Social Concern Notes – June 2011
http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/pacbeat/stories/201106/s3254119.htm accessed 27 June
Fee for Refugees wanting citizenship
In Papua New Guinea, there have been calls for the National Government to lower its fees for refugees wanting citizenship. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees wants the cost of citizenship to be dropped, to help West Papuan refugees already living in the country to obtain citizenship.
The fee for citizenship is a huge 10-thousand kina or four thousand-400 dollars.
http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/pacbeat/stories/201106/s3242984.htm accessed 15 June
New Chinese-built urban centre for Bougainville
Chinese investors have presented details of a plan to build a major new urban centre on Papua New Guinea’s Island of Bougainville. The multi-millon dollar development would be built on government-owned land and would be declared a Special Economic Zone.
http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/ accessed 14 June
Papua New Guinea’s ruling National Alliance party wants to make the Province of Madang into a Philippines style industrial zone using a combination of corporate tax exemptions and Chinese investment and labour.
The plan, which is championed by the Attorney General, and ex Madang governor, Arnold Amet, and current governor James Gau, was the focus of a recent trip to the Philippine’s by a delegation of bureaucrats and local leaders to the Subic Bay Freeport, established in 1992.
The National Alliance plan will see Madang become the mining capital of PNG with both the huge Ramu nickel and Yandera gold and copper mines pumping their toxic tailings in to the sea. Both mines are being developed by Chinese companies..
In addition the government wants to see up to 10 tuna canneries operating as part of the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone. The PMIZ is to be built by another Chinese company using funds loaned to PNG by the Chinese Export-Import bank.
The PMIZ will be designated by the government as a Special Economic Zone which means it will offer generous tax exemptions to foreign companies and operate as a fenced enclosure with private security to prevent unauthorized access. With the Zone normal migration, labour, health and safety and environmental laws will not apply.
The National 14 June: Hundreds walk to fight graft
THE courage to blow the whistle is the key to weeding out corruption, Rev Samson Lowa, who led the Transparency International PNG “Walk Against Corruption” on Sunday in Port Moresby, says.
Speaking at the Jack Pidik Park at 5-Mile, Lowa said corruption “is rampant in PNG and it has to be rooted out from within the hearts and minds of individual Papua New Guineans”.
“There are Papua New Guineans who want to blow the whistle on corruption but lack the courage. “Fighting corruption is everyone’s business,” he said.
Referring to placards carried by anti-corruption groups, Lowa said: “The message is clear now that people of all walks of life hate corruption and they want to root it out through any means.”
More than 2,400 anti-corruption campaigners walked the streets of Port Moresby.
The common slogans on placards were “vote out corruption, don’t support it; report it”.
Court challenge for Madang PMIZ
Local landowners oppose $m project
PNG’s Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ) project that is being planned for development in partnership with other Pacific Islands countries is being challenged in court.
The local people are concerned at what they claim is a lack of transparency in the way the project is being developed, which has not really involved and benefitted them. The court challenge follows two forums held by the plaintiffs this year to air their grievances about the project.
The government says the PMIZ will incorporate up to 10 tuna processing factories that will employ 30,000 people. The PNG government has named a relatively unknown Chinese investor to be the major developer of the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone project. The company, which calls itself Shenyang International Economic and Technical Cooperation Co. Ltd, employs up to 100 people and is expected to develop the US$300 million Pacific Marine Industrial Zone project.
The PMIZ project will be funded by a K202 million (US$71 million) concessional loan from Exim Bank of China.
The main condition for the loan is that 70 percent of the project must go exclusively to a Chinese developer using Chinese technology, labour and equipment. Other PNG firms can only bid for the remaining 30 percent of the contract if it becomes available. Another condition tied to the loan is that the main contractor’s profit margin will be 20 percent of the contract value.
Minister Kapris said the reason why the government decided to go to the Chinese was because it would be quicker to get the loan. He said since this was a concessional loan, the main contractor and supplier would be from the sponsoring nation, while the sub-contracts for the project would be from PNG.
