The Faceless Machine of Corporate Greed

20 05 2012
Haus Bilong Spaida by Caleb Hamm

The Spaida by Caleb Hamm

A poignant rendition of the story of today’s Papua New Guinea by Caleb Hamm. This extraordinary art by Caleb says a lot if you look into the details of this piece.

I’ll let Caleb himself say bits of it in words as posted on his FB page.

Haus Bilong Spaida

By Caleb Hamm

We see the alienation of people that is the result of the present machine orientated economy.
We see true social security and the people’s happiness being diminished in the name of economic progress.
We caution therefore that large scale industries should only be pursued after careful and thorough consideration of the likely consequences upon the spiritual and social fabric of our people.
There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that a significant number of people who live by the fruits of multi million dollar multi-national corporations live in misery, loneliness and spiritual poverty.
We believe that since we are a rural people, our strength should be essentially in the land and in the use of our innate artistic talents.
– Actual deliberations quoted from Papua New Guinea’s Constitutional Planning Committee in 1975. The year of Independence.
Gargantuan proportions of Palm oil plantations fill PNG’s countryside where once stood one of the world’s last frontiers. Unsustainable monocultures now cover the logged hills and valleys. 24 % of PNG’s rainforest has been logged in the last 30 years and the hungry rate continues to threaten an irreplaceable and unique ecosystem. black river represents the massive Ok Tedi disaster where barrels of poisonous waste were spilled down the Fly River from the infamous Ok Tedi mine.
Illegal land grabs are not unknown to the rural people of PNG, but the recent Paga Hill incident topped them all. On Saturday, May 12, a historic district in PNG’s capital witnessed bulldozers pushing over 20 houses while police kept the home owners at bay. What was supposed to be a planned out eviction swiftly became a heartless and cruel demolition in this shady, allegedly illegal, urban land grab. I copied Paga Hill Estate’s proposed hotel building design which overshadows a bulldozer ploughing down a heap of cultural icons mixed with housing materials. Clearing a path for the limousine of modern colonialism.
Ramu Nico, LNG PNG all represented by this web of oil pipelines and giant tank supplying the greedy spaida. Several rivers are currently dumping mine waste into the Bismark Sea and Huon Gulf. Yellow waters, dead fish and new bans on selling fish and produce in the market all affect those living in the area. How long do they have before there is no reef, no fish, or drinking water. Cyanide traces are now frequently being found in many rivers in PNG.

A snapshot of PNG in Gordon’s Market

6 05 2012

This brilliant post by Gary Juffa succinctly puts into perspective the order of the day at Gordon’s Market.

By Gary Juffa

I spent an hour at Gorden’s Market today, a burning hot April Saturday, in Port Moresby, National Capital District. I parked right opposite the Gorden’s Police Stations and waited for a friend, around midday. As is usual with appointments in Papua New Guinea, one must be prepared to wait anywhere between 10 minutes and an entire hour. It was an hour I spent fascinated.

The population of people walking, talking and carrying on in the humid, steaming, muddy and filthy so called market were captivating. Teeming with energy and abuzz with all manner of activity, there were traders and vendors, hawkers and street sellers, betel nut connoisseurs and buyers. Scam artists and con artists and petty criminals also were active and everyone was a potential victim. A boom box belts out loud noise. There was no sign of authority of any sort. The order was disorder.

The filth of Gordons Market

This is dry filth of Gordon’s Market on a better day. Photo by Malum Nalu

Across the road, a Chinese store thrived with people streaming in and out like ants to and from a nest walking in empty handed and carrying out all manner of goods or, more correctly, junk for resale. Business is booming for the Chinese traders thanks to increased liberalization of trade, relaxing of regulatory laws to protect consumers and the introduction of an unregulated, unpoliced informal sector. The sector was supposedly intended to benefit Papua New Guineans involved in the cottage industry, selling their handicraft, arts and incubating their small entrepreneurial efforts. But the real winners are the mainland Chinese traders who import container loads of cheap household products from numerous factories proliferating throughout mainland China to resale in developing nations such as Papua New Guinea.

