An important event during March was the brief but important visit to Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea by the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women. Ms. Rashida Manjoo is a Professor in the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Her report will go to the UN Commission for Human Rights and will no doubt have implications for the international standing of both nations and hopefully some improvements within the two countries. The proposal to invite a UN Special Rapporteur had been circulating for some time, and was intensified by the response of a number of nations at the Universal Periodic Review of both Solomon Islands and PNG last year in Geneva. The invitation came first from the Solomon Islands government and PNG followed. Initial reports are available, however, the full reports should be available later this year. The report from the Special Rapporteur should be not just a source for sensational headlines, but is predicted to include serious recommendations based on international experience.
Here are parts of her statement at the end of the Solomon Islands visit. The full statement can be found at http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11968&LangID=E
Special Rapporteur on Violence against women finalises country mission to Solomon Islands
HONIARA (16 March 2012) “This mission was underpinned by the recognition of the on-going challenges faced by Solomon Islands to overcome poverty and underdevelopment. I am also aware that the country is still undergoing a process of healing and reconciliation after the five years of tensions that took place between 1998 and 2003. While there is no single homogenous society in this culturally diverse and geographically widespread country, Solomon Islanders share some traditional and religious values which largely shape the roles that women play in the family and in society. Women are mainly viewed as mothers and home-makers and their participation in public and political life is extremely limited. The lack of female role models in positions of authority is evident in the fact that there are no women currently in the Parliament or in the Executive, which reinforces such traditional perspectives and also reflects the dominant views regarding women’s status and value.
The government of Solomon Islands has taken some positive steps to promote women’s human rights and develop policies towards the elimination of violence against them, including through the development of the National Policy on Gender Equality and Women’s Development and the National Policy on Eliminating Violence against Women.
During my mission I have learnt about the high incidence of violence against women in Solomon Islands, including domestic violence. According to official figures, 64% of women aged 15-49, who have ever been in a relationship, have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner. I also received information indicating that violence against women starts at a young age, with the girl child being at risk of violence, both in the family and in the community. The number of incest cases filed before the judiciary has been increasing in recent years. Young girls are also reportedly subjected to violence in the community, particularly, sexual abuse, defilement and gang rape. I received alarming reports of young girls being abused by employees of fishing and logging companies in remote areas of the country. In this context, young girls face sexual and commercial exploitation or are sometimes given away in “marriage” by their families, who receive some sort of compensation or bride price, in the form of money or material goods.
Women also carry the legacy of the crimes committed against them during the tensions. I was informed that the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which examined the violations committed during the tensions, and which includes a specific chapter on women, will be submitted to cabinet soon. One of the main challenges identified during this mission was the limited avenues for justice available to women victims of violence. There is currently no specific legislation addressing the issue of violence against women. The Penal Code only refers to some forms of domestic violence, and marital rape is not criminalized by law. Even when legislation is available, implementation remains a challenge. While courts may provide protection orders for women victims of domestic violence, these only apply to married women and they are reportedly rarely enforced by the police. Structural obstacles also limit women’s access to the formal justice system. There is a clear disconnect between the capital and the rest of the country as regards access to justice. Some challenges include a lack of infrastructure, human and financial resources, insufficient qualified judges, magistrates and lawyers, amongst other factors.
My findings will be discussed in a comprehensive way in the report I will present to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2013.”
