Social Concerns Notes – February 2012

One of the greatest areas of concern in the past month has been the terrible loss of life after the loss of the ship – Rabaul Queen between Kimbe and Lae.  Many have lost family members, and institutions such as Universities and Teachers’ Colleges have students missing. Safe transport is an important area of social concern in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

Rabaul Queen disaster unveils deep problems with passenger shipping in PNG

February 15, 2012

Sea travelers in PNG for too long have been subjected to high passenger fares, over-crowding, and unhygienic living conditions on board ships. Compounded with these problems has been the lack of safety and rescue equipment on board these fleets. Protocols for routine safety and rescue drills for both passengers and crew are not taken seriously nowadays. Testimonies shared by those who have been travelling onboard ferries owned by Rabaul Shipping clearly point to the above appalling conditions.

The performance of NMSA, the statutory body responsible for monitoring and ensuring compliance within the local shipping industry with regards to our maritime and safety regulations has now been brought into question in light of the recent MV Rabaul Queen Ferry disaster. With a brother who is the Chairman of the NMSA board, Peter Sharp the owner of Rabaul Shipping has had an iron grip on the Momase-New Guinea Islands route for some time now. This raises serious questions on the independence of the NMSA board in performing its mandated duties.

One would recall, a few years back when MV Milne Bay, a world class passenger ship brought in by the Western Highlands ILG business arm Wamp Nga Group of Companies to service the domestic shipping route was subjected to much scrutiny and criticism from Peter Sharp, NMSA including some political friends of the Sharp family business which eventually saw MV Milne Bay leaving the shores of PNG.

This was not the first time such bullying tactics were employed by people with vested interest to get rid of potential competitors like the MV Milne Bay through cheap political influence, court orders and media outbursts that often lacked credibility.

In order to prevent such tragedies from recurring in future, the current government must undertake the following:

  • Replace the entire NMSA board due to conflict of interest regarding Rabaul shipping company.
  • Indefinite grounding of the Rabaul Shipping fleet until a thorough investigation is conducted on the ferry disaster.
  • Commissioning of an independent audit team to investigate the management procedures, protocols and equipment relating to safety and emergency standards right across all passenger shipping companies in PNG.

Like the airline industry, we also need to open up the sea transport industry to competition so that competitive fares with world class service and safety standards are offered to our people. We deserve better services from genuine local or expat business people who have a sense of moral responsibility and respect towards the people of this country.

The political tension and confusion continues.

Below are extracts from some reflections from long-time politician Sir john R. Kaputin, KBE. CMG

“The views expressed emanate from my experience as a member of parliament (MP) for 30 years (1972 – 2002) and, subsequently, as Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of States (2005–2010), based in Brussels, Belgium.

In Papua New Guinea, I saw the emergence of vote-trading and how it became an expensive business, which allowed the foreign exploiters of our timber and other natural resources to start imposing their influence in national politics, and, in turn, reduce our leaders to financial slaves.  In order to keep members together, one requires a lot of money – which our leaders do not have in the bank legally but as a result of corruption.  Political horse-trading has become so competitive that, unless one is connected to those who have the financial resources, and especially the timber people, becoming Prime Minister is a no-go zone for anyone without a great deal of money.  It is now time that we prescribe the proper medication to deal with the cancer attacking our democracy, which is the struggle for power and money, and the misuse of the state apparatus, including the national parliament and the supreme court, to satisfy particular ambitions and greed. Electing more ‘bros’ like the present members into parliament will not necessarily resolve our ongoing problem with the leadership issue.”

Belden Namah’s End Game  

February 13, 2012

In the last couple of weeks Mr. Namah has been on the news for a variety of reasons, I have observed his meteoric rise to the top of the PNG Party ranks after leaving the NA camp, while he was with the NA Party he was never a major voice in the government ranks, his operated in stealth, here was this cunning operative who used the system to his gain, he ran on NA’s platforms in 2007 and won the Vanimo Green River electorate, an electorate that is marred with controversies.If you need to know what is happening to his electorate you need to see this film titled Bikpela Bagarap. (Full film:  Trailer ). despite all the money and lavishness promised by the operators of the logging firms there, there is a deep rift between those that are benefiting and the others who have been purposely ignored.

