Social Concerns Notes – December 2013

Silence Sickness

PNG Blogs 26th Nov 2013

Recently on the Masalai Blog, former Prime Minister Mekere Morauta wrote a thought provoking article “No one is safe in PNG” (link: http://masalai.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/mekere-morauta-says-no-one-is-safe-in-png/).  Sir Mekere has noticed that nearly everyone in PNG has become afraid to speak out.  For example, a worker won’t speak out when they see the boss stealing because they’re afraid of losing their job or a promotion.  An LLG leader won’t say anything negative about the government because they fear they might be denied development funds to use in their electorate.  A wantok share their unhappiness about another wantok’s behaviour because they worry that their wantok will create problems for them. These fears and worries have created a Silence Sickness that has spread throughout PNG.  What’s going on?  Weren’t we taught in high school that speaking one’s opinion without fear or favour is a basic human right, guaranteed under the PNG constitution?   There should be praise and respect for those who exercise this right strongly and responsibly, not fear and payback.

Actually, the “afraid to speak out” tendency occurs world-wide.  It is strongest anywhere there is a small rural community composed of people living closely together with very few moving into or out of the community.  If you live in such a place, you learn early on that it’s better not to complain in public too strong or long about someone else’s behaviour.  They might take offence in a way that explodes into a dispute that disrupts the community.   Also let’s not forget that it’s usually against traditional law to disagree with the village leader once they make a final decision.   A few villagers won’t be intimidated by all this, but most will, including anyone who feels powerless. This doesn’t mean that village people don’t show dissent and disapproval.  They do.  But on an everyday basis, they make their thoughts known subtly.  Maybe they give disapproving looks, or they won’t turn up at village meetings called by those they disagree with.  If they do speak up, they’ll probably do it in a tok bokis way that gets the message across indirectly.

Many of PNG’s leaders and businessmen at all levels have grown to love the Silence Sickness.  They do what they can to keep Silence Sickness alive and well.  They support out of date defamation laws, threaten the media with lawsuits and threats of nationalisation, threaten internet service providers with censorship, and spread the word that there’s a heavy price to pay for anyone who speaks out too loudly or too effectively against what the corrupt are doing. …

In dictatorships, everyday people fear their leaders.  In a democracy, shouldn’t it be the other way around? [For the full article, see the reference to PNG blogs above]

Mission founder retires

The National, November 26th, 2013

MORE than 15,000 youths have passed through City Missions in Port Moresby and Lae over the past 20 years, mission founder Larry George says.
Speaking during a dinner in Lae last Saturday, George said as a bank manager in Sydney, Australia, 29 years ago, he had a call from the Lord in a church service to start a city mission in Papua New Guinea.
He said that call became a reality when he and few young men who used to follow him started its first operations in November 1993 in an old rented trade store on the site of the Koki headquarters. 
The centre grew from strength to strength and moved to Lae in 2004, where the name was changed from Port Moresby City Mission to City Mission PNG.
He said the centre had given hope to the underprivileged youths who persevered in the programmes run by the centre in literacy, gaining valuable life skills through vocational and agricultural training and finding permanent employment after going through the programmes.

Youths give time to clean disability home

The National, November 28th, 2013

YOUNG men from City Mission in Port Moresby offered their free time last weekend to clean the compound of Cheshire Homes in Hohola, National Capital District.
The mission looks after young men and provides them with skills and a better opportunity in life other than crime. It is run by the FourSquare Church and is supported by sponsors. 
The young men live at the Merigeda farm, outside Port Moresby.
They began the clean-up at Cheshire Homes at 8am last Saturday.
Teacher, Pastor Dennis Triche said the mission taught the boys how to become better persons after leaving the farm.
The mission caters for more than 200 boys who have been trained to be self-reliant and to forgo their bad habits.

