Social Concerns Notes – July 2011

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/editorial/when-the-chief-bows-out-20110703-1gxfq.html  accessed 4 July   Survival of the Fattest

In resource Rich developing nations the noted Oxford economist Paul Collier has observed a corrosive political culture of the ”survival of the fattest”. Democracy notwithstanding, Collier argues that a sudden rush of money into a poor economy so distorts the function of government that it is the local big men – not society as a whole – who reap the rewards. As Papua New Guinea experiences an extraordinary resource-led boom, Canberra will be hoping that Collier will be proved wrong.

How will tensions be resolved between the massive flows of foreign investment into resources, logging and development – mainly from Asia – and Australia’s persistent efforts to use our large aid program to fight corruption and to promote good governance?

PNG’s economy is expected to grow faster than China’s this year and massive new liquefied natural gas projects alone promise to push GDP up by 20 per cent. Other projects are following the resources money, like a proposed $480 million special economic zone and new city on the island of Bougainville, site of a massive copper mine closed during the secessionist conflict.

Yet despite the frenzied exploitation of its natural riches, PNG stands at 137th on the UN’s Human Development Index, at 154th on Transparency International’s corruption index and in 2008 the Auditor-General estimated corrupt officials were stealing $356 million a year in a nation with an annual GDP of just $13.4 billion. The government is concurrently facing unprecedented opportunity alongside chronic problems of inequality, crime, environmental damage and the failure of basic service delivery. There is little choice but to keep banging, and funding, the good-governance drum, because only strong institutions can ensure resource wealth is translated into stability and prosperity – not just for the fattest, but for all.

K1.9m ravaged

The National 4 July 11

A TOTAL K1.9 million of the development budget has been committed in just three months and much of it in questionable projects, an investigation reveals.
Nearly K23 million out of a K30 million, allocated under the church-state partnership programme, was reported to have disappeared leaving only K22,000 in the till as of June 1.
A total K30 million was allocated to social development funds governed by the church-state partnership framework and executed between the state and church partners in October 2008.
It was reported that between March and May this year, a total of K7,160,263.66 was released to projects without records for the balance of K22,817,321.34.
The balance as of June 1 was only K22,415.

Pupils in remote school get laptops

Post Courier, 4 July

Students of Matkomnai Primary School in the North Fly District of Western Province recently received 70 solar-powered laptops, under a “One Laptop Per Children” program initiated and sponsored by PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd.
A ceremony was held at the school recently where Lawrence Stephens, PNGSDP’s program manager for Community and Social Investment Program (CSIP) and Coordinator of the OLPC program handed over the laptops to grades four and five pupils.
The event was witnessed by the students, parents, teachers and the community.
Other guests included Bishop Gill Cote, Catholic bishop of Daru Kiunga Diocese and district education officials.

http://asopa.typepad.com/ accessed 3 July

PNG population heads for 7 million this year

WHEN A COUNTRY has an annual population growth rate of three percent, it doubles in size every 20 years. And while PNG’s growth rate is a touch lower at 2.7 percent, the influx of migrants, especially from Asian countries, is taking it close to this benchmark.

Meanwhile, even as the country cries out for skilled labour, more and more Papua New Guineans are heading off to work overseas in what could become a debilitating ‘brain drain’ for the country. Some 20% of Papua New Guinean tertiary graduates live overseas. It’s a loss that isn’t really balanced by remittances, although the average Papua New Guinean sends home $7,232 each year.

Discussions on Pikinini Court continue

The National 5 July 11

Consultations are still being carried out between the welfare office at the Department of Community Development and relevant parties for the establishment of Pikinini Courts.
This is a requirement of the Lukautim Pikinini (Child) Act 2009, senior child protection officer Terry Lui said. Speaking at a consultative meeting for family and sexual violence committee at the Granville Motel last Wednesday, Lui told participants that talks were still being held to determine when the Pikinini Court should be established to deal specifically with children’s cases. “Court cases to do with sexual offences and other child abuses often see a child’s right to privacy and confidentiality violated and often the child is helpless or victimised when this happens,” he said. “We hope that through the Pikinini Court, we can address and protect a child’s personal integrity and maintain confidence and trust.”
Under the Act, child protection matters will be heard by the Pikinini Court and a magistrate of any other court except village court can preside where it is not possible for a magistrate of Pikinini Court to attend.
Lui said the office of Lukautim Pikinini, with the Department of Community Development, formerly known as the Child Welfare branch, had no funds to meet most of the targeted programmes under the Act.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/world-health-organisation-set-to-intervene-on-closure-of-torres-strait-tuberculosis-clinics/story-e6frg6nf-1226095469339 accessed 17 July

World Health Organisation set to intervene on closure of Torres Strait tuberculosis clinics.

