Social Concerns Notes – July 2013

There has been no shortage of  “social concerns” in PNG this month.  These notes will start with an announcement in the Post Courier newspaper and then the statement from the Commission for Social Concerns of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference

New deal for refugees

Post Courier 22 July

PAPUA New Guinea has signed a new deal that will see the dumping of all asylum seekers on Manus Island and freeing Australia in dealing with boat people in the future.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in a media statement late yesterday said PNG will benefit significantly from the agreement that will see the Australian government deliver a comprehensive package of direct assistance from Australia, the value of which will run into hundreds of millions of kina and will benefit the whole nation.
The plan, which Mr Rudd jointly announced with Prime Minister O’Neill in Brisbane, has been backed by an advertising campaign in both Australia and the region telling asylum seekers that “the people smugglers’ guarantee is worthless” and warning them that they are “buying a ticket to another country”.
The deal: Key points

* Asylum seekers who arrive by boat will never be settled in Australia

* They will be sent to Manus Island or elsewhere in PNG for assessment

* Genuine refugees will be resettled in PNG;

* The agreement will be in place for at least the next 12 months;

* There will be no cap on the number of refugees to be settled in PNG;

* Manus Island detention centre to be expanded to house 3,000, up from its original capacity of 600.
 Mr Rudd says the new deal is a major achievement. It is something every Prime Minister in the past has wanted to achieve. I am proud to have delivered it via the agreement I signed in Brisbane on Friday.”
“I want to stress that processing and resettlement arrangements will take place under Papua New Guinea laws, and the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, to which PNG is a signatory.”
Those found to have genuine refugee status will be resettled in PNG and other participating countries in our region.

Statement of CBC Commission for Social Concerns on the recent agreement between Australia and PNG on processing and resettlement of asylum seekers in PNG.

Like everyone else, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands was taken by surprise with the announcement that all asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat will be processed on Manus Island PNG, and those deemed to be genuine refugees will be resettled In Papua New Guinea (and other participating regional, including Pacific Island, states). Until more facts become available it is difficult for us to comment on all the social and moral implications of this decision.

However, we can certainly say this, that while Papua New Guineans are not lacking in compassion for those in need, this country (unlike Australia which is a stable and thriving nation of immigrants) does not have the capacity at this time in its history to welcome a sizeable influx of refugees and provide for their immediate needs and a reasonable hope for a new and prosperous beginning. The leaders of Papua New Guinea and Australia surely know this and therefore appear to be making a very unwise decision.

Papua New Guinea is rightly proud of the protection guaranteed by its Constitution to all people, citizen and non-citizen alike. We refer particularly to the section on freedom and liberty of the person (section 42) in the PNG Constitution. So is it right to bring people across our borders against their wishes? Is it right to imprison people who have not broken our laws? The implication that resettlement in PNG would be a deterrent is offensive to Papua New Guinea.

As noted in a recent report from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, arrangements for the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre do not meet international protection standards, and the present situation on Manus is likely to lead to increased levels of psychosocial harm. Therefore no more asylum seekers should be sent to Papua New Guinea unless the facilities and conditions for hosting them are radically improved. We invite other Churches and people of good will to join the Catholic Church in respectually encouraging Australia to find a more humane solution to people seeking asylum in their country. Very basic principles of human rights are involved in the treatment of people who have for political, religious and economic reasons fled their homes, often in fear, and who are in need of help.

Papua New Guinea is being led to believe that she is joining Australia in a righteous campaign against people smugglers. But we suspect that this is more a matter of political convenience at the expense of people seeking refuge. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference regrets the manner in which PNG is becoming an accomplice in a very questionable handling of a human tragedy. Our Holy Father Pope Francis recently voiced the right attitude for all Christians, and all who claim to be a Christian nation. At Lampedusa, (the “Italian Christmas Island”) he thanked the people of Lampedusa for taking in refugees and setting an example of solidarity to a selfish society sliding into “the globalization of indifference”.

At the same time this could be an opportunity for PNG to seriously offer the opportunity for refugees to settle in PNG. Refugees have made an enormous contribution to Australia and could do the same here. In order to be genuinely welcoming in the spirit of gospel hospitality to those in need, the PNG government and others should also stop moves to ban other religions from PNG.

