An intolerable situation: Disasters in Governance

9 02 2012

by Gary Juffa

In the last few months, Papua New Guinea has experienced a spate of disasters in rapid succession. It is as if the elements of nature have spewed out their anger and Papua New Guinea experienced disasters from the air, land and now water. Yet it is not nature that cost the nation the lives of Papua New Guineas sons and daughters so much as human errors in judgment by those who had the opportunity to prevent the terrible events from occurring – humans.

In these instances, human beings employed in foreign owned companies operating in PNG. Yet even these agents are not to be blamed so much as the persons who direct and urge them to act and employ them and do so for profit.
These are of course the owners of the company, those who reap the profits of the business activities that generate the revenues for their bank accounts.

But even they are only partially to blame. For there are those who sit above these rampant profiteers in so far as responsibility is concerned, placed there by “the people”. The government, its elected officials and the departments and agencies and their agents, developing policy and providing check and balance, regulatory and monitory oversight in strategic and tactical efforts to protect the interests of those who need the goods and services provided by the profiteers, “the people”.

The events that occurred in the last few months are instructive examples of how the people have been ignored, left unprotected to the whim and will of corporate interest. While no one doubts the use and need for corporate activities and their benefits, their taxes, which they reluctantly pay and only if asked, they are in need of controls and regulations so that their fundamental ambition, their mission, to generate profit, often driven by the greed of those who own them, must not interfere with human life in so far as reducing it to mere costs on a profit and loss statement. That responsibility is placed firmly every 5 years on a select group of individuals chosen from among the people themselves, to act as guardians of the interests of the people and essentially the nation, creating and implementing laws to ensure that the peoples interests are carefully taken account of and protected. The consequences of the representatives ignoring their responsibility are severe. The people end up paying more then they bargained for.Sometimes with property, blood and lives…

In October 2011, an Airlines PNG plane crashed into the jungles of Madang killing 28 on board with only the crew of 4 surviving including the Australian (formerly retired) pilot, recruited nonetheless for one last stint. The entire country grieved for the victims who not included those that perished but those that were left behind with the sad memories, those that have been left will now have to endure the vacuum created by the loss of their loved ones and the consequences of their absence in their lives.

In January 2012 Papua New Guinea went into collective shock and mourning yet again when news of a landslip that occurred in the Highlands reached the rest of the country and indeed the world. This awful tragedy killed an estimated 68 Papua New Guineas living in the vicinity of a quarry operated by a contractor of the giant LNG Gas Project Exxon. Entire families were buried, fathers, mothers and children along with their simple hopes of a better life.

Whilst the nation was still reeling from the loss of lives in both disasters, a ferry overladen with passengers mainly women and children, capsized and sank off the coastal waters of Northern Province and Morobe. An estimated 100 people are missing, feared dead. Tales of horror from survivors tell of an ordeal that lasted mere minutes when the old leaky tub overladen with passengers returning from holidays, many to school was submerged by giant waves on a patch of rough sea and went down. Lower decks were filled with sleeping women and children. According to reports the ferry was overloaded beyond recommended capacity. Even more alarming is that the Captain claimed bad weather but had been forced to set sail by the ships owner or face termination of his employment. Merchant ships nearby reacted to distress signals and managed to save many. According to a report, a few persons were cut to pieces by the giant propellers of one of the merchant ships in the melee. The Australian government reacted swiftly and dispatched its navy and coastguard saving many lives from a watery grave. The Australian Political landscape also reacted swiftly, not missing a beat and Gillard took no time in claiming credit and offering condolences laced with condescending statements all in the same paragraph.

Lack of proper attention to the development, implementation and monitoring of laws and regulations, policies and procedures designed to protect human life continues to allow deaths of Papua New Guineans. The perpetrators never ever punished, merely stumble in their march towards greater profits, momentarily pausing to recover losses and regain momentum…and march on…seemingly untouchable…their investment worth far more then the lives of the citizens of this island nation, constantly and consistently in a state of non development.