PC 16 June 11: PNG not prepared for sex laws
DECRIMINALISING sex laws is something PNG is not ready for but the legislative package is with the Law Reform Commission to consider. The Minister for Community Development, Dame Carol Kidu, said this yesterday while summing up the issues that were highlighted on Tuesday during the national dialogue on HIV, Human Rights and Law.
She said the Government has not been giving a “go ahead” for changes when the bill was proposed, and it has been referred to the Law Reform Commission.
Dame Carol said the decriminalisation of sex laws was not trying to be in conflict with the churches but protect the rights of key affected groups of people including women, young girls, sex workers, men who are having sex with men (MSM) and transgender.
She said this would deter the unconsensual sex within marriage and also outside which both parties would exercise their human rights.
The Minister said by this they were not trying to legalise prostitution in the country but trying to empower women, girls and other key affected people to exercise their rights.
The National 17 June 11: Bishops say funds abused
LOCAL Catholic bishops have renewed a call for parliament to “cease the inefficient system of allocating development funds to MPs to distribute”. This was agreed to at the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
“This system is a direct cause of election-related violence,” the bishops said.
“It is open to much abuse and the potential for corruption, especially by diverting these funds to projects or even directly as cash handouts to supporters”.
“As the 2012 election approaches, we see early signs of these very abuses and fear that a great deal of the wealth of the nation will be wasted in electioneering rather than being used for real prioritised and sustainable development.”
The bishops appealed to MPs to live up to their noble calling in placing the needs of the people above theirs and to use funds exclusively for the benefit of the people. “We note that famous slush funds or funds made available to a member of parliament for distribution at their discretion detracts from the dignity of the office of an MP and prevents the fulfilment of authentic political service.
The National 17 June : Paper on disabled signed
PNG has signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) but has yet to ratify it. Ratification will pave the way for the implementation process of the rights of people with disabilities in the country, key people involved in disability programmes said..
PNG ambassador to the United Nations Robert Aisi signed the convention on behalf of the government with the official ceremony published on the UN website.
The K8 million Australian government funding for the CRDP will be drawn down after the CRPD is signed.
Post Courier 17th June: Zibe: Our health worst in the region
MINISTER for Health Sasa Zibe confirmed in Parliament yesterday when making his ministerial statement that the health status of the country was the worst in the Pacific region.
Mr Zibe said over the past years, the country has seen its public hospitals and health centres slowly falling apart due to normal wear and tear and in many cases neglect by consecutive governments to provide funding for the routine maintenance and upkeep of facilities.
He said population growth and demand for health services are consistently outstripping the manpower and the facilities the country has and “we are acutely facing shortage of drugs or even when it reaches a point it is either outdated or missing”.
“We must be informed that the present system of health service delivery is fragmented and one of the reasons is that; provincial health services are delivered under a complex legal structure and this has caused difficulty,” he said.
http://ramumine.wordpress.com/ accessed 20 June
Many commentators are talking excitedly about the unprecedented riches that will come from Papua New Guinea’s resource boom. But who is REALLY going to reap the benefits from Papua New Guinea’s oil, gas, gold and silver?
Papua New Guinea has already experienced 20 years of massive resource exploitation. Its forests are being logged out, tuna stocks over exploited, mines like Misima are already exhausted, Ok Tedi will soon close, Porgera, Tolokuma and Lihir have been operating for more than a decade and have been joined by Sinivit, Kainantu and Simberi. But who has benefited from all these riches?
PNG ranks a lowly 137th out of 169 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index which ranks countries according to a broad measure of well being that is far more relevant to ordinary people than the usual indicators used by the exploiters, economic growth and annual income.
Papua New Guinea’s mining boom promises unprecedented riches for multinational corporations and a local elite of politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats but offers only more environmental damage and social problems caused by alcohol, violence and the break-down of family and community ties for ordinary people.
Example of Nauru (http://malumnalu.blogspot.com/ accessed 20 June)
The proposal to set up a ‘sovereign wealth fund’ for PNG has a familiar ring to it.