The low mina, Dutch Disease and Agriculture as Antidote

PNG Blogs 2 December

As PNG stands poised in entering the exclusive club of Gas Exporting Nations in 2014 we are beginning to see early symptoms of the debilitating effect of Dutch Disease on the economy with farmers in Hela given  up on Producing local Food for daily consumption and opting instead to buy imported tinned  food in Trade stores  using the over K1 Billion of the so call seed capital made available to land owners to placate them into allowing the establishment of the  First LNG Project in PNG and now with the free fall of the Kina  directly linked  to the slowdown to the construction phase  of the LNG project as it nears completion compounded with an over anxious Treasurer keen on spending  ahead of the much anticipated receipt for the sale of its gas by running two deficit budget in a row.

The  antidote to the fall of the Kina and the Dutch disease  lies in revamping Agriculture for both the Export market and the domestic economy. Export of Agriculture products wins hard currency that helps push up the value of the Kina. There is a tendency to look at Agriculture export in terms of Oil palm and blaming Foreign Companies as dominating this sector and ruling out a role for ordinary  people  in participating in the Agriculture Export Trade and blaming the Government for the fall of the Kina and to look at artificial ways to prop up the Kina. This view is generated by educated Papua New Guineans working for a salary and who go through life trying to imitate and adopt Western and Australian Culture in particular without the hard work that goes with it. The most overt  of this imitated behaviour in the daily intake of alcohol at the Club after work.

Well the truth is that the ordinary majority of Paua New Guineans earn their lively hood through the sale of Agriculture products and they now make up the Bulk of people involved in the Agriculture Export trade. These are the people that win the hard currency for PNG through the sweat of their labour. There is however a growing  need for more to be done by the educated elite to get off their back side in supporting agriculture by  ensuring that all type of Agriculture commodities and food products in particular from PNG grown by ordinary Papua New Guineans living in villages are brought into towns and cities to feed the population in these centres and at the time same time to participate at  innovative ways of marketing these products to the world. …

House to undergo cleansing

Post Courier 5th December

The house committee of the National Parliament has embarked on a cleansing exercise in a bid to make a start on invoking God into the national transformation agenda. This came from the Speaker of Parliament Theo Zurenoc and during a dinner which was hosted by the Tertiary Student Christian Fellowship (TSCF) Graduates Network Incorporation. Mr Zurenoc said parliament must contribute its share to the realization of the PNG dream and it was his firm belief that this can only begin if the house is transformed. He said in light of this agenda that there is something of great concern which he has realized to be PNG’s greatest paradox. While PNG professed to be a Christian nation, its people continued to embrace its traditional beliefs and cultures also professing it to be the source of their origin and strength. “The question is who really are we? Our identity is brought into question and that is the first hurdle we must overcome.We must invoke God to intervene in our nation building project. “Parliament through its house committee has decided we must make a statement to denounce the contradictory confession, because as believers or Christians we know that only God is our Lord. The speaker said in this sense he has already ordered for parliament to be cleansed of ungodly images, it has been invested with. He said he had already had the lintels removed and more work to be in progress to pull down more all ungodly images and idols in parliament. Mr Zurenuoc added that he was already experiencing attacks and had urged all to also to pray. “This week we will continue, work is in progress to pull down more ungodly images and idols in parliament. There must be no traces of elements of cult and demonic worship in the national parliament of PNG. Mr Zurenoc said it was his firm belief that PNG as a nation and the government must acknowledge the Jewish people as God’s people adding he also to be encouraged by the government’s move to strengthen ties with Israel. He said once the nation turns to God and makes those fundamental adjustments, it must then harness the power of citizenry unity, united on one single faith, that being its Christian faith.

Church condemns Speaker’s moves

Post Courier 10th December

The clean up exercise by Parliament Speaker Theo Zurenuoc to remove “ungodly images and idols” from the House of Parliament has been condemned by religious leaders. The Catholic Bishops Con-ference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands is disappointed with the move by the Speaker that has already seen the removal of the traditionally-carved lintels above the public entrance into the Parliament’s public gallery. Conference General Secretary Fr Victor Roche is strongly against the opinion of the Speaker that the traditional carvings and decorations in Parliament are elements of cult and demonic practices and are unworthy of a Christian country.

