow every generation to have the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of those resources.

Our Pacific ways of trade and communications should enable individuals, communities and nations to foster relationships that are mutually beneficial.

Our Pacific ways of Banking should safeguard and create wealth for us as opposed to speculating with our savings elsewhere

Our Pacific Ways of Governance should empower individuals and communities to lead and to hold leaders to account.

Our Pacific Ways of International relations should be between equal partners  and not of neo-colonism, gun boat or checkbook diplomacy.

Our Pacific Ways of education should be one of empowerment of people and not of creating misfits in society.

Our Pacific Ways of healthcare should be one of community based solutions and not just about treating individuals.

Our Pacific Ways of Agriculture and Food Security should recognize our agricultural heritage as our strength and knowledge base

We live in a part of the world that has huge potential but is currently being subjected to a model of development that only allows for a few elite and money-men to prosper at the expense of the vast majority of our people.

The only way out is Our Pacific Way!

While the rest of the  “developed” world talks about  mitigating the effects of climate change, the Pacific is dealing with the effects.  When will the  world’s biggest polluters wake up to the fact that your way of life  and the greed of  large corporations is killing  whole  nations in the Pacific?  
This following article was taken from the Time Magazine.

Tarawa atoll, Kiribati, is seen in an aerial view. Fearing that climate change could wipe out their entire Pacific archipelago, the leaders of Kiribati are considering an unusual backup plan: moving the populace to Fiji.
The government of Kiribati has no shortage of ambitious ideas to combat the threat of rising tides that could sink the country. Including packing up and moving somewhere else. According to the Associated Press, the nation’s cabinet is reviewing options to migrate citizens to a Fijian island, located more than 1,000 miles away. The Kiribati cabinet is looking into buying 6,000 acres on Fiji’s Viti Levu island for $9.6 million, the AP reported. The plan reportedly still needs to be approved by the country’s parliament before it moves forward. “We’re trying to secure the future of our people,” said
President Anote Tong to the news outlet. “The international community needs to be addressing this problem more.”

Kiribati’s leaders had also considered building a man-made island with a $2 billion estimated price tag or outfitting their island with sea walls, according to the U.K.’s The IndependentMigrating to the Fijian island was said to be a “last resort” move by President Tong. “This is the last resort, there’s no way out of this one,” Tong said, according to The Telegraph. “Our people will have to move as the tides have reached our homes and villages.”

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/03/09/pacific-island-nation-considers-packing-up-and-moving/#ixzz1osvSITys