The Republic of Nauru was declared in 1968. The Island’s economy was based on the extraction and export of phosphate rock, a left over from when the island was uninhabited and a roosting/nesting place for Pacific birds. In the 1960’s and 70’s, the island’s population of less than 10,000 enjoyed the highest per capita income in the South Pacific from phosphate royalties.
So what happened to Nauru’s wealth? Why has the average income of this nation’s citizens now diminished from a comfortable living to that of virtual poverty? When the phosphate reserves were exhausted, and the environment had been seriously harmed by mining, the trust that had been established to manage the island’s wealth diminished in value. To earn income, Nauru briefly became a tax haven and illegal money laundering centre. From 2001 to 2008, it accepted aid from the Australian government in exchange for housing a Nauru detention centre that held and processed those who had tried to enter Australia irregularly. Mining has also affected the surrounding Exclusive Economic Zone, with 40% of marine life estimated to have been killed by silt and phosphate runoff.
Following decades of mismanagement, corruption, and spiralling loans to General Electric, estimated to amount to approximately A$227 million, the Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust (NPRT) was forced to sell off its international assets to pay loans. When the new Australian Labor government decided to close the Nauru detention centre in 2008, the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Kieren Keke, stated that it would result in 100 Nauruans losing their jobs
http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/ accessed 23 June
This week’s decision in the National Court, that logging company Concord Pacific pay a record K22.6 million in damages for environmental destruction caused by illegal logging, puts the spotlight on the role of Papua New Guinea’s Governor General in facilitating and supporting illegal logging and the misery it causes to the lives of ordinary people
As Forest Minister, Ogio not only approved the unlawful issuing of an extension to the Kiunga-Aiambak Timber Authority held by Concord Pacific, against the advice of five different government departments. Ogio also gave Concord Pacific three separate unlawful tax exemptions.
In handing down the courts decision on damages on Tuesday, Justice Cathy Davani was very critical of the destruction caused by the logging company. She said the destruction had completely destroyed the lives of local people, especially children and women, and the damage done was immeasurable. These impacts were the direct consequences of the unlawful actions of the Governor General and a whole line of other politicians and senior public servants.
In December 2000, Ogio granted an illegal Timber Authority for Stage 3 of the Aiambak Kiunga project. This was illegal as the Minister had no power to grant a Timber Authority and no proper application or allocation procedures had been followed. This was later pointed out to the Minister in a letter from the National Forest Board – a letter which he ignored.
http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/pacbeat/stories/201106/s3253004.htm accessed 25 June
Thousands suffer food shortage on Bougainville atolls
Over 12 thousand people from the atoll islands in Papua New Guinea’s Autonomous Region of Bougainville are facing food shortages and need urgent help.
Their MP, Lauta Atoi told the PNG parliament that people now cannot grow food on the atolls because of sea level rise and a prolonged drought.
He says there’s no long term food security for the atoll islanders.
The National 24 June 11: Mines ready for huge production
PAPUA New Guinea’s mining industry is poised to produce 31,325,500oz of gold and silver and 165,000 tonnes of copper this year.
Officer-in-charge of the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) Philip Samar told a mines and money conference in Beijing last week that these production figures were expected from the six mines operating in the country at present.
The mines are Porgera, Ok Tedi, Tolukuma, Sinivit, Simberi and Newcrest (Lihir).
Out of the production figures and commodities, Porgera is expected to produce 500,000oz of gold and 80,000oz of silver, Ok Tedi 400,000oz of gold, 1,000,000oz of silver and 165,000 tonnes of copper, Tolukuma 70,000oz of gold and 150,000oz of silver, Sinivit 50,000oz of gold and 2,500oz of silver, Simberi 800,000oz of gold, while Lihir is expected to produce 800,000oz of gold.
Samar said PNG had four major mines in advanced stages of construction which were expected to come on stream in the near future.
