Social Concerns Notes – February 2013

Social Concerns Notes this month presents a rather gruesome view of the social situation in Papua New Guinea.  Good things happen, but sadly acts of cruelty and violence have hit the news during the last month, some of which appears below – ed.

See the link for article by Jo Chandler

http://www.theglobalmail.org/feature/its-2013-and-theyre-burning-witches/558/

Burnt alive!

Post Courier 7 Feb.

A TRAGIC and brutal sorcery-related murder took place in full view of hundreds of onlookers in a Mount Hagen City suburb in Western Highlands Province yesterday morning.
The relatives of a six-year-old boy doused petrol on a woman whom they had suspected of killing the boy with sorcery and burnt her alive. 
The torture and brutal murder of a mother of two provided a photo opportunity for many of the onlookers, including school children, who crowded around and took photos of the woman being consumed alive by the fire.
The perpetrators tied the woman up with rope, drenched her with petrol, placed her on top of a heap of rubbish then placed used tyres over her before setting her alight. 
City firemen rushed in their fire tender to the scene around 7am to put out the fire but the angry perpetrators and their supporters chased them away. Several policemen present at the scene were helpless to do anything to save the women because they were outnumbered by the perpetrators and their supporters.

Thou Shalt Not Kill

Archbishop Douglas Young SVD.  Archbishop of Mount Hagen

“Thou shalt not kill”.  It is a sin to take innocent life. It seems that some people in Papua New Guinea, when confronted by belief in sorcery and witchcraft feel they can ignore this commandment from God.  Torturing with heated iron rods, dousing with petrol and the shameful, humiliating and degrading burning of a person by a mob is a relatively new practice in Papua New Guinea. We must find ways to stop the spread of such a cruel and superstitious practice.  Cases, such as the brutal killing of the young woman Kopari Leniata in Mt Hagen must be dealt with for what it is – murder.  These cases occur often in remote areas of PNG. This one, in a city, may attract the attention necessary to generate  a serious response.

Some will argue that the woman confessed.  But confession under duress during torture with burning iron rods is no credible confession. Even without the torture there are complex reasons why an innocent person might still confess to sorcery in these circumstances . That no one came to her help, but apparently stood by taking photos, is typical of this evil practice in Papua New Guinea. Usually the person accused is weak and defenseless such as an older widow or in this case a young mother from an isolated valley in Enga. A man or woman with strong male sons is seldom accused. It is the weak and the poor who become the scapegoats. Even if they have supporters, most often they are afraid to intervene lest they too be accused and suffer a similar fate.

It is high time that the work of the Law Reform Commission completes its work on revising laws on Sorcery so that this inhuman practice of accusing and murdering the weak is dealt with as murder.  Whatever evil there may be in the supposed practice of sorcery it is nothing to the evil done against alleged sorcerers. However, laws are not sufficient. The Churches and all citizens must take measures to ensure that such practices cease. This will mean extensive education programs so that people are conscious of the various reasons why people die.  Did Kopari Leniata’s accusers ask the doctors in Hagen for a medical report?  Moreover we need people of deep Christian faith who, when a family member dies, are prepared to exercise proper leadership at funerals, so that anyone who starts talking about sorcery and witchcraft is silenced, and any moves to involve a “glasman” are stopped immediately.  Life is a gift from God. Followers of Christ are called to be supportive and compassionate at funerals and in times of mourning, such as on hearing the sad news of the young six year old boy who died. But any talk or moves that lead to torture and further loss of life are unchristian, inhuman, and actually against the more profound values of our culture. They are to be totally condemned. Everyone involved in the speculation, blaming, “investigations”, and rumour mongering that creates the fertile ground for such evil share in the responsibility of the taking of an innocent life.

Stop the killing!

U.N. Calls on PNG to Curb Violence after Burning Death of Woman

NEW YORK TIMES  8 Feb 2013

Spurred by the killing this week of a young woman accused of witchcraft in Papua New Guinea, the United Nations on Friday called on the country to address increasing vigilante violence against people accused of sorcery and to revoke a controversial sorcery law  “This case adds to the growing pattern of vigilante attacks and killings of persons accused of sorcery in Papua New Guinea,” Cecile Pouilly, a spokeswoman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva.