What is Belden Namah’s end game? The answer is to become the next Prime Minister of PNG obviously; so does he tick off all the boxes of leadership?  No! He has been the surrogate for this government, does he have the traits to lead the nation? Why do the senior legislators in the Namah/O’Neill camp allow him to parade at will and run around like a cowboy? because he has been given the ultimate free rein to do anything at any cost to hold off  the Somare regime from gaining power, he will do whatever it takes to remain on top,  He has strategically placed people in positions of power to ensure that this time around he comes back with a majority to lead, but I have my doubts on this gentleman. He is very dangerous to this country, he was schooled in army intelligence, is he smart enough to lead a nation with growing pains?

Police chased out of Wewak  

The National, Thursday 16th Febuary 2012

THE Wewak-bound Air Niugini flight yesterday afternoon carrying 22 policemen arrived to a very hostile reception at Boram Airport.
The aircraft, which normally overnights, was forced to return to Port Moresby with 10 of the police contingent after an unruly mob threatened to destroy the aircraft.
Sources said last night the aircraft was carrying policemen under the orders of the
national government to arrest
the members of the East
Sepik provincial assembly.
They said the aircraft landed and was surrounded by angry residents who had been told that the plane was bringing policemen to Wewak to arrest their leaders.
The mob allowed the Wewak passengers as well as 12 plainclothes policemen to disembark and ordered the aircraft to leave with the uniformed policemen on board.
The reasons for the impending arrests could not be verified last night but it was believed the policemen were under orders from the deputy prime minister and the police minister.
East Sepik provincial police commander Snr Insp Vincent Pokas said last night that his men were called to the Boram Airport to disperse the mob after receiving complaints of threats against the aircraft.
He said the aircraft was requested to leave Wewak to ease tension among the local people.
Attempts to get comments last night from Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga and the police minister were unsuccessful.

Recent News from Wewak (Source CBC)

There is a serious Lawlessness in Wewak according to a reliable source from Wewak today (Thu.1st March). This is a result of Wewak Station Police Commander Snr. Inspector Charles Parinjo being allegedly killed when he confronted a drunken mob near Kaindi on his way home to Boikin on Saturday.

1.       Many houses were burnt near the Kaindi Area  of Wewak.

2.       Reserve Police and the Police Force seem to have been confronting each other.

3.       Youth groups from neighbouring communities and villages have also joined in the fight.

4.       Some stores were looted and Wewak town was closed for business for today.

O’Neill government’s ‘Gestapo’ monitoring under fire

PNG February 26, 2012

The O’Neill government’s “monitoring” of emails, mobile phones and social media to identify sources of anti-government information in Papua New Guinea has come under fire.

Ben Micah, a controversial former MP who now works as chief of staff to parliament-elected Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, released a statementlast Wednesday warning the PNG army, police and spy agency National Intelligence Organisation (NIO) were monitoring attempts to destabilise the government using emails, phones and social media.

However, the regime’s Big Brother-like scrutiny has attracted the attention of global free press watchdog International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and media commentators, and triggered the ire of ordinary Papua New Guineans.

Media commentators have described the O’Neill government’s crackdown as having “Gestapo-like” features, in reference to the German secret police which operated under Hitler’s Nazi regime, and asked whether the state apparatus will also be monitoring the plethora of PNG social media discussion forums. The IFJ said it was concerned that the O’Neill government planned to track down people at the center of anti-government information.

“The release states that any person found using their mobile phone, email or Facebook to spread information considered ‘malicious and misleading’ will be considered to have committed a serious crime and will be ‘dealt with’. The statement raises strong concerns for free speech and individual privacy rights, as it appears to criminalise the personal use of phones, email and social networking websites without a clear legal mandate. The statement also threatens unspecified punishment for those found to be using personal communications technology in a manner deemed “illegal and detrimental”,” the IFJ said in in a statement. A Sharp Talk blog member says: “We are not in China or a communist state. We have the democratic right to say want we want against our government or opposition for that matter. Government is for the people and elected by the people.”

PNG was ranked 35th in the 2011/12 Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, scoring the highest of all Pacific Island countries excluding Australia and New Zealand. However last December’s constitutional crisis and the chain of events that followed saw journalists threatened by soldiers and barred from news conferences, developments which are likely to impact negatively on PNG’s ranking in the 2012/13 index.

