A love letter to PNG, where it was my destiny to be born
MY motherland, I am writing this letter on the eve of Christmas to let you know how much I love and appreciate you. This time of the year reminds us of what we should be thankful for and of what love is really all about.Often times we argue so much about what is wrong and right and how it’s supposed to be done nowadays but at the end of the day, you are family, you give me my identity and I find my comfort in your coarse gruffness which conceals a heart so fiercely loyal to me.
At times I pine for things other nations can offer their children and am ashamed to admit that in my youth I’ve oft rued the fact that destiny saw fit to make me a Papua New Guinean.
But as I have grown and experienced what life has had to offer – as opportunities have allowed me to visit other countries and cultures; I have discovered that no one is perfect and even the most ideal of situations have their faults. Looking back I realise the privilege of growing up as a Papua New Guinean and the unique traits that helped create my identity.
Nowhere else on earth can I find a family so diverse and realise the feat it takes to congregate hundreds of nations into the single entity known as PNG and to keep it functioning.individual identities are not smothered but like jigsaw puzzles are being pieced together to complete a picture. How this picture will turn out, only God knows. ….. [See the url above for the complete article….]
2016 saw a lot of achievements in combating Gender Based Violence
Post Courier, December 31, 2016
SOME of the greatest achievements in getting gender based violence to zero tolerance by 2050 have happened this year (2016) alone. Despite the argument that gender-based violence is prevalent in the country and a growing epidemic, collaborative and extensive efforts by many stakeholders to address this issue continues to grow. This year has seen some fruits of the hard work from the Youth, Religion and Community Development (implementing department), Department of Justice and Attorney General, UNICEF, UNDP, UN Women, Family Sexual Violence Action Committee, academia, faith-based organisations and other relevant Non- Government Organisations.
Only recently the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence (2016 -2025) was approved by Cabinet last Thursday. It aims to strengthen and institutionalise the work on GBV in order to achieve zero-tolerance towards GBV as per Papua New Guinea’s Vision 2050.
The strategy captures four key objectives;
- To ensure long-term ongoing high level national and sub- national government commitment and accountability to end GBV aligned with the PNG Development Plan, Papua New Guinea Vision 2050 and with the Sustainable Development Goals 2016-2030.
- To standardise and institutionalise data collection, and facilitate ongoing in-depth research to support evidence based planning, budgeting and programming to end gender based violence.
- To ensure quality, continuity and sustainability of coordinated responses, referrals and service delivery for survivors of gender based violence, and
- To scale-up, decentralise, and standardise inclusive, quality initiatives and messaging for prevention of gender based violence at all levels and in all sectors of society.
Mid this year, Parliament passed the Lukautim Pikinini Act. This act ensures children are protected and have access to their rights. It also emphasises parental responsibility and duty to maintain a child.
This law states that ‘all children have the right to be protected from all forms of abuse, neglect and maltreatment and have access to equal opportunity and access to education’.
Addressing the scourge of gender based violence is a communal, clan, family, national, social and individual responsibility. When everyone plays their roles in ensuring the policies are implemented, gender based violence can be reported and addressed.
Agnes has a heart to serve
BEING a true Christian does mean one is present in church every Sunday for service but to practice the teachings of the Bible. This is what charity worker Agnes Haro Harihi was told when she was growing up in Leseoalai village in the Malalaua district of Gulf province. Her Catholic upbringing hatched in her the love and patience to help others. For 12 years she dedicated her time, resources and heart to serving her people in the remote villages of Malalaua. She brings with her a team of dedicated and committed women who share a similar faith as her and youths who also help them. These youths are drop outs who have nothing to do so assisting the mothers keeps them busy. They travel long distances, climb mountains and ride high waves to bring small gifts and the Gospel to share with the villagers.
Each year she makes four to five visits to mostly remote villages in the district not accessible by roads. She has connections with mothers on the ground who assist her along the way.
During their pastoral work her team came across people who desperately need basic government services such as health (access to medical assistance), infrastructure development like roads and bridges. Upon arrival they pray together with the villagers and later have meetings to find out what problems and concerns the people have and have discussions on how to address it.
Deserted health centres were not the only thing they came across; there were also schools with empty classrooms and play grounds. They believe the teachers left because life was difficult for them or because of landowner issues. Some school children of Lakekamu, another remote community in Malalawa, use the ground as books and they write on the dirt using sticks as pens and pencils.