Rescued

The National, 13th of February, 2013

POLICE saved two women from being burnt alive in Mt Hagen where a 20-year-old mother of a baby girl was thrown into a fire and burnt two days earlier.
Assistant Police Commissioner and Highlands Divisional Commander Teddy Tei said last Monday, two women were tied to pillars by relatives of a girl they were accused of killing through sorcery.
However, Tei said the eight-year-old girl the women were accused of killing was “gang-raped and killed by two known suspects”.

He said the relatives of the girl, also from the Kandep, accused the two elderly women of performing sorcery and killing the girl on Jan 29.
The relatives of the deceased engaged a man claiming to possess supernatural powers, commonly known as “glassman” who identified the two women as sorcerers and blamed them for the death of the girl.
Tei said the “glassman” and the two rape-and-murder suspects, together with those ready to set the two women on fire, tied up the women

Culture responsible for acts of sorcery in PNG

Letter in The National 21 Feb.

I wish to write in response to so many critics and condemnations by our law enforcement agencies, international human rights groups and the general public alike both locally and abroad. 
There has been so much critisism about the torture of two women and burning alive of a young women in Mt Hagen in recent weeks in relation to allegations of sorcery. 
Now, from a westernised point of view, this act is barbaric and inhuman. Well, that is absolutely true from an outsiders point of view and views of few westernised Papua New Guineans who deliberately try to ignore the fact of their age old cultural belief systems. 
It is also understood that our laws are derived from the Westminster legal system or the British common laws which do not have room for such culturally related offences at a cultural level in a Melanesian context. 
For decades, culturally related practices such as sorcery and black magic in particular have been very difficult to dealt with in the Westminster legal system. 
However, every Papua New Guinean including the Prime Minister comes from a cultural society and there are certain cultural values, practices and belief systems that constitute these diverse cultural societies. 
Now, being Papua New Guinean and Melanesian, let us be realistic with sorcery and see this cultural practice from both sides of the coin. 
Black magic and sorcery is real because that is what our ancestors have been doing and it has been passed on from generations to generations. 
We cannot pretend to the outside world and deny the existence of such practices and giving the fake impression to the world that sorcery is not the real cause of many deaths in our society, though some deaths could be caused by the western or introduced diseases and illnesses such as HIV/Aids, TB, or cancer to name a few. 
The real issue is that, we are applying alien’s laws to deal with our own issue which seem inappropriate in our cultural context and looking at it culturally, there may be less avenue for justice. 
Sorcery is actually the use of super natural powers to protect oneself from harm and danger or even to acquire benefits in materials and fortunes or any other benefits that come with it. 
Interestingly, Christians refer to sorcery and black magic as the works of the devil and they literally believe that with their hearts because the devil or Satan is real. 
Now, if you read the article about the lead up to the torturing and burning alive of the young mother in Mt Hagen, you will confirm that as the suspects interrogate the two elderly women accused of their involvement in the death of a young boy through sorcery, the two elderly women literally admit that they ate part of the boy’s heart and they claimed it was the young mother (deceased) who actually took his heart out and shared it with them. 
Does that make any sense in believing that sorcery is real in Papua New Guinea and Melanesia or is it still not real after the accused women have themselves admitted it? 
It would be frightening if a survey is to be carried out right across the country to find out about peoples’ beliefs in sorcery and the type of sorcery that differs from culture to culture. 
Talking about sanguma, poison man, kambang man, and the black magic from the Tolais, Samarais, Koiaris, Papuans, Morobeans, and so and so. 
It would be interesting to see how many people actually believe in all those black magic even at this present times. 
This, as we know, involves some kind of supernatural powers that only our belief can help us come to terms with it. 
It is time now the government immediately review some of our laws to cater for culturally sensitive cases. 
As it is today, once accused to be a sorcery, many such people might continue to be tortured because that is what people believe in. 
The main issue now is that a western law cannot be used to bring justice over such offences, it will rather make the problems worse for people who feel have lost their loved ones through such tragedy. 
Finally, let us be realistic and look at issues about sorcery related killings in Papua New Guinea from two different angles. 
I welcome any comments. Email me on trango91@yahoo.com.


