Friday, April 29, 2011

Senator Brown visits PNG

 

image

L-R. Sarah MacCana, Senator Bob Brown, Rachel Sapery. Pic by Kymberley Kepore

A reception was hosted yesterday (Thursday 28/4) in honor of Australian Greens Party Leader, Senator Bob Brown who is visiting Papua New Guinea. Senator Browns visit comes at a time when the Greens hold the balance of power in the Australian Parliament. This is his first visit to the country and it comes ahead of Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd’s planned to visit the country.

Present at the gathering were representatives from the National Women’s Council, Environmental NGOs, the Asian Development Bank and the Australian High Commission. Dame Carol Kidu, the Minister for Community Development was also in attendance.

While the Senator did not specifically outline the reasons for his visit he seemed concerned with whether Australian Companies operating in Papua New Guinea adhered not just to PNG laws but to Australian Laws as well. He highlighted the issue of sustainable resource management and the resource deficit brought about by population pressures and the growing middle class in the developing world.

Senator Brown also reflected on the growth of the Greens party in Australia and the Green Movement Globally. As a young doctor he became a Green activist in the early 1970s while fighting to preserve Tasmania’s Natural Heritage. The Greens Party was formed in 1972 during those years of activism and Senator has since been associated with it.

In welcoming Senator Brown, the United Nations Resident Coordinator Mr. David McLachlan-Karr, highlighted the issues that the UN and its partners were working towards addressing. This included matters relating to participation of women in politics, maternal health, gender-based violence, and the environment.

Mr. McLachlan-Karr highlighted specific programs such as the Equality and Participation Bill and the work done by the Food and Agricultural Organization regarding tuna fisheries. He also highlighted the issue of Special Agricultural Leases that have affected the lives of indigenous people.

Papua New Guinea receives the lion’s share of Australian Overseas Development Aid. Mr. Browns visit signifies the focus of the Greens with-in the region.

My Observations

I was the first person to arrive at the Residences of the United Nations resident Coordinator. I met the security at the gate and asked him whether he was aware of a meeting. He nodded. Then I asked him which was the best way to get out of Davetari Drive in Town. I had to ask because it took me half an hour to find the place after walking around through the maze at Touaguba Hill.

He told me to return the same way I came. That would mean walking through the maze back to Crowne Plaza at night. I asked him then where I could buy some betel nut. He showed me a short cut down the hillside through some scrub. I went through that maze and came out to a road where a woman was selling betel nut. I bought two and asked the lady to pour me some lime.

You may be wondering what so of crazy person I am. Actually, I wasn't crazy. This is PNG Street commonsense. When you go to a new part of town, meet the locals because they are your key to security in that part of town. The best place to meet people is at the betel nut market. I wasn't going to chew those nuts; they were for the security guard.

Betel nut and cigarettes are the currency for gaining social capital. When you buy a betel nut of cigarette from the street vendors or for a street boy, you have gained a friend who will watch your back.

When I walked back that night from Davetari Drive to Crowne Plaza, I feared no evil.

I met two interesting and powerful women at the reception. One a Papua New Guinea and the other an Australian. It was sort of a meeting of the minds and I enjoyed the discussions we had. These were very articulate and intelligent women.

I see the younger generation of Papua New Guinean women as movers and shakers of this nation. They give me hope of a better future. I believe it is these highly educated independent women who need to be put at the forefront of the nation's development. They bring with them a fresh perspective on how things should be done in the country.

As is a disappointment I have in that the current Ms PNG has not in my opinion being very vocal on women's issues. She was at the reception and I had the pleasure of meeting her. She seems to be more focused on environmental issues which are valid however as a women's leader she ought to highlight the difficulties PNG women face.

I would have loved to have met a couple of folks who didn't subscribe to the ideas put forward at the reception. It was a partisan crowd.

One question that remained unanswered even though I posed it to a representative from the Women's Council is "Why is it that women do not vote for women?" Perhaps part of the answer was given by Mr. MacLauchlan-Karr – there is very low female voter participation in the elections.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Attending UN reception for Senator Brown

image

This evening I’ll be attending the reception to be held in honor of Senator Bob Brown, Leader of the Greens Party of Australia.

Australia has a hung Parliament and the Greens and Independents hold the balance of Power.

It is therefore significant, that Senator Brown has shown an interest in Papua New Guinea.

A night to remember (fiction)

 

Dedicated to my former colleagues from Med School who will be graduating this Friday 29th April 2011... Especially to Alois, Wilma, Oliver and Erikson, CONGRATULATIONS!!!

clip_image001

Above: Medical students with Community Health Worker (in blue uniform) at Sogeri

The labour ward at Port Moresby General Hospital was busy as usual that night. Women arrived, women waited and women delivered. The pungent odor of amniotic fluid mixed with the cold air-conditioned air sending a chill through the infants born that night. There was the usual sound tract of mothers and babies crying. The white walls and floor tiles glowed in the brightly lit room.

The medical student dressed in a white coat with a stethoscope hanging from his neck, paused as he looked at the women sitting on a single bench in the cold labour ward. Many held their backs and abdomen, their faces expressing the distressful events that were occurring internally.

Each woman looked at him pleadingly, wanting to be admitted into the ward. “Ol mama, sampela, wara buruk o nogat?” he asked in Pidgin. They all shook their heads. He couldn’t admit them. All the beds were occupied. Only women about to deliver or presenting with complications were given priority.

He turned and walked to bed thirty-six. The young mother there kept screaming, “dokta plis helpim mi! Ayo, baby bai kamaut nau! Helpim me...” He examined her and noted his findings on her chart. She was primigravid – a first time mum, and the baby wasn’t coming anytime soon. He reassured her and left the cubicle.

As he walked past bed thirty-five, the nurse called him in to examine the mother. The nurse looked distressed and informed him of the mother’s condition. She was grand-multi-parous; she had five children and was in labour for the sixth. Her blood pressure had shot through the roof and her consciousness was altered. She seemed stable though according to his assessment but they both decided that they should consult the Resident Medical Officer on duty.

As he was chatting with the nurse, another voice wailed from the other end of the ward. “Dokta! Plis helpim mi, het b’lo baby kamaut nau!” He rushed over to the other end and arrived just in time. He delivered the head, shoulders and the rest of this beautiful baby girl. He placed the crying neonate on her mum’s abdomen, clipped the umbilical cord and cut it. “Welcome to the cruel world, baby” he smiled as he spoke to her. He wrapped her in some clean cloth and handed her to her mum.

A couple of minutes later the placenta was delivered.

He then took the baby to the examination room. It was warm compared to the rest of the labour ward. It did not have the typical odor of aromatic compounds that was prevalent outside. The baby weighed 2.9 Kg. He administered a shot of Hepatitis B vaccine followed by Vitamin K. “I told you it was a harsh world,” he laughed as she shrieked in his arms.

He took her to her mum, who seemed remarkably well composed compared to the past half an hour. This was what impressed him about all the women who came to deliver. They would progress from the extreme of pain during labour to total calmness after delivery. If there ever was a symbol for the power of the human spirit, it was the face of a woman during and after labour.

He looked at the clock on the wall, it was 12 am. He decided it was time to go back and have some rest at the student dormitory. He recorded the details of the delivery in the register and collected all his gear. He packed his stethoscope, pregnancy wheel, tape measure, thermometer and blood pressure cuff into his bag.

He removed his white coat and washed his hands in the basin. As he began walking out the back door he could see mothers in agony, looking at him from the bench in front. There by the corridor to the back door lay women with their babies on the cold white floor, waiting to be discharged the next morning.

He smiled and said goodnight to the night duty nurses. It was to be his last night at the labour ward.

Translation of Tok Pisin to English

“Ol mama, sampela, wara buruk o nogat?” – Ladies, have any of you had your waters broken?

“Dokta plis helpim mi! Ayo, baby bai kamaut nau! Helpim me...” – Doctor please help me! I’m about to deliver! Help!

“Dokta! Plis helpim mi, het b’lo baby kamaut nau!” – Doctor! Please help me! My baby is crowning!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

POWER AND WATER CUT TO CITY

 

clip_image001

Above: Forum Square, University of Papua New Guinea Campus, and Port Moresby

The customary landowners of the reservoirs that supply hydro electricity and water to the city have shut down those services. The shutdown was triggered by the murder of one of their tribal leaders at Hohola in the city of Port Moresby.

The death occurred two days ago while the deceased was waiting at the bus stop near the Headquarters of the State owned electricity monopoly – PNG Power. The word on the streets that evening was a warning of the imminent shutdown of water and electricity supply to the city.

