Social Concerns Notes – January 2014

Leniata laid to rest

The National, January 13th, 2014

KEPARI Leniata’s remains were finally put to rest last Thursday after almost a year since she was accused of witchcraft and burnt alive. Hagen youths from the Warakum AOG Church dug Leniata’s grave last week and buried Leniata’s remains in a donated plot by the Rabiamul Parish Catholic Cemetary. Youth With A Mission members from Kalina Base prepared what was left of the young mother in a coffin they bought with their own money before her final burial on Thursday evening. Eleven months ago Leniata’s brutal murder caused alarm across the nation and internationally and a series of movements, all targeted towards violence against women, were formed.  Founder of the “Remember Kepari Leniata Campaign” Philimona Kelegai said all the publicity, marching, and crying out for justice would have been in vain if Kepari was not given the dignity of a proper send-off. On Feb 6 last year, Leniata, a 20-year-old, was stripped naked, tortured and mutilated before being doused in kerosene and burnt alive. Leniata left behind a husband, a son and a daughter. They were at her funeral.

Forum to address witchcraft killings

The National, January 6th, 2014

A WORKSHOP to address witchcraft and sorcery-related violence held recently in Goroka has suggested ways to address the problem. Sorcerers and survivors of sorcery and witchcraft were among stakeholders who discussed how to develop a national multi-sectoral response to the high rate of sorcery and witchcraft-related accusations and killings. The workshop was organised by the Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council. Participants focused on mapping the cultural landscape and how sorcery was embedded in cultural beliefs and practices. They discussed the legal landscape, especially laws which could deal with sorcery and witchcraft-related killings plus local intervention on the violence spectrum in society. Government officials looked at how the law and justice sector and health agencies dealt with perpetrators, victims of sorcery and witchcraft. A council spokesman said the workshop wanted to address sorcery and witchcraft-violence which were embedded in traditional belief and indigenous to parts of Papua New Guinea.
But he said the violence seen today was a modern phenomenon.

Inappropriateness of the Death Penalty

PNG Blogs, Tuesday, January 7, 2014, by Komai Apulin

Judging by some of his more recent comments it is certain the AG wants to implement the death penalty. He wants to execute the prisoners currently on death row. Of course the death penalty is legal so he is free to do that but no amount of justification will hide the fact that the 2012 amendments stand out as ill advised options to government for managing violent crimes and the social agenda in PNG. The government was forced to legislate hastily, knee jerk reaction style, to calls for action on violent crimes, especially against women and vulnerable persons.

The truth is that the calls for something to be done about violent crimes in PNG underscores the State’s inability and impotency to deal with law and order issues. These calls continue to be the clarion call for proactive initiative on the root causes of crime. Instead of crafting viable strategies to address the underlying causes for lawlessness the government was advised to extend the application of the death penalty. DJAG advised the government on the soft option without considering alternatives. Scoping alternatives is DJAG’s responsibility. DJAG is the State’s overall oversight entity and it has the duty to give the government quality advice on best practices; including compliance guidelines, way forward options on crime management, preventing theft of public money and eradicating endemic corruption. It truly is a shame that DJAG is not putting any better alternatives on the table. Like many right minded people in PNG I disapprove of the death penalty for any type of crime. I am not going to take the high moral ground here, that’s for saints. Like most reasonably informed people I have a good take on what is and what is not effective deterrence. I am not convinced that the death penalty is better deterrence than a life sentence without parole or remission. …

Death row 13 face execution

The National,  January 27th, 2014

THE executions of the 13 people on death row are to begin this year, an official says. Constitutional Law Reform Commission secretary Dr Eric Kwa said the Government had decided the death penalty would be implemented this year. The two things left now are: What method of execution to be used, and, An appropriate facility to be built where the executions are to take place. Kwa said eight of the 13 people on death row were sentenced for piracy-related crimes and five for wilful murder. He said Cabinet had received recommendations last October from a team, including him, that visited some countries where the death penalty was carried out to see how they went about it. “Parliament agreed that Cabinet will decide from the five recommended: Electrocution, lethal injection with the deprivation of oxygen, lethal injection with anaesthetic, firing squad and hanging,” he said.