From: The Australian

THE World Health Organisation looks set to intervene in Australia’s decision to shut down vital Torres Strait tuberculosis clinics, which currently treat sick Papua New Guinean nationals.

The Australian Online has obtained email correspondence from WHO’s regional TB adviser, Dr Kitty Van Weezenbeek, which outlines the global health body’s concerns over Australia’s plan to transfer the patients to PNG facilities. When the clinics, run by a team of Queensland Health doctors and nurses, are forced to close in October, the patients will be treated at Daru Hospital, in PNG’s Western Province. But the hospital has difficulty accessing clean water, sanitation and medicine.

http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/pacbeat/stories/201107/s3270032.htm accessed 17 July

PNG literacy rate in reverse – drops below 50%

Papua New Guinea’s National Reserach Institute says the country’s literacy rate has gone backwards, dropping to below 50 per cent.  The Institute wants the government to get serious about providing education and take greater action to achieve it. They say achieving basic education is critical to development.

Thomas Webster: The literacy rate in 2000 census and then updated of course with the 2011 census has been conducted this week, but the 2000 census findings estimated about 56 per cent literacy rate. Now the year before last there was a study conducted by an NGO group that looked at actual functioning literacy rate then, and they established the actual literacy rates are much, much lower than that, they estimated about 30 to 40 per cent. The reason being that the census questionnaire was based on asking people and say can you read and write in English, Tok Pisin or Motu? And if people said yes they were ticked off, if they said no, they were considered illiterate. So it was based on that question. There wasn’t any real test to measure whether they had any functional literacy rate or not. So it was the way we sort of conducted that measure that the instrument through which we monitored the literacy rate was inadequate to monitor or to capture actually whether they were functionally literate or not.

Even in the urban areas there are pockets where people are marginalised. It’s basically they’re dropping out because they don’t have the money to pay the school fees that are being charged by schools, there are other costs related to going to school like lunches, school clothes, clean clothes, textbooks, these sort of things add to the cost of school, and therefore there are many people who are marginalised who cannot afford it. They just let their kids leave (for) school.

High number of fake medical drugs in PNG

Post Courier 15 July 11

A small sampling study of anti-infective medicines in PNG has found that 100 per cent of the drugs tested failed to meet quality control or authenticity testing. The findings provide further evidence of the scale of the counterfeit and substandard drug problem in “lower income countries where product information and drug regulation enforcement are scant or absent,” according to the researchers from Goethe University in Germany.
The study examined 14 samples of an antibiotic (amoxicillin) and antimalarial (amiodaquone) bought from five registered pharmacies in Port Moresby, the country’s capital. None of the 14 samples met the testing criteria, which focused on visual inspection, quality control tests, and verification of product authenticity.
“Two products, one of which was purportedly distributed by a company which proved to be nonexistent, contained no detectable amodiaquine,” note the authors of the study, which ran on the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences website on June 30, ahead of publication. “This quality problem with anti-infective products is of great concern, as it not only exposes patients to poor quality products but also fosters the development of resistant bacterial strains,” they conclude.

Elections 2012

The Electoral Commissioner also announced the tentative program for the 2012 General Elections. The issue of writs will be on Friday, April 27, 2012 at 4 pm. Nominations will close on Friday, May 4, 2012 and polling will start on Saturday June 23, 2012. Polling will end on Friday July 6, 2012 and the return of writs will be on or before Friday July 27, 2012. He said the program was subject to variations.

Doctors in Bougainville

There are only ten qualified doctors in the whole of Bougainville, and eight of them are in Buka.

http://asopa.typepad.com/ accessed 18 July

Ask not what your country can do for you

THE OLD GUARD in Papua New Guinean politics has had its day; it’s time for a new generation of younger, educated politicians to step up to the plate.  How often have you read or heard this sentiment? Trouble is, when you look around, there’s no one readily apparent who fits the bill or who isn’t already considerably tainted or shop worn. In this sense, it might be useful to take a look over the near horizon for a role model – towards Vanuatu perhaps.

