Social Concerns Notes – May, 2011
http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=60325 accessed 2 May
Papua New Guinea told a whole of government solution needed to booze problem
The deputy leader of the Papua New Guinea opposition, Bart Philemon, says the country’s problems with alcohol cannot be addressed on a piecemeal basis.
Mr Philemon says PNG needs a national policy on how to cope with what a recent report called a culture of intoxication.
He says as well as better enforcement and new legislation, it involves changing attitudes to alcohol and this would need a whole of government approach.
http://www.actnowpng.org/content/will-papua-new-guinea-benefit-or-lose-out-commodity-boom accessed 4 May
By Paul Barker, Director of the Institute of National Affairs*
Papua New Guinea is experiencing a boom associated with LNG development and record prices for most of its mineral and agricultural products. One might expect the country’s population to be thriving from this, with the benefits extending right out to rural communities. Whilst some individuals and businesses are certainly doing nicely from prevailing conditions, most of the population (and many businesses) are either left out, or unable to take advantage of current or forthcoming opportunities, or in some cases worse off
The weak link is a failing State with its severely underperforming institutions, which struggle from poor leadership, poor coordination, low morale, corruption and in many cases inadequate resources for the tasks they face, particularly after years of neglect and poor oversight, and now with greater competition from the private sector for certain key skills, from engineers to doctors, (with even the latter being hired in numbers -for a premium -by PNGLNG). This incapacity of the State severely undermines the extension of development opportunities and benefits through the economy, across the provinces and the community, notably by failure to provide critical public goods, notably maintaining vital access roads and other infrastructure and services, including addressing burgeoning crime, whilst often diverting effort and resources into marginal or inappropriate activities. This must be addressed now, or LNG and other major resource development will indeed be more of a curse than a benefit.
Unfortunately, we will not see improvements in government performance (despite the efforts of many dedicated individuals within the public sector) until the the public stops kowtowing to non-performing leaders, stands up and holds government and individual leaders accountable for the use of public funds (including by State enterprises), and stops seeing government and politicians as the provider of jobs and cash handouts to wantoks and political cronies, or demanding unjustified compensation or out of court settlements. …
Is Rimbunan Hijau pulling Wari’s strings again?
Secretary of the Department of Conservation, Wari Iamo, has given the government a submission recommending that rather than a Commission of Inquiry, he should conduct an investigation into the controversial Special Purpose Business and Agriculture leases.
The idea that either the Department of Conservation, or the Office of Climate Change, which Iamo also heads, should do an inquiry is completely laughable. These departments are completely under-resourced, have no capacity to do a review of 74 separate leases and, especially in the case of DEC, they can’t even do their mandated work.
Even worse, Iamo and DEC are intrinsically involved in the granting of Forest Clearance Authorities that allow clear-fell logging within the SABLs. DEC grants the environmental permits, Iamo signs them and then, in his role on the National Forest Board, Iamo gets to approve the FCA!
The question is whether Iamo’s lame intervention is an attempt to save his own skin by preventing his role in the SABL scandal being revealed in the Commission of Inquiry – as was suggested on this blog yesterday – or is he acting on behalf of his old friends at Rimbunan Hijau?
REFUGEES – PNG PRIORITY(10 May)
Will the Government, in its negotiations to set up a refugee processing centre in PNG, discuss the situation of about 10,000 refugees who are already in PNG? People who fled from West Papua in the years following the Indonesian invasion in the late 1960s are living in camps or surviving in uncertainty, hardship and fear in shelters along the PNG-Indonesian border or in urban areas. Surely facilitating the resettlement of these long-suffering refugees should be a priority.
The National newspaper, owned by Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau, seems to be struggling to present a fair and balanced coverage of the issue of Special Purpose Agriculture and Business Leases (SABLs).
On Thursday, May 5, Papua New Guinea’s Acting Prime Minister, Sam Abal issued a press statement just before 4pm, announcing a Commission of Inquiry into the controversial issuing of SABLs covering over 5.2 million hectares of customary land.
This was BIG news. The issue of the leases, PNG’s biggest ever land-grab, has been ever- present in the media over the last month, attracting the attention of academics, scientists, landholders, politicians, commentators NGOs, politicians and even the United Nations High Commission on Indigenous Rights.