Death penalty coming like a thief

The National, January 29th, 2014

CATHOLIC Church representatives are concerned with the ensuing executions of those on death row, saying the death penalty will come like a thief in the night. Fr Giorgio Licini said the front page of The National on Monday reminded the public of the fact that the death penalty was coming and criminals on death row could start counting their last days.“They are unlikely to see another Christmas or New Year celebration,” he said. “Their mothers, wives and children better forget about them.” Licini referred to informal debates held last year that suggested the executioners would have to be hired from outside the country. “Executioners will have to be hired (hopefully at a reasonable price) from outside the country to avoid ensuing retaliation and possible tribal fights among PNG citizens,” he said. “It’s like years ago hiring foreign mercenaries to kill people in Bougainville. A lesson apparently not learned. “Will, in fact, relatives and wantoks of the criminals not hold the highest officials of the Department of Justice responsible for the execution of their relatives? Is it going to be Sepiks against Simbus once again?”

Baby milk runs out

The National, December 31st, 2013

WORKING mothers in Port Moresby who rely on formula milk for their babies are frustrated because it is out of stock in shops. 
City Pharmacy Ltd, one of the major distributors of the S26 formula milk, said it was awaiting the next shipment. The original S26 milk formula is recommended by doctors for babies whose mothers cannot breast-feed or are working. They allow their babies to have it during the day while they are at work. A CPL spokesman said the increase in the number of working mothers means the demand for the milk has risen. Even though CPL had a lot of outlets in the city, they were the first ones to run out of stock because the price was more affordable there, the spokesman said. He hoped that supply would be restored next month.

Some Churches back Zurenuoc

The National, December 31st, 2013

CHURCHES have rallied their support behind Speaker Theo Zurenuoc and his decision to remove traditional carvings from Parliament.  Church leaders met on Sunday at the Sione Kami Memorial Church in Port Moresby facilitated by the Papua New Guinea Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship graduate network. Reverend Joseph Walters of the Assemblies of God Church said it was a critical moment for Christians in the country and they should all support Zurenuoc in prayer. “We are on the brink of a national transformation and we should pray and fast to see this through,” Walters said. An officer from National Parliamentary Services explained that the decision to remove the totem pole was made by a House committee led by the Speaker. “The public is concerned that not enough consultation was made and public opinion sought,” he said.

Meanwhile, former Laigap-Porgera MP Mark Ipuia is opposed to the move. He claimed that he was the one who approved and awarded the designs. “The designs were made by architecture professors from the University of Technology in 1980,” he said. “I approved the designs and the K7 million payment for the designs.” He said the designs and artworks were his idea and not that of former leaders like Sir Michael Somare and Sir Julius Chan. “PNG has 700 languages and cultures and the designs and art works represent these,” he said. “They are not satanic. They are the pride of our people. “I’m appealing to the Speaker not to remove the designs and artworks. “Every country has its own culture and traditions – same as us and the artworks mean a lot to us,” Ipuia said.

Principal likens speaker to Bible character

The National, January 8th, 2014

A SCHOOL principal is supporting the decision by Speaker Theo Zurenuoc to remove traditional artefacts from parliament, likening him to the Biblical character Gideon. Joseph Geparo is the principal of Maximise Well Christian School whose students amended the Papua New Guinea national pledge by replacing the words “cultural heritage” with “Christian heritage”. He said the Christian faith in the country was at risk because some people who had embraced Christianity still clung to old beliefs and practices. He said Zurenuoc possessed the spirit of Gideon, who (in the Book of Judges) destroyed the altar of Baal when Israel was under siege. God raised young Gideon to deliver the people of Israel. Geparo said cleansing processes had been done by leaders in every nation and Zurenuoc had destroyed the curse on the nation. “The reason why PNG is rich but its people live in poverty is because its leaders are not sensitive to the powers and forces that are at work trying to destroy and rob this country of its riches.”