Agnes and her team wish for government and relevant authorities to help these children so they can have access to education resources just like other children in the country…..
Kuvi: Citizens have right to privacy
Post Courier, January 12,2017, 02:58 am
CITIZENS have the right to resist raids if the police personnel show up at their doorsteps without search warrants. Magistrate Laura Kuvi emphasised this yesterday when a defendant told the Boroko District Court that such was her situation but she allowed policemen to enter her home “because they were policemen.” On December 22, they told Medii Morehari, 23 of Lese in Gulf Province that they were looking for several male suspects so she allowed them access to her parents’ house at Taurama Bay. Inside, they confiscated eight 330ml containers of steam and charged her with being in possession of illicit spirit and later released her on a K500 bail.
According to Magistrate Kuvi, this also is wrong. A search warrant should state items that are expected to be found, and if a search produces other illegal items, it is not to be confiscated.
Instead, another search warrant should be taken out for that. Magistrate Kuvi said unless there was an immediate pursuit or search warrant, citizens have the right to deny police access to their properties. This is a constitutional right. “Broken english, spelling errors, no warrants. What are we teaching them up at Bomana?”
Manus Island refugee who had mental breakdown found ‘hungry and homeless’
Post Courier, January 11,2017
Behaviour of Hamed, who has been released from Lorengau prison following an acute mental health episode, described as erratic and bizarre. Hamed’s deteriorating mental health came to authorities’ attention as long ago as June, when he was found wandering the detention centre, distressed, naked and screaming incoherently. He was put into “managed accommodation” where he was allegedly assaulted by, and assaulted, guards, before being put in the Lorengau jail for the first time. Leaked “psychological support” files from within the Manus Island detention centre refer consistently to Hamed’s “chaotic presentation” and report he was “agitated, aggressive, verbally abusive, pushing boundaries constantly, and has required police presence on numerous occasions”. He has since been jailed several times after suffering severe mental episodes and behaving unpredictably or aggressively. Detention centre staff have told Guardian Australia Hamed is “a very sick man. He needs serious help”. Manus MP Ron Knight, who arranged for Hamed to be released from prison so he could access mental health care, said he was receiving none. “To be blunt, the guy is dangerous to all around him and he needs psychiatric help. There is none for him here.” Knight said he approached the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby about Hamed being committed to a psychiatric facility. “The response to me was basically that our authorities should handle it.” A spokesman for Australia’s department of immigration and border protection said Hamed was housed at the East Lorengau refugee transit centre, and his care was the responsibility of PNG’s immigration authorities.
The political solutions to the crisis may be complex, but that does not mean we should abandon our humanity
The beginning of the end of “free education” in PNG?
The government has done its best to protect its flagship Tuition Fee Free (TFF) policy during the current fiscal crunch in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Despite substantial funding cuts to many core government services in recent years, government funding of around 600 million kina for the TFF policy has been maintained in the 2017 budget at much the same level (in nominal terms) since its introduction in 2012. But there is a difference between budget allocations and actual release of government funds in a timely matter, as is becoming increasingly apparent in PNG.
Cash flow problems have meant that salary payments to public servants have been late, teacher holiday leave fares unpaid, road funding delayed, and payments of MP funds delayed. TFF payments to schools have not been immune; for example the Department of Treasury only released the warrants for the release of the last quarterly TFF payment of 2016 in December, only days before the end of the school year. The problem is that schools in PNG have been directed by the National Department of Education (NDoE) to not charge school fees, and so delayed TFF payments to schools have resulted in reports of schools closing and students sent home.
In May 2016, one of us – Grant – witnessed the impacts of problems with school funding first hand in Central province. On the way back from fieldwork in Gulf province, he and other researchers came across a throng of young people clutching bags and slowly walking along the Hiritano highway, which links Port Moresby to the capital of Gulf province, Kerema (see photo above). In response to questions about why they weren’t in school, students said that their teachers had sent them home to collect money for school fees from their parents. Students in lower secondary school were asked to bring back 50 kina, and those in higher grades were to return with 100 kina. According to the students, the school had run out of money; this, it was suggested, was likely due to late payment and poor management of TFF subsidies.
There is some dispute about the ability of provinces to themselves set school fees independent from the national government. A letter contesting NDoE’s ban on any imposition of schools fees was published in the Post-Courier newspaper by the Catholic Church in May this year. The letter – addressed to the prime minister and signed by the President of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of PNG, Bishop Arnold Orowae – argued that NDoE’s order transgressed the national Education Act, and Provincial Education Acts in the 13 provinces where these are in place.