Radio stations immediately began running the PM’s announcement on their hourly news bulletins from 4pm, it was featured on EMTVs flagship evening news program at 6pm. On Friday morning the Commission of Inquiry was front page news in the Post Courier newspaper.
But the story was totally ignored by The National, PNG’s other daily newspaper. This silence was quickly commented upon by Prof William Laurance, a scientist at James Cook University and a member of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, which has taken a strong stand against SABLs:
This analysis was reinforced today, Monday, when the announcement of the Commission of Inquiry was finally acknowledged in The National, albeit in a story on page 13 of the newspaper, while a statement by Opposition MP, Belden Namah, condemning the Inquiry, featured much more prominently on page 3!!
One of the criticisms of SABLs is that they are a mechanism for the logging industry to gain access to vast areas of forest which they can clear fell without any oversight from the PNG Forest Authority. Rimbunan Hijau has been frequently linked with illegal and unsustainable logging and human rights abuses in Papua New Guinea but has always been staunchly defended in it own newspaper.
http://asopa.typepad.com/ accessed 16 May
BY PUI-YI CHENG
AS THE WORLD’S ATTENTION focuses on human rights in the Middle East and North Africa, Amnesty International’s latest report reveals Pacific people are facing the same struggle against oppression and corruption.
On the eve of its 50th anniversary, AI has launched its annual assessment of human rights worldwide, Amnesty International Report 2011: State of the World’s Human Rights, which documents abuses in 157 countries in 2010.
“Away from the international headlines, thousands of people in the Pacific are being denied social and economic opportunity, and human rights defenders have been threatened, imprisoned and tortured,” says Patrick Holmes, chief executive officer of Amnesty International in NZ.
In PNG, violence against women and sorcery-related killings continue to be widespread but the government has done little to address them. Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners remains pervasive.
Source: Pacific Media Watch
Post Courier 17 May: Abal: Govt stops cash handouts
A TOTAL of K536 million has been paid out to honour memorandum of agreement commitments in the Southern Highlands and related project areas.
This time around though, the final payments will not be in cash anymore.
And in about two days time, the National Executive Council will release the new formula which will be used to pay the money through development projects.
This new approach was announced yesterday by Acting Prime Minister, Sam Abal, who said a new process had been finalised and was ready to be implemented.
He said over the years, the people’s money had been going down the drain including the K536 million.
He said the new policy for release of MoA funds centred on the consideration that the money was going to fund projects in some of the most remote areas in the country.
He said the Government was determined to ensure that the money promised to the people went to tangible development projects and “not converted into cash”.
The National 17 May: PNG among oppressed island nations
AS the world’s attention focuses on the human rights revolution sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa, Amnesty International’s (AI) latest report reveals Pacific people, including Papua New Guineans, are facing the same struggle against oppression, tyranny and corruption.
On the eve of its 50th anniversary, AI last week launched its annual assessment of human rights worldwide, Amnesty International Report 2011: State of the World’s Human Rights, which documents abuses in 157 countries last year.
A section dedicated to PNG noted that violence against women and sorcery-related killings continued to be widespread but the government had done little to address them.
“Torture and ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners were prevalent.
“Police often beat detainees with gun butts and knives, and raped or sexually abused women detainees,” AI reported.
It said that violence against women continued to be widespread, perpetuated by women’s low status in society and traditional practices such as polygamy and bride price.
“A culture of silence and impunity prevailed, and women remained fearful of reporting sexual and physical violence to the authorities.”
AI took note of the recent visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture who found that women were at a very high risk of abuse in the private and public spheres.
During arrest and detention, police officers tortured and ill-treated women, subjecting them to sexual abuse – it appeared that police frequently arrested women for minor offences with the intention of sexually attacking them.
Police punished women detainees by placing them, or threatening to place them, in cells with male detainees, where many were gang-raped.
Last July, while reviewing PNG’s CEDAW obligations, “the CEDAW committee expressed its deep concern at the persistence of sexual violence at domestic and community levels and at the lack of data on its nature, extent and causes. A government representative promised the Committee that the government would legislate against domestic violence”.