T. Rango Port Moresby

Sorcery killings widespread

The National, Friday 22nd February, 2013

THE burning alive of the young mother for alleged sorcery in Mt Hagen is not an isolated incident in the country. Nor is it the first.
There have been similar incidents in other areas of the country which have remained unreported.
Tolsep Ifitimnok, a man from Telefomin in West Sepik, told The National that the Mt Hagen incident prompted him to reveal similar killings in the district that were never attended to by the authorities.
He said in 2009, three men living in Tabubil suspected of practising sorcery or witchcraft, were flown in an aircraft from Tabubil to Feramin village, west of Telefomin where they were tortured and murdered.
“Police in Tabubil and Telefomin were aware of this but nothing was done to arrest the suspects.”
Two years later, he said, a woman was assaulted by a group of men from Telefolip village. She was dragged out of a plane at the Telefomin airstrip and killed.
The Telefomin men had suspected her of practising sorcery.
“This happened in front of policemen stationed in Telefomin but nothing happened,” he said.
Before the end of 2011, Iftitimno said, five men suspected of sorcery were tortured and killed outside the Telefomin government station.
“Among those murdered was a student selected to do Grade 11 at Vanimo’s Don Bosco Secondary school the following year. Once again this happened in front of policemen but nothing was done about it,” he said.

Two women chopped to death


Post Courier 15 February.

TWO women were shot by guns and then chopped to pieces while a two year-old boy received gun pellets to his head during an ambush in Kagua Erave District in the Southern Highlands Province on Monday.
Cathlina Rusa, aged 21 called her brother over the mobile phone while she was being attacked and her brother listened to all that was done to her on the other side of the phone.
Cornilius Rusa, who heard over his mobile phone the last agonizing words of his sister being killed on the other side, the woman pleaded for her life but was mercilessly chopped.
“I heard her pleading to her attackers that she is from another tribe but her pleading were interrupted by a blow sound which I thought was the sound of a bush knife across her face and that was followed by many bushknife blows to her body,” the killed woman’s brother said.
I heard silently from the other side of the mobile phone when my sister’s wailings faded away and I knew she was dead when one of her killers turned off the phone.”
According to Kagua Central community leader, Kenda Nakasi Kagua, late Cathlina and her husband travelled all the way from Lae with the body of the father of her husband to be buried in their village when they were ambushed.
 Mr Nakasi said.
Sothern Highlands Police confirmed the killings but said they could not go to the area because of logistic problems.

Ribat: Cater for poor too

The National, Tuesday 5th February, 2013

LEGAL services should serve not only the rich but also poor people in PNG, Catholic archbishop John Ribat says.
He told lawyers, judges and members of the legal fraternity during the opening of the 2013 legal year in Port Moresby yesterday that the legal system was about justice.
And when administered well, it is a good expression of a society where human dignity, integrity and freedom are respected and promoted, he said.
“When it is not well administered, it is an expression of a lawless society and the atmosphere of lawlessness promotes it.
“The legal system should provide protection to all citizens especially the vulnerable, the children and the poor,” Ribat said.
The archbishop, who was the main celebrant during service at St Mary’s Cathedral, said the success of the work of the lawyers and judicial services depended very much on their commitment, their faith, their love for God and people of this nation.
He said unless the legal system functioned well, it was difficult to work for the common good.
“You can find in the Word of God, the light and guidance to help you fulfill your work with diligence and honesty,” Ribat said.

Scathing Report on Manus

PNG Blogs. February 15, 2013,  Newcastle Herald

A SCATHING report on conditions on Manus Island has urged incoming Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor to stop sending asylum seekers to the remote Papua New Guinea site until sweeping recommendations are considered. The report by the United Nations refugee agency accuses the Australian and PNG governments of being in breach of international treaty obligations and expresses particular alarm at the plight of children in the facility. Its release coincides with the 10th transfer of asylum seekers to the offshore processing centre, which now holds 254 asylum seekers, 34 of them children. “They’re being treated like animals at the moment, including the children,” Senator Hanson-Young told Fairfax Media.