In Papua New Guinea, the Chinese traders target settlements and rural townships stretching their tentacles throughout the length and breadth of this Pacific island economy like a giant octopus leech sucking everything and anything out and transmitting the profits offshore to fund investments in Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Other octopi are busy throughout the region and indeed the world as China shifts into gear in its drive for world dominance. They are taking advantage of a weakening West which is in pivotal transition, changing from a defined set of geographic nations to becoming a globalized Corporatedom, the new Manor of the rich, overseeing a global population of serfs.

Back in Gordon’s Market, raw sewerage and waste stream through the market in drains carrying dirty used plastic bags, and writhing naked playing children happily splashing under the baking Port Moresby sun as parents wearily gamble, play cards and turn their heads occasionally to scream at their offspring or to spit streaming betelnut juice anywhere, everywhere. A drunkard stumbles through the market, miraculously weaving his way through the human traffic, a beer bottle lovingly cradled against his bare bony chest, inch long globules of mucous and blood trailing off his moustache, humming Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road. Swarms of flies and other insects form small clouds around a dead dog recently run over by a Public Motor Vehicle in the middle of the main street, its putrid juices running off towards the drain. A man lies, in a drunken stupor, snoring under a rain tree, devoid of his shoes, belt, all clothes accept his dirty, ragged jeans. Bored betelnut vendors play games on their mobile phones and bicker with each other.

My appointment arrives. He is sweating and is sucking on an iceblock. I open they car door and he climbs in. “Yesterday I was here buying some stuff. I went to the phone booth at the Police Station and called you to make today’s appointment. After that I went into the Police Station to see an uncle of mine. He was not there. There was no one at the station. Not a single person was there when I went in, except some small guy reporting a crime apparently an armed robbery of his tucker box at Erima. I was bored so I decided to watch what was happening. He was furious this small guy. Swearing and sweating. Finally someone came. I had to look carefully to realize it was a Policeman, he was so scruffy. The complainant approached him but he said he was busy and said he had to drop off his wife and told him to wait. He waited. I waited. The small guy told me that this morning when he opened his tucker box, a man pointed a shotgun at him and took all his money. Money he had been saving up to send his son attending University of Technology in Lae for his ticket to come home for holidays. He said he didn’t want to give the money but another man punched him in the face and placed a knife under his chin and he thought of his children and wife and gave in and gave his money. Finally a police car came in. The man approached the Policeman and told him about his problem. The Policeman said the car had no fuel. Was he prepared to buy fuel? He said to the Policeman “It’s your job!” The Policeman warned him not to tell him what to do, that the government does not give the station enough to buy fuel or even paper to record complaints and went in with some of his wantoks following him into the Station. The man was so upset and said he knew who did it and would find him and kill him himself and walked out. No one heard him from the Police Station. No one cared.”

We drove out of Gordon’s Market into the main road to turn towards the Stadium. The road was crawling with cars of all types, mainly dilapidated PMV buses and taxis and used cars from Japan. It seems everyone from betelnut seller to babysitters have cars in Port Moresby. The city, built to cater for a population of less than 100,000 but accommodating somewhere in the vicinity of 600,000, is reeling from population growth caused by urban drift and growing squatter settlements, lack of family planning and people flowing into the capital searching for better services or just curious about the bright lights and what it has to offer.

After almost an hour in traffic and several near death accidents thanks to the city’s infamous taxi drivers, we made it to Koke Market towards town. At the main crossing, a CRV Honda, the carjackers preferred vehicle, was being held up and three youths with knives and a screwdriver had somehow stopped the female driver and her passenger and were attempting a carjacking, menacing the driver and trying to open the doors. I stopped my car behind her and my friend and I prepared to help, other vehicles too stopped and the youths saw us and suddenly stopped and casually walked off. Too hard, car was locked, too many motorists, some of them armed. People outside n the market watched but no one did anything. The youths merely walked over to a betelnut stand, grabbed some nuts and turned around to observe. The distraught woman drove off hurriedly. Fortunately she had her car doors locked, but her courtesy to give way at a pedestrian crossing almost ending badly for her.