The National 19 May: Govt urged to involve church
By ALISON ANIS
THE government needs to work in partnership with the churches and other relevant authorities in successfully implementing health policy and guidelines, health secretary Dr Clement Malau says.
He acknowledged the churches’ role in implementing health services in the country, saying the partnership with the churches in PNG was critical to realising the national health plans.
“Partnership with the churches is important in implementing health policy,” he said.
“We acknowledge this is not a job for health department alone and that working in partnership with relevant authorities like churches is what we need in making the health system work,” Malau said at the 43rd annual conference of Churches’ Medical Council.
He said the department was looking to see how churches could be represented meaningfully on the single health authority system proposed under the national health plan.
Malau said the single health authority would replace the current system that operated in line with the organic law on provincial government and local level government.
He said having a single authority was good and would prove effective rather than a fragmented health system with undefined responsibilities.
Malau said the government was looking at ensuring equity and access to health services for all citizens.
http://asopa.typepad.com/ accessed 23 May
BY TARA JONES
THE CARTERET ISLANDS, east of Bougainville, are threatened by a rapidly rising ocean. Forced to relocate, the Carteret Islanders are trying to find ways to preserve their culture for future generations.
This has caused the population to become one of the first indigenous cultures forced to prepare for and implement measures for the permanent resettlement of their entire community.
Relocation of the islanders into communities that are geographically, culturally, politically and socially different will make the preservation and continuation of their culture and unique cultural identity difficult.
http://ramumine.wordpress.com/ accessed 24 May
A recent landmark decision of the National Court in Papua New Guinea that gives Porgera Joint Venture Company exclusive rights of occupancy to its Special Mining Lease (SML) could affect thousands of landowners living in major resource development project areas throughout the country. Meanwhile, landowners from Porgera have traveled to the United Nations to advocate for the humane resettlement of the people still living within the SML.
The lawsuit, against the Wapini sub-clan living in the SML area of Barrick Gold’s Porgera mine, sought permanent injunctions against the landowners who were continually tearing down a fence that the company was building around the SML.
The lawyer representing the Wapini landowners, submitted on behalf of the landowners that the company was constructing the fence through their village and this would result in their displacement, as well as destruction to their homes, food gardens and economic trees. The resettlement of people still living inside the SML area of the Porgera Mine has been a key demand brought by the landowners association for many years. “We are forced to live like squatters in our own land. The company’s mining activity, through the mine waste and now this giant fence, has overtaken all of the land that we once used to live in and grow food,” said Mark Ekepa, chairman of the Porgera Landowners Association. “With this legal decision, the national government is legitimizing Barrick’s use of force in evicting indigenous landowners from their own land. We have no where to go, so we are taking our struggle to international bodies” “Our government is weak and depends on companies like Barrick to provide revenues from resource extraction,” said Jethro Tulin of the Porgera Alliance. “While we try to work with our government in PNG, we find that the government speaks like the company and the company speaks like the government. Meanwhile, there’s a human rights crisis on the ground that neither body wants to acknowledge.”
The National 24 May: Kerema faces food crisis
By JUNIOR UKAHA
PUBLIC servants and their families in Kerema town, Gulf, are facing a food crisis after major shops in the township shut down because of the lack of banking services.
The only bank in town – Bank South Pacific – has been closed since 2008 after it was allegedly robbed by convicted bank robber William Nanua Kapris and his gang.
Kerema police station commander Insp Heni Vagi said, since last week, public servants and their families had been travelling to Port Moresby to shop. “Basic commodities like rice, tinned fish and meat, sugar and salt are out of stock in all stores,” Vagi said. “Major shops have closed their doors because they have run out of food,” he said.
The National 24 May: Kanawi: Denying condom use could be criminal act
DENYING a person the right to use a condom and other protective methods especially if the partner is HIV positive is a criminal offence under the HIV/AIDS Management and Protection (HAMP) Act, National AIDS Council director Wep Kanawi said.
“The National AIDS Council, under section 11 of the HAMP Act, has the authority to take to court HIV positive individuals who are denying others the use of condom when engaging in sexual activities,” he said. …
For the past several years, a small group of Papua New Guinean researchers, led by an Australian scientist, working inside a modest unassuming brick building in a quiet corner of the University of PNG’s Taurama Medical School have helped develop a new treatment for one of PNG’s most-neglected public health problems.