More than 20 recommendations include calls for review of pre-transfer assessments in Australia to ensure that vulnerabilities of individuals who may have suffered torture or trauma are considered. It says no further transfers of children should occur until “appropriate legal and administrative safeguards” are in place, including their placement in an open centre, as opposed to “the current environment of detention”. “Asylum seekers are distressed and confused about their situation. They are in closed detention, without a process in sight. They feel they have been forgotten,” said the UNHCR’s regional representative, Richard Towle. Senator Hanson-Young, who was forbidden from taking photographs inside the facility on her visit, said the lack of privacy for single men was reflected in the absence of doors on toilets. “There is just no trust at all in the system,” she said, saying asylum seekers told her they had no warning they were being sent to the island. Both the UN agency and the senator expressed alarm that children and family groups were not kept completely separately from the single men.

Debate on polygamy continues

The National, 1st of February, 2013

THE plan to introduce a bill to stop polygamy in the country by Eastern Highlands’ Governor Julie Soso has created much debate nationwide.
The highlands region is mainly known for polygamous practices where men gain status by having many wives.
PNG Women in Business president and founder Janet Sape has shown support for Soso’s plan.
Soso’s plan is being hailed by most women in the country, while some men seem against it in the name of tradition, as it has been a customary practice for generations, particularly in the highlands.
Many are saying that under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every human being, male or female, have equal rights and that polygamy should be barred.

Commission seeks court ruling on polygamy


Post Courier 11 February.

Polygamy in simple terms is: “men showing dominance over women and taking them as mere objects that can be bought and sold.”
Chairman of the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission (CLRC) Benjamin Poponawa said this when commending the CLRC for taking the initiative to seek Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of polygamy.
He was speaking soon after his swearing-in as the chairman at Government House on Tue February 5.
Mr Poponawa told reporters that polygamy was once common mainly in the Highlands but now it is creeping into other parts of the country. 
The chairman said he was speaking as a leader and one who also comes from the Highlands.
Mr Poponawa said polygamy also leaves the questions of the right of the children to have their father staying with them in the same house every day. “Money and material goods cannot replace the bond of a wife to her husband and a child to his or her father,” Mr Poponawa said.
Meanwhile, CLRC has sought a Supreme Court reference on polygamy and Mr Poponawa said depending on the outcome of this Supreme Court reference, he would ask the CLRC to seek public opinion on this issue throughout the country.

School gangs a time bomb

Post Courier 11 February

AN entire generation of young people in primary and secondary schools in Lae will lose their future if school gangs are not stopped immediately.
After 20 years of uncontrolled growth in schools, the cult gangs are stopping at nothing to increase their numbers and influence on students in just about all schools in Lae.
The Vice Minister for Education Gisuwat Siniwin wants these cult gangs in Lae schools weeded out once and for all.
And he has committed himself to raising the matter with the government to find solutions to it.
Mr Siniwin who is the immediate past principal of the Bumayong Lutheran Secondary School and Member for Nawaeb, said cult gangs have no place in schools and must be completely weeded out of the Lae schools as a matter or priority and urgency.
While political leaders talk about dealing with the problem, a prominent Morobean citizen says Lae City is sitting on a time bomb which has wired up its schools with a deadly fuse that is about to be set alight and explode.
Its school cult groups have become so entrenched it will need a major national effort to help clean up the evil that has spread its wings to every corner of the Morobean capital.
A large number – if not the great majority of young people in school belong to school cult gangs.
It is said that the typical age range of gang members were between 10 to 22 years old. 
By all accounts, the number of youth gangs and their members in the city continues to grow. 
There are estimates of 10 youth gangs with more than 15,000 members in the high schools and community schools in Lae city, according to highly placed sources in Lae.

Technical support needed in curbing school gangs

Post Courier 11 February.