At around 7 pm that evening, the electricity network began convulsing with intermittent blackouts. The water supply was still functioning.

By 8 am yesterday, water was cut. Rationing of electricity kicked in at 9 am. Water wasn’t restored until around 8 pm last night. Electricity was back at about 4pm yesterday.

Landowners have aired their grievances yesterday at a forum attended by Governor of the Nation’s Capital, Mr. Powes Parkop and their local Member of Parliament, Mr. Paru Aihi.

Yesterday evening my neighbors came over to our place to fetch water from the tank.

This morning water has been cut and although electricity still flows it is expected to be cut later on during the day.

It is expected that ice-block sales today will be fantastic.

Such is the nature of tribal politics and the Law of the Jungle in Papua New Guinea that collective punishment has been served on the residents of Port Moresby.

All of this is happening in the context of recent moves to transfer ownership of mineral and petroleum resources from the State to customary landowners.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

IS THE PM FIT FOR OFFICE


Should the PM be dismissed from Office on Medical Grounds?
This is probably a very controversial piece and I know a lot of people will be very upset. I'm a writer and I suppose I love to play the role of an agitator of minds. I do not claim to speak for anyone or any constituency as I do not have a mandate to do so.
Recently, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare has been hospitalized in Singapore. He is said to be "undergoing routine medical checks." It isn't the first time for him to visit Singapore for such "routine medical checks." No one knows the gravity of the matters regarding his Health Status however the old man who is in his seventies is past his prime.
Obviously, this has led to wild speculation, the most "credible" being the revelation by the Asia Pacific Editor of The Australian newspaper regarding Sir Michael undergoing an "operation" of sorts. Sir Michael was quick to quell this down with an address to the nation on State owned Television.
The lack of clarity over his "condition" and the circumstances surrounding it has created angst amongst many. I hope it's just a minor blip and pray that he has a speedy recovery from whatever may be bugging him at the moment.
This scenario does make me to recall the situation in Nigeria last year, where the President had sought medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, and for several months, leaving Vice- President Goodluck Jonathan to act in his post. The Nigerian Parliament then installed the Vice-President as the President under controversial circumstances. The President died in Saudi Arabia and it was revealed he had a terminal illness.
Obviously, none of us would want to think the Father of the Nation is in such a bad predicament. However, the question does remain as to whether he is medically fit to hold office.
Section 142 of the Constitution of Papua New Guinea concerns matters relating to the suspension and/or dismissal of the Prime Minister amongst other things. It states in Section 142, subsection 5(c);
"(5) The Prime Minister–
...
(c) may be removed from office by the Head of State, acting in accordance with a decision of the Parliament, if the Speaker advises the Parliament that two medical practitioners appointed by the National Authority responsible for the registration or licensing of medical practitioners have jointly reported in accordance with an Act of the Parliament that, in their professional opinions, the Prime Minister is unfit, by reason of physical or mental incapacity, to carry out the duties of his office."
The Constitution states further that pending an investigation carried out under Section 142 subsection 5(c) the Prime Minister is to be suspended from Office. Section 142, subsection 6(b) states;
"(6) The Prime Minister may be suspended from office–
...
(b) in accordance with an Act of the Parliament, pending an investigation for the purposes of Subsection (5)(c), and any resultant action by the Parliament."
The dismissal and or suspension of a Prime Minister on medical grounds, has never happened in Papua New Guinea. I have not sighted any PNG case law regarding the matter nor have I come across any enabling legislation pursuant of Section 142 subsection 5(c) of the Constitution.
I suppose this then leaves the matter in the jurisdiction of the Courts for appropriate consideration.

 


 



 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A QUESTION I CANNOT ANSWER

TIN

Someone who says he is doing FIRST Year Law at the University of Papua New Guinea read my blog and contacted me. He seemed very impressed and animated. To use his words he was “Dumbstruck” and “Inspired”.

I just laughed. I mean, I really couldn’t see what he saw. So I asked him if what impressed him most. Well as far as he was concerned everything was impressive. I wasn’t being aloof, but I was taken by surprise and could not give him an appropriate response. I later apologized to the kid for being indifferent.

Then he asked me the most obvious question to which I had no answer, “What is the purpose of the blog?”

You see folks everything seems to be unplanned.

When I was in high school I was thinking of becoming a high school teacher. My parents thought I was too clever for that so I ended up going to University of Papua New Guinea. The only reason I went to medical school was because I was smart enough to be part of the top 30 students.

Now, the blog was created as an avenue for me to discuss issues in Health and to post interesting assignments in Public Health – something that I am passionate about. I really am not into the clinical side of things. I am concerned about, policy issues and decisions that affect the health of the nation – The Political Economy of Health.

Now as the accidents go, I accidently replied an email where there was a debate about Port Moresby’s Urban Poor – particularly the plight of the Taris and Goilalas. Dame Carol and Mr. Stephens were so impressed they encouraged me to write more and so my seminal paper called The Political Economy of everything that is wrong in developing Papua New Guinea, was written and sent via email.

The paper was picked up by Keith Jackson who asked me if he could publish it in his newsletter PNG Attitude.

I got an overwhelming response and decided to write other papers that have also been well received. Louise Ewington from the PNG Church’s Partnership based in the UK has also published my paper on gender issues.

The article I’ve written regarding school cults in Port Moresby was an eye-opener for staff at Jubilee Catholic Secondary School. I have been asked by the guidance teacher to speak to his students.

My papers on Women in Parliament have caught the attention of the United Nations Development Program. I have been invited by the UN to attend a reception hosted for the Leader of the Australian Greens Party, Senator Bob Brown.

I suppose it is the answers or ideas that I provide that underline the existence of this blog. Things just happen that I have no control over. I don’t have an agenda for anything or against anyone.

I write because I feel forsaken by my country. I write because if I didn’t, who else would? Who will inspire a kid at Law school? I hope he turns out to fight for justice and not pervert the course of justice.

I don’t know what the future holds for me or whether I have any future at all in this country. I will take any opportunity that comes my way, even if that means leaving this country for good. I’ve decided to let God take me where he wants me to go.

I live at the bottom pile of society that feels detached from the rest of society - the pile of the forsaken and forgotten lot. It is from that context that I write.

Vision 2050 (fiction?)

 

clip_image001

Laitebo lived near newly built Komo International Airport, in the Hela Province. The massive airport was located in a valley surrounded by mountain ridges. He’s family had moved in from Tent City settlement in Lae, in search of the glow of the new gas economy. The family moved into some vacant State land near the airport where they squatted.

He’s dad soon found out that the promises of the gas economy were just hot air. After the initial construction phase where ten thousands were employed, only less than a thousand jobs were available with the LNG Project. He could not find a job elsewhere as other sectors of the economy had been adversely affected by the soaring value of the Kina caused by massive revenue inflows from the sale of gas.

Laitebo’s mum understood these effects which economists called the Dutch Disease. She herself had studied economics at the University of Papua New Guinea and had a Masters from Deakin University in Australia. She had lost her job as a financial analyst at an oil palm company after it was forced to shut down because it could not sell its product competitively. The high value of the Kina had made Papua New Guinea’s export too expensive on the global markets. The company was making huge loses and was forced to shut down.

Laitebo’s dad now travelled to and from the Markham Valley to buy betelnut, which his mom sold at K5 a nut. She earned about K1000 per day but that wasn’t enough for the family.

Everything was very expensive. A rice bag cost K200 kina, a can of corned beef cost K30 and she had to pay K50 000 to send her kids primary to school. It seemed that everything had to be imported. Inflation was running high and the gas economy had gassed the local agriculture and manufacturing sectors of the economy.

Laitebo’s dad’s frequent travels put a strain on his relationship with Laitebo’s mum. Sometimes she would find numbers of strange women on his phone contacts. They would argue and fight at the buai maket. There, the family’s entire dirty laundry would be hung out in public view.

One afternoon Laitebo came home to the family shack and saw his mum sobbing. “Mama, olsem wanem?” he asked. “Pikinini kam sindaun?” she gave a weak smile and gave him a space to sit near her. Laitebo was tense. He walked over and sat next to her and put his arm over her neck.

“Laitebo, nau yu mas kamap man,” she said. “Lo belo bus I kapsait lo Daulo Pass na papa em kisim bakarap,” she continued with a louder wail that was drowned by an Air Niugini Dreamliner landing on the Airport.

Laitebo cried loud, he was lost. He ran towards the mountains but could only get as far as the airport fence when he collapsed in grief. The guards on the other side of the fence came to check out the situation and swore at him. “Kain pipia pikinini nambaut yah laik go we, huh?” one of the guards said and the others laughed.

