Social Concerns Notes – September 2014

First PNG Children Website In The Making

By Sr Mary Claude Gadd – Madang

The Catholic Children’s Ministry PNG was created by the Catholic Bishops of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands at their Annual General Meeting of April 2013 in Madang. That was the time when they asked Sr Mary Claude Gadd  to further develop the children’s ministry in the Church. Soon it will have its own website: www.CatholicChildren’

Sr. Mary Claude, you are not young anymore, but you are taking the children’s ministry to the internet. Where did that idea come from?

From the Holy Spirit!  And it’s true, I’m not 21 anymore, but I am young at heart!  And also if we want to evangelize the world, then we have to go where it is and most of it is on the internet! I think it was Pope Francis who said we must go where the sheep are and we know that many sheep spend a lot of time on the internet.  The new website shall feature and showcase to the world Catholic activities being carried out in PNG on behalf of our most vulnerable children.

Apparently there is not much being done for children in Papua New Guinea outside the traditional schools our Church has always provided.

It’s not true! Thus far I have identified close to twenty (20) special Programs being carried out across PNG by Catholic individuals or organizations on behalf of disadvantaged and needy children. We plan to update the website regularly with opportunities for everyone to send in new stories and photos of recent activities.  Once this website is up and running all of us can make reference to it, where people can see what we are doing to help build a child-safe Papua New Guinea.  And by the way, we also hope to eventually link the website with Facebook and Twitter so many more can see what God is doing in PNG!

Are the current Catholic activities for children’s welfare well distributed around Papua New Guinea?

Yes, I would say so. They’re mostly present in the bigger cities though I am confident we will eventually find some meaningful programs in many smaller places as well. In Port Moresby, for example, we have Fr. John Glynn’s We care! Foundation (for Women and Children at Risk) and the Sacred Heart Brothers’Program, Save our Children and Youth (SOCAY). In Lae, Fr. Arnold Schmitt runs a Program for Street Children; in Mt. Hagen Mercy Works has the “Taxi Boys” Program. In Kundiawa Dr Fr Jan Jaworski, MD, has St. Bernadette’s Hospital School for school age patients. The ambulatory young patients attend classes every day; the bedridden one have the teachers come to their bedside.  Callan Services operates in several dioceses caring for children who are differently abled.  All over PNG through our Health Centres and VCTS, Sr. Tarcisia Hunhoff, ssps, directs the Mother to Child HIV/AIDS Transmission Prevention Program as well care for children affected and infected with HIV/AIDS; Fr. Valentine Gryk, SVD, from Goroka,  directs the Missionary Childhood Program and the Missionaries of Charity in different parts of PNG are running a new Catechesis Program for Early Childhood aged children.  Many of our parishes have Junior Legion of Mary Programs as well as Sunday School Programs for young children.  One of our Catholic Secondary Schools has a Peer Education Program against HIV/AIDS called Warriors of Hope.  Fifteen (15) of our dioceses have two or more Diocesan Child Protection Officers (DCPOs) who work tirelessly to educate the public on Lukautim Pikinini Act 2009, on Child Abuse and the Rights of Children. In the near future we shall be training some 600 Parish Child Protection Volunteers.  They will help the DCPOs to educate the public and create in the local communities a protective environment for our children. On the drawing board for the Archdiocese of Mt Hagen is a new family home for abandoned and neglected children. What emerges from all this is a portrait of the “integrated human development” of the most vulnerable members of our society. There is a lot going on, but there is a lot more to be done yet.  For example, there is the alarmingly high number of abandoned babies in our hospitals and other health care facilities, the displaced victims of sorcery especially children, children with disabilities or mental health problems needing skilled caregivers, the Disaster Risk Reduction in high risk areas such as mining and primary industries and finally how to salvage from further harm the young children already engaged in the sex industry of Night Clubs in Port Moresby.

TB a huge burden for children

Post Courier, September 02,2014

TUBERCULOSIS (TB) is a huge burden for children, says Dr William Lagani, the Health Department’s manger for family health services. He told the symposium that in 10 provincial hospitals last year there were a total of 2455 children admitted with tuberculosis, with 268 known deaths, and a case fatality rate of 10.9 percent. Dr Lagani said childhood TB reflected the high transmission rate of TB in the community, the impact of HIV epidemic on TB cases and urban poverty. Pulmonary TB and TB meningitis contribute substantially to high rates of child mortality, malnutrition and impaired neurological and cognitive development.

