Social Concerns Notes – September

Solomon Islands – Social Concerns…

The editor recently spent time speaking with people about social concerns in Solomon Islands.  What did people say?  The most common concern is logging.  People see their trees being cut and the huge logs shipped away overseas, but they experience little or no advantage, and there are many associated problems.  Their heritage is being destroyed and they feel powerless to stop it.  Among the many other social concerns expressed, the following were mentioned many times:  Land problems and land disputes, Alcohol and drug abuse, prostitution (solfish), pick-pockets (beliga), corruption (in government and with individual and structural issues too, low pay and unemployment, family problems and domestic violence, teenage pregnancies, abuse of mobile phones, poison/sorcery.  Many of these concerns are connected.  For example unemployed youth can become involved in substance abuse and those looking for money can get start going out to the boats and getting into prostitution, or stealing around the towns. These problems seem to be on the increase with modernisation, and they present a challenge to the Churches and communities to work together to find ways to allieviate such problems.  The first thing of course if that people are really “concerned” about the common good.

New Zealand to send more police to Bougainville

The National, September 2nd, 2013

NEW Zealand will be sending more police officers to Bougainville in response to the region’s request for further training. New Zealand officer and team leader of the Bougainville community policing project Rob Lemoto said it was rewarding, mentoring their Papua New Guinean counterparts. 
“It’s been a wonderful experience to immerse ourselves in the culture here, and to support the Bougainville police service into becoming a more professional and more trusted police organisation.” 
He said the challenges were rebuilding the police service there and developing good leaders as the region struggled to establish its autonomy ahead of an impending referendum over its independence. 
Speaking to New Zealand media, Bougainville President John Momis said he was hopeful New Zealand would provide more police “Because they’ve done a very good job with community auxiliary police. Police here (in Port Moresby)are trained to bash heads and kill people and so on and so forth, not to serve,” he said. 
“Police training in Port Moresby is not the best so we are seriously looking at asking Australia and New Zealand to train our policemen.

Human rights a challenge, uni told

The National, September 2nd, 2013

PAPUA New Guinea faces the challenge of translating human rights into its local context, a symposium at the Divine Word University (DWU) was told last week.
DWU president Fr Jan Czuba told the human rights symposium that another challenge for citizens was to work towards bridging the gap between the theoretical and practical aspects of human rights.
“When talking about human rights, we are good in theoretical but fail in practical; for example the right of a disabled person to have a normal life like everybody else,” Czuba said.
He said the PNG constitution emphasised all areas concerning human rights such as right to life, freedom of speech, religion and voting and freedom from inhumane treatment.
The theme of the symposium, which was organised by the social and religious studies department, was “Human Rights at the Cross Roads”.
Special guest was former governor-general Grand Chief Sir Paulias Matane, who presented his latest published book titled, “Understanding Papua New Guinea” to the university.

Leader asks for recognition

The National, September 3rd, 2013

VILLAGE birth attendants or voluntary village midwives should be put on the government payroll, a former health union president says.
Former Southern Highlands Health Workers’ Association president John Wasis commended the O’Neill government, which had recognised the efforts and contribution of government workers in the rural areas, such as councillors and village court magistrates.
“But we cannot leave out the village midwives who also perform an endless task to make sure children are born in the villages, some are now holding big positions,” he said.
He said these women never received anything in return for their hard work but worked hard in good faith. Meanwhile, lower Mendi village court magistrate Hones Somolu expressed gratitude that they were finally recognised. About 30,000 village based government workers will be soon earning fortnightly salaries following the Government’s decision.

Locals fed up

The National, September 4th, 2013

THE traditional landowners of Lombrum in Manus have shut down the rubbish dump used by workers at the asylum-seekers centre.
The temporary processing centre is at  Lombrum, one of the eight wards in the Los Negros local level government in Manus.
John Lou, the chairman of the landowner group, said they decided to close the dump because it was a health hazard to the villagers. Lou said the rubbish was producing a bad smell and attracted blow flies to Lombrum and surrounding villages in the Los Negros LLG. 
“Already some of the villagers have contracted diarrhoea, a sickness we never experienced in the past,” Lou said.
“Our sagos and creek have been polluted.”
A visit by The National on Monday at the processing centre saw huge piles of garbage in black plastic bags dumped beside the road in front of the facility.
Medical practitioner on the island Dr Powesiu Lawes of Loniu village, one of the neigbouring villages to Lombrum, said no health studies had been conducted before the centre was set up.
He said everything was rushed by the PNG and Australian government and “health and environmental problems, including land issues, were becoming obvious”.