That little chain of islands has many of the characteristics of Papua New Guinea.  Its people are Melanesian and a similarly inappropriate system of government when it gained independence. The parliament is made up of a government and opposition which are virtually indistinguishable and which spend their time doing deals and playing musical members.  Vested interests reign supreme and corruption is rife.  Sound familiar?

There is one who stands out from the crowd however.  His name is Ralph John Regenvanu. Ralph is 40 years old.  He has an honours degree from the Australian National University, where he studied anthropology, archaeology and development studies. He was director of the Vanuata Cultural Centre from 1995-2006 and director of the Vanuatu National Cultural Council from 1995 -2010.  He became a Member of Parliament in 2008.  Transparency International said he was elected by the “protest vote” – essentially people who were sick and tired of the same old politicians.

In January 2009 he announced that he would use part of his parliamentary salary to set up and finance scholarships for students undertaking foundation-level studies at the University of the South Pacific in the capital, Port Vila. In the first year 12 students received scholarships; by the second year it was 19 because he had attracted other sponsors to the scheme. In March 2009 he began to finance a Youth Solidarity Micro-Credit Scheme out of his parliamentary salary, providing loans to assist young people to set up small business projects. In 2010 he donated one-tenth of his annual salary to a campaign to clean up litter in Port Vila.  In the same year he donated money to promote youth groups. He also started a radio program where people can ring in and ask him questions or express their views.

He is not afraid to expose corruption and mismanagement in the government and the public service.  He is a critic of the constituency funds that are allocated to MPs and not monitored. This year, as Minister for Lands, he started reforming land laws so that applications for registration of customary land leases would require the consent of entire clans and not just a few greedy individuals. This upset the members of Parliament who had long been involved in shonky land deals and they forced a reshuffle and demanded control of his portfolio.

Ralph was given the Justice and Social Affairs portfolio in the reshuffle but he didn’t give up on his campaign and immediately announced that he would reform the Customary Lands Tribunal system along with a number of other legal matters that concerned him. Less than two weeks after taking over the portfolio he called for the descendants of “black birding” victims living in Australia to be given Vanuatu citizenship. One wonders and hopes that there is a similar young firebrand waiting for his chance in PNG.

Social protection idea

Post Courier 20 July 11

PROGRAMS aimed at helping people to stop them falling into poverty, helping those who are trapped in poverty and empowering people manage their lives better are now being considered. The social protection programs will enable government to help people directly in times of hardship and are distinct from traditional social services, such as education and health.
In 2009, the NEC set up a task force comprising of eight government departments to investigate and report on a formal policy model for social protection in the country. A target group was identified who were very much in need of this service. The group includes people such as the elderly and people living with disability and children. The investigation also showed two case studies of existing social protection related programs for the elderly in New Ireland and Domel in Western Highlands. Studies were also conducted in five countries in Asia-Pacific region to give further strength to this system.
There will be a high level stakeholder forum next month in Port Moresby. The forum will look at a first and second draft reports on the policy model. The report was thoroughly reviewed and critiqued by a focus group with additional inputs from technical experts. The aim of the forum is highlight the key concepts and definition of the subject which is new and should not be confused by the “dole system” or State welfare. The forum hopes to create awareness on the importance of having a national policy on social protection and its contribution to the people’s welfare and national growth.

http://www.actnowpng.org/content/free-trade-not-what-pacific-needs accessed 21 July

Free trade is not what the Pacific needs

The article below by Nick Dearden argues that African prosperity relies on a wholesale rejection of the western free trade model, which is still being promoted by the USA, Europe and their economic allies like Australia.

Papua New Guinea has recently approved a new Interim Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union and is being pressured by Australia and New Zealand to sign the  Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER).

But, just like Africa, PNG should be looking to follow its own development path and reject the plundering of its resources by foreign interests aided by naive and greedy politicians and bureaucrats. The free-trade agenda of the west is part of their failed neo-liberal economic model and does not match PNG’s own Constitution and National Goals.

http://www.actnowpng.org/content/more-questions-answers-pmiz-coc-meeting accessed 14 July

More questions than answers on PMIZ at CoC meeting

The latest meeting of the Madang Chamber of Commerce has thrown up more questions than answers about the government’s controversial Pacific Marine Industrial Zone, as this report by Nancy Sullivan reveals: Stotick Kamya [President of the Chamber of Commerce and ex RD manager] gave us a cheerful progress report on the PMIZ and its scope of work. Included in it was an admission that money had run out last year for both the environmental and social impact assessments, which have still been left unpaid, and that all the settlers within the fenced area have been paid off but they are now asking for more (the tone implying how greedy they must be).