 Australia to probe migrant rape claims in PNG

Australia is to investigate reports that asylum seekers at one of its detention camps in Papua New Guinea are being raped and tortured. A former senior official at the Manus Island processing centre in PNG has said that people have been raped and tortured at the facility.

Tony Burke, Australian Immigration Minister, described the claims of Rod St George, the former head of occupational health and safety at the centre, as “horrific” and arrived on Manus Island  to investigate on Thursday. He said that any troublemakers would be removed from the camp.

Graeme McGregor, a refugee campaign co-ordinator for Amnesty International Australia, said that it was vital that the government immediately took steps to support the complainants of rape and torture at the camp, and for those accused to be arrested and charged “in a fair court of law”.

St George told Australia’s SBS television that self-harm and attempted suicides occurred on an almost daily basis and that weapons were being accumulated in readiness for a break-out attempt.

The former prison guard quit his job after being disgusted by what he saw at the facility, where he said up to half a dozen young men were assaulted and raped by fellow inmates. Others were beaten and forced to sew their lips together to protest over conditions, he said. St George said the men who were sexually assaulted were sent back to the same tents as the people who raped them. “There was nothing that could be done for these young men who were considered vulnerable, which in many cases is just a euphemism for men who are being raped,” he said.

See also article by Jo Chandler on asylum seeker issue

Human trafficking a major challenge for PNG

Post Courier 16 July

HUMAN trafficking is a major challenge facing the region and PNG stands ready to offer leadership on the issue of asylum seekers, Peter O’Neill said yesterday. 
The Prime Minister, in his address at a lunch hosted for Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd at the Parliament state function room, said Papua New Guinea is increasingly aware of the importance of regional security. … Papua New Guinea is very happy to provide regional leadership and support on this difficult issue.”
“We are very happy to host a regional detention and processing centre that meets the highest humanitarian standard.

O’Neill: West Papuans can become citizens

The National, July 25th, 2013

WEST Papuans are most welcome to become citizens of PNG, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says. “Cabinet has made a very deliberate decision: those (West Papuans) who have been here for more than eight years will be exempt from the K10,000 to apply for citizenship.”
O’Neill told a media conference on Monday after returning from Brisbane where he signed a new agreement on asylum seekers with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
He was queried on the Government’s stand on West Papuan refugees in light of the new deal with Australia.
“We welcome them (West Papuans) to apply and we will process them as citizens of our country,” O’Neill said.
“This is a new initiative that this government is taking.”
He said the West Papua issue was quite different from the Australian refugee problem.
“The West Irian (Papua) issue is a separate issue,” the prime minister said. “They (West Papuans) are also welcome to have access to the border quite easily, with the current agreement with the Indonesian government.”

Corporal punishment to return

The National, July 25th, 2013

JUSTICE Minister and Attorney-General Kerenga Kua said the Government would introduce corporal punishment as a deterrent to the increased law and order problems in the country.
Kua, speaking in Parliament in reply to a series of questions from Manus MP Ronnie Knight, said the Government would reintroduce corporal punishment and increase penalties for criminal and summary offences as a result of the declining moral conscience among the young people.
“I must inform this house that definitely we will reintroduce corporal punishment and I want this house to support the Bill,” he said.
Corporal punishment was first introduced in the country during the colonial days but was abolished as it was a inhuman form of punishment. 
Kua said the Justice Department, in consultation with the Constitutional Law Reform Commission, was reviewing all the existing laws in an effort to increase the penalties.

