One falcon, 7 points of order, 8 passengers and many questions later

9 01 2012

The “High drama in Indonesian airspace involving the PNG Falcon jet” which took place over more than a month ago – back in 2011, has been been made public only last week.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Belden Namah, in typical  knee-jerk fashion common to PNG politicians, released a media statement on this issue, only after it was brought to the attention of the people via the front page story of The National (6/01/12).

But Mr Namah’s official statement on this incident has left me with more questions than answers.

For instance…

  1. Why has Mr Namah been silent on this matter until it had surfaced on the papers for him to come out?
  2. What was the purpose of this power meeting over in Malaysia that required 3 senior MPs to travel there?
  3. Why was the police minister part of this troupe? Was it to go over the “security detail” for the oil palm plantations like how Rumbinan Hijau (RH) pays for members of the Royal Police Constabulary to beat the hell out of fellow Papua New Guineans?
  4. Why were those “oil palm investors” flown here on the Falcon jet? Seems reminiscent of the Somare regime.
    – The idea of flying “investors” to and from PNG with the Falcon is becoming rather too ‘crowded’, don’t you think? Should PNG start getting ready to fork out more for a bigger jet soon if we are going to consider all the investors lining up for a free flight at tax payers’ expense?
  5.  Would the oil palm investors from Malaysia be related to RH in any way?
    – Hang on. If that were the case, I doubt it would be brought to light by The National newspaper.
    – Which then begs the question as to who the Indonesian journalist is and which media outlet he/she is attached with? (This is something for The National newspaper to reply to).
    – Would it be a competitor of RH then? Questions, questions and more questions…. let’s move on.
  6. In his statement, Mr Namah further asks us to ponder on the possible outcome of such an event if it happened to countries like “… Australia, New Zealand, America or China for that matter and it was carrying their Deputy Prime Ministers or the Vice Presidents…”
    – Well for starters, would they have waited 1 month until after a newspaper report to cry foul?
    – Perhaps we would better understand how they (“Australia, New Zealand, America or China“) would react if they were faced with such a crisis situation by first finding the answers to the first three points above.
  7. Namah goes on further to ask us to “Imagine carrying such a large amount of money on the small Falcon Jet”
    – Well I have never held a million in my hands to help me to “imagine” US$250 million. In any case, one could have just as easily have US$250m in bonds, I’m sure.
    – But then again, I’ll have to tag this point under the #JustSaying category. I may be accused here of speculating but I am only working on the premise of his “OK” to speculate on this incident by the line “I leave that for you to conclude.” (B.Namah).
    – And of course. I’m testing the waters of freedom of expression here to see if it can stay its course and hold ground.

Finally, it is in this kind of test that the nations must stand united forgetting their differences and upholding their pledge to their motherland. Papua New Guineans MUST now learn to be NATIONALISTIC AND PATRIOTIC. WE MUST PROTECT OUR SOVEREINGNITY. [sic]” – Belden Namah

Namah’s closing remarks as quoted above sits smugly with the rest of the statement like an unwiped ass on a hot Moresby day. It seems almost disjointed –  incongruent even, from the rest of his statement. Perhaps it is the soldier in him trying to relive his glory days of rousing soldiers into action, but it falls short of hitting the target; like a punch line to a lame joke that never quite makes it. It is of course his rally call to get the Opposition MP’s to set aside their political differences, and to get the public support behind him in his pursuit to seek some redress from international bodies on this matter.

However, with no disrespect to him, I have to say that this has to be one of the most pathetically shallow attempts at inciting patriotic pride, if that was the intent.  The obvious lack of detailed information on this matter, as highlighted by the seven points raised above, hang like a rainy day on a picnic. It fails to build up the crescendo it deserves, in order to make that final “call to arms” –  if I may dare to call it that. In fact it falls in a heap of clichés.

One would have thought Mr Namah would have by now known better than to be hasty with his words (yea, he of the claims to “damning evidence” against the Chief Justice Injia, if one cares to recall). In fact, it is of paramount importance that any man or woman who has reached such a level of the political ladder as Mr Namah needs to be extra sensitive in their choice of words, especially now more than ever.

This is not me being unpatriotic. This is me being a realistic patriot. This is me speaking up and speaking out, asking the niggling questions that are in all thinking Papua New Guineans’ minds. This is me trying to make sound and informed judgement after understanding the underlying details surrounding this incident in order to avoid dancing to conjecture, recycled lyrics, question marks and bull shit.