Some kerfuffle ensued when he suggested by misstatement that ALL Rempi people were settlers, which got the hairs up on one CoC members back (who also queried the rumour that the PMIZ is to have private access banning landowners to waters offshore to 500 metres out from Rempi to Alexishafen – Stotick was unsure).

The presentation went on to include a discussion of the Gold Coast of PNG, a spectacular new development planned for up the north coast road, clearly piggybacking the town joy of a Pacific Marine Industrial Zone,  sponsored by Coral Seas and other private entities (land clearing has already begin!) – where we can expect luxury villas, swimming pools, golf courses and malls.

It would seem that evicting landowners from these marvellous new retirement and industrial zones has not been a problem…

Blind children missing out

Post Courier 14 July 11

ALMOST 160,000 vision impaired children who need specialist attention in PNG are not receiving adequate education, according to a research. This was revealed on Tuesday during a three-day inaugural national universal basic education (UBE) conference at the National Research Institute (NRI) in Port Moresby.
A research fellow and a PhD candidate at the James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, James Aiwa said it was clear that many children who needed specialist VI services were not receiving them.
“Preliminary results indicated that majority of about 366 students who received specialist services in 2009 used braille and legally blind students with low vision, students who are able to see things within three metre being seriously neglected,” he said.
Mr Aiwa said the teachers in the survey identified significant problems including the negative attitudes of parents, regular teachers having over focus on disability rather than students’ abilities, the need for specialist pre-service and in-service training and lack of resources to support student transition to secondary and tertiary education.
The three recommendations he made were a firm commitment to achieve equity and access for all children including those with VI by 2015; identify all children with VI; and ensure that they are all assessed and appropriately supported and provide relevant pre- and in-service training and material resources.

‘PNG fails to implement development’

Post Courier 12 July 11

PAPUA New Guinea is very good in “planning for development” but has completely failed to actually implement development,” said New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan. Mr Chan was speaking during the opening of the Consultative Implementation Monitoring Council NGI Regional Forum in Kavieng last week Thursday. “We have an alphabet soup of agencies and committees and councils all devoted to either planning for development or monitoring how we are planning for development or to changing how we do development because the way we have been doing development has not been working,” he said.
He said “but when it came to implementing development, PNG has completely failed”.
The Governor made mention of the Medium Term Development Strategy for 1997 – 2002, the MTDS for 2005 – 2010 and the MTDS 2011- 2015, which he said were all the same. He quoted some of the goals including using the revenues from mining, petroleum and gas to improve the social and economic conditions of the people as well as reducing the level of poverty in Papua New Guinea and ensure that no Papua New Guineans are being left behind. “We are saying the same things in 2011 that we said in 1997? Why is this? Very simply, it is because we have not done what we promised we would do,” he said.

http://www.actnowpng.org/content/local-communities-file-complaint-ifc-over-pmiz-and-sez-laws accessed 12 July

Local communities file complaint with IFC over PMIZ and SEZ laws

Local communities affected by the proposed Pacific Marine Industrial Zone in Madang have filed a formal complaint in Washington about the role of the International Finance Corporation in promoting the project and in developing Special Economic Zone laws in PNG. The communities have filed their complaint with the International Finance Corporation Ombudsman. The IFC is a part of the World Bank Group which is based in the United States. The complaint, which has been formally endorsed by over 100 landholders and is supported by many more, alleges there has never been any proper consultation with landholders about the PMIZ and they have never given their free, informed consent to the project. The landholders also say they have already suffered enough from the environmental damage, foul smells and social problems caused by the existing RD Tuna factory and do not want more tuna canneries on their land. The compliant also says the IFC has been involved in drafting legislation to allow tax free Special Economic Zones in PNG which are not in the interests of the majority of people and will not improve their social conditions.

Madang yet to effect 476 arrests

The National 12 July 11

THERE are 476 outstanding bench warrants in Madang – the oldest issued by the court in 1987, according to the national court listing. And police have blamed the lack of resources and manpower for the problem. According to the listing, the 476 bench warrant matters remain outstanding after the last week’s court circuit visit by Justice John Kawi. When asked to explain the backlog, police station commander Steven Kaipa said many of the offenders were from outside the province. And those in the province lived in remote areas, he said. The situation in Madang was compounded by the fact that most of the police vehicles needed urgent repairs or were beyond repair.

