Archive for the ‘Foreign systems of control’ Category

When PNG achieves the above, then it is becoming self-reliant. If we are able to create that, we will truly have a reason to celebrate Independence every year on September 16. National sovereignty and self-reliance are very, very important. As John Momis, one of the Constitutional Planning Committee members, said earlier this year:

“National sovereignty calls on leaders not to sell their people’s rights. Not to allow this country to be ripped up and raped by foreign investors. National sovereignty calls on leaders to reject bribery. National sovereignty calls on leaders not to use public funding to make investments overseas while their constituents are barely making enough money to buy medicine, school fees, and so on. Self-reliance means embarking on a massive program of empowering people to get involved in small scale socio-economic activities. Activities that would take into full account the Melanesian way”.

While PNG is officially Independent, we are in fact still dependent, both economically and politically. In simple terms, it is the agenda of white-men to keep the black men poor his entire life and for that they have influenced us with their western ways of doing things. It’s obvious that everything we do is in their interest. They have brought a system in which we do the work and they get all the benefits and profit and the only thing left for us is deteriorated social indicators and people living below poverty lines and political disputes which accompanies instability in the government system.

Inap lo yumi kamap developed country pinis. It’s time we shift away from imperialist control and colonialist and neo-colonialist exploitation, and approach full independence on the basis of our very own National Goals and Directive Principles, our goals, founded upon the values of Papua New Guinea. If we keep on holding onto a foreign model of development and keep neglecting our PNG ways, we will remain like this for the next 100 years.




Economic independence

Economic Independence is domestic ownership of wealth. Real economic independence will be seen and felt if the government has the capacity to provide for its own resource needs or own resources necessary for domestic development. This relates to political independence, because in order for the government to fully exercise its power as an independent body, it should discourage the ownership of resources by a few elites or foreigners, as it will function in their interest and reflect their will.

It is the citizens who should be supplying the needs of the state if we are to see our nation achieving full economic independence. According to Namorong,

“all Governments need resources to exercise their power. If the state owns and supplies its own resource needs, then the state promotes its own interests. If corporations supply the resource needs of the state, the state protects the interests of corporations. If citizens supply the resource needs of the state, the state protects the interests of its citizens.”

Government’s focus is all about mining, commercial fishing, commercial logging – big industry and less or even no attention is given to smallholder extension services or to the so-called informal sector. However, PNG’s economy is dependent on agriculture. At the same time, a majority of the population is dependent on agriculture. The National Informal Economy, given adequate government support, can provide economic independence for the nation, while creating broad and sustainable employment for citizens throughout the nation.. Recognition and strengthening the informal sector, rather than the formal sector (‘cash economy’) can be a breakthrough for PNG.

There’s big potential there because that’s what we are good at doing. We are productive people and it comes naturally in a sense that local people, even without any proper knowledge in agriculture, can produce something and sell. All we need is better transport network and general infrastructure to support the people. Policies should be people-friendly, producer-friendly. We already have the background, in the 2011 National Informal Economy Policy.

For our economy to be fully economically independent, we might also consider the importance of a developed manufacturing sector, in terms of downstreaming processing. PNG export approach is to ship our natural resources as raw materials: this is the central attraction for foreign investment and it’s going to remain that way unless our government takes a step forward on this sector of the economy. It is not necessary that we hand over our resources to foreigners in order to see progress. If it was, the founders of this nation would not have called for National Sovereignty and Self Reliance or for the wise use of natural resources.

Another important inducement for economic independence is being less dependent on foreign aid and foreigners to stimulate our economy.  That includes foreign grants, aid and foreign investment. Our economy is greatly dependent on foreign investment: for example, almost all mining companies are foreign owned. This is not economic independence. Nor is accepting aid, dependence on which disempowers the government from fulfilling its duty to its citizens. A study made last year by the Australian Government’s Joint Intelligence Organization found almost two-thirds of PNG’s economy is controlled by Australian companies and individuals.  And with the rapidly increasing Asian involvement in economic activity here, it is clear that we Papua New Guineans at present control only a very small part of our own economy, and will remain in this subservient position unless firm action is taken to change the existing situation in a meaningful way.