Fresh doubts on asylum deal

The National, September 24th, 2013

FRESH doubts have been cast over the validity of the Papua New Guinea asylum seeker deal struck by the previous Australian government, a SBS television report says.  Under the plan, which remains central to the new government’s strategy, asylum seekers would be processed on Manus Island and resettled in Papua New Guinea. But video obtained by SBS suggests the government of PNG was telling its own people a different story. PNG government officials were telling concerned Manus Island residents something different.“Resettlement does not mean that those found to be genuine refugees will be resettled in Papua New Guinea or they can become citizens at all,” PNG government representative Clarence Parisau told a public forum with the Australian High Commission in late August. “Those who are found to be refugees, they can be sent to another country, a third country.
“Those who are willing to take them, they can take them,” Parisau said.
Australian Deputy High Commissioner Margaret Adamson and a senior Immigration Department official were present at the meeting. PNG suspended discussions with Australia during the election campaign after cracks emerged in the agreement.
The problem has now landed in the lap of newly sworn-in Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.
The Manus Island detention centre is still a key part of his strategy.

O’Neill: Life is a gifts from God

The National, September 4th, 2013

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has made a passionate plea for Papua New Guineans to respect and protect life as a precious gift from God.
 O’Neill made the plea when he visited the grieving family and relatives of former Kundiawa-Gembogl MP Peter Waieng, who was murdered outside Port Moresby last week.
“Many times we hear and read about violence and killings in many parts of the country. It’s as if people have lost respect for life.
“Life is precious. It is a very special gift from God to each and every one of us. We must protect it. We must respect life and look after ourselves. We are losing lives in senseless ways. This must stop.”
O’Neill thanked the Naraku tribe for giving Papua New Guinea an intelligent young leader who was full of energy and always eager to find ways to deliver to his people.

Vendors call for end to street fights

The National, September 11th, 2013

REGULAR street fights are disturbing vendors and customers using the K7.5 million Mt Hagen market in Western Highlands.
Market vendor and mother-of-two Maria Tet from Tambul said she had suffered bruises on her back by a flying missile and also lost three bags of broccoli last Saturday during a fight instigated by street sellers. 
“The fight started from the main bus stop and lasted for more than two hours.
“It turned into a missile-throwing contest that spilled into the market, sending vendors and customers scurrying for cover. Some people were hurt,” Tet said.
She said a lot of vehicles had near-crashes.
“Police in the area could not do much and watched helplessly as the youths fought on.
“They did fire some shots and teargas but nobody paid attention. Fighting continued.”
Tet said many similar incidents had happened in the past but city authorities had done little or nothing at all to address the issue.
“Many mothers have stopped coming to the market because their safety is not guaranteed.
“We sell food in the market to make a living and pay for our children’s school fees.
“But our life is being threatened by such street fights so we have to stop what we are doing,’’ Tet said.
Jenneth Siru from Wabag, a long-time resident in Mt Hagen, also expressed similar sentiments, saying that she had lost two peanut bags in last Saturday’s incident.

Bougainville and the Mining Question

Ramu Mine Blog

Bougainville is grappling with a series of challenges that will set the course for the island’s long-term future. What economic model of development will they adopt? How will this model gel with aspirations for independence? And perhaps most controversially how does the mining question fit into this equation?

Given the haste with which mining was initially imposed on Bougainville during the 1960s, and the bloody conflict the mine subsequently provoked, now is not the time to indecently rush the latter question, much less is it time for those in positions of power to confront communities with threatening ultimatums.

At a recent community consultation forum in Bana. New Dawn reports that the ABG Minister for Veteran Affairs terrified his audience with a range of farcical claims: Mr. Sisito said that for Bougainville to move into economic recovery and economic self-reliance, the ABG must raise a total of seventy-two million Kina which can only happen when Panguna mine is re-opened. 
He said that if the Bougainville Peace Agreement lapses in 2020 all their talk of Independence and landownership would be forfeited to the State of Papua New Guinea. 
Mr. Sisito said when this happens all Bougainville leaders and Ex combatants will be held for treason as all agreements with PNG will become null and void … On calls by women leaders to be given the chance to negotiate, Mr. Sisito said that one hidden plan was that all Bougainville single women will be married by outsiders to own the land. 
Mr. Sisito said one plan was that if Bougainville fails to get independence a military base will be based on Bougainville to stop any future uprisings on Bougainville.