From pp 133 ff of the PNG Medium Term Development Plan 2011-215

6.1 Economic Corridors

Economic Corridors are proposed to alleviate poverty. Corridors of poverty will be transformed into Economic corridors. Without the corridor system people in poverty will not be integrated into the mainstream economy. An Economic Corridor is a region in which the Government provides a well planned zoning system, a comprehensive and effective network of transport and utilities, quality education, and health services. Within this region, businesses are able to operate at low cost and under well designed incentives, thereby encouraging foreign and domestic private sector investment. By concentrating the construction of essential infrastructure within certain regions, the Economic Corridor approach takes advantage of the substantial economies of scale and scope associated with large service sector infrastructure. This reduces the cost to state owned enterprises and other providers of essential infrastructure, while raising their returns. Building on this infrastructure, effective sequential and spatial planning will help to expand economic activities like agriculture, tourism and manufacturing.

MTDP 2011-2015

The Government has identified ten regions of PNG to be categorised as Economic Corridors. Within the next five years, efforts will be focused on developing four economic corridors. These are as follows.

Petroleum Resource Area Economic Corridor (PRAEC) (Southern Highlands, parts of Enga, Gulf and Central Provinces). The PRAEC was approved by Cabinet in May 2009.

· Central Corridor (Central, Milne Bay, Oro and Morobe).

· South Coast Corridor (East New Britain and West New Britain).

· Momase Corridor (Madang, East Sepik, and West Sepik).

Development of these corridors will be coordinated by Economic Corridor Implementation Authorities (ECIAs). Legislation will set out the powers, functions and responsibilities of an ECIA in mobilising, planning and managing development in the Economic Corridor. Until the ECIAs are well established as a separate entity, they will operate under the Department of National Planning and Monitoring. Over the next five years, implementation of the Economic Corridors and establishment of the ECIAs will be sequenced through a number of phases. During the first phase, policy, legislation, ECIA governance and reporting mechanisms will be in place to support a fully functional ECIA. The first ECIA will be the PRAEC ECIA. The second phase will produce targeted sectoral studies with geographical overlay. An integrated development strategy and plan will be developed during phase three, alongside a proposal of specific projects and programs to be implemented within each corridor, in line with government priorities identified in MTDP 2011-2015 and PNGDSP. Phase four will focus on the implementation and monitoring of selected projects and programs. ECIAs will work closely with provincial, district and town authorities to harmonise development initiatives, coordinating efforts in order to bring about greater results in the corridors. ECIAs will only initiate flagship projects of national interest in their various corridors, specifically in economic infrastructure (transportation, energy and telecommunication), social infrastructure (health, education, and research and development), and projects for economic pursuit (agriculture, fisheries, forestry, downstream processing, and small-medium enterprise development). ECIAs will not implement development initiatives at provincial and local levels, rather this will be the responsibility of provincial and lower level authorities.

6.2.4 Churches

Goal: Effective health, education and community service delivery through a close and sustainable partnership with PNG’s churches

Churches have contributed to the development of PNG for over 100 years and continue to play an important role in nation building by fostering spiritual, social and economic growth. The Government has recognised the efforts of churches in partnering with the Government to provide basic social services such as health and education under difficult circumstances in many parts of the country, especially in the rural areas where the majority of the population lives, but where government services are either inadequate or lacking. Over the next five years the Government will continue to support PNG’s churches through the Church-State Partnership. At least K60 million will be directed by the Government through PNG’s churches to help deliver health and education services. Within the period 2011-2015, it is the Government’s commitment to ensure that a close working relationship is maintained with PNG’s churches through establishing joint coordination meetings, establishing independent monitoring mechanisms to assess performances, and continuing to maintain and strengthen development partnerships.

Fight against domestic violence

Post Courier 22 July 11

ONE of the main tasks of the Lihir Tutorme Women’s Association is to help in efforts to curb domestic violence that is affecting people on Lihir Island by contributing in whatever way it can, to alleviate these problems. Tutorme means “Stand together” in the local Lihir lauguage.
Domestic violence workshops conducted by the community policing unit are a motivating factor to the association to participate by working together with participants of these workshops to fight these problems. Mrs Lusem said in the past, the association was fully aware of these problems because they were affecting their people on a daily basis, but they did not know who to work with to clamp down on it.
Mrs Lusem said their visits around Lihir confirm that the Island is experiencing a marked increase in domestic violence related problems with mothers and children being abused and sexual harassment is rife. She expressed concern that Lihir is feeling the effects of these problems and assured the participants that the association will work with them to put into practice what they learn at the domestic violence workshops.