The mines are Ramu NiCo (more than 30 years life span), Solwara-1 (five years), Yandera (10 years) and Frieda projects with expected mine life of 20 years.
Ok Tedi mine has given notice to stakeholders of the suspension and termination of tax credit projects in Western and Sundaun Provinces worth over K150 million. The miner says the decision is a direct result of the ‘significant losses’ to mine income caused by the prolonged suspension of mining operations due to a tailings pipeline failure.
The decision to suspend or terminate projects affects the following ongoing projects:
|Balimo Hospital Project||K39,319,360.62|
|Fly River Jetties Upgrading Program||K14,000,000.00|
|Olsobip Airstrip upgrading||K2,460,000.00|
|Kiunga Town Sewerage system upgrade||K18,000,000.00|
|Kiunga town water supply system upgrade||K18,600,000.00|
|Kiunga easipay project||K1,332,000.00|
|Kiunga New Sub Divisions Stages 1,2,3&4||K27,322,223.80|
|Okaspmin High School -Tekin||K25,920,000.00|
|Telefomin High School Maintenance and Upgrade||K9,500,000.00|
|Telefomin Inspectors H65 Kit Houses.||K300,000.00|
|Wangbin Community School||K3,092,059.00|
|Wipim School Inspector’s House||K800,000.00|
Other proposed projects under design and investigation that have been halted are:
- Kiunga Airport Terminal Building
- Okma Community School
- Korkit aidpost and APO house
- Kwiloknai Primary School
- Wangbin Elementary School
- Tabubil High School and Elementary School
- Biangabip airstrip
- Ningerum Elementary School
- OK Tarim Airstrip
- Bolivip Primary school and water supply
- Wogam Primary school
- Montfort primary Kiunga
- Tarakbits water and power
- Rumginae Primary Admin office and library
http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/ accessed 27 June
Lawyer Paul Paraka and ex Solicitor General Zacchary Gelu were back in court Friday trying to ensure the Finance Department Commission of Inquiry report, which heavily implicates both men in massive corruption and fraud, remains under wraps.
The findings of the Commission of Inquiry, which were handed to the Prime Minister in December 2009, have not been officially published and the people, including Paraka and Gelu, implicated in the theft of K780 million, have not been arrested or charged because the two men have a court injunction preventing publication or any criminal action against them. The injunction was granted by Justice Sakora in March 2010
Post Courier 9 June: Families refuse to vacate PMIZ
The 156 families at Vidar plantation in Madang, where the current Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ) project is located, have refused eviction until the National Government compensates them fully.The families, all settlers from all parts of the country currently residing at portion 1350 at the plantation at Nukuru and Maus Damon Compounds, are workers employed by RD Fishing, RD Cannery and RD Plantation.
Spokesman of the settlers Peter Rigens said that the Government, especially the Department of Commerce and Industry, must honour its promise in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed on May 2, 2011 with the displaced settlers and compensate them fully.
Mr Rigens said that on the day the MOA was signed, the settlers were paid for their garden crops which included mature bananas, taro, kaukau mounds, asparagus, betelnuts, mangoes and other economic crops. However, he said that the method of payment involved was ‘fishy’, citing that the settlers were issued with cash in white envelopes. He claimed that many settlers were disappointed to find that the amount of cash in the envelopes were less than what was written on the envelopes.
He also queried such cash payment, citing that the Government always paid people in cheques and not cash and asked Francis Irara, who coordinates the PMIZ office in Madang and the Department of Commerce and Industry to explain such method of payment.
He also said that at the time of payment, the settlers asked Mr Irara and the Department of Commerce and Industry to produce the list and number of crops on gardens for each family to be presented so payments would be done accordingly but this was not done, claiming that Mr Irara said ‘the list was left at home’.
Post Courier 9 June, feature: Girls’ school gets a boost
STEPHANIE COPUS-CAMPBELL – Head of AusAID in PNG
Papua New Guinea and Australia are supporting secondary education in the Highlands with a K5.1 million expansion at the Notre Dame Secondary School in Mt Hagen. Notre Dame is one of only four all-girls schools in Papua New Guinea and the only girls school in the Highlands region.