Past political ills must not dominate the future  28 February, 2012

We all know corruption, nepotism, malfeasance and political connivance are not exclusively PNG’s problem. You only have to look at Transparency International’s global corruption index.

However before we can find an effective solution to a problem, you must first effectively define the problem. With the benefits of hindsight, no one could claim that there weren’t mistakes made during PNG’s nation building.  However, PNG’s system of checks and balances has been allowed to atrophy. The Ombudsman Commission, that body created to keep government in check, has not been properly funded or staffed. The RPNGC has not been properly funded and has the lowest pro rata numbers in our region. Education and Health have been allowed to whither on the vine. Agriculture has not been encouraged to produce the nation’s food requirements and enable self sufficiency as a nation. Resource extraction has been allowed to run out of control. The public service is reportedly notorious for not turning up for work or demanding bribes before anything is done. The real problem, as I have attempted to illustrate, is that the checks and balances put in place in the government systems at Independence to prevent current problems from happening, were not designed by those who understood PNG as it would develop after independence. Naivety? There is a real danger that if we try to pin the present ills on the lack of foresight of those in the past, we tend to absolve ourselves of any responsibility and motivation to fix today’s situation and find better ways of doing things.

LNG Watch demands the resignation of Martin Path

February 15, 2012

Heads need to roll at the National Disaster Committee (NDC). Their response to the Tumbi disaster has been nothing short of incompetent, opaque, and haphazard. Making matters worse, they have conducted their investigation into the cause of the landslide in partnership with ExxonMobil (via Esso Highlands), the very organisation that stands accused of contributing to the landslide.

The NDC have claimed in a report dated 26 January 2012:

“Given the absence of a seismic trigger, it can be concluded, that the landslide was caused by continuously heavy rainfall weakening the limestone formation causing subsidence”. Clearly this is not a surprising finding, given ExxonMobil was on the investigation team. However, undermining this conclusion are a series of schoolboy errors that litter the report. Not only does the report fail to consider the role of the quarry, its explanation of the alleged trigger is nothing short of nonsense. Leading international landslide expert, Dave Petley has slammed the report, stating: “There are odd aspects of the landslide mechanism as described in the report.  First, the report notes that pools and seepage on the shear face indicate that the “ground water rose significantly above its historical levels”.  I do not understand this logic.  Seepage and pools are likely to occur in the aftermath of almost any deep landslide of this type, and I do not see why they indicate that the groundwater levels were abnormally high, or indeed that groundwater even played a substantial role.  Second, the report notes that the initial assessment team “saw clear evidence of liquefaction of the rock formation”.  This is most surprising.  Limestone is not a material that undergoes liquefaction – I have never heard of such a mechanism in any hard (as defined from an engineering behaviour perspective) rock – and so I just cannot understand this purported process.  Unfortunately, it is not discussed further.”

Perhaps having caught wind of the expert commentary on their report, the leader of the NDC investigation, Martin Path, is beginning to back track. In an interview with the ABC’s Sen Lam on 10 February,  Path made the startling admission that the cause of the landslide is unknown, despite the NDC clearing stating in their report that the cause was “ heavy rainfall.”

Had it not been for the outspoken stance taken by traditional landowners, NGOs, the PNG Trade Union congress, bloggers, and various media outlets, this startling admission would have never been obtained.

Stop Press: We have just been contacted by a landowner from the Tumbi area. LNG Watch has been told that on the 11th of February, Martin Path from the NDC, along with a Mobile Squad Commander, told local landowners that if they continued to block ExxonMobil from clearing the road covered by the Tumbi landslide, they would be denied the 10 million in humanitarian aid offered to them by the O’Neil government. The landowner blockade was erected in order to prevent a government whitewash of the Tumbi landslide. Fearing loss of the humanitarian aid, landowners have lifted the blockade. Now they feel tricked.

