Monday, February 28, 2011

The land of the disenfranchised

There’s enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed… Gandhi

Father John Glynn seems to have touched a raw nerve in Dame Carol Kidu with his email regarding the plight of Goilalas and Taris in Port Moresby. One thing they both highlight though is that this nation is the land of the disenfranchised.
According to the email by Father John, Goilalas and Taris claim to be refugees of circumstance- forced to leave their rural isolated communities in search of government services. Dame Carol argues that the plight of the Motu-Koitabuans should not be taken lightly. The Motu-Koitabuans are the traditional landowners of Port Moresby whom she argues have been marginalized due to urbanization.
The plight of the Motu-Koitabuans should be a warning to all traditional landowners not to lease their land to the State. The State and its greedy agents have on various occasions proven to fall short their fiduciary duty regarding the management of this country’s natural resources. A recent example is the acquisition of a State lease by Oil Search of a camp in Kutubu. Details of the acquisition are in the Post Courier (9/02/2011), pg17. Essentially Oil Search acquired the State lease and bought out the camp from its operator – a local camp management company Kawaso Ltd (a company owned by the Morosoro people of Kutubu). According to the newspaper report Mr. Sosoro of Kawaso Ltd claimed Oil Search did what it did so that it could lease the camp to Exxon-Mobil for a higher rate. Today Motu-Koitabuans are spectators while foreigners make fat profits off their land. State leases are tools greedy foreigners use to rip-off locals.
With regards to the Taris and Goilalas it is a simple cause and effect correlation. Vote in greedy politicians and add to that greedy public servants and you don’t get government services.
Father John has intervened in the Goilala community at 2mile by providing K20 000 in school fees for their children. He is however wrong in classifying them as refugees. They aren’t internally displaced persons but are economic migrants. That also refers to the Taris. Papua New Guineans have seen glowing bits of modernity and many aspire to join the modern economy.
There are however are a growing group of internally displaced persons. I belong to this group of young Papua New Guineans who have been detached from so called traditional roots. We belong to new generic tribes defined by province, suburbs, sporting codes, schools, school cults, settlements, etc… Many of us would not survive in the villages where our parents were brought up. The only connection we may have may be just a line in a form stating Village and Home Province or in taking part of the Independence Day provincial singsing group. Our true traditional foods are rice, ox & palm, flour, coca cola, etc... and our true traditional singsing is PARTYING. Our mother tongue may be English or Pidgin. We are the neotribalists.
The demographic segment of neotribalists continues to grow as more and more marriages are cross-cultural and families live away from their home provinces and villages. For the neotribalist home is a constantly shifting concept. It flows with the migration of the family and sadly with the breakup of family. Likewise, relationships are fluid and evolve with every change in circumstance. Our uncles and aunties are the friends of our parents and our tambus are the partners of our friends.
Our tribal fights are ‘school fights’ and our communion services are called ‘testim bros’, ‘kisim wara’ and ‘spinim baket’. We have expressions such as when we like-like someone we say ‘sis mi gat laik lo u’ or ‘bats mi gat laik lo u’ and if we appreciate something we say ‘original’. We the neotribalists are also called by various names including ‘mangi blo block’, ‘mangi blo street’, ‘settlement mangi’, bro, bats, sis, mums, paps, father, son, etc… Ever heard a kid say ‘em son blo mi’ when referring to a friend or brother.
The neotribalists are so detached from their ethnic origins that it is not practical to argue for them to ‘go home’ if they are unable to further their studies or get employment. They are insecure and gullible thus more vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation as seen in taped confessions of a high profile criminal.
Neotribalism is the embryonic development of a truly Papua New Guinean national identity. Neotribalists are more loyal to post independent institutions, societal structures, and a hybrid multicultural identity than to the tribes of their parents or grandparents. They are creating a new identity of what it means to be Papua New Guinean in the 21st Century. These may be bold claims given that neotribalist are just as variant as the traditional cultural landscape of PNG. The opposite of a neotribalist is one who is referred to as ‘hanua’ or ‘ples tingting’- usually someone phenotypically, aesthetically and culturally monolithic. It is these ‘ples tingting’ economic migrants causing ethnic clashes at Badili, Gordons and elsewhere in PNG.
The identity of many urban dwellers is based on generic tags like Papua, Tari, highlands, Goilalala, Sepik, etc…. This results in innocent people being caught up in vendetta just because they are profiled according to the generic tag. A ‘sepik’ that gets attacked by Bulolo landowners is likely to be more Morobean than a ‘morobean’ at the Morobe block at 9mile in Port Moresby. The violence at university campuses, at settlements and inter-school fights around the country arises from these neotribalist characteristics of people identifying themselves and their enemies under these generic tags.
This demographic shift poses new questions of identity and with identity the right to a home village and customary land rights. The potential for conflict arises when natural resources are commercialized and social mapping is done as landowners try to organize into incorporated land groups. How do neotribalists who are seen as being detached from customary land by their village relatives claim legitimacy of their right to the land? We are currently witnessing frustrations in relation to the LNG project regarding so called ‘paper landowners’ in Port Moresby.