RUSSEL Merpe is the Lae District education adviser.
His duties involve providing technical support for all schools in Lae City.
Mr Merpe has been aware of the school cult activities for a number of years and has gathered together principals and senior teachers of schools in the city to look at the problem and recommend strategies to deal with it.
He says in a report he gave to the school heads that the passing on of ‘generation names’ by students in school sub-culture groups has been associated with:
Harmful initiation rites,
sexually promiscuous behavior,
 Drinking and smoking rituals,
 Bullying of other students,
Claiming of territory within and outside of schools, Making high-performing students complete assignments for other group members, Creation of hierarchical structures of power amongst group members, In some extreme cases devil worshipping and occult rituals.
 Mr Merpe identified in his report reasons why students might engage in anti-social sub-cultures.
 The reasons, he stated, include:
 The need for friendship and security,
Poor self-image,
 Problems with family,
 Being away from family and lack of supervision,
Experimenting something new,
 Excitement over something new,
 Sense of belonging, Protection,
 Peer pressure or intimidation,
 Existing beliefs in witchcraft/sorcery,
 Envy. 
Mr Merpe then went on to suggest reasons why negative subcultures exist in schools.
These include:
Poor behaviour management in school,
Absence of disciplinary policy or procedures,
 Insufficient counselling and student support,
 Official student leadership (SRC) ineffective or bypassed
, Lack of alternative healthy extra-curricular activities,
 Poor leadership in school,
 Poor supervision of students,
 Staff lack confidence/knowledge/understanding of how to handle the situation,
 School boards not functional and are not able to make effective decisions on disciplining students. 
In that Mr Merpe went on to look at strategies to deal with student subcultures in school. 
He suggested proactive strategies which include, among others:
 In-service training for staff and community leaders on ‘cults’ and brainstorm solutions,
 Teach social and life skils through personal development curriculum,
 Review anti-bullying strategies,
 Enforce regular supervision of students,
 Ensure all school boards are fully operational and in-serviced on their roles and responsibilities,
 Support existing recreational clubs and establish new activities,
 Establish a process of registering genuine student interest groups,
 Set up times and location where student groups are authorised to meet,
Strengthen SRC to promote positive student behaviour amongst students,
 Establish guidance and counselling program for the school, 
Involve parents and community in awareness,
 Support male and female school-based counsellors and give them adequate support to help students.

Anti-cult site tells tales


Post Courier, Feb 11

YOUNG Papua New Guineans have taken to social media to reveal the highs and lows of cult groups within their schools.
 A Facebook group “Against cult groups in PNG schools” was created in October last year to collect personal testimonies and to expose cult groups in various schools around the country. 
The group has had close to 600 Facebook “likes” since its inception, confirming that the issue is topical among young school-aged Papua New Guineans.
A number of Port Moresby and Lae schools were mentioned in the Facebook group as having cult groups while the other postings by youth highlighted the negative effect that the cult groups have had on their studies.
“I finished year 12 last year, am currently in college! Got sacked weeks before the national exams bcoz of cults,” posted one Papua New Guinean.
While another, who appeared to be in support of cults, said: “I just think groups in schools are not cults. They are just as normal as the organizations…they love, care, protect and so forth.”
 The postings on the Facebook group suggest that binge drinking was a key feature for many of the groups and on a few occasions individual members of a group attacked their rivals or had sex with female colleagues.
A 2011 AusAID-funded report Urban Youth in the Pacific highlighted the growing problem of cults in PNG schools, mainly the National Capital District (NCD). Assault, arson, rape and sexual favours were part of cult groups’ initiation ceremonies, the reported stated.

H’lands HIV cases double

The National, Thursday 21st February, 2013

TWO highlands provinces recorded 431 new HIV cases last year, almost double the number in 2011.
The Southern Highlands provincial monitoring, evaluation and surveillance team reported that 172 males and 259 females in Southern Highlands and Hela have contracted the virus.
Monitoring and evaluation officer Willie William Tom said out of the 431 new HIV cases, Tari-Pori district recorded the highest with 157, Imbonggu district with 74, Ialibu-Pangia 68, Mendi-Munihu 65, Komo-Margarima  26, Nipa-Kutubu 14, Koroba-Kopiago district 12 and Kagua-Erave 5.
The 2011 figure was 240 (91 males and 149 females).
The team tested 19,500 people in the two provinces last year.
Tom said people were tested for HIV at 38 sites in the two provinces.
Tom credited surveillance partners such as the Catholic church (HIV programme) which conducted tests for 45% of the people, Oil Search Ltd HIV programme 32%, Clinton HIV programme 20% and other institutions such as the Mendi General Hospital blood bank tested 3%.
He said the Oil Search programme was coordinating HIV/AIDS services in the petroleum development impact areas of Southern Highlands and Hela.
“The three districts, Kagua-Erave, Koroba-Kopiago and Nipa-Kutubu HIV positive recording cases are lower due to less number of people going for HIV testings,” he said.

