Archive for August, 2012

“Maru appears to recognise that the productivity on rural people on their own land is the most important driver of development in PNG.”

AS THE election dust clears, there are signs some leaders are putting their minds to supporting PNG’s most productive sector: its people.

The new Minister for Trade, Commerce and Industry Richard Maru plans to revitalise the Co-operative Societies Unit by slashing millions of kina of waste and corruption.

Maru said these funds should be being used to enable rural communities to generate income for themselves and the national economy.

In a full page press release in The National (30/08), the Minister made no bones about his plans to “downsize” the “heavily bloated bureaucratic structure within the CSU” and said millions of kina directed to fraud and non-CSU operations – including to a casino and an Australian bank – would be investigated under his watch.

“Co-operative  societies are the vehicles for rural people to be involved in establishing and operating small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). If the societies are functioning properly with the support that is given to them, they would play a significant role in addressing issues such as poverty, education, law and order etc, as well as contribute to wealth creation,” Maru said.

As the former head of the National Development Bank, Maru appears to recognise that the productivity on rural people on their own land is the most important driver of development in PNG.

Other Governments are also making gestures reflecting this. According to the Post-Courier (30/08), some governments including New Ireland and Milne Bay are using their funds to support farmers to continue providing for the nation in hard times.

Sumkar MP Ken Fairweather has called on new Madang Governor Jim Kas to follow the example of New Ireland and Milne Bay’s leaders and subsidise copra and cocoa farmers in that province, as the world market price for these commodities has dropped drastically in recent times.

Fairweather believes the future of PNG lies in our existing strengths – our rural industries – not in big-ticket development projects that have little benefits to the nation’s citizens. Thus the MP is also challenging the exploitative and destructive Ramu Nickel and proposed PMIZ projects in Madang province.

Meanwhile, Boka Kondra, the Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, has also criticised the Government’s unjustified love affair with neocolonial business such as mining and logging, describing it as an “unsustainable” model of development.

Kondra said in the long term, maintaining  our ways was more likely to bring about development than extractive industries.

He said PNG must strive to protect and preserve its cultural heritage and make it attractive in ways that would make the tourism industry feed and grow on it.

“Most of our natural resources are finite and will one day disappear, but I believe that if we sustain our culture and tourism, that can and will continue to sustain us in the future,” Kondra said.


Via thelittleislandthatcould (Please visit to see some great photos – and a Harry Belafonte video clip – in the original article, not posted below)

“These communities, these countries when you look at the basic life they lead, we’re all the same.  Fundamentally, at the heart of the most basic living consists of finding food, telling stories and nurturing each other.  And while I was doing this in Kiribati, I was as happy as any islander kid with a coconut.  Maybe we all need to stop rushing a little bit and learn what it’s like to live at our minimum.”

When I was in Kiribati last October, I also had a close friend of mine working for an Aboriginal community in the middle of Northern Territory.  We met each other when we were both living in Manchester, UK in 2009 and our friendship began when she came up to me at work (we had started working in the same place at the same time) and approached me with ‘Hi, I’m a little homesick and I was wondering if this weekend you and I could go out for a coffee and talk about Australia’. For those people out there who find them in a situation where they don’t know many people and want to make friends, I urge you to take a leaf out of Miranda’s book.  She just strolled on over, confidently ask me out in the most humble of ways to be her friend and bobsyouruncle, the next day we were sitting opposite each other at a cafe about to launch into our own life story.  Like any date, we started off quite politely, asking each other how we ended up in Manchester, the life we had left behind in Australia and what we liked.  For those that know me personally, the date then quickly launched in squeals of laughter, tears, lots of ‘I KNOW!!!’ and then impersonating ‘bogan’ Australian’s (‘Oh love, that pavlova is diviiiine’).  We spoke about the little things that made us miss home like:

  • Dad mowing the lawn on a Saturday morning.
  • Actually feeling the intense heat of the sun (sorry Manchester, you totally fail on that part)
  • Swinging on the clothes horse in the backyard (until it broke and your Dad came out in a grump trying to decide whether to fix it before or after he found you and yelled at you)
  • Bubble-o-Bills, Golden Gaytimes and Daryl Braithwaite

Needless to say, Miranda’s friendship was extremely important for my time up in Manchester and at the time that I began to question what I was doing in my life, she stepped in with her gorgeous, little chipolata fingers, picked me up and pushed me forward.  Some friends are there for the laughs and other friends are there to challenge you to become the person you want to be.  She did both. What a woman.