So I would say that this is the real independence struggle of Papua New Guinea. What economic independence really means to me is that our government owning the wealth of the nation and getting only its own citizens to supply its resource needs, not from any other third parties (as in foreigners). We should not be relying on foreign aid and investment to maintain our economy. Economic independence means people of the nation are in charge of generating cash, which stays in the domestic economy. Economic independence is the control of the wealth of a nation by a majority of its citizens. Because of this, developing the subsistence or informal sector in Papua New Guinea can really contribute to the overall independence of our economy. Improvements in road networks and basic infrastructure are the main motivational factors required for people to contribute to PNG’s economy, if they are not already doing so.




Third Goal: National Sovereignty and Self-Reliance



Papua New Guinea’s National Goals and Directive principles are our home-grown set of objectives and aspirations founded upon the traditional customs of our peoples and incorporated into the Constitution of PNG. The National Goals were set as a sense of direction and a guide for every PNG citizen in pursuing and achieving their aims.  Importantly, it captured our very own traditional diverse cultures, beliefs and values, and identified proper and applicable mechanisms to promote them. This paper is produced to review and evaluate PNG in terms of National Goal number 3, National Sovereignty and Self-reliance.  It asks if PNG is fully exercising its power as an independent state or is still partly independent.

Despite this goal’s inscription in the preamble of the Constitution, it is yet to be realised. It is just another paper plan, decorating our Mama Lo (Constitution). I argue that we are Papua New Guineans and in order to see change and progress, we have to go back and realise this National Goal along with the other four National Goals.

Political Independence

Political Independence is when a government has the full authority and power in making decisions for the nation, which are more or less free of foreign influence and control. Apparently, the National Parliament and Constitution are the benchmark and authority for this. However, the main meaningful measurement of how independently the government is exercising its power is whether it operates in the interest and will of its citizens, rather than serving a handful of elites and private and multinational organisations (foreign investment). Serving such interests keeps our government under the control of foreigners in one way or the other, which in turn sees government neglecting its own people.

Goal 3 declares it is a fundamental goal of the people that PNG should make its own decisions, and that its sovereignty should not be reduced by external political, economic or military dependence; that national leaders should always be free to make national decisions.

Now we want these words to be actions to lead us towards realising and achieving National Sovereignty and Self-reliance. But to do so, our governance must differentiate itself from the colonial manner of administration, which is better termed as the western Model of Development. This model of development is inducing our government to be dependent or serving the interest of foreigners and not becoming the true representative of the people who voted them in. PNG blogger Martyn Namorong has identified this so called western model of development as the root cause of all evil in PNG.

I see that if our government preserves this foreign imposed model, it is likely our elected representatives will function perpetually in the interest of foreigners and elites without worrying about the National Goals set for Papua New Guineans to realise development on our own terms. The current model, a colonial legacy, is deliberately designed by westerners in a way that it will induce our government to function in their interest, even though we have been given the opportunity to govern ourselves. Moreover, this model of development disempowers indigenous people, and leads to law and order problems and political instability. This model is not in the interest of PNG citizens and contradicts with our traditionally established values. It seriously ignores the directive principles integrated into our Constitution.

Therefore, political independence to me means that we should go back to the eight directive principles inscribed under the National Sovereignty and Self-Reliance goal, and put them into tangible practice. Political independence will only occur if our political system is reformed on the basis of PNG values. Achieving stronger government decentralisation and devolution would be of great benefit towards this. As former Constitutional Planning Committee member John Momis said recently, “We must not be afraid to make a detour from wayward ways and go back to the past that the National Goals and Directive Principles of our Constitution prescribe for us.”