The quarry had been declared unsafe and contractors had already caused a major mudslide

 February 14, 2012

LNG Watch has uncovered evidence that not only was the Tumbi quarry declared unsafe by PNG LNG’s Independent Environmental and Social Consultant (IESC),  D’Appolonia S.p, but that the contractors (MCJV) involved in the construction of the Komo Airfield were behind schedule (the quarry was being used for construction activity at the airfield). These failures, have already led to one major mudslide which was caused by construction work taking place before proper engineering and environmental review.  LNG’s Independent Environmental and Social Consultant (IESC) has commented as follows: “The overall impression of the IESC is that incidents and situations have developed because the Project has circumvented correct procedures in the interest of schedule. Examples of the HGCP mudslide into the Akara Creek caused by construction activities taking place before proper engineering and environmental reviews and the occupancy of proposed quarry site TB-1 before the affected community had been fully informed and consulted.  The basic observation is that the Project will need to make sure that schedule does not dominate decisions.”

Hela has nothing to show for riches 

Post Courier 28 Feb

THERE is nothing tangible and impact in infrastructure and government services in Tari and Hela to showcase for the millions of kina given over the years by the State for the lucrative oil and gas resources in Hela region. 
Hela professionals, church, youth and local leaders said this following recent media reports of their tribesmen and women converging at Vulupindi Haus in Waigani in the hope of syphoning more millions of kina from the national coffers in memorandum of agreement (MOA) funds, infrastructure development grants (IDGs), business development grants (BDG) and other benefits for the landowners in Hela. 
One critique and Tari hospital boss Dr Hewali Hamiya said in the last 20 years and even with the current multi-billion kina PNG LNG project, millions of kina have been paid by the State to landowners and politicians from Hela but there was hardly anything positive being implemented in Tari and Hela to show that the money was used for the right purposes.
Dr Hamiya gave a classic example of the appalling health facilities in Hela, including the only referral hospital that serves the populous region. 
He said the hospital did not have proper medical equipment while staff shortages, accommodation problems, water supply and high operational costs were crippling the delivery of medical care to the people. 
He said the hospital’s staff strength had been reduced from 51 to 28. 
Dr Hamiya said about half of the health facilities like aid posts and health centres in the Hela needed maintenance and re-opening, some of which were closed due to poor infrastructure.
He said the Tari town was also without proper banking facility, telecommunications like landlines, fax, emails and postal services. 
“MOA funds are funds for the development and benefits of entire Hela and it must be channeled through the respective government departments to deliver the results instead of paying to individuals and groups where the money would only disappear in Port Moresby,” Dr Hewali warned.

Woman stabbed to death after court case

The National, Thursday 16th Febuary 2012

A WOMAN was stabbed to death in Porgera, Enga province, by her husband and his brother following a row over a court ruling, police said.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Highlands Teddy Tei yesterday confirmed that the woman, 35, was killed following a village court session which tried to resolve a de facto relationship with her husband.
Tei did not identify the woman but said the village court ruled that the woman should return to her husband.
However, the woman and her brother refused to accept the ruling. The husband and his brother physically dragged the woman to their side.
During the tussle between the woman’s brother and the husband and his brother, she was stabbed.
“The husband and his brother got a pocket knife and stabbed the woman to death,” Tei said.

He strongly condemned the actions of the three men which resulted in the death of the woman.
“Such animalistic behaviour must stop. We are in the 21st century where the rule of law must be respected at all cost,” he said.
“People who see fit to take the law into their own hands will be prosecuted.”
He said police would step up operations as a lead up to pre-election exercises and clean up Porgera.
He said a mobile squad unit was on the ground.
“If there is a need to burn up settlements in Porgera, then we will do it to flush out criminal elements in Porgera,” Tei said.

Hagen villager: We are near city but still without power

The National, Monday 06th Febuary 2012

MANY electorates throughout the country have not had any basic government services for years and they are unsure if the national government Vision 2050 can become a reality, a highlands businessman says.
One example is Keluwa 2, a 15-minute drive from Mt Hagen city in Western Highlands, which still does not have electricity.
Last Wednesday, Samuel Buka, a local from Keluwa 2, was at the Highlander service station in Mt Hagen buying fuel for his generators.
Buka has been spending K50 a week buying fuel for his generators for the past 10 years.
 “My people have been promised several times in big gatherings that electricity will be connected.
“But these were all lies,” he said.
“My children need electricity.
“I need it for many purposes but don’t know when the promise will become a reality.
“How can the government fulfil its Vision 2050 if areas near the city are not experiencing government services?”
He said the general election was nearing and asked the government when it would fulfil its promise to Keluwa 2 people.
“My village is next to the city but nothing has been done about electricity yet.”

