Painting my 30-day Challenge with Faces

21 09 2012

That’s it, I’m done talking politics.

Well most of the time I’m either quoting someone or blogging a gripe. And I hate to see myself as a person who sees the glass half empty all the time. Although the system and the gremlins that work the system are largely responsible for fueling my words.

But that is not the point of this post. Folks over at Stella Mag recently brought to my attention this super cool idea of doing something out of the ordinary for 30 consecutive days. (By the way, that is one cool magazine you should get your hands on or better yet, subscribe to).

So here I was on Independence Day, trying on for size ideas for endeavours that anyone who knows me would not normally find me doing. And no, I am not going to go to work dressed as Zorro for the next 30 days (although I know of some who would in a heartbeat if they could).

However, I was toying with the idea of bungee jumping every afternoon. Unfortunately I had to forgo that idea for the simple fact that my afternoon schedule could not fit in a trip to the white cliffs of Vararaita National Park and back; and I have not even factored in the time it would take to strap on the gear. Yeah, sound check and all.

On a similar note, I sadly had to cross off a daily round of BASE jumping and croc-wrestling as well. During this brainstorming session, my patriotic zeal got lost somewhere in the mix, and I noticed my shoe lace was undone so I reached down to tie it. It was then, as I bumped into my gut, that I knew I had to do something about my expanding midsection.

Here was something practical I could embark on without unnecessarily creating a hole in my pocket, not to mention drastically reducing my lifespan. So I have resolved to do something about my weight with the help of the trusty old bathroom scale.

My modus operandi is quite elementary really. It is good old fashioned walking coupled with a simple garden diet.  So instead of hopping on a vehicle, I plan to walk home every day after work. Plus I am going vegan for a month to boot!

Weighing the pros and cons, the only negative aspect of walking is that I might suffer a little discomfort from the sweat and the strain of my backpack. But I can stand my own sweat than to have my olfactory receptors assaulted by the collective body odour and goodness knows what else 35 people and an bus offsider who has not touched a bar of soap in more than a month can cook up in a crammed bus on an equally crammed road.

Or shall I factor in the PMV experience of having one’s ears mercilessly assailed by a badly strung computerized techno jam overflowing with otiose drum rolls? Every day is high town madness with a driver who wishes he was cruising down the freeway in the hot, hot sun. O how bizarre. How bizarre.

Wait. Was that a line from a song somewhere? In any case, you get the picture.

On the other hand however, there are so many points going in favour of the simplicity of walking. It is economically sound. It is a good, fun-filled and wholesome exercise. You also have the wide open space to strike up a conversation with anyone you are walking with. If you walk alone, then it gives you precious thinking time to muse over the issues of life and beyond.

Now I like to tinker with stuff – even ideas. So I have decided to throw in a twist into this whacky script. I plan to meet and get to know a complete stranger on each of the 30 days that I am walking.

In celebrating the occasion of meeting this new friend, I will share a fruit with them, be it an apple or an orange. Apart from being an icebreaker, this is hoped to drive home the message of healthy eating to get folks off that rather loathsome buai, while further promoting the Melanesian spirit of sharing and giving.

To top things off I will get their photos taken – with their express permission of course, so they can get to feature on this blog. These people will make up the portraits of the faces that paint my afternoon walks.

The best part about this 30-day drill is that anybody can do it. Even you can do it. So get on board already. 🙂

Waigani traffic rush hour

Waigani traffic at rush hour. Port Moresby’s bus and taxi service providers were on strike on the day this photo was taken (20-9-2012)


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

PNG Govt steps down as Oil Search takes up Malaria fight

20 07 2011

Oil Search has invested in various community health programmes

Oil Search has been appointed as the new principle recipient (PR) of funding from Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, effectively replacing the National Department of Health (NDOH) as a PR starting 2012.

It is reported that the NDOH stepped down from this role upon seeing the need for a more effective manager of funds from the Global Fund. This decision was arrived at after the NDOH was found by a Global Fund audit in 2010 to have misappropriated up to US$7 million.

Oil Search, primarily an oil and gas producing company, has jumped on board to shoulder this responsibility after having previously spearheaded successful anti-malarial campaigns for close to 20 years now. As the grants funds manager, Oil Search will work hand in hand with the NDOH to see effective implementation of their malaria projects.

This is a step in the right direction in the constant battle against these major diseases and we should hopefully see better results and improved response under the management of Oil Search.

Find a detailed report here.

Go here to read up more on Oil Search’s fantastic Community Health Initiative.


Source: AlertNet 

A wordless post because words are just not enough!

30 03 2011

Source: provided

Source: provided

*Captions and titles above came with these images from the image source.

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.


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
He also has a photo blog where he showcases Papua New Guinea through the lens of his camera at

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