The TFF policy’s unravelling would likely impact on post-election wheeling and dealing associated with forming a coalition government. The current TFF policy was a key part of the government’s 2012 Alotau Accord [pdf] (which laid out the priority areas for the new then government), and was a likely (but certainly not the only) factor in current Prime Minister Peter O’Neill securing a strong coalition of MPs to form government in 2012. The TFF policy also helped O’Neill differentiate himself from his predecessor, Sir Michael Somare. If the TFF policy is seen to be failing, this may give MPs one more reason not to back O’Neill to head the government after the 2017 election.
College construction delayed due to funding
Post Courier, January 16, 2017
THE Milne Bay Teacher’s College which was supposed to be completed last year has been delayed due to funding issues. According to Bishop of Alotau-Sideia, Rolando Santos, work has ceased on the buildings. Government funding has temporarily stopped since there are no funds left to pay contractors for the completion of the classrooms.Presently, some preliminary work is being done for the provision of water and electricity. The St Mary’s Teachers College project was initially established to provide a teachers college that would serve the people of Milne Bay Province so they would not incur expensive air fares and difficulties associated with living far away from family and community.
The project initially cost about K22million. The Catholic Diocese of Alotau and Milne Bay provincial government entered into a partnership agreement where the Church would provide the land and administer the college while the government would provide the funding.
Bishop Santos said to date the funding received was approximately K4 million from the provincial government and the Church-Government Partnership Program for education.
“With this money we were able to put up a concrete two-storey female dormitory with 50 individual rooms, a two storey concrete building with four classrooms which is 85 per cent complete, do site clearance and put up roads, and pay maintenance and consultancy fees.
Slight progress in corruption rate
January 26, 2017The National
PAPUA New Guinea’s ranking in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) – showing the world’s most corrupted nations – has changed from 139 out of 176 countries in 2015 to 136 last year.
According to the CPI, the new ranking indicates that PNG has taken a step forwards in being rated as one of the highly corrupted countries in the world. CPI scores countries on a scale of zero to 100, with 100 perceived to be very clean and zero perceived to be highly corrupt. PNG was ranked 136 with a score of 28 out of 100 compared with a score of 25 out of 100 in 2015 during the launch of the CPI by Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) yesterday.
“Countries emerging from wars and civil strife have made great advances in the CPI while PNG remains where it has been for years,” Take the example of Timor Leste in the Asia -Pacific region which had improved by seven points – scoring 28 out of 100 in the 2015 CPI to 35 out of 100 this year. Stephens said TIPNG believed that failure to protect national assets was likely to be one of the reasons PNG was not ranked higher. “The Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC) was promised and it has still not been delivered,” he said. “K8 billion from trust funds have gone missing and our government has no sign of any plans to recover it.” Meanwhile, Stephens said that the Government had taken steps to improve PNG’s ranking and promote accountability and transparency in development by recently passing laws to fight money laundering and terrorist-financing activities.
Yuri tribe continues peace-building after a history of conflict
A TRIBE in Papua New Guinea is like a nation. The tribe shares common language, territory, history, myths and culture. The people of the Yuri tribe of the Gumine District in Simbu Province, Papua New Guinea, speak Yuri, share the rivers Mon and Maril, walk across the plateaus of Pildimna, Dia and Yoya, and know all the gorges and gullies.
Yuri people share land borders with the Golin, Dom, Era, Bari, Nauro and Kumai tribes of Simbu. The exact number of years the Yuri have occupied this part of the world is unknown. However, Yuri people know they are a warring tribe.
The first tribal war laid a foundation for destruction. Revenge and payback became an accepted way of life in Yuri tribal territory. Homes and gardens were destroyed. Many people were killed. Schools and health centres were forced to close. Roads and bridges fell apart. Cash crops like coffee became useless due to lack of transport. People walked long hours to reach town. These long walks carrying household goods landed the Yuri a nametag. They might be called ‘white horses’ or ‘back page’.
‘White horse’ was coined because the Yuri people carried white bags on their backs and resembled white horses. ‘Back page’ was a reference to the back page of a book that is last to be read. The nickname referred to the government’s trend of service distribution where the Yuri were the last to be considered – or were neglected altogether. A back page that was never read.