The challenges in banking

The National 22 July 11, editorial

BANKS, which ought to be the most welcome places to be at, are today the most forbidding.
The queues snake their way right outside bank doors on most days. The wait is interminable.
When, with tempers already frayed, a customer finally hauls herself before the counter, often she is put through a gruelling questioning by the teller that is closer to police interrogation.
Quite often, the question pops up, in silent contemplation or in angry retort: “Does this bank want my business?
“Why are you treating me with contempt – is it because my deposits are smaller than big businesses?
Why are you making it difficult to access my own mo­ney?”
Then, there are the horrendous fees charged and we cannot help it but get the feeling that that customers do get charged for the hard time they have with the bank. Each transaction is charged.
It drives one to want to keep his or her money in a tin in a hole in the backyard.  It has become so that saving, which is a chore for the average Papua New Guinean, is now virtually impossible.

Water to settlers shut due to wastage  

The National 29 July 11

A NUMBER of settlements in Port Moresby have been without water since last month after Eda Ranu clamped down on illegal connections and unpaid water bills by disconnecting supply to the area. Parts of Morata, Wild Life and 8-Mile settlements have faced intermittent water supply, or none at all, since June.
Eda Ranu says, “There are many illegal settlements springing up all over the place.  “We are not denying anyone water, but because Morata is a non-paying area, we need to control flow and pressure to reduce wastage, and reduce our operational costs of treatment and maintenance.” Visits by Eda Ranu workers to these areas have noted open taps running 24-hour a day, thus forcing it to put in place measures to control water usage. Currently there are 31 settlements, both legal and illegal, receiving water from Eda Ranu.However, only two – Oro ATS and Morobe Block – are paying.
“Despite our findings, we continue to supply water to these communities.”
Meanwhile NCDC chief health surveyor Robin Yanepa, in a letter to Eda Ranu’s operations manager dated July 19, said after investigating the case: “There is already evidence of skin disease infections and likely possibility of an outbreak of disease, including cholera”.
“From the stream water samples collected and tested, it shows that the water is highly contaminated with faecal bacteria”.

http://www.actnowpng.org/content/over-2-million-be-affected-upcoming-drought-papua-new-guinea accessed 31 July

Over 2 million to be affected by upcoming drought in PNG

More than 2 million people in Papua New Guinea stand to be affected by severe food and water shortages unless serious steps are taken to ease the effects of a possible drought in the next 12 months.

The warning came from Papua New Guinea’s National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) which says there has to be a collective effort by government agencies as well as communities to deal with the effects.  NARI’s warning comes in light of increasing global attention on the plight of coastal communities impacted by global warming and climate change.  While much of the focus is on coastal areas, the institute is reporting an increase in crop diseases and poor harvests as a result of higher temperatures in highland areas.

Current data from various international agencies show that drier and hotter periods  are becoming frequent and more intensive.  While a  nationwide drought is a long term possibility, people can expected to see intermittent localized droughts. The impacts of expected long dry periods won’t just affect food security.  With about  90 percent of Papua New Guinea’s electricity needs supplied by hydroelectric dams,  droughts will result in power rationing and increased costs to businesses and individuals. “Drought is everybody’s problem,” says Dr. Ramakrishna. “We can’t just wait on the government to address it.” In the face of  funding problems, the institute continues to push the government to consider the establishment of food banks, resilient agriculture systems and better water security.