By Dr Yunxian Wang and Dr Kyoko Kusakabe

RECENTLY vendors in the Papua New Guinea (PNG) city of Lae took its city council to court arguing that the city’s urban municipal athority has only regulatory power in line with health standards, not the power to ban the markets within vendors’ premises (The National, January 27, 2012). It shows in any democratic society, powerless people have the channel to express their grievances. At the same time, it indicates the debates on informal markets do not remain just in theoretical circle. Having access to informal markets is important in developing countries for poverty alleviation, food security, income generation and services, not only for massive small producers, but also for consumers particularly women.Urban authorities and many people brand market, street vending or other forms of livelihoods in informal sector as illegal. This would imply that people’s perception on informal and local economy is debatable, and more critically policy might have attached insignificant importance to the roles of the informal economy. Theoretical Debates There has been huge volume of discussions on informal economy in the Asian context. Informal activities often take place in congested private place or public open space, particularly in urban areas, hence create controversy in any society, as urban space tends to be highly political and involves various interests. In theoretical debates, many people view market and street activities as important source of income and contribution to household livelihoods. Likewise women’s business activities in the urban space have contributed largely to empowerment of women. The informal nature and stereotyped gender roles make women subject to harassment, and therefore organizing has been the issue. There is also a different perspective that looks at how street vending can revitalize urban spaces and bring life to human activities. Local market and street vending can be translated into tourist attractions and add to the beauty of cities. This is usually the case in the context of the developed countries. Nevertheless, in many of the Asian countries, local markets have also developed towards tourist attractions, such as Chatucha Market in Bangkok. In PNG, the economy and government revenue have been fuelled by the extractive industries. Therefore the discussion on economic growth has been centered on the effects of certain big projects such as PNG LNG project while the informal economy was only seriously tapped recently. Value of Informal Economy The informal economy in Asia is vibrant. In Thailand, the informal economy accounted for 45.6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and in Cambodia, around 80% of GDP and 95% of employment come from the informal sector. In Mongolia, the informal economy contributed 17‐20% of GDP in 2005. In Mongolia, better income‐earning opportunity and bankruptcy of the state‐owned enterprises have pushed people to engage in informal economy. In spite of the illegal status of street vending, the policy makers in the above three countries agreed that street vending is necessary for the livelihoods of the urban poor and their national economy. In PNG, although the informal economy is not counted into the country’s GDP, a sample survey of 1265 informal sector participants conducted by Institute of National Affairs in 2001 finds that 60% of the respondents claimed to rely solely on informal sector as source of income and livelihoods. Same study conducted in 5 urban centers (Lae, Madang, Mt. Hagen, Port Moresby and Rabaul/Kokopo) revealed that 89% tend to embrace a positive attitude towards the informal economic activities. Such positive attitude is derived not only from their access to cheaper goods and services, but also the support towards the small traders who earn a livelihood in an honest and diligent way. In an economy like PNG where scale agro‐business on green and fresh products is not well developed, the local open‐air markets are important engine to pull the rural produce to urban centers, and to lift rural people out of poverty. There is direct link between the land resources the small trader families own and the profit they make from the markets Hegemonies against Informal Economy In spite of the active existence and recognition of the role of informal economy, by and large, informal economic activities in Asia‐Pacific region have been treated unfairly in legal and policy perspectives. Informal economy participants are excluded in the social security system and urban development planning. In contrast to the positive public opinion is the harsh policy toward informal economy from formal institutions. In Thailand, vendors are seen by policy makers as roots problems such as pedestrian and traffic obstruction, and city sanitation. In Cambodia, harassment from market security and police was the most serious complaint from market participants. Registration is a feature of informal sector development policy in transitional Mongolia, but due to the complicated process and short benefit, small vendors can hardly get license on time and guarantee their business period. There have been harsh clear‐up actions towards informal activities in PNG. As shown in Lae city streets, the hard‐hearted actions towards the informal economic activities from local authorities and law enforcers were of the concerns of littering and food hygiene. However, it is argued that such reasons used against informal trading activities are not sound enough. Interest conflicts among the stakeholders are the real reasons of clearing up the informal activities. Asian counties are no exception. In China with the economic development, the number of rural‐urban migrants has reached 221 million. They work mainly in informal economy in the cities and are mostly exploited and harassed. Targeting rural‐urban migrants, the city management authorities are most aggressive in their law enforcement to maintain city image. There are numerous cases that aggressive clearances have led to strong reactions towards the city management and caused open confrontation. Regarding the aggressive and coercive forces applied in the various forms of law enforcement towards informal economy, political scientist Kathleen Staudt conceptualizes them as ‘the grand and petty hegemonies’ which people comply, resist and negotiate. The grand hegemony refers to the policy hegemony which admires the glory of formal economy and ignores the role of informal economy in the livelihood of the ordinary families. Informal economy participants have no access to institutional and financial support, and market facilities etc. The petty hegemony lies with the rent seeking behaviors of the law enforcers who try to exercise the power in their hand to extract some benefits from the powerless. The public power is abused and out of control, which has caused the conflicts not only between informal participants and law enforcers, but also between the institution and the public. Myths on Informal Economy The contrasts of public opinion and harsh and even violent actions towards informal economic participants reflect the perception of development, whether it is people centered and inclusive, or only accountable to the authority and privileged urban elites. Certain myths also have led to suppressing approach towards informal economy. Little contribution to GDP or hindrance to development: People think that what the informal economy participants produce is not counted in national production, therefore it is insignificant to the national economy or even perceived as hindrance to urban development. It is to be noted that it is the problem of the national accounting system that informal economy is not counted in national production, rather than the nature of informal economy. Damage to city image: Informal activities spoil the image of a city. However, bad images of cities are not created by informal local markets, but by high crime rates. Without opportunities and alternatives for livelihoods, if petty trading is further prohibited and chased away, people would resort to crime. PNG has many extractive industrial enclaves already. It should not develop the urban enclaves from rural poor and residential enclaves within the urban centers. Rich and privileged people cannot live at ease in the enclaves secured by high fence, dogs and guards. If all the citizens are to enjoy the benefit of economic expansion, the development approach has to be inclusive and pro‐poor. Informal economy as temporary existence: Many informal economic activities indeed will develop into more established small business. Big capital will also occupy market share and squeeze out the space of informal economy. However, it is noted that informal markets will not disappear and hegemonic forces will not chase away completely the informal activities, as long as the household income barely meets the expenses and people are fighting for survival. End remarks Informal economy is the employer of the majority of poor people in most developing countries. Public opinion support indicates that informal economy is the friend of people. In practical terms, informal market and trading are also the sources of fees collected by the police, market security and tax collectors. The law enforcers and informal economy participants should be friends, rather than foes. Dr. Yunxian Wang is a Senior Research Fellow of the Economic Policy Research Program under the Wealth Creation Pillar, the National Research Institute. Dr. Kyoko Kusakabe is an Associate Professor at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand. Read more: http://www.pngperspective.com/news/informal-markets-can-tackle-poverty-and-empower-women/