Source: Rolls may miss poll deadline

The National, Wednesday 08th Febuary 2012

THE electoral rolls for the general election are unlikely to be finalised before the writs are issued in April, according to a reliable source.
The source, close to the Electoral Commission, reveals that many irregularities have been identified which need to be corrected.
Voter enrolment and data processing are also well behind schedule while many eligible voters have not been registered because official enrolment forms had run out in some areas.
There are reports from Mendi that common roll forms are openly sold at K150 for a bundle of 50 forms.
The forms are being used to fill in ghost names in some areas while numbers have been reduced in the strongholds of sitting members of parliament.  
The source says in some places, numbers of eligible voters have been inflated while names in other places have been omitted.
The source says if the rolls cannot be completed on time, the 2007 rolls may be used because by law, the election cannot be deferred.
Also by law, (organic law on national and local level government elections), the electoral rolls cannot be altered or updated once the writs are issued.
It means that if the rolls are not completed before the writs are issued in April, some people will be denied the right to examine them and make objections. In addition, there will also be not enough time to make alterations.

PM: Election on as scheduled

The National, Thursday 16th Febuary 2012

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill, who has repeatedly assured the nation that the general election will be held as scheduled, is under pressure from his own caucus to delay the polls for up to six months.
However, he told parliament yesterday he had advised his caucus that the government had no plans to delay the election.
“We have no desire to delay the election. I told the government caucus that I would prefer an election today rather than delay to resolve some of the political impasse we have today,” O’Neill said.
“Election will be held on time to let the people make the choice of who represents them in parliament.”
O’Neill admitted that the common roll was not ready, saying there were some wards and areas of the country where the population had increased by up to 400%.
“Some Papua New Guineans have not been sleeping but making population,” O’Neill joked.
“As I have stated already, there is no desire for this government to delay the election.
“We can only be guided by the Electoral Commission and the electoral commissioner who have been advised to prepare a report for cabinet.”

Voters say missing names is recipe for poll disaster

The National, 31st January 2012

ELECTION in Western Highlands may turn ugly if eligible voters find out that their names are not on the common roll. A group of people gathered outside the provincial electoral office in Mt Hagen last Thursday demanding answers on the missing names of eligible voters. Hagen district alone has 48 council wards – 40 rural and eight urban. Out of that, they claimed that only 250 enrolment forms were given out to each council ward. It means that only 250 people will be registered in each council ward while others miss out. They expected to be given 400 to 500 forms in each council ward. They are worried about young people just turning 18 and those from other districts married to people in Hagen missing out on voting. Responding to their queries, Andrew Kerowa, the common roll update supervisor for Hagen rural and urban, said they were only doing an update of the 2007 enrolment.
Kerowa said the 250 enrolment forms were given to every council ward nationwide. It did not matter whether the ward was big or small. He said the direction came from the Electoral Commission head office. Kerowa said people must understand that Hagen central had 48 council wards. Multiply that by 250 and it comes to a total of 12,800 new enrolments. They cannot go beyond or less. He said it was happening throughout the country and not only in Western Highlands.

Dame Carol is new opposition leader

The National, Thursday 16th Febuary 2012

RETIRING woman politician Dame Carol Kidu was yesterday announced as the new opposition leader.
She will occupy the position – which has been vacant for six months – until the general election in June. She is not seeking re-election for her Moresby South seat.
Speaker Jeffery Nape yesterday formally recognised Dame Carol, the only female who had been championing the proposed law to boost women representation in parliament.
She told parliament she was prepared to lead an opposition but appealed to other MPs in the middle bench to join her, adding that an effective opposition was too big a task for just one person.
MPs from both sides of parliament congratulated her.
Later, Dame Carol told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat that her first task was to restore credibility and confidence in the Office of the Leader of Opposition and bring back parliamentary debate on the floor of parliament.
“I am retiring from politics, I’m not going to be out campaigning,” she said.
“I have four months until August when I will still be on payroll for Papua New Guinea, I can really focus on looking at how we can strengthen the functioning of the opposition in PNG,” Dame Carol said.