“With the expansion of universal basic education and more students now enrolled in primary schools across PNG, there is a great need to provide quality secondary schooling,” said Principal of Notre Dame Secondary School, Sister Mary Vivette Baker. “In Western Highlands’ secondary schools, less than 40 percent of school enrolments are girls, so this expansion will help us do our part to balance that better.
The project, funded through the PNG-Australia Incentive Fund, will include a 52 bed student dormitory, four new classrooms, a new kitchen, extended dining hall and upgraded water reticulation system. Teachers will also be supported with accommodation for a further six staff.
“This project will ultimately lead to a better learning environment and quality of education for girls in PNG,” said Head of AusAID in PNG, Stephanie Copus-Campbell.
Since upgrading the school to Secondary status the number of Notre Dame students enrolling in tertiary studies has increased from 60 to 75 percent, overall academic performance has improved and there has been less teacher turnover.
http://asopa.typepad.com/ accessed 10 June
Official shame: Trouble on the Western front
THERE IS A potential humanitarian crisis about to unfold in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea as Australia moves to prevent border crossers from accessing healthcare in the Torres Strait.
The people of South Fly in the Western Province have had access to health services on Saibai Island in Australia, for decades. Many cross the border under the Torres Strait Treaty that exists between PNG and Australia.
With the deterioration and decay of the town of Daru and its hospital, many people prefer to cross the border to seek better treatment. Patients travel to Mabuduan Health Center at the mouth of the Pahoturi River where they receive their referral letters to travel to Saibai.
Queensland Health has been faced with bearing the cost of providing this care. In recent times, the burden of treating tuberculosis has led to moves to stop providing care.
The prevention of villagers from accessing lifesaving treatment would have tragic consequences. For many who live along the coastline of the Torres Strait, getting to Saibai is much more convenient than having to travel to Daru.
People who live inland in the TransFly Savannah also find it easier to travel by foot to the Pahoturi River villages and then by canoe to Mabuduan.
The Health Centers inland at Morehead, Upiara and Wipim have chronic shortages in medical supplies. Access to these health facilities is by foot.
THERE IS NO HEALTH inequality worldwide greater than Australia’s northern maritime border with Papua New Guinea.
Ranked number two on the UNDP’s Human Development Index, Australian soil is just three kilometres by sea from PNG; ranked at 137.
With tuberculosis being the most expensive single health issue to treat in the region, recent shifts in government policy risk aggravating the situation on both sides of the border.
There is an estimated 2% tuberculosis prevalence in PNG with around 50,000 annual visits to the Torres Strait islands by PNG nationals.
Post Courier 10 June: Call to erect mental care centres
CALLS have been made by police in Madang to health authorities to consider establishing regional facilities in the country for mental health patients.
The calls are from Madang Provincial Police Commander Superintendant Anthony Wagambie (Jnr) and have been made in light of the increased complaints he has received from members of the public who have been victimized by these people.
Supt Wagambie said while some of these patients were harmless, there were others who were proving to be very aggressive and needed to be locked away.
He said this was because they were simply becoming not only a danger to the public but to themselves. He said while police had been arresting them, they could not keep them locked away in the cells given their mental state.
“…at the moment there is only one established Mental facility and that is the one at Laloki but with the increased number of patients, thoughts should be given to establishing similar set ups in the regions.
“This is because we cannot allow these people to roam the streets,” he said.
Post Courier 10 June: Marape clears air on fees
The initial belief that Government would pay 50 per cent for first six months of school fees for students attending primary schools next year as stated in The National on May 27 has been changed to a time frame of four years.
Education Minister James Marape clarified the report by stating that much consideration had been made over the impact this would cause to the budget had it been given the go ahead.
He said the National Alliance Party had a policy on paying for education for elementary and primary students to help with the implementation of the Universal Basic Education (UBE).