So anyway, around this time last year we had both returned back to Australia, her being up north in Brisbane and me being in Melbourne.  After a couple of months, I headed to Kiribati to spend time with my family and she went to work for a school in an Aboriginal community in outback Northern Territory.  After we had both been there for a month, we spoke on Skype and began exchanging stories about the life we were living.  Living on the outer island of Marakei where there is no electricity or running water, I spoke about how my days were spent weeding the garden around the hut, learning how to weave mats out of coconut tree leaves, preparing the freshly caught fish and lighting the fires to cook the lunch and dinner for the family.

The days were incredibly hot and during the day time would move slowly.  Minutes tick away and there wasn’t much to do except wait for the time to pass, waiting for the heat of the sun to die down so that we could work again.  When we weren’t working, time was spent with a lot of reading, playing card game after card game, rubbing coconut oil into my grandmothers hair, brushing my cousins knee length hair while she gossiped about boys that she liked.  The elders of my family would drop by our hut for a cup of tea and they would tell me stories about my family.  They would tell me how beautiful my grandmother and her sister were, tell stories of neighbouring islands and make us all laugh with their tales of my ancestors.  Each island that make up Kiribati have their own identity or traits that the locals identify with that island.  Just like how Victorians in Australia are known for being Aussie Rules crazy or how Northerners in UK are known for being friendlier than the south, so would each island of Kiribati have their own characteristic.

Back on the main island of Tarawa, there were a few things that I did instinctively but people would identify them as a trait from the islands I was from.  After a game of touch football with locals, I was sitting down on the ground and a boy yelled across to me ‘Hey sister, you’re from Marakei! We must be related!’  

‘Yes’ I replied.  ‘How did you know? Are you from Marakei?’  

‘Look at how we sit.  We sit Marakei way.’

Everyone in the circle looked around at me and laughed.  While everyone else in the circle were sitting cross legged, me and this other boy both had our legs bent to the side.

This was only one of many instances.

‘See how she moves her hips when she dances? She’s from Marakei’

So I asked around.  What are other characteristics from the other islands? I-Kiribati people reading this, if you disagree or have anything else to add, please do so!

  • Marakei:  The ‘womens island’, people that stare and the island of black magic/witches.
  • Miana: Liars
  • Tabetueia: The criminals island – the naughty people
  • Aranuka: Beautiful people with big eyes though they always seem to change the details in the stories they tell.
  • Abemama: Incestuous island due to the island having their own king
  • Onotoa:  Food savers – they salt and pickle their food to keep for a long time (unlike the other islands that generally consume straight away)

This is only a snippet of info about the different islands and in all honesty, I’m not sure how entirely correct this is, these are just notes I wrote down after speaking to my Auntie Bebe one night.  My Grandma comes from Marakei and my Grandpa comes from Tabetueia North which means that my ancestry consists of witches and criminals.  I would like to think that this means that I’m tough and scary but then again I’m also one to hide around the corner from after breaking the clothes horse in the backyard after swinging too hard.

Back to Miranda.  While speaking on Skype about the lives that we were currently living, it suddenly began to dawn on us that our experiences were very similar.  Card game after card game.  Waiting for the sun to pass in order to work again.  Teaching the younger generation the stories of their ancestors.  Even women grooming of each others hair while looking after the groups of children.  While Miranda was telling me this, I was amazed that here we were about a 10 hour flight from one another, in completely different countries and yet here we were living the same sort of life.  Maybe it doesn’t for you but to me this blows my mind.

It got me thinking.  These communities, these countries when you look at the basic life they lead, we’re all the same.  Fundamentally, at the heart of the most basic living consists of finding food, telling stories and nurturing each other.  And while I was doing this in Kiribati, I was as happy as any islander kid with a coconut.  Maybe we all need to stop rushing a little bit and learn what it’s like to live at our minimum.

I suddenly feel like I have a more understanding of the Aboriginal people due to understanding my own culture.  I think most people would know that the Aboriginal people in Australia have not been treated well at all – in the past and present.  There is this negative attitude that they are drink too much, that they take from the government and that they don’t care for education.

In Kiribati, sure it’s frustrating when our family would give our relatives money and they would spent it all straight away on ridiculous things but imagine bringing in something like money to a group of people that for thousands of years didn’t need it.  The same as alcohol.  In western civilisation these things are ingrained into the culture just that same that these things aren’t in Pacific Islander culture.  Without going too much into it, I urge you to look deeper at these communities and your own background.   The more we know about ourselves, the more we are open to learn about others.