Here are some points from the initial report by the Special Rapporteur after her visit to PNG. The full text may be found at:
Special Rapporteur on Violence against women finalises country mission to Papua New Guinea
PORT MORESBY (26 March 2012) The recognition by the Government of the need to uphold its international human rights obligations is reflected in its positive participation in the UPR process, it’s reporting to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, including by the establishment of a CEDAW implementation strategy, and the efforts to establish a National Human Rights Commission. I am also encouraged by the development of a human rights track in the National Court which allows for specialization in human rights cases, as well as the establishment of a multi-sectoral Human Rights Forum. …
Violence against women is a pervasive phenomenon in Papua New Guinea, with a wide range of manifestations occurring in the home, in the community and in institutional settings. There is currently no official data which captures the different manifestations or prevalence rates of violence against women in the country. However my interactions with interviewees, both at the governmental and non-governmental sector, as well as the information received directly from survivors; indicate extremely high levels of violence against women throughout the country, with some regional variations in manifestations and prevalence. …
With regard to intimate partner violence, according to a 1992 report produced by the Constitutional Law Reform Commission (CLRC), “two thirds of married women in PNG had been hit by their husbands”. An academic study conducted in 2009 shared similar findings, noting that 65.3% of the interviewed women were survivors of domestic violence. …
With regard to sexual violence within the family, service providers confirmed that the number of cases of incest and teenage pregnancies is on the rise. Young girls, particularly those living with relatives or step-parents, are reportedly at high risk of sexual violence, which is perpetrated by male relatives such as uncles, cousins, brothers or male family friends. Although marital rape is penalized by the Criminal Code, only two cases have been prosecuted since the relevant legislation was enacted in 2003.
As regards violence against women in the community, I received alarming reports of violence perpetrated against persons accused of sorcery/witchcraft, with women being affected disproportionally, particularly widows or other women with no family to protect them.
During my visit to the Highlands region, I was shocked to witness the brutality of the assaults perpetrated against suspected sorcerers, which in many cases include torture, rape, mutilations and murder.
The abuse of alcohol and other substances is also present in many of the reported cases of sexual violence in the community. Women interviewed in Port Moresby shared their fears of gang rape and other forms of violent crime in the streets, which has limited their ability to move freely and safely without a companion. The risk of sexual assault and rape was also a particular source of concern among interviewed women who are living in regions facing tribal conflicts. …
During my mission I also examined the situation of women in detention, both remand and convicted prisoners. I was informed that 90% of women in prisons in the country are serving time for murder. In the Bomana prison, I interviewed women charged with murder and other crimes. From the information received, all the women convicted for murder were victims of family violence, including being subjected to polygamy and neglect, and, many of them had acted in self-defence. In most cases, women had endured years of physical and sexual abuse from their husbands and had received no support when reaching out to the community or the police. Most incarcerated women did not have adequate legal representation and they accepted the option of a plea for a lesser charge rather than go to trial. Nevertheless, all the women had ended up receiving lengthy sentences, despite their expectation that a plea to a lesser charge would result in a lower sentence.
As regards the conditions in prisons, women do not receive adequate and suitable food; they do not have regular access to health services, and, need to wait long periods to see a medical professional; they are reliant on family and friends for appropriate medication; and they are forced to work without receiving any remuneration for their products or their labour. For women in prison who have their children living with them, there is only a one-bed cell which sometimes has to cater for 7 women and 9 children. Furthermore, the prison does not provide food or other necessities for babies and children, and this remains the responsibility of the mother.
Reports of police brutality and misconduct were widely reported in all parts of the country. Complaints of violence and sexual abuse of women while in police detention and outside was a systemic issue, including against sex workers. In a provincial police station, I witnessed the incarceration of minor and adult women together and found women and girls who had been kept in custody for up to three months in extremely inadequate conditions, while awaiting trial. Some of them had not had access to a lawyer.
Although Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) Family and Sexual Violence Units have been set up in six police stations in the country, these are yet to be formalized and permanently integrated into the structure and budget of the police, including with adequate human and financial resources. Several stakeholders reported that most of the policing resources are currently being diverted to the regions hosting Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) projects as well as the mining areas, to the detriment of safety and security needs of PNG citizens. …
During my mission, it was clear to me that the support and other relevant services that do exist for victims of all forms of violence, are being provided largely by the civil society sector, with the assistance of development partners. This assistance includes both financial and capacity building initiatives. The responsibility to prevent violence, protect against violence, provide remedies for victims, and to punish perpetrators for all acts of violence against women, is primarily an obligation of the State. I would like to emphasize the need for holistic solutions which address both the individual needs of women, and also the social, economic and cultural barriers that are a reality in the lives of women. The empowerment of women must be coupled with social transformation, to fully address the systemic and structural causes of inequality and discrimination, which most often lead to violence against women.