Progress in child TB will require better links between the National TB program and child health.

He said suggested some measures for that were needed to address TB burden. He said there was a need for a Health Department policy of keeping patients in hospital for the full duration of their intensive phase treatment whenever feasible. Anther measure was to have TB Outreach nurses follow patients from hospital wards to home and supervise their care, and ensuring TB drug was available in all health centres.

Dr Lagani called for the training of health workers on child TB management, through the hospital care for children course, ensuring the availability of tuberculin solution in hospitals, and introduction of GeneX-pert testing in more provincial hospitals.

Symposium reveals cancer burden in PNG

Post Courier, September 01, 2014

THE medical symposium in Goroka has heard that the country’s cancer burden has reached unacceptable levels and needs addressing at the primary level and not only at the secondary and tertiary levels. “By the time we refer a patient to the tertiary level most of the time it is only for palliative treatment. They usually will not survive, “says CEO of Kimbe General Hospital Dr Victor Golpak. “Our cancer mortality rates are not accurate because the majority of our cancer patients are discharged to die at home.” Furthermore, the majority of these patients present at the point of definitive treatment too late, for various reasons such as lack of access to a health institution, failure of a primary health worker to recognize the disease, failure of a hospital worker to recognize the disease, failure of the system to allow prompt referral to an appropriate specialist, failure of the system to provide necessary resources to properly investigate and treat affected patients, failure of the patient to recognize his or her own problem, especially if there is no pain.

Dr Golpak said primary health includes awareness and risk communication to all levels of the community. It also includes properly managed programs like active screening for risk factors and detection of early lesions, and also prevention programs as in immunization against causative agents.

“In PNG we do not have a formal cancer screening service to pick up early lesions of common cancers that are treatable if detected early,”

Officers to stand trial

The National, Tuesday September 2nd, 2014

 SIX police officers have been committed to stand trial in the National Court over their alleged involvement in the brutal treatment of a group of men in Port Moresby last year. 
Waigani Committal Court magistrate Cosmas Bidar ruled that there was enough evidence to commit them to stand trial in the higher court. 
Bidar extended the police officers’ bail and ordered them to appear in the National Court on October 6 for listings. 
The officers were charged with 44 counts of armed robbery and 31 counts of unlawful wounding. 
It related to an incident that occurred at 8-Mile on May 26 last year involving 75 men from Morobe who were returning from a peace mediation ceremony when they were allegedly assaulted by the officers.
Bidar said there were no evidence that the Morobe men were armed and approaching another group of men for a fight.
Bidar said the Public Prosecutor could make an independent decision as per his powers under the Criminal Code whether to present an indictment in court or not. 
Justice David Cannings had earlier invoked Section 57 of the Constitution and commenced proceedings by way of an inquiry to make findings on the details of the allegations and determine how serious and genuine they were.
Cannings then declared that the allegations arising from the incident were extremely serious and genuine.

For a lengthy article on violence against women, see the url below

PNG jacks up & Australia backs off sending refugees to Manus 02 September 2014

AUSTRALIA has decided not to send any more asylum seekers to Manus Island in what appears to be a response to the Papua New Guinea government’s reluctance to resettle refugees on its soil.

Three months ago Australian prime minister Tony Abbott announced that asylum seekers would be resettled in PNG, but – showing characteristic ‘drift’ – the O’Neill government did not respond to the decision. The PNG government has remained mute on their resettlement. Now controversial Australian immigration minister Scott Morrison (pictured) has ordered that asylum seekers be sent to Nauru. The ‘PNG Solution’ has turned out to be a particularly nasty piece of Australian public policy and a source of great shame for many Australians. Originally nutted out between Kevin Rudd and Peter O’Neill, the policy resulted in the death of an asylum seeker, the injuring of scores more  and psychological and physical damage to many others.Despite this lamentable track record, Mr Morrison claims success for his policy. There are presently 1,084 asylum seekers on Manus.

Asylum seekers on Manus Island sent to isolation units

Post Courier, September 04,2014

Leaked security reports from Manus Island describe frequent self-harm, suicide attempts and the use of isolated confinement at the Australian-run detention facility for asylum seekers.

