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


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

UPROOTED – A documentary on land alienation in PNG by mining insterests

11 04 2011

by Scott Waide

“Uprooted” is a story of four communities in Papua New Guinea’s Madang province who have been affected in various ways by a Chinese state owned  nickel mine. Narrated entirely by landowners, it shows the pain and fear of losing their land to large scale development.

It also highlights the concern on the Deep Sea Tailings placement (DSTP) being the preferred method of waste disposal that this mine is looking at employing and is currently the subject of a lawsuit.

Dur: 21 minutes
Producer: Scott Waide

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?


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

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