While it is perhaps simplistic to characterise large-scale resource projects as a universally detrimental, it is a much more defensible argument within the specific context of PNG. The employment it has provided, and the knowledge transfer it has facilitated, grate against the other realities of mining. For instance, significant chunks of the wealth generated flow abroad, while that which remains in PNG is frequently pocketed by local intermediaries and a ‘mobocracy’ that wields control over state finances, leaving those in the mine area to deal with environmental damage, growing inequality, the fracture of custom, police violence, military repression, crime, mass migration, rapid urbanisation, settlements, gambling, alcohol, and the gamut of spivs and rent-seekers who invariably follow in the wake of mineral developments. It must be asked, what alternative perspectives are being offered communities on Bougainville? Are there experts with field experience in analogous economies from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa being flown in to share their experiences of mining, agriculture, tourism and other rural industries? Are a range of development models being discussed? Are a variety of economic perspectives being introduced for community discussion? Or are the people of Bougainville being dished up large plates of pro-mining propaganda like in the 1960s? If recent reports from Bougainville mining forums are anything to go by, the signs are not good.

Solomon Islands is Better Prepared for Disasters through Gender Awareness

Source: World Bank

Workshops on gender in emergencies are helping the country develop a better disaster risk management plan to meet the different needs of its population.When a large earthquake and tsunami struck Solomon Islands in 2007, the country was caught off guard. There were no disaster management plans to deal with the scale of the disaster. Earthquakes and tsunamis are not the only natural hazards that pose danger to its population of over half a million people scattered across the archipelago. Cyclones have been the usual visitor. Sea level rise and tidal surges, which are occurring at an increasing and unusual pattern, are a new type of hazard the country is now coming to terms with. Fast forward five years, and a national disaster management plan is now in place. Work is underway to get the country’s nine provinces to have their own provincial disaster management plans and standard operating procedures. Efforts are also being made to consider the different roles and needs of women and men in emergencies. This year, with World Bank support, Fred has helped deliver a ‘gender and protection in emergencies’ training program, in partnership with the Solomon Island’s Government through the National Disaster Management Office. The workshops were designed to give a solid understanding of the different needs and abilities of the participants to help design standard operating procedures for provincial emergency response.The workshops also alerted participants, especially men, to the special vulnerabilities women might face during an emergency, for example pregnancy or lactation, which translate to different needs such as separate bathrooms, enforced security or access to female doctors.

“The training enabled me to understand and define my relationship with other people, especially women, because we are equal. So, decision making becomes more important when I understand gender,” says Enley Saeni, a young man who had participated in disaster response activities in Temotu province earlier in the year.

‘K100 bet’

Post Courier 13 Sept

POKER machine gamblers nationwide have been hit hard with a new K100 minimum bet fee.
Gaming inspector team leader, David Ali, said “the increase of bet from K50 to K100 is mainly to discourage low income earners and people in the informal sector from losing their money on pokies and are left with nothing to feed their families,” he said.
According to the official many low income earners spent all their salaries on pokies, hoping to win more money to feed their families as well as meet other expenses.
“But their (gamblers) chances of winning are limited. Some gamblers spend all their money on pokies and are left with nothing the next day. All they earn is gone so they start to borrow money from people and wantoks,” he added.
According to the NGCB chairman Quentin Cholai, over 70,000 people in the middle and low income bracket are frequent gamblers. He said the NGCB has increased the minimum bet and also introduced a law that would require gamblers to produce passports before accessing gambling and poker machines.
“I’m appealing to all middle and low class Papua New Guineans to stop trying a game of pokies,” he said.
He said too many people are spending their hard earned cash on gambling rather 
than invest in family or business, creating many social problems in families and communities.
“This call is to discourage you from playing poker as it would destroy your lives, your future and the lives of your families,” he said.
Mr Cholai said approximately 65,000 to 70, 000 people in the country gamble, spending an average of K150 in five seconds and K1, 000 in five minutes. 
“This is how the hard-earned wages of around K600 to K700 is gone, leaving the family without money and food for the next two weeks,” he said.