In conclusion, it is my hope that relevant and much needed laws are passed soon, existing laws are adequately enforced ; that existing specialized units are strengthened and replicated at the provincial and district levels; that women are encouraged and supported by the state sector in bringing their cases to the District and National Courts; and that accountability, rather than impunity, becomes the norm for all acts of violence against women.
My findings will be discussed in a comprehensive way in the report I will present to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2013.”
PNG Law Reform Commission Urges Sorcery Act Repeal
Source – ABC RAdio 06/03/2012
Papua New Guinea’s Law Reform Commission is proposing the repeal of the country’s sorcery act, after examinations of increasing attacks on people alleged to be sorcerers led them to conclude the act contributes to the problem. Dr Eric Kwa, the Secretary of the Law Reform Commission, says every month stories emerge of alleged sorcerers being put to death. “They’re slashed with the bush knife, [and] some of them actually get burnt,” he said. “Maybe when they’re sleeping in the house they burn the house. Or some even pour kerosene on them or petrol and burn them.” Dr Kwa says the simplest way around the problem is to kill off the whole Sorcery Act. “Because one of the conclusions that we have now agreed to is that this is a ‘spiritual’ matter,” he said. “Law cannot deal with ‘spiritual’ matters. It’s very difficult to prove it as evidence.” But the Acting Director of the PNG National Museum, Dr Andrew Moutu, says the Sorcery Act needs to be strengthened, not abolished, because sorcery is a deeply embedded belief in Papua New Guinea. “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous,” he said. “We will still kill people here and I think the courts and the Law Reform Commission must find a way to deal with sorcery bravely.” PNG’s Opposition Leader, Dame Carol Kidu, says it’s a complex issue. “There are other very big things involved nowadays like greed, acquisition of people’s properties and land and all sorts of things might be all tied up in all of this,” she said. “Using sorcery, using killing a sorcerer as a reason to acquire land. So it needs to be investigated.” Charles Abel, PNG’s Minister for Commerce & Industry says he’s outraged the Commission’s research has shown that the victims are predominantly older women. “I find it disgusting that old women can be picked up from their homes and dragged off into the bush and tortured after being accused of sorcery, when we often know that those allegations are absolutely false,” he said. Mr Abel says Cabinet will consider the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations shortly.
The National Friday, March 9, 2012
THE United Nations has welcomed a proposal by the Constitutional Law Reform Commission to repeal the country’s Sorcery Act. UN Human Rights Office regional representative Matilda Bogna said in a statement yesterday that sorcery-related attacks and killings were of particular concern in Papua New Guinea. “The growing trend of attacks and killings of people accused of sorcery and the lack of protection is a threat to the lives of men, women and children in PNG. “Those accused of witchcraft or sorcery often face cruel and inhuman treatment. “There have been reports of women, men and children being tied up, gagged, beaten, burned, attacked with bush knives, raped, and killed. “It is rare for attackers in these cases to be prosecuted,” she said. She said the commission’s proposal came after analysis and nationwide consultations to review the law on sorcery and related killings which led them to conclude that the Sorcery Act of 1971 had been contributing to the problem. The UN has consistently been urging the PNG government to take action to protect the population from sorcery-related attacks and to act with diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute, and provide remedy and services to the victims of these violations. Bogna said the commission was taking an important stand on a critical human rights concern for the country. “This advisory group has the constitutional mandate to propose reforms to address this issue and I understand that the PNG cabinet will soon consider their recommendations,” she said.