By freelance journalist Andrew Pascoe

The cards seem firmly stacked against optimism on the streets of Papua New Guinea at the moment. It’s a bad sign in an election year, with little confidence evident that the outcome will correct our Pacific neighbour’s course from the particularly rocky path it’s taken in recent months.

But here — like elsewhere in the developing world where obscene power disparity is mobilising the masses — a wellspring of resistance is brewing.

In the past two years, a plethora of political blogs and Facebook chatter has sprung up, fulfilling a watchdog role the government and mainstream media have been deemed incapable of.

The targets of the new media vanguard are corruption, incompetence, and multinational corporations that get a free ride by the government at the expense of PNG’s downtrodden masses.

Potential for exploitation stands to reach new heights in coming years, with mammoth new projects in the pipeline including ExxonMobil’s $US15.7 billion LNG project in the Southern Highlands, and a growing Chinese interest being courted.

However, a growing web buzz representing savvy, pissed off Papua New Guineans is showing promising signs of being able to hold dodgy corporates to account.

Daily dispatches on Papua New Guinea Minewatch and LNG Watch blogs, for instance, have exposed an alleged whitewash by the government and ExxonMobil over a landslide near its major LNG project last month that killed at least 25 people.

“I want to be a middle man between the government and ExxonMobil, so that the landowners’ grievances about the project cannot be overlooked,” LNG Watch’s Stanley Mamu said. “The landowners at Bougainville had no middle man, and it caused a war.”

Meanwhile, PNG Exposed’s campaign for justice over a ferry that sank in January, claiming 200 lives, contributed to the government ordering an independent investigation into the tragedy. The Act Now! site is taking online activism a step further, galvanising a previously suppressed citizen voice via email campaigns a la Avaaz and GetUp!

But the burgeoning movement’s most prominent force is a Port Moresby betel-nut street vendor.

Martyn Namarong’s politically charged, plain-talking blog gets up to 3000 hits a day, a not-insignificant figure in a country where only 60,000-70,000 people have Facebook accounts.

In 2011 Namarong Report also became a key source for news media both domestic and international, as its coverage of the January military “coup” by a retired colonel proved.

“I can say that some of us, well particularly myself, shaped the story when the mutiny happened,” Namarong told me in Madang. “I created the Twitter hashtag #pngcoup, and everybody called it a coup. And it wasn’t a coup. We framed it that way because we knew the vast majority of Papua New Guineans would not back it.” Indeed, the attempt fizzled out almost immediately.

The government is slowly coming to grips with the threat: it recently advertised for staff for a social media department, and earlier this month issued a threat that people spreading “misinformation” faced arrest. The anti-censorship backlash was mushrooming at the time of print.

Prime Minister chief-of-staff Ben Micah made the comments “following recent circulation of anti-government information via text messages on mobile phones, email messages and comments being posted on social network site, Facebook … [designed] to destabilise the government’s firm control of the country.”

Is this the beginning of a Melanesian Spring? Namarong thinks Papua New Guinea is not there yet.

“The thing is those ideas haven’t crystallised in people here,” he said. “But internet use is growing, Facebook’s going to grow exponentially, and that change is going to come quicker. I now think if there has to be change in this country, it’s probably going to come in the next five to 10 years.

“The people of Papua New Guinea now have the upper hand over all those people who have been cheating them because some of us are willing to, you know, dispel all the bullshit.”

*Andrew Pascoe is a freelance journalist from Western Australia. He is currently researching dimensions of civil society in Papua New Guinea.