NGO: More students, more pressure on resources

The National 31 Jan, 2013

A possible increase in student enrolment at schools due to the government’s subsidised free-education policy will put resources and facilities under pressure, a non-governmental organisation warned yesterday. “I call on the local MPs to help build the capacity of the education sector given that the national government is fully subsidising students’ school fees this year,” Langa Kopio, acting secretary-general for Tsak Union Incorporation, said yesterday. He said the Office of Higher Education should also address the strain on the availability of teachers in tertiary institutions to cater for higher numbers. “The number of school leavers and non-school leavers must keep pace with the availability of space in the colleges and universities. But we do not have enough space to cater for them so there is a need to establish more tertiary institutions in the country.” The free-tuition fee policy would not only help relieve parents from school fees burdens but also provide them with an opportunity to save money to improve their living standard, he said.

Hospital in dire straits

Post Courier 7 February

SERVICES at the Goroka Base Hospital, a major referral hospital in Eastern Highlands, has dropped so much that has resulted in more deaths in the last 12 months.
Goroka MP Bire Kimisopa brought the issue to light during Question Time in Parliament yesterday.
 Mr Kimisopa said this hospital for the last five years had barely struggled to survive.
“It is a referral hospital now called the Eastern Highlands Provincial Hospital. Patients from Kundiawa come to Goroka. We do not go to Kundiawa but now we have been doing that for the last two years.
“The sterilising equipment is obsolete since Independence. So we have bundles of all surgical equipment bundled up and taken to Madang to have it sterilized, taken to Lae, Kundiawa and Mt Hagen to have it sterilized.
“We are referring all our surgical patients to Kundiawa who are saying enough take them elsewhere. Where can I go? They are telling our hospital staff in Goroka that they cannot sterilize any more of our equipment.
“We have a pathological service in Goroka using x-ray machine that’s already collapsed, This was acquired straight after Independence. There is a lot of deaths during the last 12 months.
“How soon can you come to Goroka and how soon can you sack the management?” Mr Kimisopa said.
Mr Malabag in response said all hospitals had similar problems

Hot water germ is a known killer

Post Courier 6 February, 2013

In 1981, when ELCOM enforced the ban on automatic hot water heating, very little was known of Legionella. “Today, we know that Legionella bacterium multiplies in lukewarm water between 25ºC and 51ºC. This situation can occur in shower systems and has killed many people in other countries,” he said. He said the banning of automatic hot water heating has created a dangerous life threatening situation for the people of Papua New Guinea. If the days are overcast and there is insufficient solar heating and the residents do not use the one-shot switch to boost the water temperature the water temperature could drop below 51ºC for many days. He explained that Legionella bacteria occurs naturally in water and given the right conditions can quickly and easily multiply throughout water systems. When water contaminated with Legionella is released into the atmosphere in vapour form, such as the mist produced from shower heads, the bacteria can be inhaled deep into the lungs. Inhalation of contaminated water droplets in this way may lead to the contraction of Legionnaires disease. Infection with the Legionella bacteria is fatal in approximately 12 percent of reported cases. People who are immuno-compromised or who suffer from respiratory disorders are at the highest risk of contracting Legionnaires Disease.

Legionnaires disease can have symptoms like many other forms of pneumonia, so it can be hard to diagnose. Signs of the disease can include high fever, chills and a cough. Some people may also suffer from muscle-ache and headaches.

Govt plans conference on alcohol

The National, 21st February, 2013

THE government is addressing the problem of alcohol abuse in the country, according to a government statement.
A conference – called Alcohol in PNG: The next step forward – will be held to discuss the problem and come up with recommendations on how it could be solved.
“The conference will report back to the community and stakeholders the findings from the investigations made by government, as tasked to the law and justice sector,” according to chief secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc.
 The conference is geared towards a proactive approach to alcohol interventions where its presenters will discuss key areas identified as requiring attention.
These target areas are based on recommendations drawn from the alcohol abuse report published last year by the law and justice sector.
The recommendations included:
Review of liquor laws;
Enforcement;
Protection of
women and girls;
Focus on youths; and
Conducting public awareness.
 The conference would be held at the PNG Institute of Public Administration on Feb 25-26.