Rape increases in Asia, Pacific

Post Courier 12 Sept

A United Nations report has revealed nearly a quarter of men surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region say they’ve raped a woman at least once in their life.
The study is based on anonymous interviews with more than 10,000 men aged between 18 and 49-years-old in Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea.
One of the report’s authors, Dr Emma Fulu, has told Asia Pacific the figures are shocking, but not necessarily surprising.
“I think this study reaffirms perhaps what we have known by interviewing women in the past,” she said.
“What’s new about this study is that it tells us for the first time, by speaking to men, about what some of the underlying causes are of that violence.”
Around the region, 11 per cent of respondents reported having raped a woman who was not their partner and nearly a quarter – 24 per cent – when their partner was included.
Of those men who said they had committed rape, just under half (45 per cent) said they had raped more than one woman.
Roberta Clarke, regional director of UN Women, says the survey highlights the need for a change in culture.
“Violence against women is a harsh reality for many,” she said.
“We must change the culture that enables men to enact power and control over women.”
The highest prevalence of rape was found in Bougainville, in Papua New Guinea, which may be linked to the decade long civil war on the island.

As we get to September 16, who do we look for deliverance?

PNGExposed Blog

We can talk and shout and fret in such beautiful prose all we like. The thing is, if the relevant authorities do not do anything, this and similar swindles will just continue and get better, not worse. Corruption is worse than HIV and AIDS. At least with HIV-AIDS them that suffer and die from it inflict the curse upon themselves and others unknowingly in most cases. With corruption, a few culprits afflict and affect the curse, suffering and injury upon the whole population in the country, including babies and those yet to be born. So, who do we look to for redemption and deliverance?

What’s Ombudsman Commission doing? Every indication is the Commission is dying slowly but surely from euthanasia. There is no cure for euthanasia because it is self-inflicted, a death by one’s own voluntary choice.

Is Auditor-General going to look into this? May be not because all foreign and national employees need their jobs. And anyway, they do compliance audits for the past years which is stale and almost history by the time their reports are tabled in Parliament.

And the Public Accounts Committee? The Chairman has been rather boisterous recently, otherwise it is a silent and timid fiefdom. The Chairman’s timidity only explodes in the face of helpless public servants, including females that cannot defend themselves. Every inquiry by PAC has been but a slap on the elbows of corrupt heads of departments and other public and statutory bodies. Elected leaders are hardly implicated in AG’s Reports.

What about the CID? I think we all know the answer to this and the Sweep Team. Allegations against some leaders are more likely to be swept under the carpet than make and build cases to prosecute the culprits in tribunals or courts.

TI-PNG. These initials stand for This Is Papua New Guinea, a country where you can get away with murder and corruption in broad daylight. Transparency International PNG chapter has gotten a bit too long in the tooth. Occasionally they come out from the crevice to say something or other almost as a perfunctory exercise.

And PNGexposed? We can talk until the cows come home. Or wait until mother duckling lays a golden egg. In the mean time the two legged human beings get more robust, better and smarter but may be not elusive. The only reason why they may be elusive is because our oversight agencies, bodies and authorities are not doing their job. Some of these bodies and authorities are mentioned above.

PNG National Parliament: the Parliament with 111 MPs we send there every five years is potentially the most potent and powerful institution and a single body of people that can best scrutinise and hold the Executive to account. But we all know that over the years the Executive has cannibalised and diminished the role of the Legislature to a rubber stamp. The Parliament has become impotent almost to the extent that it has lost it’s visibility and legitimacy. The bulk of the MPs are horded, huddled and sat on one side of the House. They are singing from the same hymn book, drinking from the same chalice and are stirring and eating from the same wok. The back-bench member is an extinct species. The Opposition is but just a voice in the wilderness no matter how loudly or how often Belden or Sam might shriek or shout. Without serious, proper and deliberate scrutiny of the Government by Parliament the people’s voice is silenced. And the silence has been deafening not just with this Parliament but many past Parliaments as well. The Executive rules the roost. It can’t be put or seen any more clearer than this – and therein lies the problem including the beginning and any possible end of corruption.

‘End Fiji’s patron-client politics’, Archbishop of Suva says –

FIJI’S system of patron-client politics must end if the Pacific nation is to resolve its coup culture and facilitate a path towards democracy, says the Archbishop of Suva, Peter Loy Chong.

Archbishop Chong said interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama used the patron-client political strategy to gain support, particularly with the grassroots iTaukei (indigenous people).

