Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Like many rural outstations  in Papua New Guinea, Bandong, in the Morobe province  is beautiful and isolated.

To get to Bandong from Lae, you have to  make a four hour  journey on a four wheel drive over rugged terrain.  This is where more than 5000 people live  – scattered in small  hamlets all over the many ridges and plateaus of this mountainous area.   For the few who  live in villages accessible by road, the distance and the road condition continues to be a major challenge.

The statistics that come from  here  are just as bad as those in other rural and remote areas of Papua New Guinea.  It  reflect more than 20 years of government  neglect and isolation. In Bandong and surrounding areas, between 15 and 20  women and children die every year from  birth complications and other preventable diseases.   But those figures  come only  from villages nearest to the road.

Its half past 8 in the morning and Rex Puli, the Community health worker, has  already begun seeing the  first lot of patients. Rex is one of the very few community health workers  who  has chosen to work in Bandong in  long while.  He works in an aid post that  doesn’t have enough and supplies.

The  dispensary contains medicines that come from kits supplied by the Australian Government.  The kits are meant to supplement what should be an ongoing supply  of  medicines from the  Papua New Guinea Government.

But the flow of medical supplies is irregular and getting new stock  from the nearest health center  requires a 12 hour trek on foot to Boana.

After living and working in Bangdong for a year,   Rex agrees that the bad  road condition  is a major contributor to the unacceptably rate of  mother and child deaths. 

The education statistics are no better.   Leah Yalingu, the Bandong Primary School Principal  sees systematic  deficiencies in the education system  that  need to be urgently corrected.

Much of the problem stems from poor teacher training and an education inspection system that isn’t working. Illiteracy remains a major concern  and very few students  make it to high school. 

But the  people of  Bandong and other neighboring villages  are resilient and hardworking.   The road that leads to Bandong is an example of their achievements. It  was built  initially without any machinery by farmers usingspades and sticks. 

Later,  each person contributedtwenty kina and the communities hired a bulldozer to cut a road through the rugged terrain.

Using existing traditional leaderImageship structures, they banded other – their common bond has been the  coffee they’ve been planting for  over 60 years.

In 2008,   Mong Bungun, an elementary school teacher built on the 60 years of knowledge and expertise and founded the Neknasi Coffee Corporative with the aim of  creating a reliable income source for his people.

Halimbi Gim  is one of many farmers who joined the cooperative when it started.  He has more than one thousand coffee  trees on his land.  Through the Neknasi cooperative,  he has been able to build his cash income  and improve his family’s lifestyle.   In the villages  where members of the Neknasi cooperative live, there is a marked difference in the standard of living. 

More and more permanent houses are being built every year – funded by coffee money. Working together  has also  helped to reduce the financial burden of  transportation  on individual farmers.

Today, the Neknasi, cooperative  owns a landcruizer and a large truck that assists farmers to take their coffee to be  milled.

In 2010  they were certified by  Fairtrade International.   With assistance from Fairtrade, they’ve been able  get a good price  and  also  tap into a global market for organically grown coffee. 


Reclaiming Our Future

Posted: March 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

By Online Editor

ImageFor 38 years after Independence, we in Papua New Guinea (PNG) struggled as a nation to find our footing in this world, not that we never did, but at one stage, we were sure of it. I’m sure that when our forefathers, those who sat and wrote our beautiful constitution had a vision for our country and what it would be like today. They knew about the despair and loneliness of the urban cities, they saw people’s happiness and social security being diminished in the name of economic development, that human society became alienated as a the result of the current system. And that is why they cautioned us to be careful about the kind of development we bring into our resource full and beautiful country, and that every development should be pursued only through careful consideration of the consequences upon the social and spiritual fabric of our people. They warned us that for every development that takes place, we must first think of the well being of our people and what this development will do to our people, in every aspect of their lives, socially, economically and spiritually. That includes every woman and men, daughters and sons, bubu man’s (grandfathers) and bubu meri’s (grandmothers), our children and our children’s children, all citizens of this nation. It doesn’t matter what status they have in the community, whether they live in our cities or towns or the most remotest place in PNG, formally educated or not, all of our people matter! That is our cultural norm; we respect and take care of our people! That is our Melanesian way, one of our traits that identify us.

Today we hear of all kinds of violence against our mothers and sisters, we hear about brutless killings in our streets, we know of greed and corrupt dealings within our government system, we hear of billion kina investments in our country with no evidence of benefits to show, we see the destruction on our land, our forest and even our seas. We see the peril of such rapid exploitation of our natural resources and yet our leaders are ignorant of the fact that our small island country is slowly loosing all its natural wealth and beauty. We may one day wake up to see deserts and deserts of land, bare of trees, and huge craters where minerals were extracted from and our river systems polluted by mining activities and void of life and our children not having the opportunity to experience the beauty of it all.