PNG ranked 5th highest smoking nation in 2012

Post Courier January 10, 2014

PAPUA New Guinea was ranked as having one of the highest rates of smoking in 2012.

The country ranks fifth with 51.4 per cent of the population classed as smokers. The highest is East Timor with 61.1 per cent, Indonesia with 57 per cent, Kiribati with 54.4 per cent, and Armenia with 51.7 per cent, according to American research.

The study measured data from 187 countries. “Where countries take strong action, tobacco use can be dramatically reduced,” said the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids president Matthew Myers.

Centre helps street children

The National, January 2nd, 2014

STREET children are a common yet unnoticed group in Papua New Guinea, a priest says. “Do they depict a trend of poverty in the country and is the government seriously addressing poverty if there are risks or does the situation already exists,” Father Arnold Schmitt asked. The Lae City Street Daycare Centre is a Catholic-run institute that has fed, clothed and provided medication for street children  for eight years…. “More than 90% of children visiting the daycare centre come from non-functional or broken families. That is from families which either parent is dead or has eloped or divorced or either parent has just left, unable to contain the un-supporting living conditions, forsaking the children to a single parent. “The children are forced to live on the streets to contribute to the survival of his or her siblings, supporting the single parent.”

Mum quits brewing alcohol

The National, January 3rd, 2013

A 42-YEAR-old woman who has been brewing steam (homebrew) for the past three years surrendered to authorities on Tuesday along with a number of youths. Chimbu woman Thresa Tobias, a mother of four children, covered her face with charcoal as a sign of mourning and remorse for her actions and took a large home-brewing cylinder to the police. Police were at Mendari settlement at the request of the youths who wanted to surrender firearms, marijuana and homebrew-making equipment. “I apologise for my actions and wanted to do away with it),” Tobias said in Tok Pisin. “I am a mother who brews steam and gather children in my house.” She said she started producing steam because her husband was not working at that time and she was doing it to support her family. She said all her children were in school so she needed money to pay for their school fees, feed them and clothe them. “Mi save mekim K140 lo wan day taim mi salim steam (I make K140 a day when I sell steam),” she said. Tobias said a 500ml bottle of steam was sold for K10.

More women now drinking homebrew, smoking drugs

The National, Monday January 6th, 2014

MARIJUANA use and homebrew drinking by females are on the rise in Chimbu’s Kerowagi district, Highlands Women in Politics president Dere Cecilia Kimagl says. Kimagl said many people were turning to drugs and homebrew because police were slack. “From what I see, people are no longer afraid of the law like in the past,” she said. Kimagl, who is from Kerowagi, said people producing homebrew sold the pretty strong substance beside the road and the local market like any other produce from the garden. “Since New Year, I see many young girls and single mothers taking the illegal substance because they’ve seen the law-enforcing agent has done nothing to arrest people taking illegal substances,” she said. Kimagl said that was leading to many unwanted pregnancies, the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and violence in the family.

Community leader criticises betel nut ban

The National, January 7th, 2014

UNEMPLOYED residents in Port Moresby will be the biggest losers from the betel nuts ban by the National Capital District Commission. James Ivarature, a community leader from Tokarara, Moresby North West, warned there was risk of starvation because the unemployed were deprived of earning money to sustain their livelihood. “The government will have 
its hands full with escalating law and order problems if these people are forced to abandon their trade and look for other alternatives,” he said.