Corporal punishment for wife bashers

Post Courier 3 July

NOT all domestic violators should go to prison, instead ‘corporal punishment’ should be considered as an option because the adverse consequences of the current penalty will only add to more suffering to families.
Senior Magistrate Patrick Monouluk made these remarks in Tabubil when sentencing a Bougainvillean man to three months imprisonment for assaulting his wife.
Magistrate Monouluk said the circumstance of the case warrant him to be canned by his own wife than go to prison for his attack on her.
“It seems that in all the avenues we chose from the present penalty options families still get to suffer … first the families suffer because the wives or mothers are assaulted. 
“Then the families are made yet to suffer because of the short fall in family budgets as the family monies are used to pay off court fines and compensation to the wives (which the defendants turn to benefit from later) and, if that is not enough, the families suffer once more as their bread winner has gone off to jail and is without employment. 
“These adverse consequences on the families are the yard stick why corporal punishment or canning is an ideal sentencing option for domestic violators particularly wife bashers as it is an effective deterrent since it carries with it an aspect of shaming which many violators tend to fear.
Magistrate Monouluk went further and stated that, “At this point in time the law is not clear on corporal punishment except for Section 278 under the Criminal Code Act Chpt 262 which renamed ‘corporal punishment’ as ‘domestic discipline’ to avoid a colonial connotation to it.

Education standard low in PNG 

Post Courier 3 July

THE education standard in Papua New Guinea since 1993 has dropped and continues to do so at an alarming rate. 
The impact this is having on the country is severe.
Frank Evans of Sandaun Provincial Administration stated that the National Department of Education need only look at the results for this year’s exams to see there is a crisis.
Furthermore, Mr Evans blasted the department for wasting money and resources on organising workshops and seminars to get opinions, when there is a crisis in education and the funds could be used for teaching.
Mr Evans presented a paper at the National Development Forum in Port Moresby last week and explained that that only 16 percent of their grade eight students passed the 2012 Grade Eight National Examination.
He said a total of 2885 grade eight students in Sandaun sat for the examination but only 440 qualified or passed to continue to high school. A massive 2245, roughly 84 percent, failed. 
He stated that the problem is country-wide and it is confirmed by Morobe province’s 2010 grade eight statistics. 
Morobe Provincial Education authority had marked 65 out of 150 as its pass mark for grade eights to continue to grade nine. However, to its horror, only 35 per cent of its students passed and they had to lower the pass mark to 50, only 33 per cent of the total score in the exam, to allow students to fill up the high school places on offer. 
Morobe even went further down to a 30 per cent pass mark because many children in the rural schools failed to achieve even 35 per cent.
Mr Evans stated that the flow on effect of this is that we see low standards which begin in primary level continue through to lower secondary and then into upper secondary education. 
“In the 2011 National Grade 10 Examination, a Distinction was awarded to a mark of 32 out of 50 (64%) and a Credit to 24 out of 50 (less than 50%). This was to allow for the 5% Distinctions and 20% Credits,” he said.
He said the English language both written and spoken at Grade 10 and 12 is a mix of Tok Pisin, PNG English and some “help” from the mobile phone vocabulary.
He said the low standards in upper secondary are finally being revealed for all to see.

PM: Life is precious

Post Courier 3 July

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has urged young people to look after themselves as ‘too many Papua New Guineans’ are dying too early too soon.
“We have to look after ourselves young men and women. Life is very precious. I believe that we are losing many Papua New Guineans too early too soon.”
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said this at the funeral service of Late Ipai Karara Edward at the Sioni Kami Memorial Church in Port Moresby yesterday. The late Ipai was a grade six drop out who joined the government as a driver and worked his way up to be the acting protocol and events manager with the Department of Prime Minister and NEC.
He was also a scout and was Scout Commissioner for the Asia Pacific region at the time of his passing.
His brother Pastor Jack Edward described the late Ipai as a person who holds families and groups together and thanked Prime Minister O’Neill and Ms Babao and Health Minister Malabag for attending the funeral service. Prime Minister O’Neill in his tribute said the life of the late Ipai must be an example of how hard work and honesty can help you achieve things that you never dreamt of in your life. “That is a challenge to you many young people who grow up today. The temptations of today are much greater than the temptations of before but the challenges are still the same and life is still the same that if you commit yourself and work hard you will have success in life.”
“Life is also very precious. The good Lord put us here for a purpose and that is to contribute meaningfully to our family, our community and our country.”