“What’s happening to the Parliament building is really ridiculous if true that behind the move are fundamentalist Christians who cannot distinguish between the novelty of the Gospel and what of the past needs to be preserved and treasured at least for collective and historical memory,” said Fr Roche.

“These people seem to act regardless of the opinion of scholars and anthropologists.

Fr Roche is warning citizens to be aware of the rising religious fundamentalism which sprouts from a mix of arrogance, insecurity and ignorance. He emphasised that politicians should not court these movements but rather the mainstream churches. “Listen rather to traditional educated and well grounded pastors, priests and bishops of the mainstream churches. “They will criticise you from time to time. But they will do it for the good of the country. And your good!”

Free health starts Feb 24

The National, December 9th, 2013

PAPUA New Guineans will receive free healthcare when the Government’s new policy comes into effect on Feb 24.
Health Minister Michael Malabag officially declared the implementation of the Free Primary Health Care and Subsidised Specialist Services Policy in Port Moresby last Friday.
The implementation of the policy comes in two phases in the following areas; Phase one involves the implementation at levels 1, 2, 3 and 4, which are rural health facilities (aid post, sub health centre, health centre, community health post) run by churches and the Government, and,        Phase two involves the implementation of the policy at the public or provincial hospitals, which are level 5 to 7 health facilities, including provincial hospitals and referral hospitals.

“Hospitals will continue to charge user fees, however the level of fees charged have been either reduced or removed,” Malabag said.
“Fees for some services have been reduced by 50%, while fees for services that are complex and expensive in nature will marginally be reduced.”
Malabag said those amendments were additional to the exemption category under the Public Hospital Charges Regulation.
The government has allocated K20 million towards the implementation of the policy of which;     K6.1 million will go to the provinces for the government run health facilities, and, K13.9 million to the Health Department under Division 241, Hospital Management Services and is further broken down to K9 million for public hospitals and K4.9 million for Christian Health Services’ facilities.

Govt told to fund church institutions

The National, November 28th, 2013

THE Health Department will provide the 172 unregistered church-run health facilities in the country with funding assistance, Health Secretary Pascoe Kase said.  Kase said about 20% of the church-run institutions were not registered or recognised by the Government. 
Kase yesterday clarified with the Public Accounts Committee the number of church-run health facilities existing in the country. 
“A lot of the health infrastructures were put in by the churches themselves many years ago even before the government came into their aid.
“It is about time the government through the Treasury and National Planning departments support the church health services by putting provisions. 
“There are a number of facilities that need to be registered to be supported by the government.”
Christian Health Services director Joseph Sika said the 172 facilities were not recognised under government system but provided better services in rural communities. 
Sika said there were 713 facilities operating with 541 funded by the government and 172 yet to receive help.

Workshop helps men fight domestic violence

The National, December 9th, 2013

A GROUP has embarked on empowering men to become proactive agents of change and advocates against family violence.
It is the initiative of the AILA Consulting Ltd which holds a workshop once every month called “1,000 strong men against family violence”. 
Founder and facilitator of the workshop Eddie Aila said many workshops on violence were focused on women and not much on men.
The group is a behavioural change and organisational training constancy company which empowers men to fight family violence in PNG by assisting them to overcome their challenges.
The group held its third workshop at Gerehu stage one, National Capital District last weekend. Youth and men from the community shared their thoughts at the workshop.
He said men wanted to look after their families but environmental factors caused them to have negative thoughts which, left unattended, turned into violence. 
“That is why we need to help the men because if we don’t, then men would still be doing these same things,” he said. 
“I was once a person who was involved in family violence but I have changed because I learnt those tools and am using them to teach others.”
Participant Fidelis Koma said the workshop had instilled in him values and he would try to use them to oppose family violence.