And waiting for the government to wake up and save us may not happen in our lifetime. The system has confused their minds. We, as people of this nation need to start taking back our land and resources. Take it all back. And if we must use it, we must use it according to our own ways, with respect and consideration for the benefit of our community and our people. We need to wake up now and reclaim our future.

By Martyn Namorong


Landowners from Turubu protest at the Commission of Inquiry into Special Purpose Agriculture Business Leases held in Wewak last year

In trying to understand the roots of corruption in PNG, I have drawn upon my life long interaction with the resources sector in PNG. Having grown up in a logging camp in the Western Province, I appreciated the services provided to the local communities by the logging company. It was also at that logging camp in the 1990s that I came across a Tok Pisin translation of extracts from the Barnett Inquiry into the Forestry sector.

The Barnett Inquiry was aninvestigation in widespread corruption in the Forestry sector. Its revelations led to the changes to the Forestry laws and regulations and the introduction of log export monitoring by the Swiss firm SGS. I believe the unintended consequence of the tightening of Forestry regulations has been the recent land grab known as the granting of Special Purpose Agriculture Business Leases (SPABLs or SABLs).

Next Tuesday I will be presenting a paper on Corruption in PNG at the Australia National University in Canberra. My trip to Canberra is part of an awards package, for the work I did in reporting the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into the Sepik SPABLs. There I saw extensive logging and very little agriculture activity which led me to believe that land had been acquired under the pretext of agriculture in order to circumvent strict Forestry regulations brought about following the Barnett Inquiry.

If the Forest Authority was granting Forest Clearance Authorities (FCAs), for agroforestry, one would expect to see plantation agriculture crops mixed with plantation trees. This would by definition be called agroforestry. To my knowledge and based on what I observed, there was no evidence of agroforestry but rampant logging activity with token agriculture plots.

As I’ve moved on in life, I am now confronted with the opportunities and challenges brought about by the mining industry. And it is through my close association with the industry that I have come to appreciate the Curse of the Rent Seekers.

The mining industry is the main engine of growth in PNG in recent times providing about a third of the Governments budgetary support. But as observed by the anthropologist Dan Jorgensen, this was not what the Founding Fathers of PNG intended the nation to be. Jorgensen wrote:

“In attempting to reconcile generic notions of tradition with modernist hopes, the ideology of the Melanesian Way also grappled with one of the worries that preoccupied planners and politicians in the state’s early days, namely, the tension between egalitarian goals and the reality that development often produces inequality.”

If you wish to understand what type of nation PNG was meant to be, read the Somare Government’s Eight Point Plan of 1972 which was subsequently incorporated into the Constitution as the National Goals and Directive Principles. This Papua New Guinean model of development focused on small holder agriculture and small business owned by Papua New Guineans and was successfully implemented in the first decade of independence.

As long time PNG watcher, Professor Ronald Mays observed,

“During the first decade or so of independence, economic performance was generally satisfactory: although increases in real GDP were small (averaging 1.4 per cent over the period 1976- 1985) they were, except for one year, positive; there was a gradual diminishing of dependence on aid; and, under the government’s ‘hard kina’ strategy, economic management was sound.”

Jorgensen states that a World Bank Report in the 1970s laid the groundwork for the shift from this Papua New Guinean model of development to the current neo-liberal capitalist model in the 1980S.

To put things in a Global perspective, the neo-liberalists had overthrown Salvador Allende, the Socialist President of Chile on September 11 1971 (It is ironic that the head of neoliberalism would be decapitated 40 years later on September 11 2001). As the world, through Ronald Reagan and Margareth Thatcher, moved towards embracing Milton Friedman’s neo-liberal capitalism; PNG shifted from empowering local people through agriculture and small business towards facilitating the exploitation of natural resources by Multinational Corporations.

The shift in developmental policy as recommended by the World Bank meant that by the 1980s, PNG became increasingly dependent on revenue from extractive industries while other sectors declined, exposing the nation to shocks in the resources sector. When revenue from Panguna ceased as a result of the Bougainville crisis, the state could barely plug the holes in the budget despite the existence of Ok Tedi and the Kutubu Oil Fields.

Apart from the well-known conflicts and environmental concerns, issues of corruption have become widespread. In the early 1990s Barnett Inquiry into the Forestry sector highlighted many corrupt practices involving public officials and logging companies. Most recently, the O’Neill Government will be investigating the abuse of funds earmarked for landowners associated with Exxon Mobil’s LNG project and a recent report by the National Research Institute (NRI) has called for greater transparency in the disbursement of revenue from the Pogera Mine.