Another area undermining PNG’s political independence is foreign influence. It is stated in principle eight that PNG’s sovereignty

“must not be undermined by dependence on foreign assistance of any sort, and in particular for no investment, military or foreign-aid agreement or understanding to be entered into that imperils our self-reliance and self-respect, or our commitment to these National Goals and Directive Principles, or that may lead to substantial dependence upon or influence by any country, investor, lender or donor”.

One on-going problem that triggers foreign dependence is debt.The government always branches out to international agencies such as International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank for assistance, which allows these international ‘aid’ agencies to implement a range of strict economic and administrative policies without the people’s say. Furthermore, even churches and other non-governmental organizations undermine political independence.

Thus, the Goal of Sovereignty and Self-reliance means to me that our government must be reformed in a way that really reflects the wills and values of PNG. Instead of operating in accordance with the flawed system left behind by the whiteman, and with less foreign assistance of any sort. This requires, critically, decentralisation. Government agencies and the public service should be fully functional and efficient.

In addition, it also means that people should have much more power to execute decisions about the destiny of their lives. When our government becomes the true representative for our people, then we might well see real political independence.

A Pacific alternative to the negative effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is founded on indigenous values as opposed to economic globalisation, which is erected on the value of material goods. We want to live lives of dignity that are sustainable, peaceful and all embracing, where as TPPA  globalisation is unsustainable, damaging, conflict-ridden, and excluding.

These concepts are not merely a dream. It is founded in reality and has been our normal life all through out the Pacific. The institutions and values embedded in our culture & custom may not create wealth on a massive scale but they will never be responsible for creating second class citizens, destroying the environment at will, causing poverty, the debasement of humanity and denial of human dignity, as economic globalisation is doing.

Against all the odds, and the threats we face to our lands, our cultures, and our ways of life in the Pacific, we have survived and we continue to resist. Evolutionary processes have taken their course in the Pacific and the time has come for us to reach out across the vast ocean that binds us to support each others’ struggles and start to organise to halt the annihilation that we as a peoples are facing.

The struggle for the power to freely exercise the right of self-determination now takes on a new dimension–indigenous peoples themselves will now come to believe we not only have the right, but we have the duty to freely choose our own social, economic, political and cultural future. The Pacific will see increasingly determined peoples seeking to be free of Colonialism and its twin, Capitalism. The struggle begins!

With an Indigenous orientation and practice we can potentially contribute to a world that will overthrow the economy of control and the class who benefits from it. Those who seek dignity and freedom in the Pacific should settle for nothing less.

From the post ‘Aotearoa is not for sale’ –

Papua New Guinea is a mountainous, rainforest covered country located on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean. It is a country richly blessed with natural resources. This essay is based on my thoughts on the fourth national goal of Papua New Guinea which calls for wise use of natural resources and the environment for current and future generations.

Underground resource exploitation

In Papua New Guinea, underground resource exploitation is a major income resource and has dominated the economy since the 1970s. Unfortunately, these activities can cause widespread and diverse damage to the environment, including destruction to vegetation and wildlife around the mine areas.

An example is the Ramu nickel mine in Madang Province. The locals near the mining area have an ongoing battle with the mine management over the company dumping 100 million tonnes of mine waste into the Basamuk Bay over a period of 20 years. This will damage the marine ecosystem in the bay, reducing critical sources of food and income for the local people. In April, it was reported that several ships carrying Ramu mine processing plants spilled chemicals into the Basamuk Bay, causing bleaching to the coral reefs. It was also reported that people have been removed forcefully from their homes to make way for the mine. This also led to the destruction of sites that are culturally significant to the local people.

Environments around minesites cannot be easily restored to their original richness in diverse fauna, flora and animal life. Traditional medicine, plants for body paints, wild edible fruits, greens, roots and native animal habitat are destroyed for good.  Destruction to river life and ocean life occurs when mine waste are dumped in them.