Govt Bans Smoking in Public Places
The National 07/03/2012
Smoking in enclosed public places is banned, Health Minister Jamie Maxtone-Graham announced yesterday. He said those caught smoking in such places could face fines of up to K1,000. Maxtone-Graham said the ban covered enclosed areas such as schools, shops, hospitals, public transport, nightclubs and any other place deemed to be accessible by public and enclosed. He said the policy was approved by the National Executive Council and gazetted on Monday. The decision was based on a declaration adopted by the 64 member states of the United Nations to fight non-communicable diseases caused by the consumption of unhealthy goods, including tobacco. Maxtone-Graham has advised the department to put together a health enforcement unit to implement the policy. He said they would work with police and other relevant authorities to implement the policy. The policy prohibited the sale of loose cigarettes because that allowed persons under 18 to buy tobacco. Fines for companies and people caught selling loose cigarettes would be stiffer than for those caught smoking in enclosed public places.
The National, 01st March 2012
MILLIONS of children in towns and cities tend to miss out on vital services because of rapid urbanisation, a United Nations report said. The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World states that in a few years, the majority of children will grow up in towns and cities rather than in rural areas, with already about 60% of those born in urban areas accounting for the rapid increase in the urban population. United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (Unicef) executive director Anthony Lake said an increasing number of children living in slums and shanty towns were the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the world – deprived of the most basic services and denied the right to thrive. “Excluding these children in the slums not only robs them of the chance to reach their full potential; it robs their societies of the economic benefits of having a well educated and healthy urban population,” Lake said in a statement released from New York yesterday. Unicef is urging governments worldwide to prioritise children in their urban planning developments and to extend and improve services for all.
Priest Reach out to Lae Kids
Post Courier 7 March.
THE UNITED Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) in a report released late last month stated that cities around the world were failing children. In Papua New Guinea, this statement holds no exception and is quiet evident in the three big cities of the country – Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen. In Lae, street kids are a normal sight they are either liked, disliked, pitied and sometimes helped by people. But it takes, people with hearts of gold and those who can give their time, efforts and maybe spend a dime; to really understand why these children are who and what they are. Fr Arnold Schidmt from the Archdiocese of Lae runs weekly literacy classes for such disadvantaged children under the Catholic Church’s Street Kids Project. He even provides with the assistance of the Lae Biscuit Company, a plate of biscuit and cordial or water for the children daily. The aim of the program run by the church is to basically assist children in learning to read and write in both Tok-Pisin and English. The literacy classes which are conducted in Tok- Pisin and English was initiated in 2006 basically to help children who were living on the streets in the city. The towering bulky German priest spends every ounce of his time daily overseeing the classes and has seen a lot of children make it into state-run elementary, primary and vocational schools. He has engaged three mothers of whom two teach the Tok-Pisin Classes and the other, who is a retired primary school teacher, teaches the English class. Fr Arnold says children are not forced or pressured into learning – they are only given the opporuntity when they desire to learn and so begin with the Tok-Pisin Class and advanced onto the English class.” Fr Arnold remarks. Most of the children who take up the literacy classes come from broken homes and families.
Police force Pomio villagers to sign logging documents
Post Courier 7 March.
CLAN members of Mu Village in West Pomio were allegedly forced by police officers to sign “documents” without being given a chance to read what they were signing. The landowners from the Pomata concession area within the Memalo Integrated Project area in West Pomio said they were approached by a number of police officers on Saturday around 6pm and were forced to sign the documents. They were told that if they did not sign the papers, they would go to jail. Mu villager and spokesman Paul Pavol said a lot of their land was taken up by the eco-forestry projects and small holder sawmills. He said they have been blocking the logging company from entering their land for sometime because of the eco-forestry projects. They have also been refusing to sign consent papers to allow the company to enter their land. However, on Saturday, the armed policemen who are believed to be based at the Drina Logging camp went to Mu Village while Mr Pavol and the other landowner leaders were in Kokopo. The police officers went to the village and forced the key landowners to sign the documents. The Pomio District Administrator when contacted by phone yesterday said he was on leave and could not comment. However Pomio Deputy District Administrator Ludwick Ngori said he had no idea about the incident at Mu. He also said the Mobile Unit 21 were in Pomio at the request of the logging company and were based at the Drina Camp site.