He’s mum realized the situation and wiped her tears before walking over to preserve her son’s dignity. The guards saw her walking over to carry her son and began teasing her. “Ayo, resa mama oh! Igat o nogat oh!” they teased her. She picked up her son and walked back to the shack.

That night after she had tucked the kids to sleep, dug out a tin from under the shack. The family savings and documents were kept there. She had a funeral and a future to plan.

____________________________________________________________

Tok pisin to English Translation

Buai maket – betelnut market

“Pikinini kam sindaun?” – child, come and take a seat

“Laitebo, nau yu mas kamap man,” – Laitebo, you have to grow up now

“Lo belo bus I kapsait lo Daulo Pass na papa em kisim bakarap,” – at about lunch time the bus crashed at Daulo Pass and dad was killed

“Kain pipia pikinini nambaut yah laik go we, huh?” – where is that stupid kid trying to go?

“Ayo, resa mama oh! Igat o! nogat oh!” – hey sexy mama, anything or nothing

The Boy from Wawoi-Guavi (Fiction)

clip_image002

My name is Afati; I’m from the Mubami tribe that lives in the rainforests that border Gulf, Western and Southern Highlands Provinces of Papua New Guinea. Our tribal lands stretch east from the banks of the Guavi River towards the Turama River, West from the Guavi River to the Wawoi River, south to the Bamu River and North to the shadow of the ancient volcano, Mount Bosavi. There are two villages that make up our tribe; Parieme and Kubeai. I am from Kubeai.

My dad was a cannibal; he hunted people not just for ceremonies but as abus. He doesn’t know when I was born. He just says that it had rained but cleared that evening and there was a full moon. Then, our people lived at the old village of Kubeai. The men had come back from hunting cassowary and the women from gathering sago.

My mother was in labour. The elderly women were assisting her in a hut built out of palm lives and wood. My dad said when I was born, the muruk meri who live in the pikus diwai wanted to steal my spirit. Every night I’d cry until the village sorcerer was called one day to come and check me out. The sorcerer removed a cassowary bone from my head. He said that the spirit woman had lost her baby and wanted to steal me.

When I was a very small boy the first white men from APC (Australasian Petroleum Company) now called Oil Search, came to look from oil in our tribal lands. They did their drilling near my village Kubeai, and at Koko in the land of the Kapolasi people who live further north.

The APC didn’t find oil so they left. After they left we never saw outsiders for many moons.

One day a missionary from the Seventh Day Adventist Church came to our people. He was from a land far away from ours. He called it Daudai, near Torres Straits and a white man’s country called Australia. He talked about Jesus and God and told us not to eat pork. My dad’s totem is the pig so he doesn’t eat pork therefore he thought this new people must be pig clan people. All of us in the pig clan became Seventh Day Adventists.

The missionary didn’t stay with us long before some Kongkongs came to see our people because they wanted to cut down our trees. They were from a company called Straits Marine. My dad asked the pastor to help us because nobody in our tribe had ever gone to school. We made the pastor the chairman of our landowner company.

In the late 1980s the company set up a logging camp at Kamusie. Then they changed their name to Wawoi Guavi Timber Company after our two rivers – Wawoi and Guavi.

I remember the first time they brought in big machines to clear the bush and build the camp at Kamusie. They brought them on a pontoon and unloaded them. We were very scared of the noise these machines made. I remember many of us kids running and peeing. It was scary.

The Kongkongs were strange people. They had eyes that looked like snakes and they spoke a different language. They didn’t even speak Motu.

The government built two classrooms for us. In 1989 they opened Kamusie Community School and I did grade one. I was a big boy with mausgras.

I remember when my old man first tried to drive the truck he bought. He drove it into a coconut tree. We were all laughing at him and he chased us way.

When our people started getting royalty payments it was very big money. The Forestry Officer brought our royalty money. We didn’t know how to spend it.

We kids didn’t go to school. We used to go to the company canteen run by Ms. Lu. She was a very angry woman. One day a kid decided to act clever with her and she said in her best tok pisin, “yu stupid me huh! Yu eye bagalap!” We were all laughing at her and her shop assistants chased us away.

The adults used to gamble their money away with the workers from the logging company. Many men would just go to. Some men went to Mosbi and bought trucks and dinghies and put them on Steamships cargo ships. Others just used up their money womanizing.

In 1994 I sat for the grade six exams. I didn’t make it to high school. Some of my friends were selected to do grade seven at Awaba High School in the land of the Gogodala people.

I was a young man by then. I went and saw Mr. Wong the Camp Manager and asked him for some work. He told me I could join the chainsaw crew under supervision of John from Kavieng.

Every fortnight we guys would go looking for K2 meri long K2 bush. There were many Bamu and Gogodala girls who were willing to sell themselves to us. We used to go and make so much noise in the banana bushes so everyone started saying, “Kamusie Pairap Oh!”

Today I’m a chainsaw operator cutting logs in the forest. I married a nice Gogodala girl from Aketa village near Kawito Mission Station.

My dad died of malaria a few years ago. He’s TATA truck died years before him. They both lie next to each other near the sawmill along the Guavi River.

_____________________________________________________________________

Translation of Tok Pisin to English

Abus – protein

Muruk meri – literally cassowary lady, refers to the mythical tree dwelling female spirit of the forest, they are said to be beautiful women with a tail, much like James Cameron’s tree dwelling aliens in Avatar.

Pikus diwai – the banyan tree

Kongkongs – Asians

Mausgras – beard

Mosbi – Port Moresby

“Yu stupid me huh! Yu eye bagalap!” - Ms. Lu attempting to say “Don’t fool me! You’ve got bad eyes”

K2 meri long K2 bush – PROSTITUTION

“Kamusie Pairap Oh!” – Slang describing prostitution

___________________________________

CONTEXT:

The author grew up with the Mubami at Kamusie Logging Camp along the Guavi River where he attended Kamusie Community School between 1994 and 1999. The general chains of historic events are true but Afati is a fictional character.

The author is not from the Mubami tribe.

The author’s mum was one of only two regular teachers who taught grades one up to six at Kamusie Community School. Her colleague was the Late Mr. Morgan Marepo from Gulf Province. She resigned from teaching last year and has been having a hard time with the Education Department, trying to get her final entitlements.

Today Kamusie Community School is a Primary School still continues to be poorly staffed.

The Wawoi Guavi Timber Company, a subsidiary of the Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau continues logging activities at Kamusie Base Camp along the Guavi River. RH also operates the Panakawa veneer mill along the Wawoi River.

The neighbouring tribes of the Mubami are the Gogodala who inhabit the Middle Fly flood plains, the Bamu who inhabit the delta region and the Kapolasi/Wawoi Falls people who live in the Shadow of Mt Bosavi – all of whom are Western Province People, and the Kuri People of the Turama River who are from Gulf Province.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Questions of Ownership and Sovereignty

 

clip_image001

Above: Barramundi caught at the mouth of the Oriomo River, South Fly, Western Province

A recent parliamentary review into mineral resource ownership and management has sparked a debate regarding transferring ownership from the State to so called traditional landowners. Proponents of this shift in ownership include prominent politicians and individuals. Their argument is straightforward, give customary landowners the right to ownership of what is under their land.

For many Papua New Guineans, this seems logical; after all, why should the State have ownership of resources that are under customary land? For millennia, their ancestors have fought to defend those tribal lands and the resources there in. With-in their cultural context it seems totally unfair that the State should take away what they regard as their birthright.

The Bougainville crisis that stemmed out of such clash of cultures illustrates the extreme reaction of people towards the State. It is this principle of presumed traditional ownership that plagues the PNGLNG Project in the Southern Highlands Province. The State has not done itself any favours by not articulating this ownerships issue well and as a consequence many illiterate people in remote rural communities still live with the assumption that any gold, copper or oil under their customary land belongs to them.

Many customary landowners in areas where resources are being extracted continue to be frustrated with the realization that they only get what the State and the Developer think is their fair share. To many, it isn’t fair at all.

For the uninitiated, the Constitution of Papua New Guinea recognizes the customary land ownership rights of Papua New Guineans. However various Acts of Parliament regarding the management of resources enable the principles of Crown ownership of the British Common Law tradition. What this means is that while indigenous communities own their traditional land, the management of certain resources within those customary land holdings are subject to Acts of Parliament.

These Acts of Parliament cover Forestry, Fisheries and Mining throughout PNG.