They report that “major incidents” are happening almost every day at the centre, including fights between detainees, attacks against guards, self-harm and suicide attempts.  The leaked documents are daily security and intelligence reports from July obtained by refugee advocates Humanitarian Research Partners (HRP) and shared with media. In the most serious case of self-harm reported, a man cut himself with a razor, requiring 20 stitches to his chest and refusing treatment for two long cuts to his head. The report said the asylum seeker had recently been told he could not voluntarily return to his home country because he was a witness to the killing of Reza Barati in February and had to stay on Manus Island until the investigation was complete.

“Due to this, [he] has been on whisky watch since 26 July,” said the report. Whisky watch is the term used at the centre for monitoring asylum seekers showing mental health problems, and can be every three hours, every 30 minutes or constant observation. HRP said an average of 14 asylum seekers were placed on whisky watch each day.

The reports show that at the end of July there were 18 asylum seekers staying in Australia and six staying in Port Moresby out of the total 1,145 men considered part of the Manus Island detainees.

Several asylum seekers have been transferred to Australia for serious medical treatment, but it is not clear why so many others have been moved off Manus Island.

Morrison: Refugee resettlement program faces Problem

Post Courier, September 11, 2014

Story Courtesy of Radio Australia Australia Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says there are still major problems with the refugee resettlement arrangements in Papua New Guinea. PNG authorities have begun assessing the asylum seekers on Manus Island to determine their refugee status but so far, no one has been resettled into the community. Mr Morrison said the former Labor government ignored the political and practical difficulties of resettling refugees in PNG when it reopened the centre in November 2012. “Offshore processing and resettlement has been implemented. However, this has not been without challenges,” he said in a National Press Club address on Wednesday. “There remain difficult and frustrating problems with Papua New Guinea in relation to the resettlement program there. “Kevin Rudd and Tony Burke signed over $430 million in taxpayers’ funds in additional aid and infrastructure to the PNG government as part of what I described as a panicked announcement before the last election. “And in return, there was a blank sheet of paper.”

School Fights: A Wound left unattended Festers and Kills

By Scott Waide, PNG Blogs, Thursday, September 4, 2014

Last Sunday, another  teenager, a student at Bumayong Secondary school died at Lae’s Angau hospital from severe knife wounds he sustained in another unnecessary clash between students.

The foolishness of students who succumb to peer pressure is inexcusable. But the ignorance of parents and education authorities of the  root causes behind the ongoing school fights is unforgivable.

Three months ago, education authorities  along with stakeholders in the Lae community met to discuss possible solutions  to the school fights.  I attended  as an observer of the proceedings.

I could not take the jeers  and  sarcasm  displayed by older  members in the meeting who downplayed the organizational structures of the school based group responsible for the violence.

I felt the need to stand up in the crowd, uninvited, and vent on the unsuspecting senior members attending the meeting. Why do you  joke about student  organizational structures that have become more powerful than school administrations?  Why do you find it funny that  key members of the groups carry titles like “Right Hit man” and “Left Hit man” or “the President?”

Is it amusing that  three teenagers have died  so far since 2012 from school fights?

School  authorities in Lae remain tightlipped this week  over measures they’re taking as a result of ongoing school fights. Bumayong secondary School has been closed since  Monday. Meanwhile, formal classes at Bugandi – another school  that witnessed the death of a student – are not being conducted. Students at Bugandi  Secondary are currently taking school work home as a means to discourage organized school fights. School authorities  and those who have done studies on the problem say “it’s a sensitive issue and information can’t released.” I say: “a wound that is covered and left unattended  festers and  kills”

More than an education: How Marlene’s vision became a reality 04 September 2014. Marlene Dee Gray Potoura

I STARTED Sylbeez Hive Learning Centre, four years ago. I began with 15 students and, as I write, there are over 160 students enrolled. My son Martin was born with a medical condition known as Hypospadias. As he grew, I started to worry when I realised there were no schools here in Lae set up comfortably with clean toilets to cater for young children aged 3 to 10 year old. Of course there are expatriate private learning centres, but the fees are something like K10,000 a year – far too high for working class Papua New Guineans. With a vision that seemed impossible, I took the challenge and resigned from my position as deputy principal of the Lae Salvation Army Primary School. It was a heart-tearing when, unexpectedly, half of my finishing pay was deducted for tax. I was down-hearted and worried. But the vision was fresh and growing in my mind and I enquired about the vacant Lions Hall and wrote a letter to the President asking to let me use it to run a learning centre for Papua New Guinean children. I asked him to give me a grace period of two months to collect fees and pay the rent. Thankfully he agreed. That’s how I started this school, believing in myself with a determination to create a comfortable learning environment so my son and other children could attend a school that was conducive to their needs. Since then, I have turned this school into a Progressive and Reading School, monitoring the progress of each child every day from classroom learning to playing outside, toilet use, eating lunches, just about everything they do. I teach Alpha Phonics in Preparatory and Grade 1 plus enrichment classes three times a day for children who need to catch up with their letter sounds, word blending and reading. At the end of Grade 1, the children read well and go on to Grade 2. It is a tiring, busy and demanding job, but I find it fulfilling and rewarding at the end of the year when we successfully commend and award outstanding students. Some parents have even asked me how I can handle being the school bus driver, teacher, principal etc and I say it is a commitment and I truly enjoy what I do. In addition I have 16 staff including teachers, a housekeeping matron, a canteen manager, a driver and a cook. My son Martin is in Grade 4 now and during that time Professor Paddy Dewan, a urologist, has repaired the congenital problem he was born with and he is now ready to attend another school next year to do Grade 5.