All underground resource exploitation causes environmental damage. Even though mining brings revenue into a country and creates job opportunities, it damages the land, river systems and oceans. People affected by mining lose food sources from the forest, rivers and sea through contamination from mine waste. The fish, animals and birds which feed in such habitats move away or die in large numbers. Therefore people who depend on food from the forest, rivers and seas are left with reduced vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, animals and birds to hunt, catch or collect for food.

After the life of the exploitation of mineral resources, the local people may be left with nothing but a mining ghost town, if they have not invested well their royalty benefits during the life of the mine.  Our country must seriously consider the advantages and disadvantages of exploitation of its mineral resources and make a decision on whether it should allow the large scale exploitation of its mineral resources in future.

Logging Industry

PNG is reported to have the largest area of rainforest left in the Asia- Pacific region. Forestry in Papua New Guinea contributes 4% of GDP and is dominated by Malaysian logging companies. However, between 70-90% of all timber exports derive from illegal logging – one of the highest rates in the world. In areas where illegal logging occurs, there is generally minimal monitoring of tree harvesting. In such cases, all kinds of trees are harvested whether they are mature or not, the right size or not, or the right type of wood or not. The loggers are also not generally concerned with the practice of reforestation. They harvest and leave, and do little or nothing to replant new native trees of the same species of trees that have been harvested.

This can lead to the loss of habitat of many animal and plant species. Native plant species will die out and animal species will move to other similar habitats which may be long distances away from the people’s villages. The migration of the animals and the death of plants will affect the people who depend so much on them for their survival.  If the responsible authorities monitor the logging companies’ activities and demand reforestation through appropriate legislation, there may be enough trees left for future generations to use. Animals and birds will also remain in the forest for the people to hunt for food in future.

Fishing Industry

PNG’s seas are full of valuable marine resources and have the largest fisheries zone in the South Pacific, measuring 2.4 million to 3.1 million square kilometres. The fisheries sector in PNG contributes only 1% of the GDP but is extensive and ranges from inland fisheries, aquaculture, coastal beche-de-mer and reef fisheries, to the prawn trawl and large-scale tuna fisheries. However, having a large fisheries zone presents an enormous challenge for monitoring and controlling fishing vessels in PNG’s EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone).

In recent months, groups of people have been arrested for illegal fishing in PNG waters. The use of nets and dynamite fishing for commercial purposes can lead to overfishing especially when fishing activities are not monitored well by the responsible authorities. It is a common practice in some parts of PNG to use explosives to stun or kill marine life. Dynamite fishing is used to harvest large quantities of fish for commercial purposes. This is an illegal and very dangerous practice and it kills all marine life in areas that are dynamited. Meanwhile, in net fishing, nets are cast into the ocean/ rivers and are pulled along by boats trapping not only fish but other marine life as well. A lot of other marine life is killed during this process.

If large quantities of marine and freshwater stock are destroyed through regular use of these methods of fishing, there will be reduced or no marine life left for future generations. Unfortunately, traditional ways of sustainable fishing, such as restrictions on fishing at certain times of year to allow for regeneration marine life, is no longer observed and practiced by many PNG communities because of the influence of commercial fishing. To ensure that there is sufficient fish and marine food for future generations, communities in coastal areas have to revive traditional sustainable practices such as sea farming of fish, clams, seaweed and prawns and marine regeneration practices.


I have discussed three types of natural resources exploitation in Papua New Guinea. These are underground resource exploitation, logging and fishing. Here are some of my recommendations for sustainability of natural resources:

  • The government should reinforce the Environment and Conservation act and ALLOW the people to challenge deals concerning the extraction of resources from their land;
  • Appropriate authorities must regularly monitor all land and marine exploitation activities in the country to ensure environmental damage is minimal;
  • Conduct awareness programs for the communities affected about the different types of exploitation of lands and their effects on their food and income resources.