98 women helped make porn movies
Post Courier 1 March 12
THE Sri Lankan national who was deported recently had used more than 98 women, including a six- year-old, a police woman and wife of a departmental head, to participate in his pornographic movies. He was deported last week by the Foreign Affairs and Immigration Department for overstaying his passport and visa. Apart from the 98 females known to have taken part in the unlawful business, many still remained unknown. The youngest girl is a six- year-old child, while the second youngest was 12 years. A current senior female police officer and the wife of a former departmental head were also among those involved. One of the women, used as a model and actress in the pornography, has revealed in their investigations that she had become HIV positive after or during the period in which the movie was being produced.
The National, Wednesday 07th March 2012
THE government has been asked to adopt wholesale Chimbu province’s election management experience to be applied nationwide. The recommendation is contained in a confidential brief to the prime minister by a AusAID/Cardno-sponsored electoral support programme team. The Chimbu model, as it is referred to, includes: An inexpensive but effective identification card system; A family roll awareness, training and registration system; Separate polling booths for women; and Electronic counting. The ID system incorporates the name of the voter and his photograph, how many family members he has and further identifies his LLG, clan and village. This ID is done on site by returning officers or assistant returning officers through open consultative meetings. And the data is immediately recorded into a database at the provincial Electoral Commission office. “It is the only form of credible reconciliation as the whole community and the councillor are involved and are going through the process of registration together and publicly,” the team noted. Chimbu returning officers have been conducting training on the application of the new roll system called the “Family Roll” throughout the region, “The key success to the Chimbu by-elections is attributed to the awareness component of the preparation which had significant impact on the process of the by-elections and prepared Chimbu for the elections,” the team concluded. The Chimbu model includes an innovative network of civil societies and churches for election awareness. The allocation of separate polling booths for women was a success in Chimbu, the team noted. It said: “The Chimbu election team championed the women polling booth and for the first time in the polling history in the highlands region, women polled in large numbers un-harassed and, for many, it was their first time to actually vote. “This is a significant and unique breakthrough to gender empowerment and participation.
The National, Tuesday 06th March 2012
A UNITED Nations team is in the country to review the level of corruption and mechanisms used to eradicate it. The representatives are from the UN convention against corruption. They paid a courtesy call on Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc in Port Moresby. They will conduct reviews on the departments of Prime Minister and NEC, Justice and Attorney-General, Treasury, the Ombudsman Commission, Internal Revenue Commission, Auditor-General’s Office, Public Prosecutor’s Office, Transparency International PNG, Strongim Pipol Strongim Nesen, Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council and the Financial Intelligence Unit. Zurenuoc assured the team that the government was serious about eradicating corruption, starting with its agencies. “Corruption has plagued the system for far too long, hence this government is utilising every means to reduce the level of corruption,” he said.
The National, Tuesday 06th March 2012
A GROUP of councilors in the Hagen rural local level government wants to know why the provincial government is yet to enforce a liquor ban in the province. The councilors said the provincial executive council passed a resolution last December to ban the sale of alcohol in the province – except for a few hotels namely the Highlander, Waipa Zone and Hotel Kimininga. The councilors said every liquor outlets in the city was still selling alcohol. Councilors said alcohol-related problems in the city had escalated and wanted the ban to be enforced. No comment could be obtained from the provincial administration. Kuri, who claims to be on the provincial liquor licensing board, admitted that the provincial council had verbally passed a resolution to declare a liquor ban. But it failed to allocate any funds to agencies such as the licensing board and police to enforce the ban. He said they were still waiting for the funds. Rapa said alcohol was the main contributing factor to the deteriorating law and order problem in the city. He said the Hagen rural councilors closed the Hagen main market yesterday for an indefinite period because drunkards always went into the market causing disturbances. They demanded extra fees from vendors and fought with the market security guards. He said since the market was opened in 2006, they had being coping with these problems and they were getting fed up. Rapa said unless the provincial government, police and other concerned authorities could assure them that they would maintain order and address the problem, the market would remain closed.