‘Ill-minded’ people cause health centre to close

The National, Friday September 5th, 2014

A MAN who forced himself onto a woman who had just delivered her baby and another man who suckled at the breast of a breast-feeding mother were among offences that led to the closure of the Bogia Health Centre two weeks ago. 
Director for Madang Provincial Health Markus Kachau revealed these at a press conference yesterday, saying that Bogia people’s ill-minded behaviour had forced the temporary closure of the centre.
He said intruders from nearby villages at Bogia Station entered the health centre and sexually harassed female health workers, patients and their guardians.
Kachau said a sick-minded man entered the health centre some weeks back and forced himself onto a woman who just delivered her baby.
“Another female guardian was fast asleep when a man suckled at her breast and finished her baby’s feed.” 
Kachau said another man went into all the wards and rooms inside the health centre and helped himself to medicines that were kept in cupboards. He filled his bag with them and took off.
He said patients and health workers had been threatened with knives.
“Just weeks ago, a man yelled at a female health worker to go out so he could have sex with her. 
“There is no security at the centre and the Health Department could be sued for the assaults and other offences there,” Kachau said.

Negative Growth Forecasted for Solomon Islands

Solomon Times, Tuesday, 2 September 2014 1:20 PM

The ANZ’s latest Pacific Economic Quarterly has reduced growth expectations from 2.8 per cent to negative 1.5 per cent. It is the first time Solomon Islands has experienced negative economic growth since the global financial crisis in 2009. ANZ’s Economist Dan Wilson says the suspension of mining at Gold Ridge is partly to blame for the revised forecast. Minister of Finance Rick Hou acknowledged that the impact of the recent flooding has had a negative impact on government’s budget and growth forecasts. “The impact of the floods not only affected the government’s budget, it also caused huge damages to the Guadalcanal Plains Plantation and Gold Ridge, two key revenue earners for the government,” the Minister of Finance said in Parliament. Local economists say that the government needs to recognize that with our narrow economic base the impact of such disasters will always be severe.

While tourism is certainly an area worth pursuing, the government still lacks proper policies in relation to other sectors such as agriculture. “In all developing economies the trajectory begins with its agriculture, if we have a proper policy in place – based on sound research and planning – we could grow this sector and diversify our export base.”

Advantages and disadvantages of privatisation in PNG and the PNG Power controversy

PNG Blogs, Monday, September 15, 2014

Privatisation first reared its head in PNG with the demise of the government owned Papua New Guinea Banking Corporation.  Its landmark Port Moresby headquarters still shows the PNG traditional art forms and icons that around the time of independence we proudly displayed as evidence of our unique culture, but nowdays allow elected fools such as Theo Zureonuc and Loujaya Kousa label as satanic. PNGBC was the bank of the people with the goal of service, not profit. We now have BSP in its place. BSP is majority owned by private shareholders and its profit since 2012 has grown at rates of 10-25% each year, leading to the 2013 result of nearly K437 million.   That’s not income, it is profit and a hell of a lot of money by PNG standards. Divided up amongst every single person living in PNG, from baby up to papa na mama, each one would have received K62 for 2013.