-Stephanie Paraide, Grade 9, St. Joseph’s International Catholic College Port Moresby

On 16 September 1975, the Australian government granted PNG its political independence. But financially we are still looking up to Australia, for grants and aids. Because of the large sum of aid money injected into the country, the government has been trying its best to pay back the money by reaping the country’s mineral resources, without considering what the five National Goals and Directive Principles spell out. We’ve been having our very own indigenous people in the parliament who haven’t been considering the five goals fully in their decision-making arenas. So, since 1975 these goals seemed to be in the preamble only to add flavour to the Constitution.

Actually, these principles should serve as guidelines for our decision-makers in the leadership poles. The negligence of these five simple Goals and Directive Principles are bringing disorder into our homes, communities and the whole nation.
On that note, let’s look at the 4th National Goal and Directive Principle, regarding Natural Resources and Environment: “We declare our fourth goal to be for Papua New Guinea’s natural resources and environment to be conserved and used for the collective benefit of us all, and be replenished for the benefit of future generations.”

Sadly, the fourth National Goal has not been considered by our governments. The history of mining, logging and other extractive industries in PNG shows this clearly. The initial part of the process includes the clearing of the forest which destroys the home of the wildlife; these species go into extinction since they cannot adapt to the environment they are left with. Within the time span of the mining operation, so many issues and or problems arise especially socially, economically, politically and psychologically.

That is, the relationship of the people with the nature is cut-off when the trees are all cut down, leaving nothing for future generations. Economically, the landowners get a very small portion from the production by the company which causes political chaos between the government and the people, while losing their land and resources which would provide for them and future generations for all time. Psychologically, the environmental victims are left traumatised when their cries are ignored by the leaders.

Why would a mother leave her own child to starve to death? This clearly shows that the fourth National Goal has not been serving its purpose and just collecting dust on those papers. Now the question is: were the National Goals written for the sake of intellectuals putting their knowledge on paper? No. Their relevance lies to guide decision makers to make better decisions which will not serve the interest of the rich class only but all Papua New Guineans, despite language and cultural differences. Generally, we can say that we Papua New Guineans have been blindfolded by money and tend to forget our national guidelines in international arenas or discussion tables.

Decision Makers must use the fourth National Goal to weigh the benefits, consequences and follow up tests before signing contracts to allow the operation of such activities that reap off our land. But individuals must also take ownership of these goals, too. Change starts with individuals first. I strongly believe that PNG has a brighter future in the years to come if the mindset of individual Papua New Guineans is set right by taking the National Goals and Directive Principles as our footstools.

– Eleanor Maineke, Divine Word University, Madang

 Goal 3: National Sovereignty and Self Reliance

 “The third goal clearly emphasises for PNG to be politically and economically independent and the economy to be basically self-reliant. Our leaders, the government bodies, and the citizens should be completely free from foreign control and free to make decisions and plan for social, political and economic development. However, ever since independence events have shown that in the name of ‘development’, Papua New Guinea has sacrificed its national sovereignty.”


The National Directive Goals and Principles which was integrated in the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea can be described as a road map to guide the action of the new and young nation after the departure of the Australian colonial rulers. They were made to compel governments post-independence to deliver social, economic and political development taking into consideration equality and participation, economic self-reliance, national sovereignty and protection of the natural environment. In the process of formulating those National Goals and Directive Principles, people as well as leaders were consulted for their views on how this new and self-governing nation should go about. Upon getting their views they finally came up with these five National Goals and Directive Principles. These goals are a source of help to steer the country forward. The focus of this essay will be mainly on the third goal which is “National Sovereignty and Self-Reliance”.

National Sovereignty and Self Reliance

I understand National Sovereignty as the power a nation has in order to do everything necessary, such as making, executing and applying laws; imposing and collecting taxes; making war and bringing peace; forming treaties and engaging foreign relations with other countries to govern itself. Nations do not possess the power of other countries external to their boundaries but they have power of internal sovereignty. Self-Reliance simply means you rely on yourself for survival. To put the two together we can say National Sovereignty and Self-Reliance obviously mean a nation has the supreme power to govern and rely on itself for survival within its internal boundaries instead of depending on external forces.