The blood of these innocent victims drips not only from the hands of those employees, the pilot, the ships master and the quarry manager, but also from the executives right up through to the boards of these organizations that avid seek profit in Papua New Guinea with little concern about standards or regulations as demonstrated in those events…but drenched and soaking, congealing even in clots, are the bloodbaths that our leadership over the years have languished in, the blood of our people, constantly filled up by the inaction of those who we have elected into positions of power to guard our interests…our future…ourselves victims, our children lining up to become…. The worst disaster that continues since September 16, 1975 to this very day, is that of our lack of good governance…

Last moments of Rabaul Queen


My take on decriminalizing homosexuality and prostitution

20 06 2011

Lady Kidu’s attempt to introduce laws to decriminalize homosexuality and prostitution has met with stiff opposition, especially from the churches and from the general public based on traditional and ‘moral’ grounds.

Here’s what a friend of mine put forward and I made my stand clear on this issue. I’m sure we all have our own views on this matter.


Here’s my response:

“But let’s face it. PNG is a pluralistic society and we would only be fooling ourselves into believing and touting the “Christian Country” badge. It would only go to show what hypocrites we are (and we won’t have to look far for that, trust me).

If a legislative change impinges on my right to live as a human being, especially with respect to those articles set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and if it threatens my democratic rights as a citizen of this nation, then I will definitely fight tooth and nail to my dying breath.

In this instance however, they are seeking more of a ‘luksave‘ if you catch my drift. Its only officiating shit that’s already going down, bro.

Its more about living and co-existing in harmony with other Papua New Guineans, whether they be gay, bi or straight. Whether they be prostitutes or gigolos. Its about recognizing them and their rights.

All Men have a right to freedom of choice, just as much as God gives us the freedom of choice every day we breath. God never placed a picket fence around the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He only advised them (Adam and Eve) against eating it.

We, as his created beings cannot do otherwise. Free will has to prevail here.

God hates Homosexuality but loves the Homosexual.
God hates Prostitution but loves the Prostitute.”


Poverty: the very poor tend not to rise up

13 04 2011

By: Paul Barker | 13 April 2011 at 05:48 PM

As Fr John Glynn said recently: “I cannot understand how the PM says there’s no poverty in PNG; I can see it every day in Port Moresby”.

PNG has little excuse for poverty but – like oil, copper or gold rich countries in Africa – benefit-sharing has been poor, and seems to have become worse, denying broad-based opportunities.

One of PNG’s great attributes has been broad-based access to land resources and generally suitable climate/reliable rains which have avoided the extensive starvation seen in parts of Africa (and south and east Asia in the past).

But even that’s being jeopardised now with land scams which would deprive customary l’owners of their land with 99 year business leases (SABLs) as well as displacement around mines etc.

There is poverty and a lack of access to markets and essential services deprives[sic] people of opportunities and life; (the very high and unnecessary level of maternal and child mortality in PNG – about the highest in Asia-Pacific is just one demonstration of poverty).

Now is a testing time: PNG’s already wasting great opportunities as a result of grand misuse of public funds, but will it let LNG and other new natural resource developments contribute to its citizens opportunities (including empowerment to help themselves, rather than dependency) or be squandered through burgeoning malfeasance, and failure to safeguard the interests of the wider public (including businesses)?

The Dutch Disease (or resource curse) can severely undermine a country’s prospects if not taken seriously, particularly enriching a small elite at the expense of the majority.

PNG is preparing some of the right policies to address this, but these need to be applied properly and governance issues need to be taken much more seriously than now.

The countries which have benefited from their natural resource extraction have been those which have given transparency, accountability and good governance as their priority up front.

Those that haven’t have been basket cases or at least seen extraordinary poverty alongside gross wealth as in the case of some of the oil wealthy nations where popular uprisings are now occurring.

But note, the very poor tend not to rise up, as they have more immediate issues of survival to address!

“poverty and a lack of access to markets and essential services deprives people of opportunities and life” – photo by PWM; 2003

This post first appeared as a comment on Keith Jackson’s PNG Attitude blog in response to an ongoing debate between readers in their attempt to understand the issue of poverty and being poor in PNG in comparison to similar trends in African states. You can read up more on the main article that stirred up as much interests here.

Paul Barker is the Director of the Institute of National Affairs in PNG

HOPE Trek’s Shirt-for-Books Campaign

8 03 2010

I don’t know if had mentioned this earlier but I was working on something crazy. Well not the diabolical kind but outrageous nonetheless. Well, now its here at long last in all its naked glory!

Hope Trek gives you the opportunity to participate in a worthy cause through the Shirts-for-Books campaign. This is a fundraiser exercise in which printed T-shirts are sold to raise funds in helping to freight library books to children in remote schools.