Group attack logging camp

Solomon Star News, 08 January 2014

LATA police are after an Anglican priest who allegedly led a group of landowners on Vanikoro Island in Temotu to damage logging machineries on Boxing Day. Fr Patterson Nibeo reportedly led five other men to attack the logging camp 26 December 2013, which police say resulted in damages worth $1.1 million. Temotu Provincial Police Commander Alfred Uiga told the Solomon Star one person was already arrested, while others are still at large. “We will return to day to get the other suspects from the island,” Mr Uiga said. Temotu premier Fr Brown Beu said the alleged action of the landowners was unfortunate. He said Late police dispatched its officers to the island after they received reports of damages done to logging machineries. “On arrival at Vanikoro, the officers confirmed the report to be true and have identified an Anglican priest to be behind the attack. It’s understood the machineries were owned by an Asian logging company, Jaya Berjaya Ltd, engaged by the local licence holder Galigo Resource Company Ltd. The company landed with its machineries on the island in October last year, but was met with stiff opposition from other landowning groups. Although it set up camp, it was unable to do any logging because it has not met other requirements under the Forestry Act. The Commissioner of Forest has since suspended the company’s licence because of its failure to meet the requirements.

Service providers in Manus owed K2m

Post Courier 9 January

SERVICE providers rendering services for the asylum centre in Manus have not been paid by the Government for the past four months. A total of K2 million is yet to be paid to hoteliers and other small business operators for their services.They are now calling on the Government for an explanation for the long delay. The local businesses said the Police Department, Foreign Affairs and Immigration and other government agencies dealing directly with the issue of asylum were the ones that have not paid their bills dating back to October last year. They said nonpayment of bills over a long period of time was likely to force the business houses to apply for additional loans to alleviate the financial strain in providing accommodation, transport and meals for their clients. Though the much promised funding by both the Australian and PNG governments have promised financial benefits for local business houses in Manus, a very worrying trend has started to surface with non- payments of bills.

Inter-Solomon trade flourishes – & can be very profitable

asopa.typepad.com  9 January

ACROSS Bougainville retail outlets have many goods originating from a wholesaler in Choiseul Province of the Solomon Islands. Every day alcoholic beverages, food items and traditional cultural items are loaded on to Bougainvillean outboard motor boats crossing the short distance of the Solomon Sea to Bougainville. Bougainvilleans are also now increasingly heading for Gizo and Taro towns in the Northern Solomons for recreation and shopping on weekends and during the festive seasons. Boats used by the Pidia villagers to make their journey to Taro are mostly driven by 30-40 horsepower outboards. And, for Bougainvillean travellers, a PNG passport is not needed to cross the border since they have a history that originated from the islands now called Solomon. The Pidia boat skippers take some three to four hours to traverse between Kieta and Choiseul and they enjoy it, often remembering the days PNG was blockading Bougainville as a measure to punish and eradicate what it saw as militancy.

Where is Alois Jerewai’s SABL land grab report?

PNG exposed. WordPress.com.  January 10, 2014

In September 2013 Prime Minister Peter O’Neill presented to Parliament the reports from two of the three Commissioners appointed to investigated the SABL land grab. The reports revealed a web of deceit, mismanagement and corruption surrounding the allocation of SABL leases to foreign companies which, in many cases, the companies are using as cover for illegal logging operations. But the reports presented to Parliament cover only 42 of the 75 leases referred to the Commission of Inquiry. The findings on the other 33 leases are contained in the report of Alois Jerewai which, 4 months later, has still not been released. Many of the leases investigated by Jerewai are in East and West New Britain, a stronghold of Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau. The Prime Minister, the Commission of Inquiry and Mr Jerewai are all failing the people of the PNG if they do not release the report.

Australian-led research to uncover voices of children

Post Courier January 14, 2014

Australian-led research to uncover voices of vulnerable children with disability in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. A team of Australian and Papua New Guinean researchers are embarking on an innovative study of children with disabilities in the Pacific, finding out what they think about the world, their daily experiences and what they would like to change. The project team, led by Deakin University and Save the Children, will develop and test a number of ‘tools’ like picture and sound libraries, which better enable children with disabilities to give their views. The tools will then be used to assist government agencies, NGOs and community based organisations in the planning, implementation and evaluation of services and activities for children with disabilities and their families. The project is being undertaken in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, and is based on collaboration between the PNG Assembly of Disabled Persons, the Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association Vanuatu, Save the Children and Deakin University. Guna Yogomul, acting Country Director of Save the Children, said, “The project is innovative and provides the opportunity to interact directly with children with disabilities and their families to enable them to communicate and identify their own priorities and concerns.