This is me asking why we have to “learn to be NATIONALISTIC AND PATRIOTIC” now, when numerous calls to look into cases of border incursions previously have received very minimal attention. This is me asking why we have to “learn to be NATIONALISTIC AND PATRIOTIC” now, when we could have been so back in November 29, 2011.

This is me saying you need to protect the spelling of your “SOVEREINGNITY” so then perhaps we can really start protecting our SOVEREIGNTY.

The moral of the story is that Mr Namah needs a new speech writer to cover his tracks better.

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Parliamentarians’ Ridiculous Pay Rise, High Infant Mortality and Cholera

30 11 2010
By Scott Waide

 It was election year in 2002 when campaign efforts were at their peak.  I arrived at a school in the Tekin Valley in remote Oksapin in the Sandaun province after a 6 hour trek through the jungle.   

Grandma and child - Tekin 2002 © Scott Waide

The rain had just ended when I began an interview with a local teacher.    He was one of the few government representatives   in this   very isolated part of Papua New Guinea.  The only government aid post in his village had closed down a few years ago. The orderly left   for the provincial capital of Vanimo and never returned.   I wanted to know about infant and maternal mortality rates. At the time the teacher was the only person available who could give me a fair analysis of the situation.

Having come from Port Moresby where one relies on easily accessible and “reliable” statistics, I got straight into asking   a series of questions trying   to establish the number of mothers and children who had died in the last 12 months.   

“We really don’t know.” He said.  “We only know of those who died in   this village and the next.” 

He counted three infants and one mother who died in his village in that election month alone.  They all died of complications that could have been solved if they had easy access to a sub-health centre or even a medical orderly.   The nearest health centre was a day’s walk from where we were. It would take two days   to get there from the villages I passed.  But for pockets of small hamlets in the far off distance, getting to that health centre when a mother is experiencing   birth complications is an impossible dream.  The teacher couldn’t give me an exact number of children who died in the last 12 months or in the previous year.  But he gave me an educated guess. He said between 15 and 30 babies die every year in this mountainous region. 

“Too many,” he said shaking his head. “Too many.”

He went on to tell me   that people had come to accept the deaths of babies as part of their lives.  In the nearby villages, many families would gather for the death of a respected elder.   For a baby who died at birth, only the father and the mother would be at the burial. The teacher said in the small mountaintop villages, this was the scenario that was played out every month when a baby died:  The father would take the tiny body to the back of the hut and bury him or her there.  No one mourned for them.  They were “just” nameless babies who would not even be recorded as statistics because nobody knew.

In the same year, I found myself in another part of the Sandaun province at a small government-run aid post.   Half the concrete floor had collapsed into the ground. The medicine cabinet had only malarial tablets and liniment for body aches.  The medical orderly told me that a child had died about 24hours ago from dehydration.  By the time he had been brought to the aid post, the orderly could not administer treatment. The child’s father came at the aid post a few minutes later and was told by the orderly:  “If you want your son to live, take him and run to the health centre.”  The orderly said he got word in the afternoon that the   father did make it to health centre but the child had already died in his arms.

The situation may have already improved in those areas but in other places, it remains a reality that ordinary Papua New Guineans have to contend with.   What matters most to the ordinary person in the village are roads, bridges schools, good health services and most importantly, the ability to make money for him.   But it seems we keep getting it wrong every year!

In 2008, the Treasury department released figures in the Final Budget Outcome (FBO) which showed how much money was being wasted. The 68-page report outlined how the government more than doubled spending from K202.3 million to K478.5 million in deficit.  The expenses   included car purchases, a 12 million Kina Canberra residence, 100 thousand Kina for pipes and drums for the Correctional Service band and 65 thousand Kina for the Institute of Medical Research’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

In 2009, Members of Parliament paid themselves K10 million in accommodation and motor vehicle allowances.    One government backbencher said immediately after the decision that he would “give all the allowances back to parliament.”  In contrast, the Public Service Minister, Peter O’Neill said allowances which MPs were getting were “far below what was needed to meet the amounts charged by real estate companies.” 