It is basically an awareness trekking initiative with its primary focus in providing library books to remote schools within PNG to help in the education and early development of children. As a demonstrative exercise, members of Hope Trek will take on the Kokoda Track on May 23rd 2010 to raise awareness – NOT funds – in promoting the reading of books as a fundamental cornerstone in education and literacy.

In its pilot run, the initial books numbering to more than 2000 have been donated with the kind help of Hope Worldwide (PNG). Still more books are on their way from the Rotary Club of the rural township of Emerald in Queensland, Australia.

The initial target schools are Bukapena Top-Up in the Mul District of Western Highlands Province and Saluk Community School of remote Lembena, located in the border area of Enga Province (Kompiam District) and East Sepik Province (Angoram District). Bukapena, in a first of its kind, has erected a school library through local initiative and is in need of books to fill up its shelves, while Saluk, given its remoteness has only grades 1 – 4 and is in dire need of learning resources and books.

Further to its main purpose, this venture will also serve as a platform for raising awareness to certain key issues facing this country and its people. As such this initiative can be seen as a multipronged exercise aimed at bringing to light the following issues.

  1. Environment and Conservation awareness – people need to be reminded of the importance of the natural environment. Scheduled to coincide with the World Environment Day (5 June 2010), this point will be highlighted in line with this year’s WED theme of ‘Protecting our Biodiversity’. Highlighted also will be The Managalas (Ijivitari district, Oro) people’s bid to get their area to attain Conservation Area status in August of 2010.
  2. Climate Change awareness – related to the first point, this is a hot topic that is facing the wider global community including PNG who is already in the forefront of this agenda, with it having the first “refugees of climate change” in the world (Carteret Islands) . It is therefore imperative that our people are armed with this knowledge as this agenda requires affirmative action from one and all.
  3. Eco-friendly Income Generating Ventures – there is commercial viability in the sustainable management and use of our rich natural resources and forests without the need to delve into more destructive land use practises. Trekking is one of the many eco-friendly tourist attractions that we all should look into for income generation. This will no doubt encourage the protection and preservation of our rich cultural and traditional heritage.
  4. Responsibility and Self-reliance – as a demonstrative exercise, it is envisaged that this initiative will challenge people to be more proactive in their wish to see development within their area. That we as individual members of the community can participate meaningfully in the development process of our province and the nation as a whole instead of wasting our time and resources either waiting for services that never eventuate, or go chasing after claims and free hand-outs from the government, politicians and leaders. It is high time we eradicate the Cargo-Cult mentality from our mindset and set out to be more self-reliant and innovative in our thinking to see true progress.
  5. Youth Mobilization – the participation of youths from Morata and Waigani in this exercise will no doubt be an eye-opening experience for them. By participating in a worthwhile cause, it will enable them to see themselves as more responsible citizens instead of just bums squandering their lives away in the city.
  6. Books and Literacy – the primary focus of this initiative as outlined will be to challenge young children (and adults alike) to take up a book to read, thus helping to broaden their horizon, not only in the subjects taught in school but about the wider universe at large so that they can grow up to be better, more responsible citizens.

I therefore appeal to you and your organisation for your support in this worthy cause through the purchase of a few T-shirts. Proceeds from the sale of these T-shirts will be used to airlift these books to their intended destinations as well as to meet other necessary logistical expenses.

The T-shirt designs are attached herewith for your perusal. A detailed definition of this trekking venture can be made available upon request.

Nickson I. Piakal
Hope Trek Founder

For further information please contact me on the following.
B: 7695 1446

D: 7168 1837  

E: niicaux(AT)gmail(DOT)com

E(work): npiakal(AT)pwmpng(DOT)org(DOT)pg

T-Shirt Designs

FRONT view: white t-shirt

FRONT view: black t-shirt

BACK view: standard white t-shirt

BACK view: standard black t-shirt

Back view: customised white t-shirt

Black print with orange and white texts: “05-06,`10”, “KOKODA to YUAT”, and “Powered by…” followed by YOUR company’s/ organisation’s LOGO.
Condition: Minimum purchase of 10 units.

Back view: customised black t-shirt

White print with orange and black texts: “05-06,`10”, “KOKODA to YUAT”, and “Powered by…” followed by YOUR company’s/ organisation’s LOGO.
Condition: Minimum purchase of 10 units.

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