To arrange an interview with Save the Children and Deakin University spokespeople, please call Olivia Zinzan on +61 (0) 416 355 851

PNG student reaches out to homeless children

Post Courier, January 15, 2014

IN a world where hungry children scour rubbish heaps for foods and orphans are cast out on to the streets, a PNG student in the Philippines is making a change. Hazel Navuru, a student at Fashion Institute of Design and Arts (FIDA) in Cebu City, expressed the essence of sharing and loving on New Year’s Day through giving out food and juice drinks to the street children around the city. “It is very sad to see homeless kids along the streets begging for food especially on a season when the whole world is happily celebrating,” Ms Navuru said. Hazel is one of 200 PNG students pursuing their university degrees in the Philippines through Paradise International Education Consultancy (PIEC), a Filipino-based education placement agency. Instead of spending on party celebrations, Hazel decided to celebrate the 1st day of the new year along the city roads giving out hamburgers and drinks to street kids. “It’s really priceless seeing the kids smile,” Ms Navuru said. Ms Navuru came to the Philippines to pursue fashion designing in May last year. She is now looking forward to finishing her course this April and to build her own fashion brand in PNG.

Numbers for victims

The National, January 15th, 2014

A DIRECTORY of emergency services available to those affected by family and sexual violence across PNG will be available for the first time this year, thanks to a group of determined students. Youth-led non-profit initiative Meri Toksave is aiming to address gender-based violence in PNG by overcoming the inaccessibility of emergency services contact information for those affected by family and sexual violence. Founder and director of Meri Toksave Ayesha Lutschini, 23, said the group had originated from a rights based campaign when they realised there was a massive gap in information when it came to emergency services. “We immediately adapted to the need when we realised nobody else had done this and it’s so critical, we decided we were going do it ourselves,” Lutschini said. “The directory is such a basic tool, it lists police numbers and it lists hospital numbers, their location and what services they provide. “It lists counselling, mental health services, sexual health services and legal support – all things someone suffering from family or sexual violence would need to know right then and there.”

The directory is also available online at www.meritoksave.org.

Rimbunan Hijau, the SABL puppeteer

PNG exposed.wordpress.com January 16, 2014

You wont be reading this in The National (The Daily Log), here is one of the key findings of the COI into SABL: ‘The most shocking instance abuse we have discovered is in relation to the practice of extracting logs under the pretext of genuine SABL activities.. We are convinced that some SABL project proponents are not genuine developers of agro-forestry projects. They appear not to be here for the long haul but only for as long as it takes to log out their subleases. They appear to use fancy agriculture development plans and project development agreements as red herring to obtain permits to log out huge tracts of forest lands. They mislead and deceive landowners with the assistance of corrupt government officials. They literally pay off assertive clan leaders and then use divide and rule tactics to obtain subleases. Genuinely motivated landowners desperate for development and basic services are easy prey for these people. Some landowners are deceived by promises of instant wealth. Still other landowners, those who are particularly incapable of working their SABLs themselves, are forced to opt for unacceptable and risky lease arrangements. With corrupt government officials from implementing agencies riding shotgun for them, opportunistic loggers masquerading as agro-forestry developers are prowling our countryside, scoping opportunities to take advantage of gullible landowners and desperate for cash clan leaders’… Our investigations reveal that over 50% of the so-called developers’ currently holding subleases on SABLs are connected in one way or another to Rimbunan Hijau (RH) Limited, which by far is the biggest logging operator in PNG’.