The increases gladly received by MPs came at a time when the Port Moresby General Hospital and other hospitals around the country were   experiencing a dire shortage of drugs and medical supplies.   It was also a year when several hundred settlers were made homeless in Port Moresby after a police raid.  Also in that year, working class Papua New Guineans in towns and cities struggled with accommodation problems and high food costs.

As if all that wasn’t enough, members of Parliament have yet again voted this year to give themselves a 52 percent pay rise. On average each MP will get about 77 thousand Kina annually.  

All this is set against a gloomy backdrop   of high infantry mortality rates and new outbreaks of cholera in several parts of the country.

~ero~

Scott Waide is an award-winning television journalist from Papua New Guinea. He has a blog in which he shares poems and short stories on current issues facing PNG  at http://tingtingblokantri.blogspot.com/.
He also has a photo blog where he showcases Papua New Guinea through the lens of his camera at http://pngphotoblog.blogspot.com/.





The Relevance of Human Rights Abuse

8 11 2010

Upon reading the latest dispatch from Tomgram, the line that struck me most was the opening line where Chase Madar, a lawyer from New York, relives the observation of a German journalist on the occasion of a visit to Guantanamo Bay.

His lamenting comparison between Gitmo and The United States’ domestic correctional facilities rang true but it was all lost on me as my mind went back to the recent headline grabbing news of imprisoned Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo on becoming the first Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate from behind the walls of prison.

As you are all aware, controversy ensued with China lashing back at the West for undermining them. We all saw the full spread editorials taken out by the Chinese government on all our dailies justifying their actions and countering what they saw as an indictment of their judicial process by the Western world through the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo — a dissident according to them.

All the human rights watchdogs the world over jumped on the band wagon to put China on the spot. In fact Liu Xiaobo has again won another prize from the New York based Human Rights Watch who honoured him for “risking his life to protect the dignity of others.”

I have no qualms there given China’s iron-fist rule and their appalling record of human rights abuse. In saying that, I certainly have no misgivings on this fearless fighter receiving such notable awards. He is absolutely deserving of these awards according to what I have read so far on him.

Mind you, I am hardly an aficionado of China. Not especially when their state-owned mining companies are planning to dump shit-loads of toxic sludge and poison into my sea and in the process, destroy my land and people and our way of life. And I am not even mentioning the influx of knock-offs and cheap goods and goodness knows what else that is coming into this country from the East.

What bothers me however, is what I see as the double standards being paraded around in full view by the West and the countries of the “free” world, spurred on by their mainstream media. This is a case of the proverbial speck-in-your-brother’s-eye/log-in-your-own-eye scenario.

Omar Khadr was detained in late July 2002 in Afghanistan when he was aged 15 © Private

Here, let’s go back to Camp Delta at Gitmo. Oh and while we are there, why not we take a sneak peak across to Abu Ghraib. Do not forget Bagram while you are there. Shall we go on or don’t you or do you get the picture?

Where is Amnesty International in this picture? Where is Human Rights Watch here? But of course they spoke out loud on the Omar Khadr case. If he was not Canadian would we even know of a Omar Khadr? What about David Hicks? If he were not Australian, would he have stirred up the media, especially the Australian press and public opinion? Of course not. Speaking of Mr. Hicks, he’s got his tell-all book out I hear.

And who knows about the thousands of others holed up in these and other similar detention centres all over the world, “detained indefinitely” thanks to policies of the very witty Bush Jr and his war-mongering subjects.

So what gives the US and the rest of the Western world the right to accuse another sovereign state about its human rights abuse when they themselves, the supposed champions of democracy, a nation founded on the  pillars of justice and liberty continue unabated in what can be deemed as gross misconduct of justice and abuse of human rights?

And closer to home, what about the ongoing abuse of human rights perpetrated by the Indonesian government on the indigenous people of West Papua in Irian Jaya? Why is the United Nations and the major governments of the West silent on this issue? But then why would they bother when Freeport Mining (Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc), a US owned mining company is having a dream run that any greedy mining company can only dream of.

Obviously there is more to it than meets the eye. Isn’t it apparent the abuse of human rights as we are led to see and believe will only kick up a storm depending on whose side you are on? A person’s or a group of people’s human rights are ‘seen to be’ abused only when it is “those guys” who are doing the abusing or when it goes contrary to the interests of the especially US-aligned western powers.

So I ask, where is the justice in all these then?

~ero~

  • Go here to read the full Universal Declaration of Human Rights







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