With elections around the corner, many politicians aim to capitalize on this public sentiment by making populist comments about resource ownership.

This is a clash of cultures; a battle between the Anglo-Australian colonial view and the traditional Melanesian view of resource ownership. The real issue being drowned out is the question of how national wealth is distributed equitably in a modern democratic state.

This is also a symptom of an identity crisis faced by many Papua New Guineans. Many still do not identify with the modern state and hold on to their traditional political identity. It is therefore frustrating to them that what they consider as their traditional resource should be shared with ‘foreigners’ from distant tribes. That is not to imply that they are greedy although some may be, rather the frustration stems from the lack of say they have over how much ‘others’ should receive. That is the Melanesian Way.

The State has not done any favours for itself in that its agents have failed miserably in their fiduciary duty to manage the natural resources well. Forestry and Fisheries resources are being overly exploited and mining projects have caused catastrophic environmental damages. This is compounded by the squandering of income from these resources, much of it being lost through corruption.

The people have lost faith in the institutions and mechanisms of the State. Instead of serving the interests of the people they are seen to be self-serving and in favour of Developers.

However, many communities in resource project areas have also shown how incompetent they are in managing the income they get. These issues were highlighted in the Barnett Inquiry into the Forestry sector. Landowners also create huge debts in the name of their mineral payments such that much of the income is diverted to servicing those debts. Very little, if anything of substance is done by these groups.

This is the awkward dilemma that the nation faces. And at the heart of the issue remains the question; who, which or what is the best and most efficient mechanism for distribution of national wealth? Is it the State or will the customary landowners do a better job? Furthermore, are these natural resources National Wealth or Customary Wealth?

One of the risks associated with this move to change ownership rights is that it places the National Government and in Institutions at the mercy of Sub-National governments and local tribal interests. It also weakens the influence of the National Government and further undermines its roles. This is the situation in Afghanistan where a weak Central Government is at the mercy of powerful regional warlords who control the opium trade.

It is therefore, not in anyone’s interest that the National Government be dancing to the tune of powerful Landlords and Governors who control its money supply. The moves to curtail the powers and rights of the National Government are driven by selfish regional and local interests and are not it the best interest of the People of Papua New Guinea.

Having powerful Landlords and Governors undermines the National Government and raises the risk of political instability and secession of regions. The transfer of ownership rights is thus akin to transfer of sovereignty and perhaps like the Sarajevo bullet that killed the Archduke of Austria, a trigger for the Balkanization of Papua New Guinea.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Wan Toktok System

 

clip_image001

Above: The Somare Foundation Building at Waigani, Port Moresby

Here is an excerpt from a media statement put out by the Governor of Gulf Province, Mr. Havila Kavo. Mr. Kavo media statement was in response to his recent arrest by Police. He writes in The National 20th April 20, 2011, page 25;

“The Police are unnecessarily applying heavy handed abuse tactics. If I, as a national leader is mistreated; no doubt, ordinary citizens are treated even worse. Police must be made accountable for abusing human rights and atrocities caused to communities. The democracy of this country is fast eroding and soon this country will be destroyed. The integrity and impartiality of the Police Force is now compromised. They no longer are protecting the citizens and their properties; instead they are now becoming a mercenary, serving the interest of the Ministers and few rich individuals while honest leaders and hard working citizens are treated, as common criminals and their properties looted.

During my short stint in cell, I chatted with those detained. They said they were picked up by the Police and locked up in the cell. They did not know what the charges were. This now gives me, adequate reasons to believe that this country has become a “police state”. Police decide on who is guilty and who is not, regardless of citizen’s constitutional rights, like they have done to me. They operate like PNG is in a civil war, acting as mercenary only taking only from certain tyranny styled leader leading this country into social anarchy and degradation”(sic)

Welcome to the light Mr. Kavo. Every MP should have some sort of baptism of fire like Mr. Kavo so that they come to their senses about the reality of living in Papua New Guinea in the 21st Century.

I believe Mr. Kavo was just crying foul over his arrest and really had no consideration for the real issue of rogue nature of elements in Papua New Guinea’s Police Force. I must stress though that the Police Force is not homogenous and there are indeed hardworking honest members of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary who serve the nation well.

I wonder if Mr. Kavo did anything to get his cell mates out from cell or is he just making political capital out of the misery of ol druggie ment bata lo stit [street boys].

Mr. Kavo's outburst seems to be the theme amongst so called leaders these days. They act holier than thou and criticize a system only when it bites them, without seriously proposing concrete solutions.

Take for example the venom that comes out from the Former Forest Minister and current PNG Party leader in the Parliamentary Opposition, Mr. Belden Namah. What he says does beg the question; “what did you do fix the issues you highlight now when you were once a cabinet minister in the government you criticize?”

That’s pretty much what happened when the former head of Planning was relieved of his position. Once he fell from grace he decided to try and spill the beans on the Planning Department.

The front page of the same paper that Mr. Kavo put out his media statement, had its front page story titled; “Ex-PM fights for resources”. Sir Julius was quoted as saying

“Today, I propose to transfer wealth to resource owners, to those simple villagers who are blessed with owning a piece of inherited customary land...” The National 20th April 20, 2011

At least Sir Julius was honest enough to admit that as a former Prime Minister and Finance geek he held a share of the responsibility. What he did not mention was that he had a conflict of interest in that he is currently fighting for monies from Lihir owed by the State to the New Ireland Province where he is currently the Governor.

To top off an interesting Newspaper, there was an opinion piece by Dr Samuel Maima, the Technical Adviser of the Boka Kondra Bill that aims to restore ownership of mineral wealth to customary landowners. He said;

“As far as the ownership of resources is concerned, the Oil and Gas Act 1998 and Mining Act 1992 are not consistent within the National Constitution section 53 and therefore these acts are deemed unconstitutional”.

Well I guess Dr Maima has a Bill to hawk to the public. What Mr. Maima did not tell us is that the Acts the he referred to as unconstitutional aren’t unconstitutional until deemed to be so by the Supreme Court and not by the learned Doctor.

There are some leaders who do understand the weaknesses of the systems in our country. Today, many benefit from the institutional reforms and policies of former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta. Dame Carol Kidu’s social reforms are empowering ordinary people. We need leaders like these two, whose actions speak louder than all the rhetoric spewed by every other pretender to the throne.

As Sir Mekere once highlighted, the problems in this country are “systemic and systematic”.

I would like to go further and add that it is not the systems but the systems administrators who are the cause of the systemic and systematic failures. Changing the systems without addressing the incompetence of the systems administrators will not address the issues affecting the country.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Scool Uniform Project

Touching young hearts and transforming lives

Every morning during the week days people come to my betelnut table to change their money for bus fare coins. Some of these are parents who change their money and send off their kids to school.

I've noticed many give their children just K2 (K1 = 36 US cents). The K2 that the child gets is to travel to and fro school and that costs about K1. So the child has only K1 for lunch.

Many of these children don't even have breakfast before going to school.

It is with-in this context that they are expected to compete with their peers who may come from better homes. At big city schools like Wardstrip Primary School one can notice the difference. The haves can afford to buy a pie and a can of coke while the have nots buy fried flour balls and wash them down with Port Moresby's finest tap water.

Obviously many of us cannot right these socio-economic disparities on our own.

There this one thing that individuals can do. I am appealing to former students of Primary and Secondary Schools in Port Moresby to donate your old school uniforms to these disadvantaged children. Also, students who've moved from junior to senior level can hand down their old junior school uniforms.

Many of you are familiar with the kids who had bad body odour probably because they wore the same uniform shirt for the whole week. Many may recall students whose uniforms had seen better days.

Gift wrap the old uniform and label type (shirt, blouse, etc...) and size and hand it to the school office. Many teachers are aware of the needy in class and are likely to pass it on.

I suppose former students of schools around PNG can do likewise.

This is about building a sense of community, which is dreadfully lacking in the city and country. Those who feel disenfranchised need to be made aware that the rest of us are concerned about their plight.

This idea was inspired by a meeting I had yesterday with Father John Glynn. Father John is a retired Catholic Priest who founded WeCARE (Women and Children at Risk), a charity that empowers individuals in the community to support vulnerable women and children. He told me about a similar suggestion he had put forward to the folks at Jubilee Catholic Secondary School.

I hope PNG gets behind the sCOOL UNIFORM PROJECT.

It is about giving a sense of dignity to OUR FELLOW YOUNG PAPUA NEW GUINEANS and perhaps a uniform once worn by a lawyer may inspire someone to become one.