I personally support the strike actions of PNG Power employees.  We must not let foreign investors take another essential government service and turn it into a profit generating machine, of which most profits will transfer overseas. If we have to suffer power shortages as a result of strike actions, don’t blame the power workers.  Instead blame the government for its callous disregard for the general welfare and its fixation on making money for the privileged few. The provision of electricity should never be based on profit.  Throughout the world, electricity has become almost as essential as health care, education, and water. Economical electricity is the only way to encourage more people to remain in rural areas and develop the land. The traditional role of government is never to make business. The purpose of government is to protect the people and provide basic services to all by equitably sharing the revenue it generates.  Government is obligated to serve villagers as much as it serves those living in towns and cities.  Everyone should benefit from government services simply because they are citizens. Under no circumstances should poorer people be penalised.  It is morally wrong. In PNG, government businesses have been the gateway to widespread looting of revenues and increasing corruption. Privatising a State Owned Enterprise to get away from this problem only creates new ones.  Once a government service provider is privatised, moral obligations to serve all citizens, even the most disadvantaged, tend to disappear. Private companies in PNG have no legal obligation to maintain service. They are free to make as much profit as they can, no matter how it affects the poor.

Lack of info on women’s cancer ‘big tragedy’

The National, 24th of September, 2014

CANCER is affecting an increasing number of women in PNG due to a lack of information, awareness and treatment, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist Dr Mathias Sapuri says.
Speaking at a press conference in Port Moresby yesterday, Sapuri said limited number of checkups and Pap smear tests for cervical cancer and lack of proper equipment for screening, testing, monitoring and detecting symptoms had contributed to the increase.
Statistics show that more than 1800 Papua New Guinea women died from cancer every year due to late diagnosis and unawareness.
“About 5000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. Women must screen and have access to services that are available,” Sapuri said.
He said common and prominent cancer of the mouth, breast and cervical cancer were treatable diseases once they were identified and treated quickly.
Early diagnosis was the best solution to prevent the spread of cancer, he said

Domestic violence ‘a concern’

The National, 24th of September, 2014

DOMESTIC violence has become a major concern in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, a magistrate says.
Magistrate Bruce Tasikul said a lot of women had been seeking protection orders from the Buka district court.
He said domestic violence in Bougainville was no different to any other part of the country.
“It is a pressing issue here and most of the cases are related to partners,” he said. 
“We have had a lot of victims seeking protection orders from the court against their spouses.”
Tasikul said there were some men seeking protection orders against their wives although not too many. 
He said there were some cases involving sexual violence against children which were referred to police. 
“Let me be honest to say that there is an increase both in sexual violence and domestic violence cases in the region but many of these cases are not reported,” Tasikul said.
According to records at the Buka district court, 31 cases came through the court on women seeking protections orders last year and 17 so far this year.
He said some cases had to be withdrawn when the complainants failed to appear in court. 
“On a weekly basis, we have around two to three cases. The most valuable age group is between 25 and 40. But there are some below that age group.” 
He said with the new Family Protection Act in operation, victims have the option to lay criminal charges against their spouse and at the same time seek protection orders from the court.

John Momis shirtfronts Jubilee Australia over “biased report”

BOUGAINVILLE president Dr John Momis has strongly rebuked the Jubilee Australia organisation for claiming that opposition to re-opening the Panguna copper and gold mine is “near universal”.

On its website, Jubilee Australia says its mission is to “promote accountability for the causes of poverty and injustice in the Asia Pacific” and “elevate the voice of affected communities”.

Earlier this year it conducted a survey of 65 people in the Panguna area and has just published a report entitled Voices of Bougainville.

In a letter, Dr Momis calls the report “factually inaccurate, biased, methodologically unsound and dishonest in claiming that interviews with 65 individuals selected by its authors allows it to represent the voices of 300,000 Bougainvilleans.”

Dr Momis added that these failures “have been compounded by even more inaccurate public statements about the Report and its findings made by Jubilee Chief Executive, Brynnie Goodwill.”

He said that many of the “grave errors in the report could have been avoided had those involved in the work simply consulted the elected and representative Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).”

“The most fundamental and also dishonest aspect of the Jubilee research,” Dr Momis said, “is to claim, as it does in the title, to represent Voices of Bougainville.

Initiative to tackle youth cults

The National, Monday September 15th, 2014

LAE Secondary School students took a new approach called Connect group involving parents and professionals to address school fights and cult activities.
Enoch Joseph and his family invited 60 male students to Fernridge Estate at 10-Mile and discussed a series of positive steps, including self-discipline topics, led by deputy principal Albert Sabok.
The Connect group was set up to rehabilitate students involved in inter-school fights and cult activities. 
It has four components in its rehabilitation programme:
Connecting students with God’s word which pastors and Christian professionals in various private and government sectors were invited to preach to them;
mentoring from professional Christians;
teaching students academic skills and,
Involving students in projects, mainly awareness.
The ‘God’s Love Project’ initiated requires parents of the students and families to invite other students to their home to share foods and drinks with them.
In the process, the host family shows love and care for other students to change them so that they can become friends with “enemies”.