I came to see Gordon’s market as symbolic of PNG politics – the filth, the chaos, the lack of order, the dirty and the erratic manner in which the actors behave reflects the nation’s state of politics. Gordon’s market is merely another example of what is happening throughout the entire nation where entire townships, urban and rural, villages and communities, are crumbling and decaying rapidly. The Gordon’s Police Station is symbolic of the public service which no longer cares and which is indifferent and poorly equipped or resourced to serve the people.
While politicians purchase properties offshore and invest the nation’s wealth in foreign economies, Papua New Guinea crumbles into a state of anarchy, its people making do with what little they can, their values and morals diminishing with each regressive step, their ability to care and act for one another reduced to crude tactics for survival with the ever increasing lawlessness.

Gordon’s Market offers a snapshot of Papua New Guinea in motion. Take a trip to Gordon’s Market, park in front of the Police Station for an hour and take a look into our bleak future.

Supreme Court To Miners : Here #PNG is Yours

24 12 2011

by Bismarck Ramu Group

The Supreme Court today, in a decision that surprised no one, have given the mining industry carte blanche to do what they like in PNG. Dig where you like, use whatever chemicals you like, dump as much as you want anywhere – it’s yours boys. That in essence is what the court decision is saying as they have allowed the Chinese government owned Ramu Nickel Mine to begin dumping in the waters of Madang.

In a 2-1 decision with Justice Davani dissenting with her two male colleagues Justices Hartshorn and Sawong came down on the side on social and environmental destruction. No surprise from Hartshorn – a former employee of the mining industry and is very proud of it. Sawong perhaps the most knowledgeable of the law of all the judges however should really be ashamed. To say the landowners didn’t prove nuisance is ridiculous. In a 64 page decison by Judge Cannings in the National Court 60 pages supported the landowners case. Cannings laid it all out in an obvious attempt to allow the Supreme Court to the make judgement. And they have.

And so there you have it. The Supreme Court gives the miners PNG and the people and environment suffer. As to future generations – who cares? In less that[sic] a week the PNG government gives OTML an award as good corporate citizens after having caused one of the worst environmental disasters on the planet – and having learned nothing from this or not really caring Sawong sides with Hartshorn – and says take the country boys.

And so what is left to do? Well Mr. O’Neill and Mr. Namah there is one thing you can do. What about it? You two know where the judicial system is at. After all the drama the last two weeks – let’s see the Parliament flex its authority.

source: Bismarck Ramu Group

Ramu nickel case is back

15 04 2011

The Ramu nickel case returns to court today, 15 April 2011.

The landowners of Madang have taken out this court case seeking a permanent injunction against the Ramu nickel mine from dumping toxic mine waste into the sea.

It is expected today that the judge will set the date when the final decision will be handed down.

In the meantime, there is a temporary injunction in place preventing the mine to do any further dumping during the course of this trial.

The Ramu nickel mine is a joint venture operation between the Chinese state owned Metallurgical Chinese Corporation and the Australian mining firm Highlands Pacific. The irony in it is that this practise of waste dumping into the sea is banned in both China and Australia.

We are praying that the truth prevails and the people come out the winner for the sake of this country and its future.


Ramu Nickel Case: The story so far

10 02 2011

The 2011 legal calendar in Madang began yesterday (February 8th) with the opening statement from the plaintiffs. Picking up from last year, this time the people of Madang are putting forward their case to have a permanent injunction placed against the Ramu Nickel mine to prevent it from its plan to dump 100 million tonnes of mine tailings into the sea in the Basamuk Bay area.

A first in PNG, this landmark case got the attention of the PNG government who – as is the case with similar projects in other parts of the country – while paying scant heed to many glaring flaws and oversights, had given the go ahead to the Ramu Nickel mine to continue with this project without any further studies and deliberation on this mine’s benefits and negetive impacts.