‘K100m waste’

THE latest national census has collapsed and the K100 million earmarked for it has been wasted, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said yesterday.
“The 2010 census collapsed and the government had to spend K100 million for that failed exercise,” he told parliament.
O’Neill, when contacted last night, said the government would investigate to find out why the census was not completed on time and why the final outcome was not given to government.
He said there was no justification for the amount of money spent on an incomplete programme.
“We are not getting the value for the money spent on the exercise,” O’Neill said.
“This is public money and we as a responsible government must institute an investigation.
“We are spending limited resources and achieving nothing.
“The K100 million is a waste and we have to look for more money for another census exercise.”
The national census is conducted every 10 years. The last one was conducted in 2000 and the next one was in 2010 for which the previous Somare government allocated K66 million.
However, it was delayed for another 12 months with additional funding of up to K10 million without any preliminary figures for the country’s population compiled for the government.

Social mapping not done

PM  Post Courer 16 Feb

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill confirmed in Parliament that all social mapping carried out throughout all project areas in the country in regards to the PNG LNG project were not done properly. 
Mr O’Neill also assured Parliament that the K230 million for landowner payments was still safe, including the K100 million with Mineral Resource Development Corporation (MRDC) was safe and any misinformation on its spending was untrue.
He said his government was unlike the government and their cronies who developed the habit of paying landowners from finance office in Port Moresby.
“It was us leaders who created these confusions. The Department of National Planning and Monitoring became a 10 per cent department, a culture that was created by leaders and their cronies.
“Again, the issue on social mapping must be resolved by respective departments because this is the core reason why, we are not sure of the legitimate landowners – this must be done properly because it’s Papua New Guineans through tax that they are paying these landowners Mr O’Neill said.
The Prime Minister told Parliament during these confusions you would find these landowners carrying millions fly overseas and probably meet up with these leaders and come back asking for more money.
Mr O’Neill said this money given under the UBSA agreements are not free handouts to landowners.
He said the past government also allowed landowner submissions to be made in Port Moresby when they are required to make their submissions at the provincial levels through their local level governments or through the provincial governments.
“Another failure is that public was not addressed as to the processes on how the payouts are supposed to be paid out on project sites; payments for landowners were made in Port Moresby.
“Many genuine landowners are loosing faith in their leaders because we have created this idea to pay landowners in a completely unacceptable manner – forcing many to miss out,” Mr ONeill said.
He confirmed that his government will make a policy that will see landowners payments processed at the district and provincial levels or to the claimants where they originate from to avoid con or paper landowners.

Contextualising Recent Landowner Protests in Port Moresby

Recent rowdy protests in Port Moresby by landowners affected by the LNG PNG project has elicited criticism in the social media. There seems to be the impression that landowners are motivated by greed, rather than confusion and concern. The following section from a 2010 review of the excellent Aidwatch publication In Defence of Melanesian Land, provides useful context in understanding why landowners are protesting so loudly at present. It is written by Kirk Huffman – LNG Watch PNG

Regarding the Environmental Impact Study done for the PNG LNG project in the Gulf area, an environmentalist employed by the Gulf Provincial Government has said that the impact assessments paper done by the developer would, if presented in countries like Australia, Canada or the US, be used as ‘toilet paper’.

Looking at the actual formal agreement between the PNG government and the developers for the LNG project, Dr Allan Marat (former PNG Attourney-General and Justice Minister) has said, ‘This gas agreement was drawn up overseas. It was taken away from our government negotiating team and structured overseas. And now we are forced to dance to the music of foreigners.’

It is not, however, only foreigners to blame. In the race to get the LNG project going as quickly as possible, the customary land registration pressure is immense, and many Melanesians are worried or holding back any form of agreement. In May 2010 Pepi Kimas, the PNG Secretary for Lands and Physical Planning, tried to reassure landholders with the words ‘Customary land registration is not going to remove land from customary land owners, its about them registering their land to develop and create wealth for themselves and their families’.

A month before he issued this statement, it had been reported that the PNG government Department of Petroleum, responsible for paying out regular agreed fees for land use for other similar and already ongoing projects, had been breaching the terms of the Oil and Gas Act by not regularly paying many landowners their monthly royalties. The accounts were said to be in a chaotic state, and some potential recipients, in the Gobe and Kutubu areas, were said to have had no payments listed since December 2007.