When Aboriginal people are criticised in front of me or in the media, I now find that I respond to this very personally.  What if they were talking about Pacific Islanders instead of Aboriginals?  We sleep 15 people in the house sometimes just like Aboriginal families.  Some of my cousins have lice and I will make them sit between my legs on the floor and yank their hair around trying to get rid of it.  We don’t write our family stories down – it is the new generations responsibility to remember them and pass them on.  Aren’t we all the same?  Would you say this to my face if you replaced the word Aboriginal with Pacific Islanders?

I love Australia and I am very proud to be a citizen of this beautiful country but that doesn’t mean that I excuse it for its treatment and attitude towards Aboriginal people.  If you can, I urge you to go out somewhere and live a minimal life for a little bit.  Go outback.  Go outside. By all means, come with me to Marakei next time and learn how to hunt for crabs in the mud, fetch water out of the well and make a hut out of a coconut tree.  I guarantee you will realise how innovative and clever the people are that live on the land.  I urge you to go out and keep looking for more ways as to how all of us on this world are the same rather than concentrating on the differences.

Nauru is back in the headlines again. The tiny Pacific island has put up its hand for the second time to become an offshore refugee detention centre for Australia, despite an ugly experience last time it tried it in 2001.

But Nauru has to take whatever income opportunities it can get. Once considered one of the world’s most beautiful islands, it has long since become a “barren wasteland” as a result of mining.

Nauru is a Pacific victim of economic development. Cash flowed in for many years last century during a mining boom driven by foreign companies, such as other Pacific countries are experiencing now. I guess you could say that, having reaped the rewards of mining, Nauru is now ‘developed’.

So, what is life like in a developed Pacific country? Nauru’s natural vegetation is all but destroyed: all that remains is a “ghastly grey mound of rock surrounded by a narrow green brim of vegetation”.
The local population has been overrun by foreigners (“Australians serve as managers, doctors and engineers, Chinese run the restaurants and shops, while other Pacific islanders do the dirty work in the mines”). The locals that remain suffer some of the world’s worst health-related problems and a life expectancy of 55.

They once in lived in paradise.

This is not Nauru’s fault. This is the result of an exploitative model of development that puts profits before people. Now coming to a Pacific island near you – unless we learn from Nauru that holding onto our land and ways of life holds much more hope for our islands having a future.

Read ‘Nauru: Paradise Well and Truly Lost’:

Benny Kapior:

We did not want the oil palm to come and take our land for oil palm. We want to do things our own way on our own land. We also want to take care of our land, the environment.

West New Britain has become an oil palm province. Now the landowners of West New Britain aren’t in a good position, they are being marginalised. The landowners lose their land and people from outside the province come in to get jobs with New Britain Palm Oil. And they are not in control of big companies. If we let the government or a foreign company come in and use our land, we have no control over our land, they can throw us off our land.

The company came here and told us they had lots of development plans for us, they told us they would help change our lives for the better, that sort of thing. They raised people’s expectations by promising development. But we are planting cocoa.

We plant cocoa and dry the beans here, and we sell it at the market in Madang. So we keep control of our land and of our lives. The social life of Urigina is much better than other communities who have given up their land and resources to big companies.

We plant other crops for our own consumption and we plant the cocoa as a cash-crop, to make an income. How much we make depends on the world market: if the price is good we can make around 400 kina per bag (each bag is around 60kg), or as low as 200 kina when prices are down, as they are currently.

We hope to use the income to improve the living standard of our community, but we’re limited by the low world market prices at the moment.  But we’re very happy with our decision because it allows us to develop our community on our terms.

Plenty of other communities are being tempted by these promises of development from big companies, and our message to them is: we must hold onto our land and resources, so that we can continue to control our future, and develop in a way that best fits us.

Grace Bernard:

The women of this community have been very strong about standing against oil palm. We’ve been part of the decision-making process. We know when they come inside they will stop us from working in our gardens and we won’t be able to make a living using our own resources. How will we survive if they destroy our rivers and our forest? So the mothers have strongly said no to oil palm.

We didn’t want to let oil palm into our community, so we stand against it and generate income through planting crops – apart from cocoa, we’re planting peanuts, and they’re a big money-maker. So in this way we can care for our land and keep control over it, and use it to sustain our families. We don’t want an outsider to come and destroy our land.