This goal was put forward to change the foreign-imposed system of government which is considered inappropriate to the needs of the people. As an independent country we have to take care of our own needs because someone who is self-reliant will not have to depend on others and will be proud of the things they can do for themselves. Furthermore, the third goal clearly emphasises for PNG to be politically and economically independent and the economy to be basically self-reliant. Our leaders, the government bodies, and the citizens should be completely free from foreign control and free to make decisions and plan for social, political and economic development. However, ever since independence events have shown that in the name of ‘development’, Papua New Guinea has sacrificed its national sovereignty. The influx of foreign companies have been very rapid convincing the public that their interests were being taken care of, but in reality the developer or investor’s interests superseded the development plans of the host country.

Now can we say that a country can entirely depend on itself for survival? The international system greatly influences the way in which a state acts, because a state makes its foreign policy according to what is happening  in the international arena. There is no central power in the world to rule the entire world but some powerful states are taking advantage of their power to try and rule the world: we refer to these countries as the developed world.

These so-called developed countries, such as America and Australia, have been dependent very much on the developing world for natural resources to build their own countries. The dependency theory clearly spells out that developed countries have used ‘third world’ countries as their puppets to reap their resources and leave nothing behind. The resources have been flowing from a “periphery” of poor and underdeveloped states to a “core” of wealthy states; the latter is enriched at the expense of the former. The ‘undeveloped’ states are impoverished and the ‘developed’ states are enriched by the way undeveloped states are integrated into the global system. The rich nations become richer, the poor nations becomes poorer. That is the model of development we see in the world.

It’s almost 38 years now since PNG gained its independence and can we proudly say we have been independent since the day we removed the Australian flag and raised our own? If I was there during the first years after PNG got its independence, I think I would have some comments to make on whether or not we have been self-reliant for the first years after independence. I see PNG not as independent but yet dependent. Obviously, the aid dependency is a common scenario in the country. Foreign aid is coming from other countries such as Australia, US, China, Japan, etc as well as from churches and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as the UN, VSO, EU, and so on.

Almost every citizen of this country wants national sovereignty and self-reliance: meaning they want their state’s sovereignty to be fully respected and stand on their own feet to govern their country. Personally I can say that so far we have not achieved this goal because of the ‘model of development’ which I have explained earlier with the dependency theory. In other words we can say because of the “dependency model of development”.

This dependency model of development is making us perceive ourselves as inferior. It makes us believe we cannot solve our own problems or do things on our own but depend on outsiders to come and do it for us. The dependence on foreign aid agencies and foreign investment seems to be a very big problem in the country ever since our so-called Independence. This has undermined our national sovereignty and self reliance by making sure that foreigners are at the forefront of any development activity in the country. Once communities accept foreign companies and aid agencies to deliver goods and services and build basic infrastructures such as roads, bridges, health centres and schools, they are no longer in control of their land, resources and even their future.

Practically speaking, most communities in PNG have already developed this dependency mentality. Instead of them working together to solve problems that faced their communities, they sit back and wait for the government. The government also feels helpless and that’s where it invites the foreigners to come in. If the communities, over the last 37 years, had organised themselves in working together to provide for their own needs like building classrooms, aid posts, roads, bridges and so on, we wouldn’t have any problem achieving this goal now. It would have already been achieved 10 or 20 years ago. The kind of mentality that people developed has passed on and this has become evident in today’s situation where people have moved from being self-reliant to being more dependent.

In the coming weeks, OPWs will be publishing the work of the winners and finalists of our PNG National Goals and Directive Principles essay competition.

These are the voices of our youth. They seethat PNG has not fulfilled the promise of the National Goals, created in 1974 after a team of men and women travelled the length and breadth of PNG to find out what values and aspirations would best guide the newly independent country.