Monday, April 18, 2011

States of my mind: dealing with depression

I have been clinically depressed for over seven months now. No, it has nothing to do with leaving Medical School. I am a pragmatic person who rarely cries over spilt milk. I had accepted that reality and was hoping to move on. It is the moving on part of my life that has been difficult. I suppose all transitions are difficult anyway but I have never experienced one so personal before.

The anxiety surrounding what the future may look like has caused a lot of strain. I have had an open mind about taking whatever opportunity comes my way but so far there has been none.

I would describe the manifestations of my depression as follows; first it was triggered by an event or an environmental cue such that my thoughts would be in a frenzy regurgitating all the negativity in my life. Then the somatic expression of it would be in chest tightness, headaches and backache.

It came like a wave and knocked me down lasting a few minutes to several days. I would take long walks just to distract my mind and focus on other things. A recent walk was the one I had from home to 9 mile and that inspired the short story "The Street Vendor."

I did have suicidal ideations and tested the ceiling fan in my room to see if it could hold my weight. I am not heavy; in fact I am so light my small brother in grade 9 can lift me up like paper. Anyway, the reason I never committed suicide is that I have made commitments to my friends that I wouldn't and I would never dishonor that. I also have a written agreement with a former acquaintance from medical school in which we both mutually agreed on paper not to ever do such a thing. These have been my restrainers and I recommend them as tools for suicide prevention.

One of the frustrations about dealing with depression/anxiety is the lack of knowledge within the community about mental illness. I would get blank looks and silly questions when I said I was depressed.

I suppose you may be wondering why a medically trained person did not seek psychiatric assistance. The answer is STIGMA! I did not want to be seen as a loony. Indeed, I was very depressed in Year 4 at medical school but chose not to seek help, for fear of being seen as unable to withstand the pressures of being a doctor. I must say I was relieved when I got the news I wasn't going back to do medicine. I was so happy.

I have been very fortunate to have two online friends who have been my sounding boards. Both are Aussie guys whom I met on chat sites. They've been my anchors, providing me with kind words of encouragement whenever the stormy seas raged through my head.

I would also recommend that anyone who is depressed should at least talk to someone. This is crucial as there is a tendency to isolate one's self from friends, colleagues and family because one feels that they don't understand. I suppose one of the common mistakes people make is to tell a depressed person that "it's all gonna be OK" when as far as the person is concerned "it aint OK." Just listen and don't judge.

Last Saturday I had a bout of depression that struck me severely. As I lay on the floor I texted my Aussie mate just telling him to say something nice. He replied "Martyn... God made you in HIS IMAGE!!! There is nobody that is more than the heavenly [F]ather! And [H]e has made you to be like him!! You are GREAT! ..."

I read the message and reflected on what he had said. Earlier that day I was watching TV and someone was preaching about John the Baptists Great Disappointment as it dawned to him that Christ was not the Messiah who would set up an earthly kingdom. It was a light bulb moment for me. A perfect coincidence or divine intervention!

You see folks I am not a Church goer or as Tony Blair once said "We don't do God." I consider myself a secular person and I do not do God. My interest in religion is purely academic than spiritual. Yet I was struck by these messages.

I suppose religion does have some answers such as "I do not know about the future but God only knows." I know it is a cliché to many but I've had seven months to figure out that I should stop worrying about not having a future because who am I to know what the future will be like.

I've had to let go of the false idea that somehow I can determine my future. This stems from the brainwashing I got that the future was in my hands. It's obvious around us that many people stress over determining their future. As the recent Global Financial Crisis illustrates, very highly intelligent analysts and their complex mathematical calculations couldn't predict the crash. Many people lost billions and some committed suicide.

What's the point in worrying about the future when we have no way of knowing how it will turn out? Let's just deal with the issues we have at hand so that they do not continue to haunt us in the future.

Depressed people are unhappy, irritating people who send out bad vibes to everyone around them. They're annoying, angry, negative people who have a tendency to put out other people's happiness. They don't see the sunny side of life and are always concerned about their selfish walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Whenever I flirted I usually quoted rather irreverently the 13th Chapter of 1Corinthians; "love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or proud... love conquers all..." Today it has a new significance; that in order to be loved by everyone, one has to be patient, kind and not envious.

Depressed people are not patient. They want quick fixes to their problems and the longer the problems persist the more depressed they become.

Depressed people do not express kindness in their actions and in their words. They are as irritable as they are irritating. Such as parents who come from work and a very abusive to everyone over minor matters at home because they find their work depressing.

Depressed people are very envious. In fact, it is largely due to the envy they have of other people's good fortune that they feel depressed because they can't have the same good fortune. Nagging wives are a fantastic example of this.

So to come out of depression one has to learn to love one's self, love God, love the People and love the environment. That is because, "love does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked and thinks no evil. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Love never fails". [ibid]

I decided there and then that I'd let God worry about my future while I savour every moment of my life. Life is in itself a precious miracle, one that science cannot define but what religion refers to as Gods own breath.

On Saturday the 16th of April 2011, I felt like I was reborn out of my depression. It was as though a huge weight had been taken off me. I am a happier person today and I can see the sun shining from eternity to infinity. I have fewer worries about life and I am more positive about my outlook.

No, I do not expect miracles or any special favours from God. I'm satisfied with the miracle of life itself. Even Bill Gates with all his billions cannot buy a new life for himself nor can he create life. We are all rich in essence, and yet we chose to live in the poverty of depression, depriving ourselves of the company of our friends and family and the wonders of God's creation and enjoying the fullness of life.

I suppose I now have a fresh new perspective of life. I am glad I got through without psychotropic drugs. I'd hate to be dependent on tricyclic antidepressants. In a way as well I believe I have learnt a lot and grown up from this experience.

And so folks I suppose I followed the advice in Luke's gospel "Physician cure thy self" and it worked but I'm not taking credit for this – that belongs to the Great Physician who has mercifully cured me. I am content with my life as it is and whatever will be, will be.

In a country where mental health services have a limited reach to the populace, I believe my experience does show how Churches in Papua New Guinea can play an important role in filling that void.

I once heard a hymn sung at the Seventh Day Adventist Church nearby as I walking by one Wednesday evening. As I've written this, I recall how I scoffed at it;

"Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.... because He lives all fear is gone..." Those are the few lines I remember. Today, they make a lot of sense to me.


 

POETRY

States of My Mind

I suffered in the cell of Sargon

That dark old dreadful dragon

Who torments my living memory

With the ancient stench of history


 

I decayed in the dungeon of Darius

Who has conquered me like a virus

Each day reminding me

That I may never be free


 

I gasped in the grave of Gilgamesh

Burning my mortal flesh

In a flood of infinite pain

That strikes my mind like rain


 

Now I pray in the House of Job

He tells me not to sob

"The Ancient of Days," he says

"Will wipe your tears away"


 


 


 


 


 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Getting women into Parliament


Last night, for the first time in my miserable life, I had a weird dream that I was elected into Parliament. And guess what happened as I was about to take my seat; the Honourable Members decided to adjourn Parliament. Perhaps my ambitious subconscious wanted me to write about politics.
Part of the Legislative agenda this May sitting of Parliament is the creation of Reserved Seats for women. It is expected that there will be 22 Reserved Seats created for women in Parliament, one for each province including the National Capital District and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
The rationale for the creation of these seats is to have better female representation in Parliament. This is due to the fact that since independence in 1975 the electorate in Papua New Guinea has not elected women in large numbers. Such affirmative action was thus considered necessary to correct this gender imbalance.
Even passing of the enabling legislation has been difficult. The male dominated Parliament has postponed voting on the issue. It is widely believed that much of this stems out of Parliamentarians being preoccupied with parochial issues and being less concerned about the matter.
It is further believed that many MPs are also concerned about the role of these Reserved Seats with-in their own electorates especially when the electoral boundaries of Reserved Seats are the same as Provincial Boundaries. This is a genuine concern that current MPs have and proponents of the legislative reform have not articulated the electoral duties of these Seats clearly. There is thus a risk of duplication of tasks in the Provinces.
While such affirmative action is commendable, it does not address the root causes of women not being elected. It is generally understood that voting patterns in Papua New Guinea reflect tribal ties and the ‘Bigman’ status of the candidate with-in a particular society. People do not vote along Political Party lines and are not necessarily influenced by the policies that Parties put forward. Most candidates win based on their cultural ties and how well they convince people about the ‘cargo’ they will bring.
It is within this social context that women have to compete for power and influence. Regardless of the perceptions people may have about voters, most would vote for women who play the same game that men do. Women need to be seen to be active participants in the political affairs of societies at the local and sub-National level because that is where the votes are.
Instead, most politically inclined women are concerned with issues at the National level, which may be of genuine concern but are irrelevant in the minds of the voters. Thus at election time, women who may be vocal about national issues fail to get support at the local level. In the minds of ol ples lain [voters] “ol i nogat nem na luksave.” [they lack recognition as leaders]
A major risk of this electoral reform is that it creates a perception that the Open Electorates are male seats since the women have got their special seats. To address this, the Reserve Seats should be created for a lifespan of three to four Parliaments and continued only if the need still exists. Hopefully by then, the public’s perception of women leaders would be positive and this translated into more women been elected in the Provincial and Open Seats. There would also be a generation who has grown up in the context of seeing women in Power.
The creation of the Reserved Seats should be an act of showing the voters the important contributions of female leadership rather than a solution to the issue of gender imbalance in politics.
My recommendations to Dame Carol, MP
Ma’am, with due respect to the hard work you have done but for the sake of our mothers, sisters, aunties, girlfriends, wives and grandmothers;
1. Let the Bill be introduced on the floor of Parliament by a male colleague who has standing, someone like Mr. Parkop or even better the Father of the Nation, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare: in a male dominated Parliament, the fact that you have not been able to table the Bill reflects the perception of your colleagues about you as a leader
2. Amend the Draft Bill to include restricting the life of the Seats to three to four Parliaments. I believe this is an important concession that may make the Bill easier to be passed. As I have mentioned in the article, the Bill should be a stepping stone towards the universal acceptance of the leadership of women in politics rather than a permanent solution to the issue of gender balance in politics. The true solution lies in the fact that a woman can compete with men in an election and win.
I wish you and all women, success in getting the Bill passed