Corruption sullies emergence of PNG to mature nationhood   15 September 2014 Keith Jackson

TOMORROW Papua New Guinea celebrates 39 years of nationhood. The report card indicates that, particularly in terms of the quality of governance, those have been very mixed years.

On the plus side, PNG remains a robust democracy with regular hard fought elections and a press, perhaps not as vibrant as it once was, still capable of holding government to account when it wants to.

And PNG has been spectacularly fortunate with its resources – ‘an island of gold, floating in a sea of oil, surrounded by gas’ as it is often expressed. But it has been spectacularly unfortunate in not having the politicians and public officials to ensure the ensuing benefits are spread equitably amongst the people. Corruption and inefficiency dog PNG and, while the private wealth of a select few soars, most social indicators show diminishing outcomes for almost everyone else. Recently sacked Attorney-General Kerenga Kua is considered one of the small group of PNG politicians who are either not corrupt or who do not tolerate corruption.

In an interview last week he both hit out at corruption in government and accused prime minister Peter O’Neill and his cohorts of actively suppressing efforts to fight corruption. Mr Kua, who represents the Simbu electorate of Sinasina-Yongomugl, was a lawyer for 25 years and president of the PNG Law Society before entering parliament. He was speaking to Radio New Zealand International about the government severing the pay of Sam Koim, head of anti-corruption unit Investigative Taskforce Sweep. Mr Koim was sacked (only to be reinstated by the courts) after investigating alleged massive illegal state payments to a law firm and, in connection with this, had successfully sought an arrest warrant against Mr O’Neill. “Look, if we are serious, if we want the country and the Pacific region – if we want the international community who are all our development partners – to believe our political rhetoric, we must allow the Sweep team to do its job and nobody must interfere.” …But there was no explanation of why this had happened despite an order from the National Court preventing the disbandment of Task Force Sweep and reinstating its funding.

And what malevolent venality and cynical abuse of the people of PNG for a self-seeking few to take advantage of the unsophistication of the majority of their countrymen, who then pay the price – in deteriorating education, health and infrastructure – for monstrous exploitation by their government.

WeCare fair a success

Post Courier, September 17,2014

PEOPLE turned up in droves to attend a fair recently in support of a non-profit organisation involved in supporting vulnerable people in Port Moresby.

WeCARe had a day-long fair to raise funds to buy a building or land on which an office can be built. The fair, hailed a success, was held at Hohola Youth Development Centre at Oak Street, Hohola. Organisers said this is the first fundraising for this cause. There will be others later. “This is just the start and we hope more people and corporate houses will join us in the near future.’’

WeCARe was started in Port Moresby and currently operates at the Lasalle Hohola Youth Development Centre which is too small for its staff with no storage room or space for large donations that WeCARe receives in containers to distribute to vulnerable people that it supports in settlements and suburbs in Port Moresby. WeCARE stands for The Foundation for Women and Children At Risk and relies on donations to operate.

Measles cases surpass 800, number could be higher

Solomon Star, 10 September 2014

It is hard to know the pain and discomfort three month-old Peter*(real name not given) is going through. But just looking at the rash all over his body gives you an idea. Peter is among many children infected with measles and admitted at the National Referral Hospital in Honiara, Solomon Islands. A special measles ward has been set up to deal with a terrible outbreak. But it is not big enough and dozens of children have to be placed somewhere else along the emergency unit, either on a bed in the corridor or on the floor. Others have to be taken back home since there is simply no space for them.

 Since the outbreak began in July, two children under 3 months old have died due to measles related complications. Almost 800 cases of measles have been reported to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services Surveillance Unit and with measles being a very infectious disease,and not all cases being reported, the Ministry reckons the real number could be in the thousands.

Measles cases have been reported in Malaita, Guadalcanal, Isabel, Western, Temotu and Renbel Province. The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is conducting a special mass vaccination campaign, to include everyone from 6 months to 30 years of age across the country.

In addition to the hardworking nurses, doctors and other health care workers who are doing their best to both prevent and treat cases, others are working behind the scenes.