Manam resettlement delay upsets locals

Post Courier 12 December

LOCALS in Madang have expressed grave disappointment over the actions of Bogia MP John Hickey who has stalled the progress of the government supported Manam resettlement project. Madang Provincial Administrator Bernard Lange said in an interview early this week that work in the district to progress the islanders’ resettlement has been delayed by the Bogia MP. Mr Lange said the instructions had been issued by Mr Hickey who had claimed he had been left in the dark by the Madang Provincial Government and administration on the progress of this project. When asked when work was likely to recommence, Mr Lange said he does not know but they were waiting on the MP and the Bogia district administration to tell them when to resume work. News of the project being stalled has not gone down well with several leaders from Andarum. Joe Viaken had yesterday after listening to reports had reportedly met with other community leaders and had decided to travel into town to express his concerns on behalf of his people whose land is to be used for this project. Mr Viaken said he understood tha the MP had stopped work because he was not being updated on the program but this was not a good excuse especially as this issue had been around for the last nine years and for the period the MP has been in office. He said this could be an indication of the MP resisting the program.

Mr Ururu said “There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Our people have overstayed their time in the care-centers. Its been nine years and the care-centers were to have been pulled down six months after the eruptions in 2004,” he said. “We have breeched all laws, treaties and declarations which PNG is a signatory to concerning human rights.”

Widow looks after 28 children

The National, December 13th, 2013

WIDOWED Lucy George is looking after 28 children – and they are not her own.
In fact for the past 15 years, she has been caring for numerous homeless children in Port Moresby by providing them shelter and food.
Most of the children had been displaced from their own families and through misfortune not of their own doing, are left to fend for themselves in the streets. Right now, she is caring for 28 children – the youngest is four and the oldest 18.
George took them on and looked after them as if they were her own. And she gets very little help from outside.
Friends and neighbours at Nine-Mile outside Port Moresby, where she lives, spoke of Lucy’s determination and willingness to provide the children with food, shelter and clothing. 
Thankfully this Christmas, Santa Claus has arrived in Port Moresby in the form of a group of corporate organisations who have donated food and goods to help George.
Newcrest Mining in Port Moresby first heard of George’s plight and alerted its friends, partners and local companies to join in the Christmas spirit of goodwill by donating what they could to provide Lucy and the children in her care something to enjoy in this special festive season.
Newcrest’s country manager Peter Aitsi said the response from local individuals and companies was overwhelming. 
 “We are pleased to lend our support to Lucy.  She is one of many silent heroes who have it in their hearts to give back to their communities without asking for anything in return,” he said.

Aussies deny Manus conditions akin to torture

The National, December 16th, 2013

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has denied allegations that conditions in an asylum-seeker camp in Papua New Guinea amounted to torture and insisted the off-shore processing regime would stay.
Amnesty International has described conditions at PNG’s Manus Island as “excessively cruel and prison-like”, with a report released last week saying some detainees were surviving in stifling heat on just half a litre of water a day. Morrison said the government would consider recommendations in good faith, but denied that conditions amounted to torture and said there was no restriction on the amount of water people received.
The Amnesty report said some aspects of detention on Manus, where some 1,000 people are being held, violated Australia’s obligation to treat all persons in detention humanely.
It said conditions in compounds were cramped and stifling hot, detainees were being denied sufficient water and medical help, and some had reported finding snakes in their room and flooding when it rained. The Amnesty report comes after the United Nations refugee agency last month reported that the Pacific island camps failed to meet international standards of treatment.
Morrison said while the government would seek improvements where they could be made, there would be no change to its policy of processing those arriving on unauthorised boats at the offshore camps.
“All I am saying is that the key recommendation from both the UNHCR and Amnesty report is that offshore processing should be abolished. 
“We are clearly not going to do that,” he said.
“This system of harsh conditions and humiliating treatment is a deliberate effort to pressure people to return to the desperate situations they have fled from,” said Amnesty International Australia’s Claire Mallinson.

What happens next in PNG’s land grab saga?