K120m meant for church programs abused

Post Courier 1 July

A government funded program of K120 million for church state partnership program has been wasted through misapplication and abuse.
National Planning Minister Charles Abel will table a report on the Social Development Plan or Church State Partnership Program where K120 million has been spent with nothing to show on the ground.
Minister Abel did not give details of the disaster in the church state partnership program but will do so in his Report to Parliament.
“I have met with the Church partners under the Church Partnership Program last week after finalising the historical report on this program, and they will report back this week on propositions to re-engage with government after the disaster of the previous program.”
“We will be providing through this program funding to support health and education services through the churches in particular.”
Minister Abel said he had already started the reporting process on the government programs including the failure and misappropriation of K528 million under the National Agriculture Development program between 2007 and 2012.
“I am bringing to the budgetary process the principle that public money cannot be handed out through government programs to select private companies and individuals unless it is a wholesale program such as free education or crop price subsidies, or a solar light and water tank program as Alotau District has done to every household.”
“This has led to a feeding frenzy in some of our central agencies and huge wastage and theft of funds,” Minister Abel said.

Comprehension Levels Low

The National 8 July, 2013

Many children in Papua New Guinea are being taught in an unfamiliar language resulting in low listening, comprehension and limited vocabularly.  This was revealed recently in East New Britain during a workshop organised by the Language Support Programme (LSP) PNG. The programme revealed in the workshop that a recent assessment known as the early grade assessment in PNG conducted in four provinces – Madang, ENB, National Capital District and Western Highlands – showd that many students were reading without comprehension.  This meant that many students in the country still found it difficult to decode and understand spoken language in terms of reading comprehension.  The LSP team said contributing factors to this situation or problem were different early childhood development experiences for children before they enter school and multilingual communities where children may be learning to read in their second and third language and mismatch between language of home and language of school

Where is increased revenue?

Post-Courier, 28 June 2013

Bad political and bureaucratic leadership, neglect and financial mismanagement are the reasons for the imminent stress on public infrastructure arising from population growth. Deputy Leader of Opposition and Member for Bulolo Sam Basil said this following Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s publicised concerns about the 250 per cent population increase between 1975 and 2011 in the two daily newspapers, on Tuesday. “The Prime Minister has only told half the story,” said Mr Basil. He said Mr O’Neill must be concerned that the population has grown from two million in 1975 to seven million in 2011. Mr Basil said Mr O’Neill did not reveal the fact that the national revenue grew from K400 million in 1975 to billions of kina annually between 2002-2011. “That increased revenue should have resulted in more, expanded or improved infrastructure opening up and linking the nation to services in health, education, transportation, piped water, electricity and cheaper telecommunications,” Mr Basil said that the people have every right to question where these increased revenues have gone, that were managed on their behalf by their political and bureaucratic leaders. “With limited resources, responsible family planning is vital and all families should consider it as a matter of course. But the Government must also ensure that it is strategic and visionary in outlook on resources and their usage,” Mr Basil said.

Youths organise rally

The National, July 1st, 2013

FORTY-TWO registered youth groups in the Mendi urban local level government of Southern Highlands organised an open air rally for the Mendi urban town lord mayoral contestants to give their speeches last Friday.
Crowds of people who packed the town were attracted to the arena where the 24 candidates vying for the seat were speaking about their aspirations.
Mendi urban youth treasurer A’aron Dou said it was an initiative of the youths apart from other organised awareness they carried out in the province.
“People need to hear what the contestants say and make judgements to elect good leaders who will represent them in the five-year period,” he said.
He said such an activity should have been organised when election campaigning started and when nothing happened, the youths stepped in to organise it as their future was important.
Mendi town manager Steven Temo praised the youths, saying this was a well organised rally that attracted thousands of people despite a heavy downpour.
After their speeches, the Mendi urban youths served the candidates light refreshments.

Powaseu urges support for people living with disabilities

The National, July 2nd, 2013

PAPUA New Guinea Assembly of Persons with Disabilities president Ipul Powaseu has urged people to support the development of disabled people in PNG.
“Nothing about us is without us,” she said last Friday during a Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council (CIMC) national development forum at the Parliament’s state function room.
The theme of her presentation, “Participation by people with disabilities in promoting inclusive development”, reminded participants of the importance of having disabled people included in the country’s development agendas and objectives.
She said only 1-2% of disabled people in low-income communities received rehabilitation services and there were over a million disabled people in the country.
“This is a big challenge for the country but we can look at the barriers that are hindering the participation of disabled people and break them to allow the people to be involved in interventions in communities they live in,” she said.
“The presentation is to make sure that disabled people are not excluded in any service interventions and for able people to be aware of that fact.
“Some people may assume that disabled people are not capable of participating actively in developments in the country but that mindset must be changed,” she said.