Alcohol conference a waste of time

The National, 21st February, 2013

A CONFERENCE is being organised next week to look into alcohol consumption and abuse in Papua New Guinea.
While we are happy this conference is going down, even if way overdue, we wonder at what might come out of it.
There is absolutely no doubt that alcohol abuse in Papua New Guinea is a killer, literally and metaphorically.
Drinking kills productivity and, therefore, affects the economic life of the country adversely as drunken people take unnecessary time off from work.
Drinking is the cause of many misery-filled lives, not the least of them being caused by domestic violence which is prevalent throughout PNG.
Let it be said: Many Papua New Guineans do not have it in them to control drinking or be responsible drinkers.
So, something has to be done – but what?
We do not believe that a conference is the answer.
Conferences should be held only to canvas diverse and differing opinions on issues in order to plot a collective way forward.
The way forward requires strong government policies and implementation of them, not conferences.
Remember the excellent gun summit of several years back?
The nationwide roadshow and the final summit in Goroka were well
attended.
A huge report was compiled with more than 200 recommendations on a way forward in the immediate, medium and long
term.
To this day, we have no idea what happened to this conference.
We fear a similar failure with the alcohol conference which will receive overwhelming attendance and alcohol abuse be given a rousing condemnation after which nothing will come of it.

CHS workers’ terms to improve

Post Courier 26 February

THE Government is awaiting clearance from the Department of Personnel Management for a decision to approve terms and conditions of church health workers.
That is the assurance by Minister for Health and HIV AIDS, Michael Malabag, when witnessing a graduation at Nazarene College of Nursing over the weekend in Jiwaka.
The salary review is well overdue and just on Saturday the minister was challenged yet again by the Chairman of the Churches Medical Council and Principal for Nazarene College of Nursing Wallace Kintak.
A Similar call also came from Nazarene Hospital Administrator Dr Scott Dooley when the minister was given a tour around the facility.
“While most of out staff salaries come from the government to Church Medical Council, they do not quite match Government positions in numbers needed or in pay equivalent to their Government counterparts,” Dr Scott told minister. The minister told those gathered at the 38th graduation that a Cabinet policy submission, seeking NEC’s approval for a whole new government approach to address disparities include:
Review past NEC decisions made by past governments to address disparity in personnel emoluments for church health workers;
Increase operational funding for CHS operations;
Establish adequate manpower numbers for CHS based on the national health services standards;
Approve the proposed salary structure and costing for CHS;
Establish computerised concept payroll for CHS to be managed by CHS;
Establish formal payroll for CHS to be managed by the CHS; and 
Establish formal partnership arrangement between the Government and CHS for effective resources management and service delivery accountabilities.

Schools not paid due to wrong details

The National, 26th of February, 2013

THE Education Department listed 1,399 schools that have not been paid tuition-free fees because of improper bank account details.
The list, published exclusively in The National yesterday, showed that most of the schools were from the remote provinces of Morobe, Northern, West Sepik, Southern Highlands and Western.
Acting secretary for education Luke Taita said the schools could not be paid their subsidies because of  “missing bank details and incorrect bank details. To help the schools, the education department has provided a tuition fee free hotline for them to make any queries on payments. The telephone numbers 7056 7866 and 7056 7870 will be staffed by department officers from 8am to 5pm from Monday to Friday.
Taita said parents and the public could also call these numbers to report any mismanagement of TFF funds.

PNG to join campaign to end violence against women

The National, 4th February, 2013

A GLOBAL campaign pushing to end violence against women is coming to Papua New Guinea on Valentine’s Day, Feb 14.
The United States- based One Billion Rising campaign is calling for one billion women and men around the world to raise awareness on violence against women by walking and dancing on the streets that
day.
Women and men in PNG have been invited to join the global campaign.
The PNG theme for this year is “Break the silence – make a statement”.
The family and sexual violence action committee of the consultative implementation and monitoring council will be leading the campaign in Port Moresby.
Project coordinator Isi Oru said,
“In light of the recent widely circulated e-mail, two female workers from a prominent hotel in Port Moresby were almost abducted in a taxi.
“They cheated death by jumping out through a smashed window and onto the road whilst the vehicle was moving at high speed.
“They were hospitalized. The national coordinator for the campaign Ume Wainetti said the campaign was about men and women taking a pro-active stance against all forms of violence perpetuated against women and girls.