By Colin Filer on December 10, 2013

http://devpolicy.org/what-happens-next-in-pngs-land-grab-saga-20131210/?utm_source=Devpolicy&utm_campaign=442b9caee0-Devpolicy_News_December_20_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_082b498f84-442b9caee0-227683090

Five years have now passed since the alarm was first raised about the alienation of huge areas of customary land in Papua New Guinea through the grant of Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs). As if to commemorate this anniversary, the PNG government has finally released the reports of two of the three commissioners asked to investigate the SABL scandal in July 2011.

Unlike other reports tabled in parliament, copies were not made available to other MPs (or anyone else) until they appeared on the Commission of Inquiry website at the end of November, along with the brief statement that O’Neill had made when he did, or did not, table them. In that statement, O’Neill expressed his disappointment that the commissioners had ‘failed to work together as a team’, and then wondered how two of them could make the discovery that 38 out of 42 SABLs had been granted without genuine landowner consent and yet still recommend that ‘SABLs be continued’.

Numapo and Mirou did indeed recommend that most of the leases that they investigated should be revoked. Numapo’s additional recommendations outweighed those of his fellow commissioners by many pages, but they also contained a glaring contradiction. On page 4 of his report, Numapo makes the following statement:

‘We recommend that the current SABL setup be done away entirely. We have carefully considered the option of retaining the SABL setup as an optional method for availing customary land for national development. We have fully considered retaining the SABL setup with more stringent safety features. In the end our view is that the inherent risks associated with the option are unacceptable because we believe any reforms to the law or process may not satisfactorily remove the loop holes, inadequacies or permissive ambiguities that are being used to abuse the SABL process and hijack land use after SABLs are granted.’

But fast forward to page 255 and he seems to have changed his mind:

‘The SABL concept is good and we recommend that it be retained… [as] a national development and customary landowner empowerment mechanism.’

So the goose has laid a bunch of rotten eggs and should be killed, but no, it is essentially a good goose and will lay a better bunch of eggs if it is put through something that the Chief Commissioner eventually describes (on page 264) as a ‘Harmonization of Laws & Standardization of Practices exercise’.

There are essentially two points at issue here: What is to be done about the dodgy leases which have already been granted, and what is to be done to prevent the grant of more dodgy leases in future?

But what about the rotten eggs? While the Prime Minister seems to have castigated the commissioners for their timidity, there is no doubt about the strength of their recommendations on this score. At the same time, there is as yet no sign that the government is actually going to revoke all the dodgy leases. [See the url above for the full article]

See also film – See Trailer is at http://www.onourlandfilm.com/trailer.html

TIPNG: Poor ranking reflects gravity of problem in public sector

The National, December 5th, 2013

THE country’s poor ranking in the world’s corruption perception index reflects the gravity of the problem in the public sector, Transparency International PNG says.
At the launching of the corruption perceptions index, TIPNG chairman Lawrence Stephens warned that the nation must seriously engage in “collective and intensive actions” to address corruption in the public sector.
He said it must involve citizens and parliamentarians. 
PNG is ranked 144th out of 177 countries – a score of 25 points out of 100. 
The corruption index shows that PNG has a highly corrupt public sector.  The most corruption-free countries are Denmark and New Zealand with scores of 91.
Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia are the worst performers scoring just eight points each. 
 It said that public institutions needed to be more open about their work and officials must be more transparent in their decision-making because the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to ravage societies around the world. 
This is particularly in political parties, the police and the justice system.

Every cloud has a silver lining: Papua New Guinean understandings of corruption and anti-corruption

By Grant Walton on December 3, 2013

http://devpolicy.org/every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining-papua-new-guinean-understandings-of-corruption-and-anti-corruption-20131203/?utm_source=Devpolicy&utm_campaign=442b9caee0-Devpolicy_News_December_20_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_082b498f84-442b9caee0-227683090

On Wednesday, 13 November, Transparency International PNG launched a report that outlines how Papua New Guineans understand corruption and anti-corruption efforts. The report, entitled Papua New Guinean Understandings of Corruption draws on findings from a household survey. Over 1,800 people participated in the study, with interviews conducted between 2010 and 2011 in nine out of the country’s 22 provincial divisions: Eastern Highlands, Milne Bay, Madang, National Capital District, New Ireland, Southern Highlands, West Sepik, East Sepik and Enga. The sample was representative of each of these provinces.