Greedy MPs with too much money

PNG Blogs July 3, 2013

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has said more than once that the country has nothing to show for all the money that has flowed into this country’s coffers in the past few years. Where is all this money going to be invested to finally reverse the trend O’Neill speaks about?  The various schemes such as the National Agriculture Development Programme (NADP) into which K200 million has been sunk annually but which has evaporated into thin air according to reports before Parliament,  the Rehabilitation of Education Sector Infrastructure (RESI) funds which receives K300 million annually, the District Services Improvement Programme (DSIP) where K1.2 billion is parked annually and the Provincial Services Improvement Programme (PSIP) which recives K20 million annually, are all distributed by members of Parliament.

However well-intended the rationale behind these funds might be, politicians are not the people to handle their distribution.Two simple reasons demonstrate clearly why politicians should never be charged with tending money. Firstly, their administrative and financial accountability capacities in their electorates are inadequate. Secondly, they have to meet far too many demands from their supporters in the electorates to distribute money properly for much-needed infrastructure. By and large, much of the money has been and will continue to be misspent for these reasons alone. To correct this anomaly, PNG must find a way to ensure that politicians should only be given some discretionary funds for their electorates. All else should pass through the public service machinery which should be reformed to ensure it performs as the implementation arm of government.

“Good” corruption in Enga: is corruption a culturally relative phenomenon?

By Marcus Pelto on June 26, 2013

At a recent community forum in the Southern Highlands of PNG a participant said, “We don’t need any more bad corruption in the Southern Highlands. We need good corruption like they have in Enga.” This person went on to describe the public services delivered personally by some high profile politicians in Enga as “good” corruption, as opposed to the “bad” corruption in the Southern Highlands, where services are hardly seen to be delivered at all (at least in the view of this forum participant). This statement highlights the challenges involved in applying the modern concept of corruption to societies with social structures dramatically different to that of developed societies, such as OECD countries. Is there “good” and “bad” corruption? “The variation in what is understood as corruption lies in the variation in what counts as (and the extension of) public goods in the cultures, and not in a variation if it is morally wrong to turn a public good into a private good. Hence, our hypothesis is that a culture in which the private and public goods are neatly separated both conceptually and customarily, i.e. in their access and management, will have less fear of corruption. On the other hand, corruption will be a relevant issue whenever the private and public goods overlap or are easily converted by those who have access to them.” [See the rest of this interesting article at the url above – ed.]

Time for a new approach to improving governance in PNG? Try transparency and social mobilisation

By Stephen Howes on June 12, 2013

In his insightful blog post of January 24 this year, which provoked a lively on-line discussion, Graham Teskey, AusAID’s principal governance adviser, asked the question: What can donors do to improve governance in PNG? His basic argument was that it had to be something different. What had been tried to date hadn’t worked. Graham had several suggestions for what a new approach might look like, including working with non-state partners, building local capacity, and providing conditional grants into MP constituency funds. Ultimately, governance in PNG is a matter for PNG itself. But donors can play a useful role at the margin. I agree with Graham that it is time to try something new. I also agree with him that working with non-state partners is important. I have long advocated that the aid program should work more with the churches who provide about half of PNG’s health and education services. I’m not so convinced that giving additional funding to MPs is such a good idea. They will struggle to spend all the funds they already have. I want to put two ideas for new directions on the table. They are not new from a global perspective, but a lot more use could be made of them in PNG.

The first is transparency.

The other strategy worth considering is social mobilization. Many are now familiar with the Uganda experiment, under which, in 25 communities, NGOs organized meetings of residents and health care providers about the quality of care in public clinics. Monitoring of health services was undertaken both in these villages and in others where nothing happened. In the former group, immunization rates went up and child mortality rates went down. [See the full article at the url above – ed.]