Papua New Guineans in Philippines are rowdy, drunkards, and backward thinking

PNG Blogs. Tuesday, September 23, 2014 By Frank Malilong. Sun Star Newspaper, Cebu.

ONE early morning in the first week of June, last year, TV reporter Jinky Bargio chanced upon a group of rowdy foreigners near the old Rustan’s in Gen. Maxilom Avenue. When she saw the men throw bottles onto the street, stop passing vehicles and harass the drivers, Jinky knew she had a good story and got out of their vehicle. Soon they were recording the commotion. When they saw what Jinky and her crew were doing, the men took umbrage and attempted to confiscate the camera. Fortunately, the police arrived just in time to avert a confrontation between the TV crew and the foreigners who were later identified as Papua New Guineans. They were drunk. And apparently it was not their first brush with the law because when they arrived at the Fuente Police station, one of the policemen blurted, “it’s you again?”

In fact, there have been so many cases of Papua New Guineans, most of whom are enrolled in Cebu schools, being arrested for breach of the peace. In all these cases, they had one drink too many.

The first recorded case was that of Benedict Penini who struck a taxi driver with a stone outside the gate of the Maria Luisa Estate Park on Sept. 9, 2012. The drunken Penini had just had a fight with another Papua New Guinean when he spotted the driver and vented his ire on the poor guy. It took a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team to subdue Penini, who later complained that the cops used excessive force on him. In 2013, two weeks after the Bargio incident, another drunken Papua New Guinean was arrested by the police for causing trouble inside a bar on A.S. Fortuna St., Bakilid in Mandaue. Jason Lokani was bloodied when the police arrived, courtesy of two unidentified men who resented the former’s breaking the bottles and hit him on the head with a stone.

Just as 2013 was ending, another group of Papua New Guineans were arrested after they brawled outside the National Bookstore in Gen. Maxilom Avenue. Jason Kerepa, Emmanuel Nagopi Naemon, Israel Wanqana Warraqo and Nigel Gwingin Dondo were booked for drunkenness and were released from jail only after paying a fine.

In April, this year, Elizah Norman, Pilol Kuman, Andi Takon and Mulea Opa Homs were arrested, again for causing trouble inside a bar where they had been drinking since 3 a.m. One of them allegedly showed his genitals to a female customer, who left the bar obviously in shock along with a male companion. Still not contented, Homs allegedly threw a bottle at another customer, causing an ugly gash on his forehead. A companion of the customer retaliated by stabbing Homs. When the police arrived, the Papua New Guineans ran away but were caught near the gate of the Sto. Niño Village while arguing with the village security guard.

Then last Saturday, Gary Nigel Chrich was arrested after he allegedly punched a bar employee in (again!) Gen. Maxilom Avenue. When the police arrived and tried to subdue him, the fellow resisted and punched the neck of one of them. As you must have guessed, Chrich is from Papua New Guinea (Port Moresby) and tested positively for alcohol.

I am not trying to stereotype Papua New Guineans but I cannot help but notice that while they’re relatively few, they seem to have the most cases of brushes with the law, compared with other foreigners. The Papua New Guineans in Cebu are fun-seeking and are otherwise well-behaved when they are sober. When they get drunk, however, the behavior changes dramatically.

Government funding to churches is wrong & can compromise   24 September 2014.   Paulus Ripa

THE recent announcement that prime minister Peter O’Neill donated several millions of kina – public money – towards the construction of the Catholic Cathedral in Mt Hagen leaves me with many misgivings. Whilst it may be a relief for thousands of Catholics in Western Highlands and Jiwaka provinces, it is wrong for the Church to accept donations from the government.

Firstly, over the last couple of hundred years the development of liberal democracy has seen the definition of roles of church and state to be separate. History has shown that when church and state are intertwined there develops intolerance, ecclesiastical corruption and oppression of minorities who do not profess the faith of the ruling religion. This is making a comeback in fundamentalist Muslim states now.

Second, government funds are clearly for designated secular purposes, and building churches or making donations to church groups are not right and proper. It can be rightfully construed as misuse of public funds.

Third, and most importantly, the church has always been an independent conscience and bulwark for what is right and what is wrong. In many developing nations, e.g. in South America, the church has consistently been the only opposition to dictatorial and oppressive regimes which have often been backed by powerful nations of the West as well as the communist bloc. In PNG, where there is no effective political opposition, the churches should be more vocal in issues where a powerful government is railroading policies and actions through parliament which are ill thought through and of great detriment to the nation. In such circumstances the churches are compromised by government funding for projects which really should be funded by the churchgoers themselves. The bishops have been bought and they dare not utter anything against the government of the day.