The best times in PNG’s history as an independent nation were between 1975 and 1985 as highlighted above by Professor May and this was when a Papua New Guinean model of development that focused on agriculture and small scale development activities was being implemented. Following the shift to the World Bank’s neo-liberal model of development conflicts and environmental issues have dogged the nation along with governance issues surrounding the distribution of wealth.

Between 2005 and 2010, mining and petroleum projects paid K12.7 billion to the government amounting to about a third of government revenue.

Despite the growth in income from resource rents there is widespread inequality as Sir Mekere Morauta highlighted in a speech made in 1996, 21 years after Independence;

“GDP has grown five times but the distribution of income is more skewed and less equitable than in 1975. Nominal per capita income has more than doubled, but 80 per cent of the population actually earn less than the 1975 average. Corruption, both petty and profound, permeates society today.”

Corruption, when viewed from the perspective of the World Bank’s neo-liberal model of development, is the distortion of the distribution of natural resource wealth in favour of a few Multinational Corporations and a powerful rent-seeking class. It is this misapplication of the wealth of a nation that I refer to as the Curse of the Rent Seekers. The excessive demands by so called resource owners and the kickbacks demanded by public officials are classic examples of such greed-driven rent seeking behaviour.

The World Bank has now backing the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) to address problems created by its prescribed model of development. But the EITI is just window-dressing by the World Bank as it does not address the fundamental issue of how those rents are distributed by the rent collectors.

I have tried to show the reader that the shift from the Papua New Guineanmodel of development to the World Bank’s neo-liberal model of development has created the problems that were foreseen by the Founding Fathers when they warned about the Darkness of Neon Lights in the Constitutional Planning Committee Report. It would be easy to say corruption concerns ethics, but let’s ask ourselves if the current model of development provides the conditions necessary for unethical behavior to thrive.


Martyn Namorong is a multi-award winning writer currently on a two week study tour of Australia.

War on Betelnut Unnecessary

Posted: February 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

NCDC Governor Powes Parkop picks on buai sellers in Port Moresby but will not pick on beer sellers.

He is doing a very good job trying to clean up Port Moresby but the cleaning up must not stop at the physical appearance.

Buai and beer are both staining Port Moresby but Mr Parkop chooses to put his feet down on those who are trying to get by. He puts the blame of ugliness on a fruit locally produced and has gained economic prominence because the people have made it so. 

It is the local initiatives such as the buai traders who keep PNG’s local grassroots economy going. 

The ugly stains in Port Moresby are problems of habit just like the drunken on the streets. Port Moresby will be cleaner if Mr Parkop focuses on correcting habits of users. The “no spitting” signs are good starters but signs on a wall do not go far. 

While he is on the betelnut stains clean up maybe he should start a “no drunken” on the streets campaign.

And Mr Parkop please leave the betelnut traders alone.

Posted: February 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

Welcome back to Our Pacific Ways. This year kicks off with many promises for a better PNG. Schools children are smiling as they can now go to school without worrying about school fees. Health Minister Michael Malabag promises church health workers will be paid under normal government pay system. And Commerce and Trade Minister Richard Maru is shaking up small foreign business to upscale or get out.

At the same time Lae’s Angau Hospital must come to a standstill following a nurse’s rape and Goroka reports it must refer patients to Kundiawa and Mingende hospitals.

While many young people are happy to go to school many schools are without good classrooms fitted with proper desks and tables and worse is the lack of teaching resources especially books. 

On the ground locals are still trying to find a place in this now becoming industrialised nation. Cocoa farmers continue to carry loads on their backs to the nearest truck pick up point usually some 2 days away. Fresh produce farmers must deal with bad road conditions and unhygienic markets.

If 2013 is the year for a clean up then let’s see some real change in those critical areas.

Interview: Graham Supiri

Posted: November 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

The government can do more for development in PNG by focussing on families rather than mining projects, says the runner-up university entrant in the Our Pacific Ways National Goals and Directive Principles Essay Competition.

Graham Supiri, a third year Mathematics and Computing Science student at Divine Word University in Madang, said the lack of basic services available to families around the nation – particularly rural and remote areas – reflected the lack of equality and participation in PNG.

Supiri said it was clear governments had forgotten the wisdom of the National Goals laid down in our constitution, the second of which states that: “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.”

Supiri said he most clearly saw the absence of ‘equality and participation’ in the denial of basic services to rural people.

“The Government is putting all its focus on the towns and cities, while rural areas continue to lack basic services. There are no health facilities, no roads, no basic infrastructure in many parts of the country,” he said.

“So the rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer.”

Supiri saw this clearly in his home province of Mendi, Southern Highlands, where people still suffer a lack of essential services – despite all the talk about the LNG project’s contribution to economic development.

“The LNG project is doing nothing at all in the Southern Highlands,” Supiri said. “It’s most clear effect has been the breakdown of families.”