UN attacks abuse

The National, January 20th, 2014

THE United Nations Children’s Fund has condemned the use of two girls as part of a compensation payment in Jiwaka. It has called on the Government to honour its obligations to children under the UN convention and relevant laws. UNICEF representative in PNG Baba Danbappa said it was one of the worst forms of violence against children, an outrageous violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children which was totally unacceptable. “We urge the Government to take action immediately,” Danbappa said. “All children have a right to grow up in an environment that ensures their protection.” PNG signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Children in 1993 and also ratified the international treaty. UNICEF said PNG made “this bold and public commitment in the eyes of the global community to ensure each of the 54 articles in the convention becomes a reality for children in PNG”. “A cornerstone of the CRC principles highlights the best interest of children and any practices that harm or deny children their right to protection, survival and development is a violation of this international commitment.”

Health centre closed after too many threats

The National, January 21st, 2014

A HEALTH centre run by the Catholic Church in East Sepik has been forced to close after its workers were threatened by nearby villagers. The Dagua Health Centre is one of the two church-run health facilities in the province. The workers were threatened by the warring villagers from Magopin and Smain. Sister-in-charge Magdalene Tremani said the health centre was ordered shut by the Catholic Health Service Secretary Sr Celine Yakasere early this month. It was after most of the staff had left the hospital in fear of their lives, leaving only a skeleton staff to look after emergency cases only. “Most staff left because people from both villages often stop our ambulance looking for their rivals and ordered us not to treat the injured and sick,” she said. “We are here to serve everyone. There should be no interference and restrictions imposed by aggrieved members of either village. “If someone from Smain is injured in the prolonged conflict, we will attend to him and it is the same for Magopin. We are service providers and will be fair to both sides.”

People want say in choice of teachers

The National,  January 21st, 2014

THE Western Highlands provincial education board and the Catholic education agency have been asked to seek the recommendation of  school boards and headmasters before teacher postings resume. That is because many teachers had character problems which affected teaching, a primary school board member from Dei electorate, in Western Highlands, said. He said many teachers from his school were addicted to drinking and gambling. “This is the type of teachers that we do not want in a school. “We want people who can perform and teach our children properly to become good citizens,” he said. He said in future all parties should have a say in teacher postings.

Manus people want forum with Aust govt

Post Courier, January 16, 2014

The Maus Manus Forum Development is urging Governor Charlie Benjamin to step aside and allow the people of Manus to raise their concerns directly with the Australian government. They are concerned about what will be discussed at the asylum seekers agreement meeting scheduled to take place in Manus today. The spokesman and secretary of the forum, Ben Pokarop, made the call yesterday. Mr Pokarop said there are pressing issues relating to the agreement that the Governor alone cannot be able to resolve with the Australian government. “As legitimate voters and the people of Manus Province, we have the right to freely express our democratic views in relation to the agreement,” Mr Pokarop said. “They want to petition the Governor and the Australian Government to amend the agreement to the terms and conditions of the people of Manus,” Mr Pokarop said.

21 PNG companies engaged in Manus

Post Courier,  January 22, 2014,

THE Australia Government says it has engaged 21 Papua New Guinea companies at the regional processing centre in Manus Province. According to its Immigration and Citizenship Department, the companies are earning in total K1 million per week. This information was provided in a fact sheet provided by the Australian Government and which stands correct as of January 10, 2014.

This information and business opportunities at the regional processing centre was relayed to the businessmen and women, and members of the Lae Chamber of Commerce by a team led by Ken Douglas, head of Offshore Detentions and Returns Task Group in the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Education standard tumbles

The National, January 22nd, 2014

THE education standard in East New Britain has dropped, according to an official. Deputy provincial administrator Edward Lamur said in Kerevat, Gazelle district, recently statistics showed that there was only one school in the province that scored above 70% during national examinations while the rest scored below that. Lamur said that indicated that stakeholders needed to do more to improve the standard of education in East New Britain. For Gazelle district, the focus last year was on raising standards in the education sector. This is likely to continue this year. District education officer Panuel Luana said English and Mathematics workshops were held in the district last year to raise the standard of education. He said the district decided that the best way for a child to understand English was through phonics and to learn basic fundamental mathematics.

Is changing the government a solution to corruption in PNG?