In an unexpected warning from a church long seen as supportive of the regime, Archbishop Chong who was appointed this year, said there would be little hope of building a democratic Fiji if patron-client politics was not displaced. The Catholic prelate told a World Association of Christian Communications workshop in Suva that the church must address the question of how to remove the current political system. “I propose that our key messages must include the removal of patron-client politics and the education and empowerment of peoples so that they can participate responsibly in the political affairs of our country,” Archbishop Chong said. His predecessor, Petero Mataca, and two priests – social activist Kevin Barr and language expert Father David Arms – joined Commodore Bainimarama’s National Council for Building a Better Fiji in 2007. The council formulated a policy that led to Fiji’s new constitution, which became law last week. Father Barr has since been threatened with deportation after highlighting continuing poverty while Abp Mataca has expressed disillusionment with the regime.

Archbishop Chong – Jesuit-educated, of mixed Chinese and Fijian ancestry with strong views on justice and an admirer of the assassinated El Salvadorean Archbishop Oscar Romero – has shown he will not continue his predecessor’s once comfortable relationship with the regime. “Bainimarama may have removed a corrupt and racist Qarase government but he has maintained the old iTaukei patron-client politics,” Archbishop Chong said. “He has merely replaced the traditional chiefs with his military chiefs.” Archbishop Chong said studies showed that in the Bainimarama patronage, loyalty to the chiefs and traditional systems had shifted to the army. “The military had become the institution of patronage. In other words, the form of power, namely patron-client politics exercised by former Fijian governments, has not changed. “The only recognisable change in Bainimarama’s regime was the change in personnel. Instead of chiefs dominating the system, military officers now headed the important governmental institutions.” More than 40 military officers have been appointed to senior positions within the civil service and statutory bodies since 2006, replacing those whose loyalty Commodore Bainimarama has questioned.

Health in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia: changes since 1990 and likely causes

The country profile for Papua New Guinea makes an interesting contrast to Indonesia. Lower respiratory infection is estimated to be the leading cause of premature death in 2010, as it was in 1990. But diabetes has now risen to the second leading cause of premature death in 2010 (a 171% increase) from its ninth place ranking in 1990. Protein energy malnutrition has fallen from the fifth leading cause of premature death in 1990 to 15th in 2010. HIV and AIDS was the fifth leading cause of premature death in 2010 but was ranked just 60th in 1990: a 2791% increase. Lower respiratory infections, diabetes mellitus and tuberculosis are the three leading causes of ill health and disability. High fasting plasma glucose (a predictor of diabetes), tobacco smoking and household air pollution from solid fuels are the leading risk factors for premature deaths and illness. The leading risk factor in 2010 for children under five years of age is being underweight, and for adults 15-49 years was alcohol use.

Wounded veteran porter dies in hospital

The National, September 17th, 2013

VETERAN Black Cat Trail porter Lionel Aigilo died on Sunday night after five days of waiting for medical care and treatment at the Angau Memorial Hospital in Lae.
He is the third to die after a gang killed two local porters, injured others and attacked eight expatriate trekkers along the Black Cat Trail last Tuesday.
Aigilo, from Logui village in Salamaua, had both his legs slashed and was awaiting amputation when he died.
He had been an active guide and porter along the Black Cat Trail since 2003 when trekking companies started operating there.
Bulolo MP Sam Basil, who visited the injured in hospital, said there was a lack of medicine and drugs to treat them. Both overseas and local media also reported of the shortage of medical staff and operating theatres at Angau to cater for the eight Black Cat Trail porters.
EMTV last week showed footage of the badly injured porters lying on the floor because there were no beds.
Black Cat Trail Association chairman Ninga Yawa told The National yesterday that it took the death of Aigilo to spur operator, PNG Trekking Adventures, into action by moving the seven remaining survivors to the Lae International Hospital.
“Lionel and the other porters were in hospital for almost a week, however, the treatment given to them was not good,” Yawa said.
“I wanted PNG Trekking to put them in a good hospital, as they worked hard to make money for the company. But it was only this (yesterday) morning, after the death of Lionel, that they were moved to Lae International Hospital.
“We need some assistance from the government.”

Man sets wife alight

The National, September 17th, 2013

A MAN in Southern Highlands poured petrol and set his wife on fire after accusing her of taking a lover.
Former Nipa-Kutubu district administrator Ambopa Ekai told The National by phone from Poroma that on Wednesday last week, the man from Undu Kopa tied up his wife with a mosquito net and set her on fire.
He said the man had accused the wife of having an affair with a man from Upper Poroma.
He said the woman was badly burnt on one side of her body and was left untreated for two days. She was later taken to the Catholic-run health centre at Det, a few kilometres away.
Ekai said one side of her body was badly burnt.
“This kind of wife-beating is unheard of in the Poroma area. We have never seen this kind of treatment in our society. This is a new kind of crime,” he said.
“Meanwhile the people have decided not to take the law into their hands by retaliating but take a peaceful approach by demanding compensation.”