Sat, Feb 26, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Dear Friends,

I have just sent the following reply to Dame Carol following receipt of her email. I neglected to copy you with this as I did not notice straight away that she had done so with her letter.

It is very sad if my reporting of my experiences hurts someone as good and decent as Dame Carol, and as dedicated to he work as she is.

But I have no choice other than to call things as I see and experience them.

God bless all


Dear Dame Carol - I am deeply sorry if the way I wrote of these Goilala people offended you. I merely reported what some of their leaders (e.g. Max Hob) said - that all their appeals to their leaders back home fell on deaf ears. They told me that the reason they came to Port Moresby and to Talai was to find the services they could not have back in Goilala. That is why I called them refugees.

I hear precisely the same sort of complaints from people from the Southern Highlands - they tell me of having to pay bribes of up to K500 to get their children into school here in the city - and they have come here because of their despair of getting an education for their children back home. They too are refugees.

I have never heard the slightest whisper of a complaint against you personally. On the contrary - I hear nothing but praise and gratitude.

I am fully aware of the blatant corruption in the Public Service. A year ago I passed on a package containing evidence of bribery by a very senior Public Official to ALAC - the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre run by TI. It is evidence of blatant, out-in-theopen demands for large bribes in return for payment of very large sums of Government money. So far ALAC has done nothing that I know of with this. I can send you this package if you want to see it - although I must first get the approval of two people who signed statements.

I happen to believe that no Public Servant can practice corruption for very long if he/she has an honest superior. As soon as I see one person being corrupt I immediately suspect his superior of - at the very least - tolerating and allowing the corruption to proceed. Corruption does not start at the bottom - it starts at the top. Because it grows from the top down it must also be eradicated from the top down. How far down from the very top does corruption start in Papua New Guinea? The dreadful degree of incompetence and inefficiency in so many Departments is direct evidence to me of entrenched corruption.

I meet and speak with people every day whose anguish is deeply painful for me to encounter. They tell me - and I believe them - that they have no one to speak for them - these are mostly women who are asked for bribes from police and city rangers - who suffer abuse and harassment at every turn. Society is failing. Community too often means 'ethnic group' and there is little sense of shared concerns across the barrier of ethnicity. It makes the work WeCARe! is trying to do very difficult because when we speak to so-called Community Leaders we know full well that they do not represent everybody - they certainly do not represent the abandoned and rejected ones we are looking for. And they do not represent the disabled hidden-away children we are beginning to find in the settlements. And they do not represent the legions of uneducated and rejected young women forced to prostitute themselves in order to live in destitution.

I greatly admire the work you have been doing in all your years in politics, and I worry that you will not be replaced by someone with the same sense of dedication and commitment. I am very sorry if the way I see and experience things seems to you like a criticism. That is not at all what I intend.

May God bless you in all that you do,


John Glynn

Fr. John M. Glynn OL

Jubilee Catholic Secondary School
P.O. Box 1099, Boroko, N.C.D.

(+675) 7147 1521 Mobile

On 25/02/2011, at 8:11 AM, Carol Anne KIDU wrote:

> Dear Father John
> As you know I am a great admirer of your work; always recommend your model of assistance to the disadvantaged; hope that one day government through a Social Protection Policy which is in the second year of research being spearheaded by my Ministry and Department, will be able to support organisations like yours that do not encourage institutionalised care of the marginalised; etc etc.
> As a politician I am used to being hammered but as I have been the elected leader of the people of Talai for over ten years I would like to clarify that they have not been neglected any more than any other group in the multiple demands that come to the office. If anything they are neglected by the bureaucracy more than their elected leader. They have had much more attention from my office than many other communities because they have some very capable leaders who know how to access assistance – they have learnt how to survive by articulating their stories well and good luck to them for that. Their elected leader through government funds has over the years assisted many children from Talai with school fees but learnt very early not to hand over money because of the fact that they do live a hand to mouth assistance. We paid directly to the relevant banks for the schools and parents receive the receipts. It was extremely time-consuming for my staff. Thus for the last two years we have begun to focus on keeping older children in school (secondary and tertiary) because the needs are too great for the electorate office funds, the fund-raising that is done by Kathy Johnson and the donations that are sent from overseas into our school fee scheme that is called EDA MAURI.
> In addition, the elected member for the people of Talai facilitated the training and original establishment of the early childhood programme and the Ginigoada training for youth and women (Ginigoada is an independent NGO established by their elected member in the late 1990s) under a blue canvas in lower Talai and then referred them to Digicel for a corporate partnership, established the mobile training buses that travel to upper Talai; and is funding the upgrade of the hall in upper Talai for the early childhood and Ginigoada centre for upper Talai). Gave funds for water extensions to upper Talai several years ago and the funds were misused by the leaders and am now again looking at funding this water project pending EDA RANU approval; pushed constantly for the road upgrade for Talai and Gorobe (got it into the 2006 budget but it eventually got done last year because of NCDC constantly diverting funds in other directions (fountains, lights giraffes etc).
> People from Talai are regular visitors to my office. In fact a letter from Augustine (I call him the Professor) is sitting right in front of me on my desk now reminding me to personally buy two piglets (K400) to expand their income generating project. Yesterday, Ben (an upper Talai) leader rang me three times during meetings for a community matter; two weeks ago I arranged the morgue fee exemption for the release of Ben’s son who had died from malaria complications, personally helped with hauskrai food and one of my staff members (who does not earn a lot) gave K150 for some plywood to make the coffin.
> DO YOU WANT ME TO KEEP GOING??? – the church help, the women’s sewing projects, the backyard gardening projects etc etc I could write a book about Talai but I do not ever seek publicity for my electorate work because it is not my money – it is government money and corporate partner / Rotary money etc (in fact a lot of the time it is my own money from a salary that I work very hard for also)
> I suggest very strongly that you should be saying that the systems of government have failed the people because by allowing them to constantly blame the elected member you are misleading them about the complexities of the development agenda of PNG and their own role in that agenda.
> Father I realise that you need funds to do your very good work but do not seek them at my expense and do try to help the people understand how they can be better lobbyists and advocates for change rather than by perpetuating the PNG tendency to blame someone else for things that people themselves can take control. Charity is very necessary at present (and I see much of what I have done in small projects as charity) BUT IT IS NOT THE SOLUTION TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND TRANSFORMATIVE CHANGE IN PNG.
> Please take what I have said in good faith but I get annoyed by the constant bashing of elected members when the actual concept of corrupt has became synonymous with politician – I could write books about the corruption that occurs in communities themselves. I have said similar things to Larry from City Mission also because his Newsletters tended to bash politicians rather than the total systems of government.
> For those who have bothered to read this – I am sure you can sense why I am so looking forward to leaving politics – I went into politics to be a Parliamentarian (a legislator and policy maker) but sadly very few people seem to understand the separation of powers of democracy and we are expected to be service deliverers. And if we do not perform as such then we have no chance of winning elections. It is impossible to do all that is expected of us and remain sane!!
> I will be speaking with the leaders of Lower Talai as I see from the photo that is where the message came from and expect an apology from them after I remind them of things their elected leader has done for them without seeking publicity because it is my job to serve – even when it is at the expense of my sanity and my family.
> Sincere regards
> Carol Kidu

Sun, Feb 27, 2011 at 8:32 PM

Thank you Dame Carol - I understand where you are coming from.

I sometimes fear that we are all standing on an underground volcano that might erupt at any moment. I have long been aware of the Motu Koita people's desperate plight. I remember Port Moresby and its surroundings back in the 1960s when your people were the proud owners and occupiers of their own land, and now I can see that this is very much a Highlands city and the ever increasing uncontrolled sprawl of illegal settlements is imposing enormous pressures on traditional owners.

I do not know what the answers are. All citizens are equal under the Constitution, but this concept is not acceptable to far too many of our people, who believe that contention and confrontation and even violent action are the only means to employ in dealing with life's challenges.

The people of Papua New Guinea are more varied amongst themselves than even the europeans are, and forging this country into a cohesive society with a genuine national consciousness is a challenge we have not yet begun to face.

Yes, it is a country of 'refugees', and just like in other countries not too distant from us, people become very upset and feel threatened when ethnic people with a foreign culture move in on them in large numbers. A Papuan friend of mine told me a short while ago that he does not think some Highlanders are really Homo Sapiens - he thinks they are the last Neanderthals!! How do we deal with a society in which people feel themselves to be so different from some of their fellow citizens that they feel fully justified in rejecting them, or exploiting them, or in simply pushing them aside, grabbing their land and regarding them as (almost) an inferior species???

With 700 different languages, and countless different variations in Melanesian culture we have huge challenges in forging unity - but at the same time we are protected from domination from any one group. It is indeed a weird and wonderful country - and one thing is blindingly clear - there is no going back to the past. We must find a way forward. We need the kind of leadership that is not much in evidence as yet - leadership that openly acknowledges the challenges first of all; that is not afraid to face down the attitudes that promote greed, corruption, exploitation of the weak, violence and abuse as tools for control; that demands honesty and accountability from those in authority; that can promote reasonable short term goals that will capture peoples imagination.

(Once I get started I find it hard to stop!)

I can understand your temptation to quit. But you have given it your best shot - you have fought - are still fighting - for your people. I have no doubt that you have inspired many young people - and to inspire others is the first task of leadership.

Remember the old Latin motto - Carpe Diem - seize the day! Tomorrow will take care of itself.

God bless the work,

John G.

Fr. John M. Glynn OL

Jubilee Catholic Secondary School
P.O. Box 1099, Boroko, N.C.D.