By giving this example to our children, showing them that by caring for our environment it takes care of us, we are teaching them to value the land. We also practice sustainable agriculture: we don’t use pesticides or chemicals, and we practice shifting cultivation, leaving areas of soil to become fertile again.

We are thinking of our children and our children’s children. They will need this land, and we are entitled to pass it on to them. They have the right to continue to own this land. So we don’t want a company to come and destroy their future.

By John Simoi


I think the most important thing is for people to come together and see the real needs in their community, and ask what they can do to change the way they’re living. If there are problems or hardships in their community, to ask what are the best ways that they can address those kinds of problems.

In Papua New Guinea, our land is our life. In everything, we must do it in an environmentally friendly way. We have to think about our future generations – how can we conserve our resources, not exploit everything and leave our future generations to suffer. So that kind of mentality you must have when you’re looking at ways to improve yourself.

A person himself can’t do something: but if several people can mobilise, together they can bring the changes. If they want changes to come into their community, they have to work together.

Some people may be afraid to speak out because their English is no good, or because they think someone will laugh at their idea. Don’t ever stop yourself from saying something – your thinking might be the thought that changes your community.

And other people are just sitting down and waiting for others to come and show them. But when you sit down and wait for others to show you, you will never get anywhere. You have to get on your two feet, you have to go find your friend and discuss the idea with him. Then if you see that he has already thought like you, then you go to another person. And then you go to another person and another and eventually, the group will form. And that’s how you will move. And if you don’t move, then nothing will happen.

People should have this thought in mind, like what Abraham Lincoln said: “It is not what the country can do for you, but what you can for your country.’ And in a smaller way, whether it is in a village or in a very remote area, it’s what you do in your particular area that you can make an impact. And you don’t worry about the government, you don’t worry about anybody – you just go ahead and do it.

So you start with one or two people sitting down talking, then three or four people sitting down talking, and then your group will start mobilising. And as you are moving, you are learning. If you can rise up and do something, definitely you will learn something. You will become wiser, and learn how to protect your environment, your resources, your future generations.

Some Papua New Guineans say, “it’s the money we don’t have that prevents us from doing it”. It’s not the money! We Papua New Guineans are so fortunate that we own the land and we own the resources. And all these things, they are money. We already have money here. The betel nut is money, the coconut is money, the fish is money. You see? The banana is money. The pawpaw is money. Even a single tree is money.

It’s just a matter of us rising up, putting the betel nut together, selling it, getting the money and using it. This is the way to start. It is not the money that will come and make us start, no. It is us.  First believe in yourself, then utiliise your resources to begin changing your community. There’s no other way forward. We have everything here, we can do it. Nobody’s stopping us. We have to think positive, we have to believe in ourselves and we have to believe in our future, and protect our future.

You have to stand up and speak for your rights. And you know, when you speak for your rights, you are not talking for yourself only; it is the rights of your children and the right of your children’s children.



Via The National, August 15, 2012

By Pisai Gumar


SMALL scale agricultural activities remain the cornerstone of the livelihood of rural people but not enough is being done to improve the capability to produce quality crops and increase production, a farmer says.
Poro Co-operative Society chairman Solomon Dumuk said provincial, district and local council agricultural agencies lacked proper mechanisms to realign their programmes with local cash crop growers.
Dumuk, from Bang village, Astrolabe Bay, Madang, said the lack of technical know-how to help farmers improve and increase production had been the main problem over the years.
“The issue is manifold involving agricultural agencies, political will of local MPs to lead and drive the improvement of rural economy through transportation projects by enhancing provincial works division to improve roads, bridges and wharves,” he said.
Dumuk voiced concern after 136 cocoa growers contributed K125 each to start a cocoa export company after receiving no help from local MP, James Gau.
He said most of the cocoa, copra, coffee and tea were accessed by provincial roads.
But, he said, neither the provincial nor local level governments seemed to be taking care of maintenance of the roads and bridges. Cooperative secretary Nason Tu-um said they had the land and the crops.
“But how can we turn them into money is an issue.
“Importantly, we need agricultural technical knowledge and skills to enrich growers on ways of how to nurture and produce quality crops while government has to improve roads, bridges and wharves for us to move the products,” Tu-um said.

Rosa Koian

FROM the 10th floor of Brasil Apartmentos at 4am I sat quietly and waited for the sun to make its way out of the sea.