Poverty on the rise – Urban poverty increases in PNG

Post Courier 5 July

POVERTY in the National Capital District is worsening due to rising inequality amongst Port Moresby’s poor, warns a report into the labour market in Papua New Guinea. The report by the University of Waikato’s Professor of Economics, John Gibson, analysed data on the PNG urban labour market (with an emphasis on the NCD) over three decades and made key findings. The first was wage employment in urban PNG was now less male dominated, the informal sector was now a major economic activity but economic inactivity remained very high, especially among the city’s youth. According to the report the Port Moresby labour market provided the main source of income for the city residents. 
But analysis of the data showed that the real value of returns from working in the nation’s capital had fallen due to increases in prices “outpacing” the rise in nominal wages and nominal returns to the informal sector.
In a comparison of data between 1986 and 2009/10, the report concluded that the heads of households who worked in the informal sector in 1986 had a lower risk of living a life of poverty.  The report suggested that in order to tackle poverty households might want to consider having more people living under the same roof in some form of employment.
“The rising participation rates in the face of these falling real returns suggests the importance of income effects and possibly the need for ‘added workers’ to assist households in meeting their expenditure needs,” stated the report.

TB isolation ward in Western Province, PNG takes shape February, 2013

The fight against tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province is making progress as a new TB ward, funded by AusAID, begins to take shape. The new 22-bed TB ward at Daru General Hospital is part of a $31 million package of support Australia is providing to help the Government of PNG to improve health services in one of its poorest provinces.There will be six isolation rooms to isolate patients in the infectious stage of TB so they do not pass the disease on to others, with a further 16 bed inpatient ward for TB patients in the convalescent stage. The ward is just one part of a broad range of measures AusAID is supporting to help PNG fight the disease. Detection of the disease rose by 30 per cent between 2011 and 2012.

Govt: Pension for Disabled and aged

Post-Courier 1 July 2013

The Government will introduce pension systems for persons living with disability by 2015 and an old age pension system for citizens aged over 65 years in 2016. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced these Government’s Policies last Friday in Lae, Morobe Province. He said “We lack the ability to properly look after our persons living with disability. They are our citizens. They have the right to live in this country,” Prime Minister O’Neill said. He added that it was the Government’s duty to look after citizens aged over 65 years in the country. “Our elderly people have contributed immensely to our country and to the well being of their families,” he said. He said the Government will introduce the Electronic ID system that is expected to be completed by 2014. Prime Minister O’Neill said. He said the Government will introduce ward policemen/women to maintain law and order in the country’s 3000 ward areas by 2017. Prime Minister O’Neill said the Government will take control of the liquor licensing law to maintain law and order. He announced that the Government will enter the housing market by providing interest free loans up to 50 years to all citizens with strict conditions.

Chimbu Gender-based Violence Training Successful

The National, 4 July 2013

Training on gender-based violence in Chimbu over the past three years has reaped positive results, a public servant says. Department of Community Development assistant secretary gender development Joe Itaki said the number of gender-based violence cases before the courts were high but victims were getting help. He said the positive result came about because of gender-based violence training, funded and conducted by the Community Development Department and the Chimbu provincial administration since 2011. Itaki said the three sessions conducted proved fruitful with many victims getting help. Itaki said the project cycle ended this year and next year, a new programme, “Meri Safe Haus” would be introduced. The department will work closely with the mainline churches and non-governmental organisations.

Tackling the curse of hate

PNG Blogs 8th July

As Papua New Guinea threatens to again impose the death penalty, Mark Baker investigates the nation’s fightback against crime. Now many Papua New Guineans are declaring that they have had enough. A horrific series of recent murders and rapes has triggered a national backlash against violence, particularly targeted at women, that has galvanised the government and convinced many community leaders that at long last there is a climate for change. The February murder in Mount Hagen of 20-year-old mother Kepari Leniata, who was burned alive after being accused of witchcraft, and the subsequent beheading of former teacher Helen Rumbali, who also was accused of practising sorcery, ignited a wave of indignation across a country were ancient superstitions still hold powerful sway. [For the rest of this lengthy article see the address above. The article was first published by the Sydney Morning Herald on the 5th of July 2013 – ed.]