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

TOK SAVE

 

After publishing my plea for assistance in finding a job I have received very good responses. I haven’t got a job yet but I’ll keep blogging because I know you the readers care about issues that are bigger than me.

I may not get a job but at least I have contributed something to society, however insignificant it may be.

I’ll be blogging for the Lost, Least and the Last – the disenfranchised – for those of us who walk in the valley of the shadow of death.

Each day cheating death as it presents itself in various forms: violence, poverty, tropical disease, drug abuse, etc...

This is my service to humanity

Thank you all for your encouragement, it means a lot to me.

Gracias mis amigos

SHORT STORY

 
THE STREET VENDOR
Dedicated to all street vendors in Port Moresby
clip_image002
John had completed year 12 at De La Salle Secondary School. He did not receive an offer for further tertiary or technical education and was living at 9 mile squatter settlement with his parents and five siblings. The family had no access to running water or electricity. They shared a pit toilet with three other families. The family earned its income by raising chickens which they sold at Gordons Market.
John had built a hut for himself while his family shared the family shack with his two uncles and three cousins. His flimsy hut was built of pieces of timber, scrap metal and cardboard he had scavenged from the city of Port Moresby. The earth floor was lined with plastic sheets and an old discarded carpet. It was a colourful work of art. Like a bower bird’s nest, it reflected the bits and pieces that he had collected to create this shelter.
John woke one morning after having spent the previous evening drinking home brew. He peered through a gap in the wall of the hut and he could see the fog covered Owen Stanley Range in the distance. In the valley below, the terraced hillside contained plots of cabbages, peanuts, beans and corn. He could see some men and women collecting water from the swamp to water their vegetable plots. Others harvested and packed their crops into their bilums. These crops were destined for sale at the markets in the city.
He picked up his mobile phone from the floor. There was a message and 3 missed calls from Agnes. “Kaikai Curry rice!” he exclaimed. Agnes was his phone pal from Rabaul. Like most phone pals in Papua New Guinea their relationship started when John just decided one day to dial a random number on his phone. Agnes answered and one thing led to another.
It was 6 am and John had to leave for the bus stop to catch bus number 16 to Gordons. John collected his cigarette packets, mustard, phone cards, betel nuts, and lime. He placed them into his bilum and walked to the bus stop at 9 mile market. There he met up with a crowd of workers, drug dealers, vegetable sellers, pick-pocketers and students all headed for the big smoke.
Everyone was rushing for the buses as they arrived at the bus stop. People were climbing in through the bus windows as commuters made their way out through the door. By the time the last passenger had hopped off a bus, the bus was full. For women and children, completing against acrobatic guys was an impossible task.
John wasn’t in a hurry; he was doing a roaring trade at the bus stop while frustrated passengers and bus crew traded insults. Many passengers who wanted to change their money came and bought his betel nuts, cigarettes and phone cards.
Amongst the choir of chaos John the soloist sang to the crowd, “5 lus! 5 lus! K1 buai! Flex stap! Wanbel stap!”
______________________________________________________________________


Translation of Tok Pisin to English
Kaikai curry rice – eat curried rice; an expression of frustration
5 lus – 5 loose; means 50 toea (cents) for a single cigarette
K1 buai – K1 betel nut; means 1 Kina (dollar) for a betel nut includes free mustard (betel nuts are also known as areca nuts – they contain arecholine which acts as a stimulant drug)
Flex stap – Phone cards on sale
Wanbel stap – Peace
Bilum – a string bag

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ticking Sex Bomb

 

When I arrived in the Port Moresby in 2002 the city was abuzz with the word ‘koap’- Pidgin for coitus. Parents were trying to shield their children from Dr Clement Malau’s HIV prevention ads on TV. I was in Grade 9 at Port Moresby Grammar School and everyone was fascinated by what was being revealed. This was the beginning of the sexual revolution in Port Moresby and throughout Papua New Guinea.

Dr Malau left the following year to take up a post in the newly independent East Timor. The children who were being shielded from condom adverts and the word “koap” are now in their mid to late teens and are sexually active, promiscuous and addicted to mobile porn.

Dr Malau is, in my opinion, the greatest social reformer in PNG. Today one can have an open discussion on sex in public with any member of the public. More importantly, one can have such discussions with the opposite sex without causing embarrassment. Everyone I interact with has an opinion on sex.

The advent of mobile phones has made solicitation of casual sex easier. Numbers are passed from friend to friend or friend of a friend to friend of a friend. Because of anonymity, at initial contact the intention to engage in sex is explicitly expressed by either or both parties. Meetings are then arranged.

Chat sites accessed via the mobile web or the mobile network also assist in facilitating contact between interested parties.

Despite the gender inequalities in society, at least on the issue of negotiating sex I believe there is equilibrium amongst the younger generation. Girls just wanna have fun and so do the boys.

I do not know what demographers classify this generation of 14 to 18 year olds in Port Moresby but I’m calling them Generation M(Gen M) in honour of Dr Malau. These were the little kids that parents were shielding from Dr Malau’s condom ads. Dr Malau may have unintentionally created the sexual revolution that Gen M is experiencing.

Gen M are very good demographers themselves. I’ve learnt a lot about them from chatting with them at the buai maket. They use terms like Fada (an older male), Mada (an older female), Sis (female peer), Batz (male peer), Kaksy (cool guy/girl), LBM (Liklik-Big-Man refers to small boys who are respected by older boys), Ment (drug-addict or foul mouthed), Stone-Head (Someone who talks back at authority), Mums (Mother), Paps (Dad) etc… to classify members of society. Everyone is tagged and the tag defines the place, role and characteristics of the individual in society.

Gen M is responsible for the introduction of the concept of Son into the mainstream youth culture. Son refers to a member of the peer group who lacks seniority. This hierarchical relationship evolved out of the so called Generation School Cult System. You have a senior Father figure and the rest of the boys of the peer group are his Sons. This is not cultish but a new way of defining the interactions between peers.

The two most important cultural phenomena that define Gen M are the so called Testim Bros (Generation School Cult) and the Cannist (Spray paint Graffiti). The “in crowd” are those involved in both practices. These are the guys and girls idolized by their peers. In fact, students who refuse to be involved in such practices are stigmatized and the derogatory phrase that refers to them as “ol sua lain”.

In a country where the young have very little say over decisions made at home, in schools, in communities and at the national and sub-national level Gen M have created new power structures. The only variable they can control in their life is their body. They may not control family finances or businesses or government agencies but they can do whatever pleases them with their body. This is expressed in their prolific consumption of drugs, alcohol and sex.