As one of the authors of the report, I presented the findings to a range of policy makers, including: The Australian High Commission, DFAT and the Australian Federal Police, as well as the PNG Ombudsman Commission, Taskforce Sweep, local NGOs, Churches and the private sector.

The findings of the study fill a gap in our knowledge about popular perceptions about corruption in PNG. While there has been much discussion about corruption in the country, little is known about what citizens think about it.

The report shows that most respondents defined corruption as a type of immoral behavior. Urban respondents were more likely to define corruption as ‘the abuse of public trust for private gain’ – a popular definition with anti-corruption organizations.

The questionnaire asked respondents to evaluate nine scenarios depicting different scales and types of corruption. For instance, one scenario involved a candidate bribing a voter with 50 Kina (about AU$ 20), another described a contractor bribing a public official. In turn, respondents were asked to rate the degree to which the scenarios were unacceptable, harmful and corrupt. Most rated the scenarios as unacceptable, but fewer believed they would cause harm or were corrupt.

This is despite almost half of all respondents reporting that they had personally found out about a case of corruption over the past two years. Of these respondents, 77% said that they were personally affected by corruption.

Those affected by corruption were unlikely to report it. Only one quarter said that they knew the process for reporting corruption. Reporting was also affected by community norms and prosecution rates. Three-quarters of respondents said that reporting corruption was affected by the inaction of others, and the fact that very few people are prosecuted for corruption in PNG.

All this sounds rather grim (and it is), but there is a silver lining. For a start, the survey finds that most people were concerned about corruption, and wanted it addressed. Almost 80% of respondents agreed that government corruption affects the provision of good schools, health facilities and roads. Three-quarters agreed that the government should prioritize the fight against corruption.

In addition, a high proportion (65%) of respondents agreed that PNG is completely democratic. And there was great trust expressed in the churches, with 70% agreeing that they are effective in keeping the government accountable. This finding suggests that the churches are well placed to play an increased role in helping to address corruption in PNG. In comparison, only 20 to 30% said the Parliament, Police or the Office of the Prime Minister effectively held government to account.

The report makes a number of recommendations for anti-corruption policy makers and activists. Recommendations are geared towards further engaging citizens in the fight against corruption. This includes encouraging citizens to hold government and political leaders to account. With 58% of respondents agreeing that politicians favor corruption, we think that such initiatives would be welcomed. [See url above for the full article]

See also:  Sometimes corruption makes sense: insights from research into Papua New Guinean understandings of corruption

By Grant Walton on December 4, 2013 http://devpolicy.org/sometimes-corruption-makes-sense-insights-from-research-into-papua-new-guinean-understandings-of-corruption/?utm_source=Devpolicy&utm_campaign=442b9caee0-Devpolicy_News_December_20_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_082b498f84-442b9caee0-227683090

Sir J bans logging in New Ireland

Post Courier 20th December

New Ireland governor Sir Julius Chan has banned all logging activities in his province in retaliation to the gross disregard for his people by logging companies operating in the province. An evidently disgruntled Sir J announced the outright ban on logging while speaking during the presentation of the K184 million 2014 provincial budget at the provincial assembly building on Wednesday. During his speech, the governor expressed disgust and frustration on behalf of his people towards the logging and mining companies that he alleged to have, in his own words “Been making billions of kina from the province through logging and mining activities and doing very little for the people who own and live around the work sites.”

Sir Julius brought to the assembly’s attention the fact that Newcrest alone had made a K2.7 billion profit from Lihir operations in 2011 and a K3 billion profit in 2012 and that off this sizable profit, very little was left to show for the people living around the province who still live a next to nomadic life.