More dialogue needed for (sex) laws

Post Courier 29 July 11

Calling on Churches and civil society groups to be very honest in their opinions, the country’s Attorney General and Justice Minister Sir Arnold Amet said yesterday that dialogue would continue on sex laws.
He said the government cannot make any changes until and unless it is satisfied that these changes are for the good of society. Changes to the sex laws have been mooted by the Department of Community Development, however, most church clergymen yesterday voiced severe opposition, saying any change would increase the suffering of men and women.
Sir Arnold said he personally does not support prostitution or homosexual behaviour, and the government would have to study all aspects and hear all sides before it makes a decision on any proposed changes.
He said that the terms of reference on the review are before his department for consultation.
The consultation also heard that the debate on discriminating sex laws relating to prostitution and homosexuality is based on human rights merit and especially the HIV/ AIDS management.
Fr John Glynn of WeCARE, while strongly opposing the review on sex laws, said it was men who wanted this law and equates it to slavery and sex industry will become a thriving industry if these laws are reviewed. Archbishop of Port Moresby, John Ribat also supported Fr Glynn, adding that sex industry will only get out of hand, it will grow wild, without control and it will be interpreted differently by the people.
He said it was men who push agendas around and women get to be victimised and suffer more. He questioned the great influx of people into cities while noting that one reason is there were no services back at home and people came into cities then turn to illegal means getting money. Sir Amet said these issues needed to be seriously discussed before ‘the watch is on us’. Despite this, not many church leaders attended. The Minister plans for a bigger forum in the near future with wider consultation from churches and legal minds.

K700m plan for islanders’ resettlement

The National 25 July 11

THE Madang executive council last Thursday endorsed a K700 million assistance package to be sought from the national government for the relocation of displaced Manam islanders.
This is after several years of waiting for development at the political level in terms of peace-seeking resolutions with mainlanders for resettlement. Provincial administrator Ben Lange during a press conference last week said the promised K10 million funding by the government early this year was yet to be received for groundwork to be done.
He said the K700 million would be used in phases over the next five years, with the first phase to begin in September.
The break-up of the K700 includes: K10 million for feasibility studies; K450 million for survey, building and construction by next year; K50 million for resettlement of displaced islanders and rehabilitation; K180 million to be paid as compensation to the Andarum villagers, whose land will be acquired for the resettlement; and K10 million for monitoring, coordination and evaluation. Lange said the aim of the exercise was to settle all the displaced Manam islanders living in the care centres by 2015.

http://asopa.typepad.com/ accessed 25 July

Govt resigns to improve malaria fight

AS PAPUA NEW GUINEA continues its battle to contain and prevent malaria, officials say the government’s decision to resign as the principal recipient of monies from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, will improve its response. “Stepping down as a principal recipient was a difficult decision to make,” said Leo Sora Makita, principal technical adviser for malaria and vector-borne disease for the Department of Health. “We actually had to step down because we need a principal recipient that can effectively manage the funds and report back to Global Fund.” The decision followed a Global Fund audit in September and October 2010, when it found the Department of Health had not complied with grant guidelines and some $7 million had been misdirected.

Makita agreed there were some weaknesses in the system and the funds were not managed effectively. Since April, when the Department of Health announced it would no longer shoulder the management of the $50 million in Global Fund grants, discussions on how to keep the money flowing to this South Pacific island nation have taken place behind closed doors with the Global Fund’s country coordinating mechanism. Oil Search, one of PNG’s biggest and oldest companies, was appointed the new principal recipient at end-June. In addition to producing oil and gas in PNG, Oil Search has run several successful anti-malarial programs since the 1990s and says it has an expertise that can be tapped for its new role. “When the Department of Health was looking at pulling out of managing the money, we put our hand up to take on the responsibility,” Peter Botten, managing director of Oil Search, said. Botten said he foresees a more predictable and effective delivery on the Global Fund grant goals with Oil Search at the helm of money management, but working in conjunction with the Department of Health.

With 90% of the nation’s six million people at risk of contracting malaria, combined with a growing resistance to Chloroquine, the first line of treatment, the government of PNG considers malaria among the country’s top five health issues. The country achieved a 26% decrease in malaria cases from 2004-09, from 1.9 million reported cases in 2004 to 1.4 million in 2009, according to the World Health Organisation. But such a reduction does not constitute a success story just yet, said Zaixing Zhang, malarial scientist with WHO in Port Moresby.

http://ramumine.wordpress.com/ accessed 26 July

Ramu mine waste dumping: Injunction refused

LIVE FROM MADANG:   Justice Canning sitting in the National Court in Madang has refused an application by indigenous landholders for a permanent injunction preventing the marine dumping of toxic waste from the Ramu nickel mine.

The judge said that although the landholders did have standing, had established that there was a serious likelihood of irreversible harm that would constitute both a public and private nuisance and that the dumping would breach the National Goals and Directive Principles in Papua New Guinea’s Constitution, he was refusing the application for a permanent injunction.

Justice Canning gave as his reasons for refusing the plaintiff’s application their delay in bringing a court action, the fact the marine dumping has been approved by the government and the economic consequences for the mining company and investor confidence if the marine dumping was stopped.

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