This week their work has emerged into the international spotlight following publication in a prestigious medical journal of the first results in the testing of a new Papuan taipan snake antivenom which is hoped will save hundreds of lives every year.
Papua New Guinea has some of the highest snakebite rates anywhere in the world, and in some parts of Central Province, the mortality rate is several times higher than malaria, TB and pneumonia death rates, largely because a lack of interest in the problem has made access to safe, effective treatments scarce, and unaffordable.
Post Courier: 25 May DSIP scam rampant!
THE public money scam plague that is reaping funds from the District Services Improvement Program (DSIP) is of epidemic proportion.
The scam includes ghost bank accounts being set up, deposits made and cleared in record time, and then closed after complete withdrawal of all proceeds without a trace of the depositors or owners. The scam was so rampant there was actually no record of how many there are in the country. This was the grim reality and picture painted for Parliament yesterday by National Planning Minister, Paul Tiensten, who said it involved a host of central government agencies, departments, commercial banks and private sector connections.
He said this after Parliament was told by Jimi Open MP, Waka Goi, of persistent attempts to rip him off of K8 million for his district market and K4.8 million for his local high school by unknown persons who asked for kick-backs if they facilitated the payments for him.
Post Courier, letters: Quick action on outbreak
THE Catholic Health Services (Diocese of Bereina) last month reported a suspected outbreak of whooping cough in the Woitape Local Government Area of Goilala District in Central Province.
Ten (10) deaths were recorded as suspected pertussis or whooping coughs by staff at Ononge and Woitape health Centres. More deaths were reported in the villages and these were now being verified. The Onongwe Health Centre had reported a large number of patients coming with whooping cough symptoms.
Central Province Division of Health quickly established a program of activities to respond to the outbreak, by despatching six teams to the affected areas.
These teams provided treatment for those people who were ill and also did vaccinations and providing health information to the people in those remote communities.
They also took some specimens which had been conveyed to the Central public health laboratory for confirmation testing.
Central Province Administration responded quickly and made funds available for the rapid respond that was required containing the suspected outbreak. Unfortunately, communications to this remote area were limited, and also the Provincial Administration was working closely with National Department of Health and other partners to make sure that the response was well-coordinated and effective.
Acting Provincial Health Adviser.
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/nothing-to-show-as-png-loses-250m/story-e6frg6so-1226062938977 accessed 26 May
Nothing to show as PNG ‘loses’ $250m
Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific Editor , From: The Australian
THE Papua New Guinean government has lost almost $250 million intended for community projects in areas affected by the development of a $16 billion ExxonMobil-led liquefied natural gas plant and by nearby oilfields.
Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal revealed this week that after almost 10 years of such payments, “there is nothing to show, except a few incomplete projects”. He admitted much of the money had been misused and said these “memorandum of agreement” projects would now be managed by the government-owned Mineral Resources Development Company.
He said the government’s renewed promise to deliver community and infrastructure projects in the gas and oil areas “is not a commitment by the government to write cheques to landowner associations and companies for projects that were never built”.
The disappearance of these funds has triggered growing hostility among landowners yet to see benefits of the massive gas deal, which is now approaching full-scale construction.
Post Courier 26 May : Bishop unveils mental health policy
MENTAL health is about one’s everyday life, including how he or she relates to others and how a person feels about him or herself.
And yet, this is the most neglected aspect of health in the country, resulting in lack of services such as rehabilitation programs for people struggling with drug related problems.
But designers of the country’s first ever National Mental Health Policy launched in Port Moresby on Tuesday hope this will change in the coming years.
Catholic Archbishop of Port Moresby John Ribat, when launching the policy, also said mental health was about everything, peace of mind, happiness, satisfaction and so on.
“It is about how we feel about ourselves, how we feel about people around us, and how we meet the demands of people,’’ he said.
He was speaking during the mass he celebrated at St Joseph Catholic Church in Boroko to launch the policy, attended by Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio, representatives of the National Health Department, PNG Churches Alliance and teachers and students of St Joseph Primary School. …
Post Courier, 27 May editorial: ABG walking tightrope
BOUGAINVILLE leaders are faced with quite a sticky problem at present.