Media Statement from National Research Institute

PNG Budget Forum: PNG’s lost decade? Preliminary results released from PEPE survey

Preliminary results were released today from the 2012 PEPE (Promoting Effective Public Expenditure) survey of 214 schools and 147 health clinics in eight provinces throughout the country undertaken by the Papua New Guinea National Research Institute (NRI) and the Australian National University (ANU).

By comparing these results with those from a survey of the same health clinics and schools undertaken a decade ago, the analysis is able to address the question of whether PNG has so far been able to translate its booming mineral wealth into services for ordinary people.

The results are revealing. Both sectors showed some challenges in common. For example, about 40% of staff homes and 25% of class rooms and clinics require rebuilding due to a lack of maintenance.

But there were also some clear differences. Some notable improvements in the delivery of primary education are apparent: the number of children attending school at the time of the survey increased from 2002 to last year. The number of teachers and classrooms increased, the quality of classrooms also improved, and teachers reported greater adequacy of school supplies, such as textbooks.

Rural health clinics showed far less improvement, and overall a decline. Despite population growth of 25-30%, the number of patients attending a clinic on a typical day fell, and there was a decline in the availability of some key drugs and medical supplies. While many staff working in the rural health sector are clearly dedicated (three-quarters contribute from their own salary to running costs), there has actually been a slight fall in the number of staff working at clinics. Given that the number of rural health clinics has also probably fallen over the last decade, these are worrying indicators.

Explaining these differences requires further analysis. It is clear that the policy of abolishing school fees has boosted school attendance, but the number of clinics charging fees has also fallen, so the new policy of free health care will not be enough to turn around performance.

Study: Education has improved

Post Courier 20 Sept

There have been significant changes over the past 10 years in the education and health sector, according to a preliminary survey finding.
The findings were highlighted at a development policy forum on a discussion project called Promoting Effective Public Expenditure Project (PEPE). 
The findings state that education sector experiences much change with increase improvements compared to health. 
The changes are due to massive increase in revenue, changes to funding mechanisms such as growing function grants, abolition of school fees, school subsidies with direct financing, District Service Improvement Program (DSIP), Donor interventions and the growing population.

In education, students enrolled and present (at the time of survey) have increased by much more than the student age population, increased in availability of teachers and numbers of classrooms.
There are fewer books available per student now, but still more than one text book per student in grades five and six. 
Also teachers and head teachers reported improved but still low availability of resources.
In comparions there is a slight increase in the number of schools over this period, and corresponding decline in the number of health facilities.
Schools also show improved availability of resources such as posted teachers per school grew by 16 percent; number of health workers posted to clinics grew by only one percent with likely decline in health centres, absolute decline in rural health workforce.

SABL Policy ‘failed miserably’

The National, 19 Sept 2013

Only four of the 42 special business and agricultural leases had landowner consent and viable agricultural projects undertaken, a report by the Commission of Inquiry into SABL revealed.  The report was tabled in Parliament yesterday by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. “The 42 leases that are reported reveal a shocking trend of mismanagement and corruption in all stages and processes. The only conclusion that I can draw is that the policy on SABLs has failed miserably. This is not acceptable. Something drastic needs to be done.” O’Neill told Parliament that the Commission of Inquiry was tasked to examine 75 leases but only covered 42 in the report. He said this was because Commissioner Alois Jerewai failed to provide material to the final report which had directly affected its outcome. He however said the commission had recommended to improve the SABL process to protect the land rights of the people. He said there would be a taskforce appointed by the minister for lands and physical planning to identify a new policy framework to convert customary land into leasehold land for the benefit of landowners. It will protect the interests of landowners and ensure sustainable land use. The Prime Minister said: “The primary consideration will be protecting the interests of landowners and the environment. For too long, landowners have been taken advantage of and had their land stolen from under them.

Recruit foreign doctors to save lives

Post Courier Editorial 20 Sept.