I confine my arguments to the Catholic Church because I am a Catholic and I will, of course, personally contribute to the Mt Hagen Cathedral construction. I imagine that other churches, particularly those which are not mainstream, may have fewer scruples about taking a stand against the presence of what one writer called “structural evil” (Ronald Sider in Rich Christians in a Hungry World). What can be funded by government are social services provided by the churches such as schools, clinics and hospitals, services for the disabled and the poor and so on. But such contributions must follow rules of proper accountability. The Catholic Church has a distinguished role in providing these services and, due to its outstanding performance in accountability, has been the major recipient of funding from sources such as the Incentive Fund. Funding support for these activities in the public good needs to be continued and expanded as, in many instances such as health services, the church is the only reliable provider in rural and remote areas. However the church should not lose sight of its primary role of evangelisation, part of which includes the role of defender of the poor, the dispossessed and the oppressed.

Dr Paulus Ripa is a paediatrician and teaches at the University of PNG School of Medicine

 Church must always be free to influence the public sphere 27 September 2014. Archbishop Douglas Young SVD

I appreciate Dr Paulus Ripa’s comment in PNG Attitude and as a product, even something of a victim, of a western secular ‘liberal’, democracy with a fairly strict division between church and state, I agree with him entirely. I say a victim because, for most of my childhood, the State did not assist my education because I was in a Catholic school and the burden was carried by my parents with considerable stress on our family income.

The Papua New Guinea Catholic Bishops Conference has consistently maintained that the State should adequately budget for and fund the areas for which it is responsible: roads, communication, civil infrastructure, education, health, security, law and order. If the State adequately supported the economic infrastructure, and generated employment, our people could earn their own money and freely contribute for religious and other purposes. We know from history that the Church is at its strongest when it is entirely supported by the generosity of its members. Whenever it is dependent on the State it is at risk.

However we have to admit that this is not the popular view of our constituents. If they could articulate their position in these terms they might say that the Western liberal approach is dualist whereas the Melanesian Way avoids unnecessary and non-traditional distinctions between the secular and the religious. Thus, in the view of the majority of Papua New Guineans, politicians and public servants can and should be explicitly motivated by their faith and the churches should receive public funding. Our people tell us “the money is ours”.

We would also not argue for a strict division as in the USA or Australia because, as Dr Ripa, says, we must always be free to influence the public sphere. At the same time we have to be accountable to the wider community, not only financially but morally also.

The argument of our fund raising committee has been that the State has failed to contribute adequately to the services that Dr Ripa has mentioned: health and education, and related social services.

For 80 years the Catholic Church has been providing these services. They see the Kina for Kina contribution of the State as “catching up “with what is owed.

I admit that I for one was surprised and possibly a little embarrassed by the size of the prime minister’s pledge. This may have been influenced by the fact that the project is not simply a cathedral but also a home for Triniti FM radio station, the beginnings of a conference centre and a venue for large scale public events of a religious or civic nature, all integrated with long-term plans for the development of Rebiamul Field, including parking. Some of the funding will certainly go to aspects that are normally taken care of by public authorities such as road, power, and communication connections, water supply and drainage.

Sometimes I hear politicians talk about “tithing”, i.e., giving 10% of public funds to the churches. I am one who is opposed to this. For one, I think tithing is an Old Testament idea and the New Testament idea is to give according to ability. Also if the churches have 40% of education and health care surely they should be getting 40% of the funding for these sectors! This is not the case. If the State merely followed its statutory obligations to those churches providing services, and withdrew some of the onerous taxation burden, we would be able to take care of our spiritual and pastoral services quite adequately. Currently much of our limited income and resources goes towards providing services which are the obligation of the State.

The danger of being bought is very real. We will have to see whether this happens in Mt Hagen! On the other hand, some people maintain that the only way to bring about change is to be part of the process and not standing outside it with a holier than thou attitude.

Generally people seem to appreciate the stand of the Catholic Church on social issues especially corruption and the care for rural areas. I doubt if this will stop. If it does, then please let us know.

We are currently attempting to respond to another area where the State is failing badly: the care for vulnerable children especially orphans. This requires both a sharp public criticism of this failure and a willingness to work along with those who are in a position to do something.

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