A faction of the rebel army that waged a 10-year armed rebellion against the Government of Papua New Guinea and authority in Bougainville is on the loose, it seems. The faction, led by Damien Koike, is once again striking fear in the heart of people in South Bougainville. Yesterday, they are reported to have conducted an ambush and shot dead two innocent people. Three weeks ago, the group declared war on the Autonomous Bougainville Government led by John Momis. Immediately after that, another group under the command of former Bougainville Revolutionary Army heavy, Ishmael Toroama, ran a campaign of terror in Panguna over a couple of days, firing gun shots into premises of businesses trying to start up in Panguna. …
Post Courier 27 May: MOA funds to MRDC
By Jonathan Tannos
MORE than K600 million paid out by the Government as Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) funds for projects in resource project areas since 2001 were thrown into a black hole.
And Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal is adamant that this will not be repeated. Millions of Kina will no longer go into the hands of landowners but will be managed by a Project Management Unit (PMU) under the roof of the Mineral Resources Development Company.
Australian engineering firm, Snowy Mountains Engineering and Consultancy (SMEC), have been engaged by MRDC to prepare an operation manual for the PMU, which will be manned by a team of qualified engineers, project managers and secondees from Oil Search Limited’s tax credit scheme to implement the MOA projects.
This will apply to all PNG LNG project areas and impact communities, Mr Abal said on Wednesday.
The commitments have been clearly identified and categorised into outstanding ones under existing MOAs from the Kutubu project and those under the new LNG development.
“It is not a commitment by the Government to write cheques to landowner associations and companies for projects that were never built,” was the warning from Mr Abal.
“More than K600 million has been spent since 2001 and there was nothing to show for, except a few incomplete projects.”
There are no government administered policies, codes or guidelines in PNG related to corporate governance that would encourage companies to develop a corporate culture respectful of human rights.
That is the conclusion drawn in a review of corporate law and human rights in PNG conducted by international law firm Allens Arthur Robinson on behalf of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The UN has recognised the duty of the state to protect against human rights abuses by corporations through appropriate policies, regulations and adjudication. This duty sits alongside the corporations responsibility to respect human rights and the rights of victims to greater access to effective remedies where their rights are breached.
In an attempt to understand how national laws and policies dealing with incorporation and listing; directors’ duties; reporting; stakeholder engagement; and corporate governance more generally require, facilitate or discourage companies from respecting human rights, the UN instigated a Corporate Law Project looking at the state duty to protect in forty different countries, including PNG.
http://www.pngblogs.com/ accessed 29 May
Papua New Guinea is on the brink of it’s biggest resources boom. Will it be a curse or a blessing? A new generation of mining projects and a massive LNG project are expected to double the size of the economy over the next decade. Yet there is skepticism about whether benefits will be shared widely among the nation’s seven million people. This is the third resource boom in as many decades, and despite the promises of the past, incomes today are barely higher than they were at independence in 1975 and PNG is unlikely to meet any of the MDGs.
Some argue that PNG has a classic case of the resource curse: Dutch Disease, weak accountability and corruption, which all conspire to undermine economic, social and political development. A key question is how to break with this past experience and chart a new development path?
My view is that Dutch Disease and absorptive capacity aren’t the main problem. A great deal is already known about how to manage these, both in the context of scaling-up aid inflows and managing resources booms. (For more of this read Owen Barder’s paper on scaling-up aid and Menachem Katz’s book on managing the oil curse in Africa.)
Nor do I think a lack of planning is a big problem for PNG. The government has both long term and medium term development plans and a raft of sector and thematic plans, including one for the informal economy. We can debate whether or not these focus on the right policies, but most commentators would agree that the main problem is a lack of implementation.
There needs to be debate about and fine-tuning of macroeconomic policies and development plans, but the challenge is how to implement them and that brings us to the issue of governance, and the potentially corrosive impact of resource revenues on accountability, transparency and government capability in the delivery of services.