Our ancestors, following the wisdom of their ancestors, told them PNG’s future history should always be based on the following five goals:1. Integral human development
We declare our first goal to be for every person to be dynamically involved in the process of freeing himself or herself from every form of domination or oppression so that each man or woman will have the opportunity to develop as a whole person in relationship with others.

2. Equality and participation
We declare our second goal to be for all citizens to have an equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, the development of our country.

3. National sovereignty and self-reliance
We declare our third goal to be for Papua New Guinea to be politically and economically independent, and our economy basically self-reliant.

4. Natural resources and environment
We declare our fourth goal to be for Papua New Guinea’s natural resources and environment to be conserved and used for the collective benefit of us all, and be replenished for the benefit of future generations.

5. Papua New Guinean ways
We declare our fifth goal to be to achieve development primarily through the use of Papua New Guinean forms of social, political and economic organization.

The students who entered our essay competition see that our National Goals are just as important now as they were in 1975. Maybe even more important, with PNG under increasing pressure from outside influences and powers trying to make our nation dependent.

Dependent on foreign countries for bank loans, for aid. Dependent on foreign companies for wealth generation, in the form of mining, logging, fishing, oil palm and other projects that destroy our natural resources, and rob people of their customary land and the ability to make money for themselves. Dependent on foreign, processed food and soft drink, rather than enjoying our own healthy organic food.

These students, the voices of our future, believe our five goals still provide the roadmap for a TRULY independent Papua New Guinea. The goals tell us we already have the answers to our problems – we don’t need to be holding out our hands, asking for someone else to save us. The answer is believing in our strengths. We don’t need to be saved, the goals tell us, because we are already rich and strong. Perhaps we have lost sight of our strengths as a people.

As individuals, it is up to us to try to enact these goals by living them through our actions, in our own communities, and by pressuring our government and elected representatives to do more to realise them. Start today.

(Photo by Eric Lafforgue)

Honorary Curator of the Vanuatu Museum, anthropologist Kirk Huffman says land is working in Melanesia – contrary to the view supported by AusAID, foreign economists and others. He says they need to rethink the sense of linking our self-sufficient, superior Pacific with an failed western development model.

“Land has been working for Melanesians, and working well for Melanesians for thousands of years. It’s just that, I guess, any sort of project that economists, development economists are involved in – because they only think about money – they think that land is not working for someone unless it’s making money.

“That’s a bit ridiculous in Melanesia where you’ve got the world’s highest percentage of people who are still basically self sufficient and still living on their own traditional land. The land is actually the biggest employer in the whole of Melanesia! It doesn’t just sort of hand out shillings at the end of every week like in the White Man’s World. In the White Man’s World money has become the God. Everything is focussed around this thing called money. If you look at money, modern money, from a Melanesian point of view the closest comparison you can make is that it’s rather like an addictive drug. It’s useful and beneficial in small quantities but if you over-do it it can become addictive and very socially divisive.
“Around the coast of the island of Efate in Vanuatu I think something like just over 60 per cent of the land has been alienated. And this is very rapidly. And the thing is it’s being promoted as, sort of, development. It does seem to me a little bit strange that something that is promoted as development is something that essentially means that traditional land custodians essentially lose control over their land.”There must be a better way around all this. OK, if you want development – right, one needs this, one needs that – we all know that. But let’s have the kind of development that is relevant for us. You know, we don’t need outdated and faulty economic theory forced onto, essentially, almost self sufficient island nations and cultures. Because if you pull them into the modern, highly unstable financial situation a little glitch or a hiccup or a collapse on the far side, the isolated side of the world like, for example, the United States or wherever, you could actually affect people in Melanesia. And it’s not fair! You’d think economists would actually learn something. It needs economists to respect the fact that there may be parts of the world that their type of economic theory does not fit.

“It’s actually a clash of cultures between a Western, money obsessed, capitalistic, individualistic system against Melanesian systems which are actually much, much older, a lot more sophisticated, a lot more communally orientated, a lot more geared to self sufficiency and profound thinking about ways of looking at the environment where you’re actually part of the land. The land is actually part of you.”