FRANCIS S NII http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2014/01/is-changing-the-government-a-solution-to-corruption-in-png.html#more

[An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism – worth reading the whole article – ed.]

IN the last couple of months, there have been deep sentiments for the change of government by political lobbyists and critics, especially in the social media. The underlying raison d’etre is discontent about some of the decisions made by the government. Among a number of decisions alleged to have involved corruption of some sort are the amendments to the Vote of No Confidence Act, the government takeover of the PNG Sustainable Development Program and Ok Tedi Mine, the asylum seekers deal with Australia and, more recently, the awarding of a medical kit supply contract to Borneo Pacific Pharmaceuticals. …

Advocating for change in leadership is a typical Papua New Guinean way of reacting to unpopular policies and allegations of corruption by successive governments and there is nothing wrong with that. ….

Of course there are some good leaders but the system of governance is so flawed that it is like a cobweb that is firmly entrenched and will continue to snare and smear them no matter who becomes the prime minister. Reformation of the entire political culture from electioneering to the formation of government and subsequent active governance will need changes in attitudes to corruption. The biometric electioneering system, tightening of the loopholes in the political party integrity law and establishment of Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) are positive reforms. The full enforcement of these mechanisms and other like reforms will bring about tangible changes to corruption, not changing government.

State put on alert

The National,  January 24th, 2013

AN international organisation is calling on the Government to address police brutality and impunity, plus the continuing violence against women and children. Human Rights Watch highlighted in its annual report published on Tuesday the cases of police brutality in the country last year, including beatings, sexual assaults and fatal shootings, most of which had not been resolved satisfactorily. Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga had earlier said the cases would be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organisations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights and has existed for more than 30 years. It focuses international attention where human rights are violated and gives voice to the oppressed and holds oppressors accountable for their crimes.  The report noted that while some police officers had been arrested for the crimes, no one was convicted last year. “Physical and sexual abuse of detainees – including children – by police and parliamentary police units is widespread,” the report said. “Two years after the UN special rapporteur on torture issued a report on PNG, the government has failed to adequately respond to his recommendations addressing police abuse and impunity.”

The organisation’s director for Asia, Brad Adams said the Government must put a stop to police abuse and punish officers responsible. It highlighted an incident in the National Capital District last year in which police were reported to have slashed the ankles of 74 men with machetes after a street brawl in Port Moresby. The case is pending in court. The report focused on members of the Mobile Squad police units deployed to Manus to help with security issues at the detention centre. It said members of the squad allegedly beat a local man to death on the island. Five members of the squad were said to have been charged with murder but none were convicted last year.  The report said human rights conditions in PNG were poor. “PNG’s significant oil, gas, and gold reserves have continued to fuel strong economic growth, but improving living standards remains a challenge with consistently poor governance and endemic corruption,” it said.

Population at 7.8m

The National, January 24th, 2013

THE country’s population had increased to 7.3 million in 2011 from 5.2 million in 2000, the National Statistics Office says. But National Planning and Monitoring Minister Charles Abel said during the launching of the 2011 national population and housing census report in Port Moresby that the figure today could actually be higher – at 7.8 million.

Minister: Draft legislation on human trafficking

The National, January 24th, 2013

A CABINET minister says human trafficking will not be tolerated and has called on the Constitutional Law Reform Commission to consider drafting legislation against it. Minister for Religion, Youth and Community Development, Loujaya Kouza said she would be taking up the issue of human and sex trafficking in order to eradicate it. Kouza, the Lae MP, said PNG did not have any legislation on human trafficking specifically and the Government should do something about it. “This is an opportune time to have the Constitutional Law Reform Commission look into sex trafficking laws in its most primitive form in our transitional societies and it’s most subtle.” She said it was happening at logging camps and in Lae and Port Moresby nightclubs.