During the latest resources boom, indicators of the quality of governance declined. PNG is now in the bottom 5% of countries in terms of control of corruption. We need a lot more ideas on how to improve the accountability, transparency and government capability if we are to reverse this trend. …
The National 28 May: Committee discloses truth about missing millions
THE system of trust accounts into which millions of kina has been parked since 2006 has failed to ensure the proper and lawful handling of public monies or to effect government policy, the Public Accounts Committee has reported to parliament.
This had result in failed development and service delivery, it said.
Accounting of trust accounts in which some K6 billion of excess money from high commodity prices were kept and spent had collapsed by 2007 and had not improved to this year. PNG may never know how much exactly these windfall gains had evaporated since the last of these funds were expended in 2009.
The PAC reported widespread and significant misconduct, misappropriation and defalcation by trustees or signatories across the whole span of government from national agencies right down to the district level.
Not one agency of government complied with all trust accounting requirements and almost all obeyed none of the requirements and this situation still prevailed this year.
PNG LNG boss speaks out on landowner issues
The boss of the massive ExxonMobil-led Papua New Guinea liquid natural gas project says it would be of great concern if landowners shutdown construction of the project.
Landowners from the Hela region in the PNG highlands have threatened to do just that if the PNG government does not deal with a long list of grievances.
With the death of a local Chief tensions are rising and landowners are saying immediate action is needed or the consequences will be serious.
GARRETT: So what is the PNG LNG project contributing to Papua New Guinea in terms of governemnt revenue, jobs and business opportunities?
GRAHAM: In the long-term the impact is quite substantial on the economy of PNG. ACIL Tasman did an independent study some years ago that suggested GDP would double as a result of the project and, I think, over the life of the project the state take, or state revenue from the project, is something like $US30 billion – so very very substantial over the 30 year life of the project. But if you look just very near term at the impact of the project during the construction phase. Obviously there is a very large impact on employment. Today, we are employing something like five and a half thousand national citizens working on the project and we are spending substantial amounts of money in the country. To date its about K2 billion or around $800 million dollars has been spent project to date, has been spent actually in PNG. You only have to look around the country to see the positive impact the project is having. The biggest challenges, I think, are really land access looking foward, to make sure that we have continuing access to the land and an ability to get on and deliver the contruction part of the project on time. We have an election which is coming up next year in mid-2012. In some ways the timing of that could not be much more challenging – it happens to be at the same time that our construction activities peak and typically that is a change in the pace of life for people in the communities. So we’ve got a few issues like that that sit out in front of us that – again its getting access to land and security within the communities within which we operate. We know how to execute a project, or more correctly our contractors do, it is just executing the project in the context of Papua New Guinea.
GARRETT: In terms of the landowner isues – what would you like to see the government do to lift its game?
GRAHAM: I think the best thing government can do right now is to put more people in the field and get the agencies talking with nthe landowners directly. I think that is the largest source of frustration that what landowners have felt obliged to do, is to come down from the field to Port Moresby and try and get access to people in Port Moresby. That is not the right answer. Government agencies need to be in the field dealing with people because that brings a natural transparency to that engagement between landowners and government. There are people who do come down from time to time who do not truly represent the people they claim to in the field, but if that consultation is done in the field it is done in the presence of the constitutents and that is important. …
Reluctance in PNG to move against corruption – academic
PNG’s public finances are so badly recorded that only now has the Public Accounts Committee been able to hand down a report into the 2007 financial year. Committee chairman Martin Aini told parliament last Friday money had been spent in breach of the constitution and other laws, and bureaucrats had given themselves huge and illegal cash advances.
Post Courier 30 May: Health issues killing PNG
By SIMON ERORO
ONE third of all medical aid posts in the rural areas of PNG remain closed because of lack of trained staff and adequate supplies like basic drugs.
This startling revelation is made in provincial performance report presented to Parliament by provincial Affairs Minister Job Pomat on Friday. There are a total of 2526 aid posts in PNG and 828 of them were closed.
The report said aid posts should be staffed and opened and must be re-stocked every three weeks with all necessary supplies. Information received from provinces showed that on average basic medical supplies were available at aid posts only during seven months in 2007, It also highlighted that it is critical that labour wards at health centres where women give birth have running water to minimise infections and maternal and child mortality because information showed 228 health centres out of 525 did not have adequate water supply.
The report stated that PNG is rated very poorly in the Pacific region on maternal mortality.