The central event of both the Testim Bros and Cannist sub-cultures is the Sindaun. Sindaun is when home brew is drunk and a sexual orgy takes place. The production of home brew aka spinim baket is done is a large garbage bin. The Spokesman of the group aka sua man negotiates (toromoi liklik deti toktok) with girls who are willing to participate in the alcohol fuelled sexual orgy. The Sindaun is also a meeting place where ‘outstanding’ members of these subcultures are ‘recognised’ by their peers especially the girls. That is how these ‘outstanding’ guys gain recognition and status in Gen M (ol kisim bikpela luksave na ol kamap Bikpela Man tumas).

Herein lies a powder keg that may destroy gains made in HIV prevention. Condoms are still not easily accessible to Gen M and Gen M is very well aware of how babies are made. Consequently, much of the sex that takes place at the Sindaun is highly risky, unprotected, heterosexual anal sex. It would be of great value to have regular distribution of condoms to High School and Top Up students in Port Moresby schools especially on Fridays.

To my mind, testim bros and cannist subcultures aren’t cults in the religious sense of the word but cults to the extent that there is devotion and adoration of the Mother or Father figure of the group associated with alcohol fuelled group-sex. These subcultures are also viewed by their followers as a form of entertainment - an excuse to get drunk and get laid. In a closed society where there are few entertainment options for its young, rather than going home and having boring weekends, students get drunk and entertain themselves.

I believe this is also true for adults. Port Moresby is so socially and culturally dead that the only form of entertainment seems to be getting drunk, nightclubbing and having casual sex over the weekend (kisim wara, kisim laif na pati).

This is a difficult issue to resolve especially when it involves sex and affects a demography that is becoming sexually active younger. They have the technology to communicate and organize themselves to fulfill their hormonal urges. The desire to have sex is further amplified by viewing of mobile porn. I believe what needs to be done is to minimize the risk of unwanted pregnancy and HIV by indiscriminately supplying condoms to Gen M. Only peer pressure from with-in Gen M can put an end to these practices.

The question now is; how we immunize the generation after Gen M from such practices?

Friday, April 8, 2011

LETTER TO THE EDITOR THAT DIDN’T GET PUBLISHED

TIME FOR A NEW SOCIETY

A SPECIAL BLOG ENTRY Dedicated to Louise Ewington, thanks for your support


 

Dear Editor


 

I refer to a report in your paper titled "CHURCH PETITIONS DAME CAROL'S MOVE" in The National dated 7th April, 2011 relating to Pr. Kwiberi's opposition towards moves to decriminalize prostitution and homosexuality.


 

I do not dispute that Pr. Kwiberi's opinions are shared by a majority of Papua New Guineans.


 

However, throughout history there are many examples where the majority view has been wrong.


 

The Christian Church got it wrong when it imprisoned Galileo when he declared that the Sun was the center of the solar system and not the Earth as taught by the Church. Did the Christians interpret the Bible correctly, regarding Joshua commanding the Sun not to set?

Throughout history the Church in Europe used secular governments to persecute and murder many minorities who dared to oppose its views, for example the massacre of the Huguenots of France and the Inquisition. Did the Church interpret Scripture correctly?

More recently, the Nazis in Germany were democratically elected by a majority of the German people. Yes, the Germans were Christians and these Christians murdered over six million Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals. Was the majority view of the German population right?

I believe therefore that Scripture is open to interpretation and only God knows the absolute meaning of His Word is. No human can claim to know the mind of God. I therefore do not intend to engage theological debate on matters I am not qualified to speak on.

I wish to concentrate however on the secular grounds by which I believe the matters proposed by Dame Carol are based.

Firstly, contrary to what many think, Papua New Guinea is NOT a Christian Country. It is not a theocracy but a secular democratic state. That is why you see a mosque and at Holola, Buddhist shrine at Gordons Industrial area, a Baha'i center at Tokarara etc… Christianity does not have exclusive dominion on religious affairs in PNG however its important contributions to the nation are captured in the Preamble of the Constitution. The secular state is therefore not under any obligation to kowtow to the views of the Churches in Papua New Guinea including on issues regarding prostitution and homosexuality.

Secondly, Dame Carol's proposition is about social reform. Dame Carol's initiative is consistent with Universal Human Rights Principles as well as the promotion of social justice in our country. It is about protecting marginalized and stigmatized members of society who face many perils. They are a modern day representation of the tax collectors of Biblical times. Tax collectors in Biblical times were the most despised members of Jewish society because they represented the evil Roman Empire. Why then would Christ have dinner with a tax collector? I believe it is my Christian/Secular duty as a citizen to stand up for the Lost, the Last and the Least in society.

With the onset of the new age of the gas economy there is a need to define a new Papua New Guinean society. A society that is inclusive and reflects the diversity of this beautiful nation of ours. A society where one is judged by the conduct of one's character and not by one's ethnicity, sexual orientation or social class.

A new Papua New Guinean society where its sons and daughter s have an equal opportunity to meaningfully participate in the social, economic and political development of the nation. A society where one is rewarded on based on merit and hard work and not by the connections one has. A society where young people do not have fears about tomorrow because today was even better than yesterday.

I believe the new society is one that promotes the democratic values of liberty, equality and fraternity. I believe in a new and just society that Dame Carol has been working towards achieving. A society that empowers its unemployed. A society where women have a voice in Parliament and in the corridors of power. A society that protects vulnerable members of the community and respects the dignity of every human person.

The new society is one that is well educated, well connected and governed well. It is a society whereby an educated population is empowered to excel. It is a society connected by efficient transport and communications infrastructure that act as the basis for the delivery of all other goods and services throughout the nation. It is a society that invests in good governance mechanism so that there is social justice and greater accountability.

I believe that is the kind of society all Papua New Guineans want to belong to regardless of our religion, ethnicity, social class, gender or sexual orientation.


 


 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

OBJECTION OVER-RULED

clip_image002

I was given a task to rewrite a RECORD OF CONVERSATION and create a MATTER FILE before compiling a SOLICITOR-CLIENT BILL OF COSTS FOR TAXATION. I was given a few unclear instructions and handed a thick publication titled NATIONAL COURT ACT CHAPTER 38.

No kidding folks! I get asked to do case briefings and edit write-ups. Anyway, I’m doing pro bono for someone who is being trained at the Legal Training Institute.

While trying to make sense of the case given I thought of how our Judiciary has being under attack recently. This is most unheard of in most civilized countries. In civilized countries commenting about decisions made by the Judiciary is a no-go-zone.

I suppose it was bound to happen. When you have mutterings from with-in the Judicial System you create a scenario where average Joe thinks he too can put his one-toea-two-toea comments in the media.

The Chief Justice or any officer of the Court has a duty to assist the Court in seeking Justice. The Common Law tradition which we have inherited from our Colonial masters is one steeped in a long and colourful history. It is a tradition that is today being used by many former British colonies.

Most civilized people would think it faux pas to call on the Chief Justice to resign. Furthermore, it is contempt of Court to criticize court decisions. There is a forum for criticizing any decision of the Court and it called the Appeals process.

It is not considered appropriate within the tradition of the Court that a Judge comment in the media about matters relating to the Judiciary. That is why the Chief Justice has maintained an honourable silence. Who then is going to defend the Judiciary then when all we get is one-sided opinions in the media regarding recent decisions?

Courts exist to objectively assess the facts and to rule for or against disputing parties based on the facts. That is the nature of the justice system. It is based on this dictum of Edmund Burk; “no man shall be judge unto his own cause.”

We need an independent judiciary supported by the people. For whereas the British and Australian Courts have the Sovereign as the Fountain of Justice, Papua New Guinean Courts have the people. That is why we don’t have Crown Prosecutors and Queens Counsels; we have Public Prosecutors and Public solicitors.

A friend once told me in the middle of a soccer match at Bisini; “there’s the truth according to me, the truth according to you and the truth according to the truth.” The Courts help us find the truth according to the truth and it is by the truth that we are either justified or condemned.

Your Honour, I rest my case!

Monday, April 4, 2011

FRANKENSTEIN: DANGEROUS IDEAS

OVER the weekend I was very depressed. Months were passing by and my life seems to be going nowhere. My entire body ached, and my head felt like it was about to explode. Anyway, I took a long cold shower to distract my thought processes that seem to feed upon themselves.

I was walking by the kitchen in the afternoon when I sighed, "Freakinstein!" Upon hearing me, my sister enquired if I had read the book FRANKESTEIN by Mary Shelley. She told me had had a copy which she hadn't read yet. She asked me if I wanted to read the book.

I thought it would be a great idea to put my mind on something else so I agreed to read it.

I couldn't help but notice the similarities between my predicament and that of many of the characters in the book. There is R Walton, an explorer whose ambition is to be the first to reach the North Pole. Mr. Frankenstein is a university student on the quest to discover the meaning of life.