PNG’s new media underground
Australian newsletter Crikey, 1 March 2012
The cards seem firmly stacked against optimism on the streets of Papua New Guinea at the moment. It’s a bad sign in an election year, with little confidence evident that the outcome will correct our Pacific neighbour’s course from the particularly rocky path it’s taken in recent months.
But here — like elsewhere in the developing world where obscene power disparity is mobilising the masses — a wellspring of resistance is brewing. In the past two years, a plethora of political blogs and Facebook chatter has sprung up, fulfilling a watchdog role the government and mainstream media have been deemed incapable of. The targets of the new media vanguard are corruption, incompetence, and multinational corporations that get a free ride by the government at the expense of PNG’s downtrodden masses.
A growing web buzz representing savvy, pissed off Papua New Guineans is showing promising signs of being able to hold dodgy corporates to account.
Daily dispatches on Papua New Guinea Minewatch and LNG Watch blogs, for instance, have exposed an alleged whitewash by the government and ExxonMobil over a landslide near its major LNG project last month that killed at least 25 people.
Meanwhile, PNG Exposed‘s campaign for justice over a ferry that sank in January, claiming 200 lives, contributed to the government ordering an independent investigation into the tragedy. The Act Now! site is taking online activism a step further, galvanising a previously suppressed citizen voice via email campaigns a la Avaaz and GetUp!
But the burgeoning movement’s most prominent force is a Port Moresby betel-nut street vendor.
Martyn Namarong’s politically charged, plain-talking blog gets up to 3000 hits a day, a not-insignificant figure in a country where only 60,000-70,000 people have Facebook accounts.
The government is slowly coming to grips with the threat: it recently advertised for staff for a social media department, and earlier this month issued a threat that people spreading “misinformation” faced arrest.
The National, 01st March 2012
MORE than 3,370 prisoners are still at large – after various breakouts from the country’s jails in the past 20 years, acting Commissioner for Correctional Services Martin Balthazar said. Balthazar said between 1990 and 2000 alone, 2,227 detainees escaped, with 1,190 recaptured and 1,037 still at large. From 2001 to 2011, there were 3,261 escapees reported and only 925 of those prisoners had been recaptured. Balthazar and state minister Sai Sailon Beseso are concerned about the increasing number of prison break-outs. “Containment of detainees is a priority but CS officers need to ask why huge numbers of detainees keep escaping,”
The National, Thursday 08th March 2012
INCREASING lawlessness in Popondetta, Northern, has forced the University of Natural Resources and Environment (UNRE) to stop enrolling female students at its campus there. This may also eventually force the closure of its campus. Vice-chancellor Prof Philip Siaguru said in a statement that the university would look at closing its doors if the situation did not improve by the time it conducted a review in July. The university council decided to exclude female students five months after 15 men, armed with guns and bush knives, held up 16 female students in their dormitory last April. They then tried to drag a female student out of the dormitory with them. Male students acted quickly to rescue her. There has been no improvement so far. “The police are faced with handicaps of their own such as no vehicles and no fuel for the ones they do have, and every day the situation worsens,” he said.
CMC clarifies health funding
Post Courier 13 March
THE CHURCHES Medical Council has clarified confusions over the allocations of funds for church health services under the church-government partnership program. Churches have been told to access these funds through the National Planning Department through their proposals. Officers within certain churches claimed that allocation of K10 million under the supplementary budget never came good but only K1m was disbursed. Churches claimed through the supplementary budget of K10 million which was allocated for the church health services was not given in full. “Churches Medical Council (CMC) only received K1m and I do not know what actually happened to the K9m. When you look into the MTDP 2011-2015, there is a section for the Churches under the Church-State Partnership, which indicates K60m allocated every year for implementation of programs and other impact programs and that has to made clear to churches how to access funds,” claims Catholic Church Health Secretary Magdaline Dukop. “The Government is acknowledging the church for the contribution to healthcare in PNG as partners but how do we justify ourselves to be partners in the delivery of healthcare delivery in this country when we are not treated fairly.”