High rate of family violence 

Post Courier 17 Feb

PAPUA New Guinea has some of the highest rates of family violence in the world for a country.
 Case reports represent only a tiny fraction of actual incidents, but reliable research shows that; 
On average; two out of three women have been beaten by their husbands or partners, with the figure riding close to 100 per cent in some areas. This is the highest than in any 15 studies conducted by World Health Organisation in 10 countries. 
According to a report on the scale of family and sexual violence in PNG; one in two women have been forced to have sex against her will. Sixty percent of men admit to participating in group sex, most likely gang rape.
Around half the victims of rape presenting for medical are under 16 years old, one in three or four is under 12 years old and one in 10 is under eight years old.
Seventy five percent of children report that they have lived in homes where violence is endemic, mostly against the mother, 50 per cent of children say they feel unsafe in their neighbor hood at night; and 60 percent of children are estimated to be at risk of sexual violence.
Word Health Organisation PNG head Dr William Adu-Krow on citing this report said “We have to do something comprehensive now, before someone gets hurt!”

ENB police urged to use restorative justice

The National, Tuesday 07th Febuary 2012

A MAGISTRATE has urged police to use the restorative justice approach in communities and increase mediation between parties – before going to court
Senior provincial magistrate Regget Marum highlighted this yesterday when officiating at the dedication service to mark the opening of the legal year at Gunanba Catholic church in East New Britain.
He encouraged police officers to, instead of f arresting and bringing offenders to court, use the informal way of promoting mediation between the parties.
Marum said promoting restorative justice in the communities would improve communal relations.
“Now everybody wants to run to court and our communal system is slowly breaking down,” he said
“Those seeking help in civil matters must be encouraged to attend the alternative dispute resolution.

Villagers give food to hospital

The National, Thursday 02nd Febuary 2012

A GROUP of people in Western Highlands have donated three truck-loads of food to the Mt Hagen Provincial Hospital as part of a campaign to help “needy organisations”.
The people are from the Mt Giluwe LLG area and the Paia Kona Community Development Association.
The food crops and vegetables were handed over on their behalf by former council president Kome Topela and councilor Jeffrey Bras.
The two councilors said the donations were part of the community’s thanksgiving activity, where cash donations were used to strengthen church activities in the community.
Food donations were given to needy institutions such as the hospital.
The donation, mostly locally grown foodstuff, include round cabbages, broccoli, onion, kaukau, potato, corns, pumpkins, bananas and taro.
Bras said the community in the Mt Giluwe LLG had made an undertaking to donate whatever they could afford to the hospital – and will continue to do so in the future.
It was the third donation to the hospital since they started the initiative in 2009.
Donations are also directed to schools and prisons, with Baisu jail one of the targets.
“We are trying to give what we can from our land to the public institutions in need.
“To serve our people in the country and province,” Bras said.

Slim Jamie: Free medicare implemented 

Post Courier 15 Feb.

THE free medical care announced last month is been implemented, Health and HIV AIDS Minister Jamie Maxtone Graham claims.
“Yes, the policy is a new policy initiative by the O’Neil-Namah government and it is now being implemented.” The minister said in an email yesterday.
“We have basically done away with Somare’s “user pay” policy.
Free health and free education is the basic minimum responsibility of state for its citizens… is guaranteed under our national constitution. The notion of Citizens paying tax to government and government providing basic goods, services, and protection has been destroyed by Somare government. Somare’s user pay was illegal and draconian…..this policy has discriminated against the poor citizens who were forced to dig deep into their pockets to pay for basic services, even the poor are paying taxes (10% GST) and have every right to basic minimum service from the state,” Mr Graham said.
The minister said all public hospitals are free; nobody should pay any fees to receive health care.