“We are currently getting a lousy deal and I will not allow my people and the people of PNG as a whole to settle for less than what they deserve,” said governor Chan. He further stated that it was his government’s decision to disregard any new signings of MoAs until such a time that logging and mining companies come up with a fair method of sharing returns from these incredible profit making operations among the people of New Ireland. “All of this year, we have sat with the heads of these different companies renegotiating and all we are fed promises that eventually become lies,” said Sir J.

He said that as of his announcement on Wednesday, all logging operations are to stop and be disbanded and threatened that this would also happen to mining operations if this drastic measure is not heeded and a solution found with all haste.

Disabled children find voice

Post Courier 30th December

Papua New Guinean children with disability will be among the first from the Pacific to be given the opportunity for their voice to be heard. This will be under a project called Voices of Pacific Children with disability, of which Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu have been chosen to be the two Pacific countries in focus for the research project.  Project leader and lecturer in Health Sciences at the Deakin University, Dr Kevin Murfitt told the Australian Broadcasting Commission in an interview that the project would target children with disability in the urban areas- Port Vila in Vanuatu and Port Moresby in PNG but would also have a rural aspect. He said in PNG, the research would start at Kainantu in Eastern Highlands Province enabling the researchers to do comparisons about the differences in terms of children with disability’s lives in rural, compared with urban locations.

Dr Murfitt said this project was quite important being the first of its kind in the Pacific and PNG and Vanuatu were chosen because of having very strong disabled persons organisations.

He said over 10 years, human rights for people living with disability in the world, and particularly in developing countries has been recognised. However, the voice of children with disability in the development of those human rights has been missing. This project will give the children a direct voice based around three key questions – What is important in your life and why? What are your hopes and dreams and why? And, what could be better in your life and why?

He said this could help tackle many issues that were closely linked with disability including lack of employment and poverty.

Australia withdraws $38m medical aid

Post Courier 30 December

AUSTRALIA’S attempts to stop Papua New Guinea from awarding a contract to a firm it does not trust in the distribution of the medicines to the health centres has taken a new twist. It has now been reported by media in Australia that Australia has withdrawn funding for a $38 million (about K92.7m) program that supplies medicine to PNG health centres, due to concerns about the way PNG has awarded contracts. Previously, Australia’s aid agency chose the supplier and distributor for the medicines, but this year that process was handled by PNG.

In June, the PNG government removed crucial quality-control criteria and later awarded the contract to local company linked to a Chinese supplier of sub-quality drugs. Doctors say the distribution of ineffective medicine in a country rife with TB, malaria, pneumonia and gastro will cost lives. Three years ago, a corruption scandal within Papua New Guinea’s health system left hospitals running out of drugs and prompted the PNG government to ask for Australia’s help in stocking health centres.

For two years, the International Dispensary Association (IDA) supplied medical kits to almost 3000 health facilities across the country. But Health Minister Michael Malabag when contacted yesterday said: “There is no funding to withdraw as the money and funding of this program will come from the Papua New Guinea Government and has been appropriated in the 2014 Budget.”

Dr Glen Mola, treasurer of the Medical Society of PNG, has told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat the IDA did a good job getting the medicine to health clinics in remote parts of PNG. But the arrangement was always going to be temporary and this year the PNG government took responsibility for procuring the 2014 supply of medical kits. Australia agreed to keep funding the program, on the condition the tender process was transparent and the companies had certain accreditation, including an internationally-recognised standard ISO 9001. The accreditation ISO 9001 is an accreditation for Quality Management Systems which, in terms of a pharmaceutical’s, helps ensure the drugs are safe and effective. Six companies submitted tenders, but only two had the crucial ISO 9001 – International Dispensary Association and MissionPharma/City Pharmacy Limited. On June 6, an official at the Ministry for Health told a meeting of bidders that the ISO 9001 standard was no longer required. The company that won the tender – Borneo Pacific – does not have the ISO 9001 accreditation but they do have a history in Papua New Guinea. “Borneo Pacific are a company that have been in PNG for a couple of decades and they have a reputation. And many of us are very concerned because of past performance,” Dr Mola said. Borneo Pacific is the largest supplier of drugs from the North China Pharmaceutical Group. A survey of antibiotics in PNG in 2011, published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, found all four samples provided by North China Pharmaceutical Group were sub-standard, with one probably being a counterfeit drug. Borneo Pacific’s bid of $31 million (K71 million) was $9 million more than the bid from International Dispensary Association, which successfully delivered the kits for the past two years.