IT is tragic that it had to take the killing of two Papua New Guineans and an attack on expatriate trekkers for the shortcomings of the country’s public health care system to be exposed.
The Black Cat Trail saga a fortnight ago put the country under the international spotlight with reports on the attack of the trekkers and the brutal murder of their two Papua New Guinean porters got global media attention.
But the bigger tragedy lies in the inability of the Angau Memorial General Hospital to perhaps respond effectively to emergencies following the attack on the trekkers and their Papua New Guinean helpers.
Angau, the country’s second largest public hospital after the Port Moresby General Hospital, is a shadow of its former self and this was confirmed by the hospital’s CEO Polapoi Chalau yesterday in a press conference.
“Many of our doctors and nurses are going to the corporate sector. We are advertising for the nurses and doctors but we still have vacancies due to shortage of health workers all over PNG,” added Dr Chalau.
The movement of medical professionals (including doctors and nurses) from publicly-funded health institutions to the private sector is occurring at a very quick rate. In fact it could over the long-term period impact on the ability of public hospitals and health centres to effectively provide medical services to our people and communities. 
We believe the time has come for the Health Minister Michael Malabag to revisit plans by one of his predecessors in the 2002-2007 Somare government to recruit foreign doctors and nurses. Cuba, a global leader in the provision of quality health services, was to be targeted in the ambitious program but it did not eventuate due to heavy criticism by unions. 
However, the frequent loss of lives at most of our public hospitals and health facilities warrants an urgent rethink on the part of the Government.

MPs back new law on domestic violence

The National, September 19th, 2013

EFFORTS to address domestic issues received the overwhelming support of MPs yesterday when they passed the Family Protection Bill. Attorney General Kerenga Kua told Parliament that it was important to have the law in place as the level of domestic violence on women and children was alarming. 
“The legislation will give teeth to the current interim protection orders issued by the District Court,” he said.
“The highly sought-after interim protection orders by destitute women do not have a legislative backing. Victims find themselves in situations where these interim protection orders are not enforceable. 
“When a breach occurs, there is no penalty in any law. So the cycle of violence within families continues.”
Kua said according to reports from the Office of Public Prosecutor, domestic violence affected women of all status and sexual crimes were frequently committed against children of both sexes.

Free Education: “A Cargo Cult Policy, by Lucas Kiap

PNG Blogs, September 24, 2013

The people of Papua New Guinea must not be continuously misled and fooled by the government’s “Free Education Policy”. It is important for people to know that every citizen has the right to basic education and the government has an obligation to uphold that right, regardless. For a developing nation, to have a fully illiterate society is critical to change the country with time and with the rest of the world. No government should take the credit for that very “simple policy”.
However, the concern is that the free education system is a “bottled neck system” where it produces more failures than success. We have a lot of young men and young women coming through the system who are not taught skills but instead are taught with maths, science, and social science courses, which in practical have very little use or no use at all when one exits out of the education system.
Are we teaching our children to become rocket scientists with maths and science or are we trying to build a fully literate society with useful skills they can use in real life situations for them to live a better life? The free education system is a catalyst for destruction of the country as it is producing people with no skills, less opportunities, increase in unemployment and worsening of law and order problems. This policy of providing free education is a conspiracy or a “cargo cult policy” that does not reflect visions or goals for the country to achieve but confuses the poor rural people into thinking that basic education is a privilege and is not a right when it should be a right regardless. By letting people live in poverty and making education expensive, the government can then exploit the people’s desperation of getting their children educated when the government too has that obligation. If the government wants to fund free education, then it should build a lot of technical high schools, technical colleges and technology and research universities and put students there and provide free education for them to learn skills and knowledge that will be useful in nation building and also help them be self-reliant when they drop out of the education system.

 PM O’Niel Has to Demonstrate to the Nation that He is Not What Sir Mekere Thinks He is