Two dead in Nuku High School killings
Post Courier 14 March
A tussle between two ex-students and the headmaster of Nuku High School in Sandaun Province has left the headmaster and one of the youths dead. Two young men from Mai and Yambil villages in the Nuku area entered the school on Monday afternoon demanding that the headmaster, Gregory Komboni, re-enroll them after they had been suspended a few years before. The ex-students had an argument with Komboni wanting to get back into school because of the proposed free education policy. This resulted in the killing of Komboni, when one of the youths produced a gun and shot him point-blank in the school office.
The National, Wednesday 14th March 2012
EARNINGS from the LNG project are not expected to be significant until after 2023, according to Asian Development Bank’s Papua New Guinea country economist, Aaron Batten. He told The National yesterday, after the release of the latest edition of ADB’s Pacific Economic Monitor, that this had to do with financing agreements of the project. “For the first five to 10 years of LNG production, revenues will be quite small,” Batten said. “This has to do with financing agreements of the project,” he said. Batten said: “This is accelerated depreciation (to do with tax benefits to the project). “LNG revenues for the first five to 10 years of the project will only replace the decline in other mineral revenues government receives. “In the long term, things will get better, but over the medium term, government will face a growing fiscal challenge.” Batten said the major challenge facing the government right now was the declining revenue over the next two to three years, mainly because of the winding down of LNG construction, declining output from mines and oil fields, and agriculture exporters to face loss of competitiveness as a result of the high kina exchange rate.
Blindness needs to be addressed
Post Courier 15 March
Uncorrected refractive error and cataracts are the leading causes of vision impairment in PNG, followed by corneal infections, pterygium (growth of scar tissue and blood), uveitis (eye inflammation),trauma and eye disease complications from diabetes, head Ophthalmologist Simon Melenges told IRIN news recently. Nationwide, there are seven functioning eye clinics partially funded by the Australian government; almost all lack sufficient stocks of drugs to treat eye infections, surgery supplies or prescription glasses, PNG Eye Care says.
In a population-based, cross sectional study on patients over the age of 50, (according to a 2006 report), it was found that 29.2 per cent were visually impaired and 8.9 per cent had functional blindness. This equates to an estimated 146 000 people over the age of 50 with visual impairment, of whom 44,000 people are bilaterally blind. The study shows refractive error (45.7 per cent) and cataract (35.2 per cent) were the most frequent causes of blindness. The figures have increased over the years and continue to increase every year.
The National, 08th March 2012
ONLY K9 million of the K54 million paid out in compensation for the Highlands Highway Rehabilitation Programme were for genuine claims, Works secretary Joel Luma said yesterday. He said it had taken his department about four years to investigate and verify whether the K54 million paid out previously to landowners in the Chimbu section of the highway was for genuine claims and to ensure that any further claims were properly verified. “These landowners do not appreciate the time and effort put into rectifying the genuine claims as a result of the K54 million that was paid out previously, much of which was for fraudulent and false claims.” He said during the verification exercise they established that the genuine missed-out claims from that previous exercise amounted to only K6 million. “That brings us to a total of about K15 million for the Chimbu corridor of the highway. All the rest were fraudulent or bogus claims.”
The National, Monday 26th March 2012
THERE are about 5,000 tuberculosis cases in the National Capital District, Opposition leader Dame Carol Kidu says. Dame Carol, who took part in the TB Walk in Port Moresby on Saturday with more than 1,000 people, said cases could be reduced if everyone worked together. She said everyone needed to spread the message that TB was curable and people should not be allowed to die from it.
The National, Monday 26th March 2012
A GROUP of parents have been praised for building a four-in-one classroom building from funds they raised over four years. Opening the building at the Yambun Primary School in Ambunti-Dreikikir district, East Sepik province, last Thursday, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare said the parents had set a very good example to other communities. They had been raising funds for four years and managed to collect a total of K60,000. Yambun Primary school is a Catholic-run institution established in 1983. There are four teachers with a roll of more than 200. Sir Michael said the Yambun community had set a good example. “Instead of waiting for financial assistance and support from the government, they went ahead with fundraising activities,” Sir Michael said.