Walton is longing for a friend, a close confidant with whom he can express himself to and be understood. They both meet by chance as Frankenstein is found adrift in the Arctic by Walton and his crew. Walton becomes fond of Frankenstein as the latter relates to him the story that unfolds in the book – the creation of a monster by Frankenstein and the tragic events that followed.

The book is mostly narrated by Frankenstein although there are a few chapters where the monster narrates events of his life as well as parts by Walton.

One of the most poignant moments for me was when the monster discovers the effects of fire. The monster relates the events as follows;

"One day, when I was oppressed by cold, I found a fire …, and was overcome with delight at the warmth I experienced from it. In my joy I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out with a cry of pain. How strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects!"

To me, the statement by the monster summarizes everything about life. The people whose company we enjoy and the objects whose pleasure we seek can also be a source of great angst, disappointment and tragedy.

I found the book fascinating to read from start to end. I got a sense that the author isn't concerned so much with the lives of her characters rather she is concerned with how ambitious people, like the characters in the book, deal with disappointment and failure. Throughout the book, the author discusses topics in morality, ethics, politics, psychology, etc…

The monsters we create are ideas and decisions that we put forward to the world around us. This blog I have created is a monster, not only has it eaten up the money I was saving to buy a phone, it also contains ideas that may have unintended consequences. I therefore recommend that you take each blog entry with more than a large pinch of salt.

A TALE OF FORBIDEN LOVE

 

BAMBOO BOYS

The title of this story “BAMBOO BOYS” is inspired by the Papua New Guinean writer Kasaipwalova who uses the Tok Pisin expression KATIM MAMBU (cut the bamboo) in one of his stories to describe buggery at Bomana Prison. In contemporary PNG homosexuality is illegal. There are currently moves towards the decriminalization of Homosexuality. The short story below is a fusion of jokes, myth, stories and prejudices about gay guys that flows as part of the mauswara that occurs at my buai maket.

Dedicated to my courageous Australian friend Jai

SAM_5385.AVI_000044199

MONDAY

The mobile phone was vibrating. Ralph stirred from his sleep and checked his phone. There was an early morning message from Steve. It read; “wakey! Wakey! Hands off your snakey! Get up scratch your bum and get ready for school!” “Cheeky,” Ralph texted back to Steve. Ralph smiled and looked at the time and his smile was wiped off. It was 6:30 am. He needed to be at the bus stop at 7:00 AM or he’d have trouble catching the bus to school.

Ralph was in year 12 at Gordon Secondary School in Port Moresby. His phone friend Steve was a member of the Air Niugini cabin crew. Steve was 22 years old from Manus and New Ireland while Ralph was an 18 year old Central Province lad.

They both had met via the chat service provided by the local mobile company. Obviously, it wasn’t love at first sight considering they were just texting but they seemed to be sending the right signals over the network coverage area.

Tuesday

At 10 PM Ralph sent Steve a text that read; “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” And he waited and waited but there was no reply. He went to sleep disappointed.

Wednesday

He woke up in the morning and found a message from Steve on his phone. It read; “lol. XXX…Sorry babe, went to sleep early. Got up this morn and saw your message...XXX”

Ralph replied Steve’s text and prepared himself for school.

That evening Steve texted back “guess where I am babe.” Ralph had no phone credits so he sent a CREDIT ME K1 message to Steve. Steve sent Ralph K5 phone credits and they both began chatting.

“Lae,” Ralph replied. “Lol. How did you know, babe?” Steve texted. “Telepathy, Were connected, babe xxxx” Ralph replied.

“So, how was your day,” Steve texted back. “Was a shocker, the boys made me to join the girl’s netball team. No one wants gays in their team,” Ralph replied. “I’m so sorry babe, wish I was there to comfort you,” Steve texted.

“Mmm, kinky xxxx,” Ralph replied. “Hehehe horny stud, hope this will cheer you up: sex is when I put my location into your destination, do you understand my definition or do you need a demonstration,” Steve texted back. “HAHAHA, you’re filthy spunk. I think I’d love a demonstration. Thanks dude I feel better now.”

“Love you babe, I’m getting some shut-eye now xoxox” Steve texted. “Love you to, 99 xoxox” Ralph replied

Thursday

The boys had never met face to face. Steve was always busy as an Air Niugini trolley dolly and his off days were irregularly irregular such that I was almost impossible to have a meeting. Steve offered to take Ralph out on a weekend getaway but Ralph declined because he had the Year 12 exams coming up.

That evening Steve texted, “hey babe wassup, can I call you.” Ralph was nervous. He had never talked to Steve on the phone. “OK,” he replied. Ralph waited for the phone to ring. Two minutes later he received a text message from Steve. “Sup babe, my call was diverted to your voicemail.”

Ralph looked in horror at his phone. He had indeed forwarded all incoming calls to the voice messaging center. “Sorry hon, I’ve sorted the problem, you can call now”

Steve called and they both talked for half an hour. Later that night Steve texted; “Babe I’m in a trance, you sounded like a choir of angels but ten thousand times ten thousand times more beautiful. I think I’m falling for you.”

Ralph was blown away by that. His pulse raced, his pupils were dilated and a surge of oxytocin and dopamine in his brain made him feel light and he had goose bumps. His hands and feet trembled as his nerves fired erratically and for a moment he felt as if the Universe had paused from its activity, picked him up and carried him to its bosom for a cuddle.

“When you fall from a bridge, you fall into a river, when you fall from a tree, you fall to the ground, but when you fall in love, you fall into my arms,” Ralph replied to Steve.

FRIDAY

Steve was in Rabaul that evening drinking coke and whisky by the hotel pool. It was a warm evening and the last rays of the sun danced off the ripples in the pool. His phone rang. It was message from Ralph.

He smiled and opened the message. The message read, “Hi. I’m sorry to inform you that Ralph was killed at the bus stop today by some jealous guys. He told me that you were his best friend. RALPHS SISTER.”

Steve was distraught. He couldn’t believe the message. “My greatest pain is I love in Vain!” he cried.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

FOR MY READERS

 

It’s the Weekend so I thought I should present something a little different. I am grateful to all of you who follow my blog or visit it to read my posts.

SAM_5384.AVI_000102932

Above: Man of the Moment __A traditional Dancer from Sandaun Province, Papua New Guinea

I suppose one of the problems with some of the posts is that they may contain too much jargon speak. I’d hate to be branded a show-off or at worst someone who doesn't know what he’s talking about and uses fancy terms to cover-up his ignorance.

That’s what happened when I once attend ended a meeting. Some intelligent being which I will now refer to as IT was making a point when IT used the word PEDANTIC. IT was talking about observing the laws when IT said, “now I do not want be PEDANTIC…” etc… Batz em faul. IT toktok lo wanem?

This brings me to the story of an wanpela lapun lo ples, who wanted to impress his bubus with his english. Lapun ya sindaun kakai pis stap na em laik tokim ol bubu, “This is my favourite fish” na nogat em tok “ Bubus this is my private fish”

Anyway, I heard the Indians gave women in Port Moresby a women only bus. Its great coz the population pressures are great and women get a raw deal on the public transport system. Ol meri tu sa sanap lo dua blo bus.

Road safety is not a game!

There’s this say that goes: A WOMAN IS LIKE THE ROAD, THE MORE CURVES SHE HAS, THE MORE DANGEROUS SHE IS. Maybe drivers shouldn't be distracted by female pedestrians not ‘PEDANTRY’.  Leave women in peace.

A doctor once told me that one of the reasons he loved PNG was that he could drink and drive in this country and get away with it. So I gave him some advice that my small brother gave to me: ROAD SAFETY, DONT DRINK AND DRIVE – FREEZE THE BEER THEN EAT AND DRIVE!

Now can you believe what's happening these days. I was in church the other day when I saw a man light up a cigarette in front of me. I was so shocked I nearly choked on the beer I was drinking and dropped some condoms onto the floor. Hehehe! Someone SMS-ed that joke to me. It does make one wonder why some people attend Church.

I prefer getting jokes to all those other clichés that people text coz I don’t get inspired or encouraged by chain messages. The only one that made sense to me read; “friendship is like medicine, they both relieve our suffering: the difference is friendship doesn’t have an expiry date.” My friends make life worth living and I treasure them. There’s an Italian saying “qui trov un amico, trov un tesoro” – WHO FINDS A FRIEND FINDS A TREASURE.

Chao mis amigos! Take care during the weekend and HOPE YOU DIDN’T GET FOOLED ON THE FIRST DAY OF APRIL.

Au revoir!