PNG Blogs, Sept 24th By Lucas Kiap
Over the last few days, the people of PNG have been caught surprisingly in a crossfire of war of words between two prominent figures in the country with Sir Mekere Morata claiming to represent the interest of the people of Western province while Peter O’Neil claiming to represent the interest of the country. The two men are different persons with different personalities. But both have one thing in common. Sir Mekere Morata was the former Prime Minister of PNG and Peter O’Neil is the current Prime Minister.
As the war of words rages on between the two men, at the centre are the landowners and people of Western Province. Their livelihood has been destroyed beyond repairable by the catastrophic and unforgiveable environmental damage due to the operations of the Ok Tedi Mining Limited. Knowing what was brewing at home and afraid one day it could spillover when he was no longer around as Prime Minister, Sir Mekere decided that the funds under PNGSDP were to be located offshore and independently manage under strict regulations and guidelines, far from political interference.
Now with a whopping US$1.4 billion cash in the offshore trust fund, Sir Mekere Morata is claiming credit over the decision. But it is not clear what the real benefits of his decision are to the Nation as the resources belong to the Independent Sate of Papua New Guinea with any cash derived from it after BHP exited. However, he did prevent political interference and corruption.
Now the Prime Minister has to prove himself what he preaches as some people, including Sir Mekere are accusing the Prime Minister’s move of taking back PNGSDP as sinister, only after the US$1.4 billion to have his dirty hands on the long term funds.
Despite the good intentions and assurances from O’Neil and his government, most people are fearing that the takeover of a profitable mine by the government with more than US$1 billion in its trust funds, the funds would disappear quickly and Ok Tedi would end up like the struggling Tolokuma mining and other State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). These SOEs are all State liabilities and have been used as cash cows by any government and manage by their political cronies over the years.
Sir Mekere Morata is critically right by pointing out to the Prime Minister that there is no cure in sight for these SOEs as millions of Kina have been reportedly stolen every year under the watch of political leaders in the country, most of them in the current O’Neil government.
Now Prime Minister Peter O’Neil has to demonstrate that he has the cure for these SOEs. Before he leaves office, the Prime Minister must turn all SOEs into profitable, well manage and performing State owned enterprises and prove to Sir Mekere Morata that he is not what the former Prime Minister thinks he is.

Statement of the Catholic Bishops of Papua New Guinea about Legislation concerning Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML) and PNG Sustainable Development Program

23 SEPT 2013. Were he alive today, would not the great Papua New Guinean from the Western Province, the late Ebia Olewale, be overcome by an immense sadness at what has transpired over the past few days?  In his biography of this revered first generation leader of a newly independent nation, Jonathan Ritchie writes: “…Ebia’s participation in the work of the PNG Sustainable Development Program gave him his first real opportunity to become involved in the developing opportunities for the beneficial participation of the people of this country, as a whole…  Now, with the SDP, he was able to help contribute by making use of the revenue coming from the mine…to carry out a range of activities that supported business, infrastructure, health and education.  His time with the SDP was one of happiness and satisfaction… The greatest cause of his unhappiness was what he regarded as the failure of government, both national and provincial, to respond to the needs of the people.  The Sustainable Development Program allowed him a way to continue his lifelong mission of doing something for his people…” (Ebia Olewale: A Life of Service, Jonathan Ritchie, University of Papua New Guinea Press, 2012, pp. 262-263).

The Catholic Bishops of Papua New Guinea, in solidarity with the thousands of ordinary people throughout PNG who, over many years, were beneficiaries of PNG Sustainable Development Program projects, want to express profound disappointment with what our leaders in Government have done by appropriating OTML, which could result in the cancellation of PNG Sustainable Development Program.  What the late Ebia Olewale felt about this program, we too have experienced in it, as we have worked to promote human development that fosters community participation, self-reliance and partnership.  Papua New Guinea will lose one of its most important and effective development agencies if PNGSDP is shut down and its funds diverted to government programs.

PNG Sustainable Development Program has supported hundreds of projects nationwide, partnering with organizations and communities to bring assistance where it is most needed, particularly in disadvantaged remote rural areas largely overlooked by government.  It has done this with integrity, avoiding the stain of incompetence and corruption.  Local organizations and communities know that if they are honest, willing to work hard and do their part in a spirit of self-reliance, they are likely to attract the attention of PNGSDP and receive assistance.  Now it seems this will end.

In contrast, government, by itself, often struggles to successfully carry out community-based and even larger development projects.  Why is this so?   People who read the daily newspapers are able to form their own opinion. Politics plays a large role in this and corruption is a truly serious problem.

Development and community-minded NGOs, charitable foundations, as well as faith-based organizations (the churches), even big-hearted individuals, who have as part of their mission a fervour for promoting development, integral human and economic development, are extremely important for the progress of a nation.   Government should be happy to have many such organizations and individuals operating within the country.  PNGSDP is one of the premier development organizations in PNG.  It has done so much good.  It would be foolish to terminate it. The people at PNG Sustainable Development Program should fight to continue their good work and we should support them.

The Catholic Bishops of Papua New Guinea

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