The National, Monday 26th March 2012
AN audit report on the National Gaming Control Board tabled in Parliament last week shows 18 contractors and consultants have been paid more than K7 million, while K45 million remains unaccounted for. The report, tabled by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, says the Garamut-related companies received more than K39,399,182, while millions of kina were reported to have been made to several shops in Western Highlands province.
8000 teachers to be put off payroll
Post Courier, 30 March
More than 8000 teachers’ throughout the country will not get their pay starting next week for not submitting the resumption of duty summary sheets. The National Secretary for Education Dr Musawe Sinebare has announced yesterday that a total of 8855 (19.2 per cent) teachers have not submitted their Resumption of Duty Summary Sheet (RoDSS), therefore, they had been suspended on March 25 in the teachers’ payroll auto suspension. He said that out of the 46,191 teachers on the payroll, only 37,336 (80.8 per cent) teachers had submitted their RoDSS which have been processed. Dr Sinebare pointed out that Southern Highlands Province had the highest number of teachers suspended with 2129, followed by Morobe with 579, and Western Highlands Province with 577. He said that for new graduates, a total of 2145 graduated from the Teachers’ Colleges and he stated that Waigani Payroll and Related Services had only received 643 new graduates’ RoDSS and related documents and placed them on the payroll. “Those provinces who have recruited new graduates are requested to assist their new teachers to submit their forms to Waigani Payroll and Related Services through their respective Provincial Education offices. The graduates will not be paid until the relevant documents are received’’, Dr Sinebare said.
How Google is narrowing our minds
by Edwina Byrne, March 13, 2012
The internet — once hoped to infinitely expand our mental horizons and our exposure to challenging ideas — now seems more likely to confine us to our prejudices.
When you search in your web browser today, for any given term, your search engine (Google, for the overwhelming majority of Australians) retrieves pages that it thinks you will be most inclined to take an interest in, based on your personal search and browsing history.
Day by day, with each moment of online interaction, search engines are etching a more detailed portrait of our interests, and filtering out the world beyond those interests. Personalised search means that when two people type an identical term into google, the results displayed could be quite different. It means, on the plus side, that Google’s results are ranked by specific and contextual relevance rather than just by what other people have clicked on. It could mean that your web history influences your web present.
The results that your search engine provides you with are dependent mostly on your tastes: the pages you have visited, the search terms you use, and links you have clicked. More recently, Google also incorporates information from your social network (only Google+ at this stage) including links, photos and comments. Google cookies diligently squirrel this information away every time you use the web in an effort to bring you more relevant results next time you search.
Not only your searches are filtered in this way. On Facebook, posts from friends whose viewpoints you share or whose updates you dwell on are privileged to the exclusion of posts that do not interest you.
The hard-working algorithms of the net are not trying to limit us. They are mirroring our behaviour and preferences, and encouraging us in our specific interests. The problem is that in having our tastes reflected back at us, we become more and more narrowly defined and cut off from the diversity of interests available to us, and the great potential of the web for sharing perspectives is lost.
When I digest information written in alignment with my own views and you with yours, we both lose the opportunity to have our views broadened, challenged or changed. Worse, exposed predominantly or exclusively to my own views and the views of those like me, my position is reinforced and perhaps tends to the extreme, and I become unsympathetic to alternative perspectives.
But as the algorithms for tailoring personalised content become more sophisticated, as mobile devices become more pervasive and as content becomes more plentiful and specific, there is potential for the isolating effect of our own preferences to become greater.
A web advertising expert recently told me of efforts underway to develop retinally-projected digital media. Advertisements, targeted to your location and purchase history, will be projected directly to you, invisible to others, from the personal device through which you view your world.
How much of our concern for a shared society will we lose when we no longer share even a sensory experience of the world around us?