Archbishop Ribat Issues Xmas Message

Post Courier 27 December.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, Christmas is a time when we recall the Good News of Jesus and wish others joy and peace. While sharing those sentiments we recall with sadness that today in Bethlehem and for many people in the Middle East there is little joy or peace due to conflict and violence.  The conflict in the Middle East may seem distant from Papua New Guinea, but in fact Papua New Guinea is being drawn into disputes there through association with movements sometimes called “Christian Zionism.”

Christian Zionism promotes the belief that the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 and the capture of Jerusalem in 1967 were the miraculous fulfilment of God’s promises made to Abraham. The belief that Jews must occupy the whole of Palestine leads Christian Zionists to fund the return of Jews to Palestine, including the establishment of settlements in occupied territories by dispossessing Palestinians, some of whom are Christians. Their attempt to take over the whole of Palestine runs counter to those seeking Peace in the Middle East because the Christian Zionists are creating nearly impossible conditions for a two-state solution for the Middle East Peace Process. How God will honour his covenant with the Jews and how Christians and Jews will find a common destiny (Rom 11:25-27) remains a mystery. But it will not be achieved by denying the human rights of God’s other children.

Some Christian Zionists believe that the “in-gathering” of Jews in Israel is a precondition for the Second Coming of Jesus. Based on texts such as in Genesis 12:3, they hold that God promised to bless the man or nation that blesses the Chosen people (Israel). Christian Zionists have a good deal of influence in American politics today. There is also increasing influence in the Pacific and through some churches in PNG.

In 2007 Sir Michael Somare as Prime Minister signed a document called “A New Covenant” The “New Covenant” is between the God of Israel, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and the People of Papua New Guinea. It is our understanding that when Grand Chief Somare signed the covenant he understood that he was restating what is already in the Preamble to the PNG Constitution, that PNG is a Christian country. However, since then some people have interpreted this covenant, not just with the God of Israel, but also with the State of Israel.  This is a misinterpretation.  It is fundamentally wrong to identify the contemporary State of Israel with the People of Israel of the Old Testament. Some groups go so far as to interpret the covenant signed by Chief Somare as opening the way for God’s blessings – understood with cargo-like overtones. It is also seen as a reason for the Covenant Day holiday, and for the “cleansing” of the House of Parliament.

There has been ambiguity in language and logic in recent discussion on Covenant and PNG. Few would have a problem with the recognition of the “God of Israel”.  But we cannot support the identification of Israel with the State of Israel, or the cargo-like implications from some quarters.  Surely we would all agree on the rejection of evil forces, but not all would agree on just how to recognise such forces or on the methods to reject them. Destruction of traditional images in Parliament has generated just the kind of conflict and division that Satan rejoices in!

In our view there are some very positive aspects to the current debate.  It provides an opportunity to restate the importance of religious and spiritual values in our country.  It also provides an opportunity to clarify the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, the relationship between Christianity and traditional religion – especially art that has a religious dimension.  It also gives us a chance to clarify the relationship between religion/church and state. …

There is no need of another covenant and no need of a public holiday to mark this. We already have Good Friday and Easter, the holidays of the new covenant. If the state wishes to recognize a religious holiday expressing the dedication of the people of PNG to God as revealed by Jesus Christ, then a two day holiday at Independence would be better: one for religious events and one for more secular events.

For full letter, see https://www.facebook.com/catholicreporter.papuanewguinea/posts/684884538212004

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