Apparently I was looking the wrong way and noticed in the silhouette dark heavy clouds hanging so close to the sea, it looked like they were opening up very soon to let out the rain. In about 45 minutes the edges were illuminated with neon lights to excuse the clouds to hold off for the day.

Soon the place was lit up with the morning sun promising a good day for those who have communed in this great city in the hope of saving it and mother earth. Yet the trails seem less promising of a better future for those yet to come.

On my left an oil rig sits inconveniently in the ships’ pathway. About 13 ships line up the sea in front at some 3 to 4 kilometres away as two military boats patrol the area.

Looking down into the streets early risers are making their morning fitness walks and jogs along the stretch of beach.

On the ground police and para-military personnel are posted at every 300 metres intervals. On one section near our apartment four armed paramilitary officials with a military vehicle stood at still watching the morning traffic as other police and military officials zoom past on their motor bikes. Two helicopters hang in the air in front of our apartment, I thought this must be serious business. It seemed some important government personnel was passing through.

I was told later this was only necessary because US State Secretary Hillary Clinton was passing through. My informant said all these police and military personnel on the street is only because of the big UN conference – the Rio +20 earth summit.

We are staying at Copacabana, one of the richest suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. It is pretty with remarkable landscapes. Copacabana is marked with a stretch of about 3km of white sandy beach with the sugarloaf standing proud on the east and behind us El Christo proudly standing at 250 metres tall and looking down into Rio de Janeiro on the flats and hills in front of it.

Behind us I am told, an untouched virgin forest stands in this modern city. It is Rio de Janeiroʼs pride to tell the world how a modern city can coexist with one of the worldʼs  oldest rainforests.

From the beach and looking into the east, favelas spot the hilltops. At first I thought they were pretty but noted how hard it must be to get up there. I wondered about food supply in an area like this where there seemed to be so little soil.

Another friend told me how basic services are not reaching those people who are living within city limits. “Even though they are not receiving government help with basics like water and electricity those people are not waiting for things to come to them. They are bringing in the electricity and water themselves.”

We are in Rio de Janeiro talking and debating the future we want. I am wondering what is the future this important conference, the Rio +20, wants? Is it a city manned by security forces? Is it a future where the poor and the rich are neighbors but would not share? Is it a future where thousands of people mourn and few people smile? Is it a future where rain clouds talk with the sun and the people accept it whether it is rainy or sunny?

Of the 130 countries present at this world meeting, only Bolivia and Ecuador are taking some real stand to uphold mother earth.

What is the point of talking about sustainable development if countries would not take some real stand to change the current order. There are big talks to reduce poverty but again no real commitments to do business differently.

Twenty years on, recommendations from 1992 Rio earth summit are still on the table with very little movements for the better.

This was originally published by Pontiff K Talakam on his facebook wall.

Prosper the mastermind and his men of letters
To preach prosperity when most know better
And watch as others become bed wetters

For being tricked into unwise investments
By high priests wearing stained and tattered vestments
Drawn to the gods of profit, by their testaments

Wherein awaits the beast for all of his kin
When battered from without and cheated from within
And men losing fortunes where there was nothing to begin
The paper chase into wholesale self-destruction
Overwhelming the feeble assets of non-production
When words seek to explain what is known as corruption!

Our country was born on the shoulders of giants in history
Now crashing down on rough boulders of misery
Of bribery, feigned ignorance, and millions ill-spent
Our government taking both sides with the lament
That we have to be fair and we have to take pause
When the system is gamed by those breaking the laws

Political dynasties run by give-away artists
Who now call the shots and refuse to be honest
And making excuses without any consequence
Yet we buy their excuses and let it all slide
With the big lie upheld by some little ones on the side
Promote them along and put them on boards
Keep them in power for they are our lords

We look the other way for they know what is best
But we really know better and go along with the rest
No options to this one, when that one is dirty too
We are left with bad choices in a rancid stew
Sugar-coated greed, our favorite confection
Betrayed by the few greedy servants, sworn to our protection

We now know as voters, that we have to be bold
Throw all the white-collared crooks out in the cold
To make an honest living for once in their lives
Instead of their scheming and telling us lies
Take back our country and do it all over
Bust up the good old boys rolling in the clover
Throw out the money changers, reclaim the wisdom
When we all had a voice in our wonderful system…election is over and the choice is made!!!