Supiri believes the key to realising equality and participation in PNG – as envisioned by the Constitutional Planning Committee in 1974 – is for the government to focus on the development of families.

“Families are the backbone of any development,” he said. “The Government needs to get down to the level of the family, meaning that basic services necessary for families should be provided regardless of where people live.

“From there we can stabilise our communities and the broader society. But we have to start with families first.”

Read Graham’s winning essay here:

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!!!

By Victoria Stead

What does it mean to talk of a ‘prosperous future’ for Pacific? By what criteria do we measure ‘prosperity’?

At what level do we measure it: at the level of the state, the village, or the household?

Do we approach prosperity in economic terms, and if so in what relation do we position the ‘formal’ economy and its indicators—Gross Domestic Product, cash income, levels of waged employment—in relation to the self-employed economy: subsistence livelihoods, markets and customary practices of exchange?

What space is there in our imaginings of prosperity for considerations of culture, kastam, ecology, and the social structures of clan and community?

A vision of prosperity for PNG must recognise the continuing vitality and centrality of the ‘informal’ sector – the People’s Economy – in the livelihoods of Pacific peoples.

Notions of prosperity are too often uncritically economistic in their framing, valorising economic criteria of value above others, prioritising the formal sector above the informal, and taking no account of the tensions between customary and modern ways of being and belonging.

In too many large-scale development projects in the Pacific, there is a chronic failure to take the informal economy into account. Places and communities are read through a language of deficit, inscribed as places and people without jobs, without cash, without industry and investment, without ‘development’, rather than as place and people with different livelihoods and forms of work, different systems of exchange, cultures, ways of being.

In PNG’s Medium Term Development Plan 2011-2015, MP Paul Tiensten writes that “since independence we have dreamt of prosperity”.

However, in PNG policy and development discourses, “prosperity” has been overwhelmingly tied to material wealth, measured through criteria that privilege the formal sector, cash economy, and the nation-state as its central units of analysis. ‘Prosperity’ is linked to GDP and government revenue, as well as to the prosperity (and profits) of investors and corporations.

This does not take account of the fact that PNG’s massive informal sector sustains the livelihoods of most of the population.

In Madang, the cash income available from waged employment at the RD Tuna cannery is often far lower than that which can be made from marketing of garden produce, fish, or betelnut. The fortnightly pay of cannery workers is roughly equivalent to what women can earn in 3-5 days of roadside marketing (Havice and Reed, 2012: 426).

A 2008 survey of women roadside traders in Madang similarly found that the People’s Economy was generally much more lucrative than ‘formal’ sector employment, with 82 % of the sellers surveyed earning more than 50 kina a week, higher than the then-minimum weekly wage of K37.20 (Anderson 2008). Fifty percent were earning over K100 a week. Even taking into account the 2011 increase in the minimum wage, which brought it to just over K100 a week, informal marketing remains a more profitable option for many, especially given that the hours required are generally shorter and more flexible.

Within PNG tinned fish is—along with rice, tea, sugar and corned beef—a staple store-bought food item, particularly within urban areas, and within rural communities where local trade-stores supplement gardens as sources of food. Store-bought foodstuffs have become, in many ways, markers of status and “development”, and are considered more “prestigious” than locally-produced food.

Sitting on the veranda of a house in Rempi, in May of 2010, an old man who is the leader of the Bomase clan talked about the new staples of tinned fish, rice, and flour. He said: “our fathers only depended on the garden, not this food which comes from other countries and other places”.

He was not speaking here of the “backwardness” of his ancestors, who ate garden food instead of store-bought goods … but rather lamenting a loss of self-sufficiency and cultural autonomy.

I couldn’t help eavesdropping on a phone call by a friend sitting next to me – well it wasn’t exactly eavesdropping.

Dixie believes change is possible if we all do our little bit…

This is Dixie Hoffmann, an ordinary mother of 5 young men living in Goroka. She had been away from home when the incident happened.

Her second son had hit his uncle’s wife. “Hey you know what you did? You hit a woman. And the police will be on you,” she told the son. “You had no right hitting your uncle’s wife,” she continued.

The next day the son called from Goroka police station. He had been arrested. His elder brother went along with him.

Dixie turned around to me and said, “he’s my son but he hit a woman. I will not allow it in my family.” This humble woman believes change starts with her. She admits it is not easy but, “if we cultivate a culture of respect and put value into it, we will see a better community and a better Papua New Guinea. We cannot let violence dictate the norms in our lives.”

Women bashing and other violence against women have become a real problem in many parts of Papua New Guinea and women in the Eastern Highlands would not stand by and let this go ahead. They have worked hard to help the police realise how important it is to stop these violences.

Dixie is an example of these efforts. She has stepped up and is inviting all mothers in Papua New Guinea to educate their sons to respect women at home.