Churches need to preach the Word of God

Letter in Post Courier, February 5th (abbreviated)

I REFER to the reports in our daily newspapers regarding the ministers and MPs tithing to churches.
The churches have become agents of the government to provide social or physical services and charity to change the lives and improve the living standard of the people, but misunderstand their responsibilities. 
The churches cannot be the agent of both earthly kingdom and Heavenly Kingdom or cannot serve two masters as it is not acceptable to God, (Mathew 6:24). The Government has given millions of kina to churches over the years, and they have provided physical services and charities to the communities, … but there is no impact of change in the behaviour and attitudes of people, instead more social problems are rising in this country. They must be very cautious of where they lay eggs; it could hatch out scorpions to fight back at them. 
 Christian Observer

Papua New Guinea ‘witch’ murder is a reminder of our gruesome past

PNG Blogs 22 Feb 2013  –  The Guardian

Earlier this week, police charged two people from Mount Hagen, in the western highlands of Papua New Guinea, with the murder of Kepari Leniata, a 20-year-old woman and mother. Accused of bewitching a six-year old boy who had recently died in hospital, Leniata was stripped, tortured with a hot iron rod, doused in petrol, and burned on a pile of rubbish and car tyres.

Anyone with a reasonable knowledge of history will quickly think of the legalised witch killings of Europe and North America as comparisons. These offer a sobering broader perspective. In Germany, Switzerland, Britain and New England, perhaps 50,000 alleged witches were tortured and killed by the most educated and powerful men in society. By definition, most of their supposed crimes were sheer impossibilities. But the forgotten history of witch attacks is perhaps more surprising still.

In England, the Witchcraft Act of 1736 outlawed any further prosecutions for witchcraft. Yet in the sleepy Hertfordshire village of Long Marston in 1751, the law did not protect 69-year-old Ruth Osborne. Accused of bewitching cattle, she was watched by a large crowd at the village pond that April, where a man named Thomas Colley ducked and drowned her. Though Colley would hang, many stayed away from the execution in sympathy – but the witch attacks were far from over.

With a present-day population of around 800 and a late-Saxon church, Great Paxton in Huntingdonshire now looks charmingly picturesque. Its past is rather darker. One Sunday in April 1808 the church’s minister, Isaac Nicholson, could be heard attempting to talk his parishioners out of their belief that Ann Izzard had bewitched several locals, including three girls who had fallen sick. As Stephen A Mitchell notes, Nicholson was right to fear he had scarcely dented the prevailing superstitions. One night that May a mob dragged Ann, naked, from her bed into the yard outside her house. They scratched her arms with pins and beat her face, stomach and chest with a stick.

These are just a handful of those who suffered for superstition long after the law had sought to end attacks on “witches”. Around 1880 an old Indian woman was stoned to death in Pine Nut Valley, Nevada, as a witch, and in about 1885 two men in southwest England were jailed for killing a woman thought to have bewitched their cattle. Nor were such attacks purely rural affairs. On Sunday 24 June, 1827, a crowd of over 300 people rushed down Marlborough Street in Dublin, literally throwing around a woman amid cries of: “A witch! A witch! Burn the witch!.” The victim was narrowly rescued by one brave young man and dragged into a nearby police station.

Come the 20th century, there were witch murders or attacks in Arizona in 1952, Switzerland in 1959, and Bavaria in 1963. At times witch attacks may have involved personal grudges, and at times victims may have been singled out because they looked different (the Dublin woman was said to be “dwarfish and deformed”). But time and again the chief factor, amid the sick children, cattle, or failing crops was still more basic – a problem which needed someone to blame it on. If there is one wider moral of all these tragic events, it is this: those who seek scapegoats – whether witches, outsiders or immigrants – usually hit the wrong target.

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