Culture, faith can co-exist

The National,  January 24th, 2013

TRUE Papua New Guineans will deal fairly with matters of faith and culture, Dr Michael Mel says. Dr Mel is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Goroko and a member of the board of trustees and management of the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery. He was strongly against the removal of artistic representation of PNG’s cultural heritage in Parliament House. “To be true Papua New Guineans we must have both culture and faith,” Mel said. “We do not need to disintegrate one from the other.” Mel said the culture of PNG was its identity and should not be defeated by our Christian faith. “If you are from Hela or Madang, you feel there is a sense of belonging through your culture.” Mel said a PNG cultural art found in another country revealed PNG’s culture and not a particular ethnic group. He said people could not talk about being a Papua New Guinean without those cultural icons. “We need a space to show the identity of PNG.” The removal of the cultural artefacts in Parliament meant a space to show our identity and culture had been removed. He said facilities like the National Museum and Art Gallery should be replicated throughout the country to ensure a space for our culture which shows our identity.

Open Letter to the Minister For Education. Hon. James Marabe MP

PNG Blogs. Tuesday, January 14, 2014

[A few sentences included here.  The full text of several pages is worth reading. Ed.]

Dear Minister,

Since  the action taken by the Speaker to remove the work of Art that graced our Parliament, I have tried to rationalised his behaviour and that of a large number of our Population including members of parliament that support him and have come to the conclusion that his action is  grounded in the  real fear of the supernatural and it is a fear shared by a large part of our Populace and  reflects  the lack of a basic scientific understanding  of causes and effect that  influence the natural world we live in. It is the same fear that leads illiterate villagers to burn their womenfolk for belief in sorcery and leads to unnecessary tribal fights where sorcery is belief to be the cause of death.

I have listen to you articulate and speak in the past on major issues that confront our young Nation and would like to think that among the chaos that surround us today you will emerge as the rational voice of the future and that through your leadership PNG can address the rise of  religious bigotry and to uphold the secular nature of our constitution and more importantly for you to uphold the freedoms that today form a significant part of our constitution  including the Freedom of Religious worship.

I suspect that mainline mission agency schools in particular may be the weak link in a science based education for our children and implore you to request Bishops of mainline churches in particular to articulate a theology based on a coexistence of science and religion and to ensure that Children in their schools and Trainee teachers in particular in their teachers colleges are schooled in and  appreciate the coexistence of ethical Science on the one hand and matters religious based on faith on the other to avoid and put an end to religious bigotry in our country. Religious bigotry as you are aware is based on arrogance, dogma and ignorance built around  misguided absolute truth.

This view is held by many of our elected leaders today. It is not malicious and they mean well albeit misguided. History through the millennia has demonstrated again and again that the biggest destabilising force second only to the war on resources has been wars based on religious faith and dogma. Even today in villages around   PNG , Christian sects are fighting among themselves and dividing our communities on the issue on what day should be kept holy as Sabbath or the role of Mary in liturgy. Overseas the fight between the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland continues unabated while wars currently raging in Syria and Southern Sudan are religious in nature. More and more the role of secular leaders to negotiate peace and goodwill among disputing parties becomes the more easier if leaders are mindful of their roles and do not take sides is religious disputes over Dogma.

PNG must be look out for the religiously sly that have in recent time ingratiate themselves onto Politicians in the hope of enriching themselves by selling outdated dogmas to leaders such as the one that says leadership is divine and ordained by God and to expose them to this heresy . Many of these people have in recent times obtained land for religious purposes but are quick to convert  these track of land for personal gain.

Finally, there is another reason for the need to aggressive increase a science based education reform in our education system and that is the need to prime the country economically to drive the economy post the mineral and Oil and gas boom. I sincerely hope that as Minister for Finance and Education we can count on you to grab the horn of religious bigotry and put an end to this insidious cancer that if not addressed now will come back to haunt us.

Gabriel Ramoi

[Social concerns notes have been sent out for 3 years now.  The archive may be found at  http://tokstret.com.    Perhaps it is time now to develop further to other forms of education or advocacy at both national and “grass-roots” level?”  Ideas welcome.  Philip Gibbs SVD (ed) ]

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