He explained the policy was in line with the UBE and would extend from elementary preparatory to elementary grade two to include primary grades three to five next year. He also put at ease the query of schools capacity by stating that free education would require additional classrooms, teachers, staff houses and school facilities.
“This is from preliminary scoping to establish that to holistically make free education policy work, we would need an annual budget of about K1.7 billion,” he said.
He called for development partners to lessen costs for building and refurbishing classrooms, teacher training and other school facilities including operational expenditures.
“We acknowledge that education is an inherent right and as a responsible government, we are giving free education to PNG that has started implementation in 2010 and should be fully implemented in 2013,” he said.
The National 29 June : PNG joins global effort on disability
PAPUA New Guinea is working towards achieving one of the nine recommendations formulated at a world disability gathering in New York on June 9.
The nine recommendations were:
* Accessibility to all mainstream systems and services, with stakeholders being encouraged to change laws and policies, institutions and environment;
* Investing in programmes and services for people with disabilities where specific measures such as rehabilitation, support services or vocational training to improve functions and disabilities to make them independent;
* Adopting a national disability strategy and plan of action;
* Involving people with disabilities to be at the planning level in formulating and implementing policies;
* Improving human resource capacity through effective education, training and recruitment;
* Providing adequate funding;
* Increase public awareness and understanding about disability;
* Improve the availability and quality of data on disability; and
* Strengthen and support research on disability as it increases public understanding, which, if supported through adequate funding, will make others appreciate and overcome social barriers.
Thirty-six years after the people of Papua New Guinea gained the right to govern themselves they are still waiting on a government that gives them a fair share of the country’s considerable resources.
“We have so much need for basic government services in the midst of the all mines, all the riches being extracted from our land,” says Ombudsman John Toguata.
From the conflict over the Panguna mine in Bougainville until today, the story has remained the same – one resource project after another resulting in landowner discontent over the failure to divide up the royalties properly and fairly.
PNG’s resource laws and its tendency to agree to bad deals are a contributing factor, but so is corruption.
For years now, politicians in Papua New Guinea have been more focussed on what they can take out rather than what they can put in.
A career in politics seen as an easy way to get rich quick but a new generation has emerged promising to do things differently.
Opposition leader Belden Namah says the failure to protect the landowners basic rights is the biggest issue currently facing PNG.
One change under serious consideration is a re-writing of PNG’s resource law which would see the country automatically own 20 per cent of each project, rather than having to purchase a 20 per cent share – as is currently the case.
“If the people see the benefit of these multi-billion operations going on in the country going back to them we will be dealing with a totally different situation,”, Toguata says.
From the Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church.
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
IV. A COMMON RESPONSIBILITY
a. The environment, a collective good
466. Care for the environment represents a challenge for all of humanity. It is a matter
of a common and universal duty, that of respecting a common good, destined for all,
by preventing anyone from using “with impunity the different categories of beings,
whether living or inanimate – animals, plants, the natural elements – simply as
one wishes, according to one’s own economic needs.” It is a responsibility that
must mature on the basis of the global dimension of the present ecological crisis
and the consequent necessity to meet it on a worldwide level, since all beings are
interdependent in the universal order established by the Creator. “One must take
into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered
system, which is precisely the ‘cosmos.”‘
This perspective takes on a particularlmportance when one considers, in the
context of the close relationships that bind the various parts of the ecosystem, the
environmental value of biodiversity, which must be handled with a sense of responsibility
and adequately protected, because it constitutes an extraordinary richness
for all of humanity. In this regard, each person can easily recognize, for example,
the importance of the Amazon, “one of the world’s most precious natural regions
because of its bio-diversity which makes it vital for the environmental balance of
the entire planet.” Forests help maintain the essential natural balance necessary for life. Their destruction also through the inconsiderate and malicious setting
of fires, accelerates the processes of desertification with risky consequences for
water reserves and compromises the lives of many indigenous peoples and the
well-being of future generations. All indiviquals as well as institutional subjects
must feel the commitment to protect the heritage of forests and, where necessary,