Teachers outnumbered

The National, 10 July 2013

THE Government’s free education policy has forced schools to breach the official teacher-student ratio of 45 students to one teacher, the National Education Conference in Goroka heard yesterday.
Goroka Secondary School principal John Onga said he had more than 60 students in a class looked after by a single teacher.
He blamed the Government’s lack of preparation for the increased school capacity in teaching manpower and classroom facilities before introducing the free-education policy that saw an influx of students enrolling.
Onga said that was one factor affecting the quality of education.

Peer pressure stronger than parent control

The National, J10 July 2013

PEER pressure among students is far more influential than parental influence, the National Education Conference in Goroka heard yesterday.
Peer education programme co-ordinator at the University of Papua New Guinea Garua Peni said peer pressure impacted on the behaviour of students.
Peni said peer groups listened more attentively to each other than listening to older people, including their parents.
She said taking all these into serious consideration, the UPNG had embarked on a peer education programme to empower young people to make healthy sexual and reproductive choices through educational awareness, training, support, counselling and advocacy programmes.

Responding to family and sexual violence in PNG: the case for a Case Management Centre

By Stephen Howes, Kamalini Lokuge, Daisy Plana and Ume Wainetti on July 11, 2013

“We have family support centers and we are getting support to roll them out throughout the country and also for the safe houses. But what is really lacking is our skills to manage cases, so that good and proper assistance is given to survivors.”

[See the url above for the remainder of this long but interesting article – ed.]

Ailing public hospitals in PNG: a radical remedy from Africa? Neelam Sekhri Feachem and Jane Thomason on July 8, 2013

The Prime Minister of PNG publicly decries the state of PNG hospitals, and regularly approaches his near neighbor Australia for help to improve them. The poor state of PNG hospitals is a consequence of a long slow deterioration of infrastructure, and weakening governance and management. Can PNG do what Lesotho did to turn its tertiary referral hospital around – radically, decisively and very much for the better? What did Lesotho do? [For the rest of this interesting article see the url above]

Move to ban non-Christian faiths

Post Courier 15 July

PARLIAMENT has passed a motion to carry out a nationwide consultation on the question of religious freedom and whether to ban faiths that are non-Christian.
Hela Governor Anderson Agiru moved the motion during grievance debate last Friday that was unanimously supported by both sides of the house.
The motion which was carried on the floor of parliament now means that the Minister for Community Development and the Constitutional Review Commission set up a bi-partisan team, to consult the people of Papua New Guinea with a view to determine whether or not we have a freedom of religion in this country or we adopt and strengthen and reaffirm the spirit and intent of the constitution of Papua New Guinea which basically states in the preambles that we are a country or sovereign nation under God.
Mr Agiru, during a statement before moving the motion, said the national pledge in the constitution specifically and unequivocally states that Papua New Guinea shall be a Christian country.

Awesa: Sweep yet to convict

The National, 17 July 2013

TASK Force Sweep team has not convicted anyone since it was set up, Parliament was told yesterday.
Works and Implementation Minister Francis Awesa said although many people had been formally charged, none of them had been convicted for misappropriation, fraud and other crimes relating to the use of public funds.
“Since the establishment of the anti-corruption unit, we have yet to see someone being imprisoned so it carries a warning to others,” he said.
“When will we get a report that a person has been convicted?
“We have a problem, a lot of people have been charged but no conviction. These are people who have stolen money from the taxpayers.
“If we cannot see people going to jail then we can’t see changes.
“If we do not do that then we will not get any far.” [After the killing of William Kapris, a lot of questions are being asked about penalties for “white-collar” crime – ed.]

Pastoral Letter on Sanguma – Catholic Bishops, Highlands Region, PNG.

“God put all things under Christ’s feet and gave him to the church as a supreme Lord over all things.” (Eph. 1:22)

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

We Catholic Bishops from the Highlands region are sending this letter to all parishes in the PNG Highlands because we want to express our deep concern about a growing problem in our communities. That is, when some people accuse others of using sorcery or sanguma to kill or harm other people. This stems from a modern corruption of some traditional beliefs. When people following such beliefs get involved in torturing innocent people and even killing them, we have not only a crime against humanity, but a serious betrayal of the Gospel, our faith in the supreme Lordship of Christ, and of the liberating work of the church. There is often an issue of justice here also since it is well known that many allegations are based on old grudges and target the weak and vulnerable.