 PPC: Sorcery-related cases top incidents list

The National, Thursday 23rd Febuary 2012

POLICE said most major incidents reported in Madang recently were sorcery-related deaths.
Provincial police commander Anthony Wagambie Junior said almost all the major incidents occurred where there was hardly any police presence.
He said in Bogia, four suspects, all over 55 years of age, had admitted to allegations of being involved in the suspicious killing of Bertha Mabong.
The deceased is the first legal wife of the provincial health adviser Paul Mabong.
Wagambie said a huge crocodile seemed to be attacking victims in the same spot of the river at Awar village.
The four have been remanded in custody for their own safety while awaiting further questioning.
He said in Josephstaal, which was only accessible by air or several days walk, a man had his hand chopped off as payback for a previous fight.
The fight stemmed from a school dance last year where those involved saw the victim outside the sub-district administrator’s house and knifed him.
In another incident, a fight occurred at the Raicoast High School last week between outsiders and students.
Wagambie said in all those instances there were no policemen on the ground as the two officers in Josephstaal had left for Bogia.
He acknowledged the support of district administrators in aiding his men with logistical support.

Billie raises concerns on human trafficking

The National, Thursday 23rd Febuary 2012

A SENIOR police officer wants people trafficking given more serious attention by the government, with tougher penalties imposed on offenders.
Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Anthon Billie said while police were aware of such crimes against human rights, they were “barely visible given the insufficient attention by the government”.
He recently returned from a five-week seminar in Japan where he presented a paper titled Trafficking in persons in PNG: An emerging organised transnational criminal activity.
Billie suggested the government quickly enact relevant legislations with tougher penalties to contain people trafficking.
He said officers from police, immigration, customs and the narcotics bureau were fully aware of the existence of activities relating to the crime in the country.
But they are not given sufficient legislative powers to arrest and charge suspects.

Government agencies are aware that the country is being increasingly used as a destination and transit point for trafficking and other international criminal activities.
He said the influx of foreigners into the country to work in logging operations, mining and other business activities such as kaibars, restaurants and shops was contributing to the spike in crime.
He claimed some of those involved in such activities sneak in because of the lack of proper screening and control due to poor legislation.
Bribes were also used to bypass official procedures.
For example, he said some got through Customs claiming they could not speak English, showing only their passports and declining to answer questions.
They illegally enter the country then they overstay their visas.

Call to support VHVs 

Post Courier 24 Feb

CONCERNS have been raised over the sustainability of Village Health. More than 50 Village Health Volunteers (VHVs), health and development practitioners throughout the country gathered in Port Moresby’s Lamana Hotel on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss issues relating to maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition. 
One of the main concerns raised by these participants was the need for support mechanisms, incentives or grants made available to motivate VHVs so that sustainability is maintained. 
VHVs are community based volunteers who, work tirelessly without motivation, without pay, lack training and often confronted by difficult situation to deliver pregnant mothers and address issues relating to mother and child care in rural areas.
A policy report launched at the meeting by Burnet Institute, a medical research group states that maternal deaths can be prevented through family and community health care-the prevention of family and community members, including trained health lay workers. 
The research paper states that up to one third of maternal deaths, over two thirds of new born deaths and half of child deaths occurring in PNG can be prevented through coverage of family and community health care (FCC) but in order to achieve this there is a need for coordination and support and a health system strengthening and a detailed analysis of costs and impact using PNG data.
The secretary for Health Pasco Kase at the official opening admitted that NDOH currently has no technical VHV program officer at the national and provincial level (except for Central Province).
He said the program was supported by NGOs, Faith based organisations and civil society organisations and few VHVs are actively performing their duties.

Study shows health care can prevent maternal deaths

The National, 28th Febuary 2012

A THIRD of maternal deaths, two-thirds of new-born deaths and half of child deaths in the country can be prevented through broad coverage of family and community health care, a research organisation says.
The Burnett Institute of Medical Research in Australia prepared the report titled “Improving maternal, new-born and child health in Papua New Guinea through family and community health care”.
The report said of the estimated 5,300 new-born deaths each year in PNG, 30% could be prevented with a basic package of family and community care and up to 70% “will be prevented if there is a maximum scale up of family and community health care”
It said of the estimated 1,500 maternal deaths each year, 480 could be prevented through the approach.
The report said PNG was not on track to meet the millennium development goals four and five relating to child and maternal health but had improved on mortality in children under five years of age from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 61 in 2010.
The report called for a review of family and community health care programmes and as well as greater cooperation between churches, non-government organisations and the government to improve maternal, new-born and child mortality rates in the country.

Additional website:  Catholic Bishops’ Conference for PNG/SI

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