The government of PNG, who is also named as the co-defendant in this case, even tried to suppress the voice of the people by passing an amendment to the Environment Act in early 2010 that restricted landowner rights while giving legal immunity to mining companies. This was done with no prior notice, and without seeking any public debates on this matter, even on the floor of parliament.

This action by the government created an outcry from the general populace, civil societies and business houses alike and inadvertently resulted in the government getting negative ratings from outside observers as well.

MCC boss Luo Shuo walking out of the Madang court room where the trial is being held. (Photo courtesy of Arnold Jameson, 8/2/2011)

On top of that, various other attempts were made to sabotage this case through threats, misinformation and even bribes. Eventually, the defendants scored a victory, which in September 2010 saw the withdrawal of the 3 original plaintiffs. This was a cruel blow to the people at a time when the country was celebrating 35 Years of Independence!

All hope seemed to be gone but then good ol’ Louis Medaing stepped into the ring with a fresh set of gloves and it was game on again when the judge allowed Mr Medaing along with the Tong and Ongeg clans – all legitimate landowners – to file fresh proceedings as plaintiffs in this case despite objections from the miner’s QC.

Hence we have arrived at this juncture. As Arnold Jameson a scribe from the ground pointed out yesterday,

“Today (February 8th) marked a significant chapter in the battle as the trial began in Madang. Witnesses who will be called to testify in court over the next two weeks include several well known scientists who are experts in coral reproduction, chemical oceanography and terrestrial waste treatment and storage.”

Into the second day and the people’s case received a boost when 998 more landowners joined as plaintiffs in this good fight, taking the total number of plaintiffs to well over 1000.

The plaintiffs’ scientists are now scheduled to give their evidence tomorrow (10 February).

If it is of any comfort to them, Tiffany Nonggorr, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, and the landowners must know that the people of PNG are behind them in prayer and in thought while the rest of the world looks on.

God bless PNG.


Is a National Environment Committee the Answer to Environmental Damage?

28 01 2011

The Formation of National Environment Committee by Environment Minister Hon. Benny Allan

By Sam Basil

The Environment Minister Hon. Benny Allan refused to entertain our pleas regarding the Watut River Pollution up until we took the matter to court.

The Minister responded last week by visiting the Hidden Valley Gold Mine Project Site and suggests a formation of a new committee to be called The National Environment Committee to be chaired by the Secretary for DEC.

Dieback as a result of waste from Hidden Valley Mine

History shows that any chairmanship by the current Secretary and Director of Environment has always been dysfunctional and deemed total failure. In fact, many policy requirements under the Environment Act 2000 are yet to be fulfilled under the current Secretary and Director’s leadership. Such has been the case with Environment Council, which in many cases, failed to live up to the expectations.

The current Secretary and Director of Environment has no professional technical expertise in environmental science as he is an anthropologist (social scientist) and always relied on second opinions without having his first opinion on any environmental issues. If this committee is formed, then it should more independent, and chaired by an independent person outside DEC, so that DEC’s performance can also be under microscope. There are very highly qualified environmental scientists in the country who can chair the committee than the current head of DEC.

Furthermore, the funding for Mine Monitoring under PIP has been scrapped off in the 2011 budget, citing lack of capacity at DEC. So how effective will DEC be in this regard.

It is about time now that the current head of DEC (is) replaced because he has been holding the position since 1998, and has personalised many issues for both personal and political gains.

As for the Minister we can’t do much because politicians always compromise themselves for whatever reasons we all can guess.

I need good Papua New Guineans to debate this issue so we can learn from each other and welcome media to quote my statement above if they wish to.

Happy New Year to all and please participate in this issue I need to pick your minds on this one….

Hon Sam Basil MP


Will this committee address pollution issues brought about by this mine?

Why is it being formed now and not before?

Questions, questions and questions…

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