“Satan” and “the Devil” are ways to talk about the reality of the existence of evil forces. In the Bible we read how Jesus ministered to the sick and how he cast out evil spirits (Mat 17: 14-21; Mat 8:28-34).  ). Jesus and his disciples did not torture or kill anyone in dealing with such evil forces. Nor did they accuse anyone of harming or killing other people. When asked who was to blame for a man being blind Jesus taught that neither the blind man nor his parents were responsible for his blindness (Jn 9:1-3). In healing people Jesus sought to bring harmony and joy to the community. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered death (Rom 14:8; 1Thes 4:13-14). When sickness or death come into our community there must be no false allegations such as accusing a person of causing death by stealing the deceased’s heart. We repeat that such allegations are unchristian. As people of faith we should follow the example of Christ in promoting forgiveness and harmony in our communities.  If someone dies, in the midst of our tears, we can be comforted by believing that they have returned to the One who gives life.

But now it seems that in some of our communities people are abandoning their Christian faith and believing the talk of diviners or “ol glasman.”  We state clearly that this practice of calling on a diviner or “glasman” and accusing someone, puts trust in powers of evil, a trust that run contrary to our Christian faith, especially when the diviner urges the relatives or supporters of the deceased to acts of violence. We have seen the fruits of this and they are bad fruits indeed (Mat 12:33)! Seeing the fruits of such violence it appears to us that it is actually those who torture and kill innocent people who are the ones succumbing to the forces of evil.

If someone gets sick, don’t even talk about sanguma.  The only power sanguma has comes from people talking about it and fearing it. Put your faith in God and support the sick person with your presence and with your prayer.  If someone dies, you must not talk about sanguma or support anyone who starts with this sort of talk. Do not look for a diviner or glasman.  Don’t try to find someone to blame. Ultimately, life and death are in the hands of God.  Put the deceased person and their family in God’s hand and thank God for the life of the person who was part of your life but who has passed away to eternal life.

Parents, do not teach your children to believe in sanguma.  Sicknesses have their cause and medical doctors can tell you the reason why someone is ill.  Care for your bodies and bring sick people quickly to the hospital or health centre.  Don’t wait until it gets so serious that medicine can no longer help.  Doctors and health workers, it is better that you do not talk about sickness having “traditional” causes found in tensions in families and communities.  It is true that worry and fear can cause people to get sick, but this is something to settle within the family, or through the village court — not something to blame on sanguma or an evil spirit.

The problem comes when people’s faith weakens, they become fearful, and they forget about what it means to be Christian.  We need good upright Christians in the community who can provide leadership in difficult times. Through this letter we want to support and strengthen your faith so that you can in turn help others to follow the right path, and in so doing find justice peace and joy brought by the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). You must conquer evil with good (Rom 12:21).

We Bishops challenge our priests, religious brothers and sisters, catechists, and all church leaders and minsters, and we invite other churches too, to join with us in taking a clear, unambiguous, and strong stand against all talk about sanguma and all attempts to lay the blame on anyone, especially at the time of sickness and death.

In the coming months we hope to launch a program of renewal of our faith in the supreme Lordship of Christ. We are convinced that when people have a genuine faith in Jesus Christ, there will be no room for sanguma talk in their lives. In the meantime we urge everyone to read, reflect on, and pray over these texts, which will help those whose faith is wavering to rediscover the joy of putting their trust in Jesus Christ alone, and not in any other power.

Gen. 1:26                     Man and woman made in the image of God

Eph. 1:15-23               Pauls’ prayer for the power of the Holy Spirit

Mat 17:14-21              Jesus gave a command and the boy was healed

Rom. 14:13-23                        Do not make your brother or sister fall

Rom. 8:31-39              Nothing can separate us from the love of God

Col 2:6-19                   Fullness of life in Christ

Archbishop Douglas Young (Mount Hagen) Bishop Francesco Sarego (Goroka) Bishop Anton Bal (Kundiawa) Bishop Arnold Orowae (Wabag) Bishop Donald Lippert (Mendi)

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