By Claire

Development is a big word. It essentially depends on who is selling and who’s buying the idea of ‘development’.

Most of us have bought what the ‘the others’ define as development: going to formal school; getting a degree or masters or whatever paper it is that says you are qualified enough to have an opinion that is worth getting paid for on a particular subject; the acquiring a job where what you get paid is more than what you need, so you can buy what you DON’T need to show others who care about the same petty things. Fast flashy cars, big houses, designer clothes, latest electronic gadgets etc.

There was a time in my life where I cared and sought for all those petty things.  The clothes, the hair, the shoes, the nails, the bags, the phones, the movies and all those things that Marie Claire, Hello!, Elle, Blackbeat, Dolly and Girlfriend told me were ‘must haves for this season’ (seriously, ‘seasons’ in tropical Papua New Guinea?!) Jeez! I cringe whenever I have a conversation about childhood dreams with my cousins (we’re Bougainvillian), who compared to me were so practical, noble and unselfish. Although I’m glad I went through that cringe-worthy phase.

I was in the midst of all the pettiness that ‘the others’ perceive as modern/developed/cool. So many words to describe something so plastic and SO fragile that all you need is a week back in a place where your survival depends on what you do and then, you realize what a façade all those so-called important things are.

At the end of the day what we want most out of life is to be happy! Happiness is that ever-elusive kudo, that nirvana, the heaven that we all strive for. AND the truth is ‘the must haves for this season’, the iPhones, the ‘skinnies’, the Nikes, the ‘bling’ do not make up this ‘happiness’.

Happiness and Development. Supposedly synonymous states. Both are states that we allude to and want to obtain, we want to be happy and we want to be developed.

I can honestly say that I witnessed both these states co-existing in perfect tropical bliss on these two tiny island nations called Fiji and the Cook Islands.

Viti Levu. From one end of the island to other the things that ‘the others’ allude to when they speak of development: education, health services, law and order; these things can all be found from Nadi to Suva. Furthermore the capital of Fiji (Suva) has, in my opinion, the perfect mix of modern convenience and traditional lifestyle.

Rarontonga. Breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful! The stuff that all tropical island getaway dreams are made of. You know, the white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, swaying coconut palms and clean quaint yards with their neatly arranged neighbourhoods. Perfectly planned towns and all citizens taken care of.

At first I carried myself like a true Mosbi (Port Moresby) person. I watched my back, held onto my bag tightly, made note of who bumped me and was ever vigilant to make sure no-one took a swipe at my bilum. After a few hours it hit me that no one looked like they were protectively hugging their bags and lo and behold! There were no fences!

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m naïve, but in my opinion happiness is something you feel when you are doing what you should; when ou should; for who you should at the moments they matter.

Happiness isn’t consistent – that isn’t humanly possible. People you care about die, people you care about hurt you, people you care about move away, people you care about don’t care about you. But if you remember your sadness and pain more clearly than your happiness surely that must mean the happiness happens often enough for it not to be memorable unlike the sadness.

I’ve digressed. Back to the point. Happiness and Development. I saw both of these in Viti Levu and Rarotonga. The thing about happiness and being able to enjoy modern conveniences, functioning government services (health, law and justice, education) AND having extra money to spend is that you don’t NEED mining projects, or plantations, or agricultural projects, logging or anything that is alien to our culture to achieve this. Development if it means all these mining projects, plantations, agricultural projects and logging will not bring happiness. Maybe it’s time we stopped buying ‘DEVELOPMENT’ and start making Progress – doing it OUR way.

Then we might remember that we ARE happy without these big mining projects, plantations, agricultural projects, logging and other alien million dollar operations. Those alien operations don’t equate to happiness but doing what should be done, at the correct moment, with and to the correct people does bring that ever-elusive kudo, that nirvana, closer and produces varying degrees of happiness.