Many Yuri people fled their tribal lands in search of peace, better schools and health care. Some even sought peace in the ghettos and peripheries of urban areas or among other tribes.
The beauty of the rivers, ranges, flora and fauna was disregarded by a tribal people who became disillusioned by their own destructive action and lack of basic services such as roads, bridges schools and health. Law and order was almost non-existent. The churches struggled to hold a bunch of disillusioned people together. The people feared building permanent houses in their villages; their minds were preoccupied with revenge and they did not want to see their houses torched by an enemy clan.
People did not make gardens and young people stole from other people’s gardens. Hard working people were discouraged and disillusioned. Weak and vulnerable members of the community were blamed for the deaths of others. In some instances, Yuri people could not accept that their members were shot dead in a tribal fight and shifted the blame to sorcerers. The number of uneducated people increased. Many people in their thirties and forties had left school never to return. Their children followed the same pattern. A few children attended school in the last 10 years but the schools in Yuri were branded remote and did not attract good teachers. There were many school drop-outs at Grades 10 and 12. These students joined their peers in the village to gamble all day, smoke marijuana, abuse alcohol and often turn to violence; screaming, threatening, using abusive language.
The village authorities lacked the capacity to deal with them. The men’s and women’s houses, that used to provide guidance and counselling for young people and promote tribal norms and values, ceased to exist. They were replaced with kas (cards) and video houses. The small kids watched movies with their parents and lay on their laps while the parents gambled after the video show. The smoke from rough tobacco rolled around the faces of sleeping children.
It was this destruction, pain and suffering of the Yuri that laid the foundation for the birth of Yuri Alaiku Kuikane Association (YAKA) in 2013. YAKA is committed to promote reconciliation, reuniting, rebuilding and restoring – our 4Rs Yuri. Every Yuri person across space, culture and time has a duty to contribute to this cause. It is about saving their community from the scourge of tribal fighting, fear and disillusion. In the last week of December and on 1 January each year, YAKA initiates activities that promote the 4Rs and celebrates its anniversary.
House tax moves in
January 27,2017, 01:13 am
THE PNG Trade Union Congress has now joined in expressing serious concerns on the new housing tax which will come into effect next fortnight. The new taxation measures was supposed to be effected as of January 1, but most companies got the notification from the Internal Revenue Commission on January 20 and will take effect next pay day, which is next week. Hundreds of working class Papua New Guineans living in company-provided housing could lose up to two-thirds of their fortnightly salary. This is because the rent value of the employer-supplied accommodation will be included with the actual salary component. So, if a worker earns K600 a fortnight and lives in accommodation valued at K700 a week in any of the country’s larger cities like Port Moresby, Lae or Goroka, for example, the worker will be taxed on the sum K2000 (total benefits of K600+K1400) – even though he or she does not actually receive the extra K700 in cash every week. PNGTUC general secretary John Paska said it was unfair. He said the Government had failed to provide housing for workers and is now passing the cost to private sector provided housing.
“It cuts deeply into the savings ability of workers. The housing tax is not well thought out or calculated” He said all revenue measures place a burden on workers’ pay which trigger off a ripple effect that force on claims for wage rise, industrial action of wage claims are not settled, disruption to services and a hike in prices of goods and services. “The cruel irony to all of this is that, the state and much of the private sector have absolved themselves from providing homes to employees and they want to tax workers living in homes.”
PNG in 2017: a year of redefining democracy?
By Bal Kama on January 27, 2017
The Papua New Guinea national elections, due in June this year, promise to be momentous. Like many democracies, the people have always looked forward to the opportunity of choosing their political leaders through a process of free and fair elections. But elections in PNG over the years have fallen short of this ideal standard. Those who believe in this ideal demand an election based on policy-driven ideological contests, rather than material wealth and tribal allegiances that often create disharmony.
Yet these latter practices have increasingly been part of PNG’s political system, rendering the notion of trouble-free democratic elections a facade. But controversies surrounding the electoral system are not unique to PNG. Many countries, including the established democracies as demonstrated in the recent US elections, face similar challenges.
Some challenges for the PNG Electoral Commission
The PNG Electoral Commission (PNGEC) has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks for some of its decisions. For instance, its recommendation for changes to electoral laws that sought to increase the 2017 candidate nomination fee from K1,000 ($450) to K10,000 ($4500) has raised concern among potential candidates. A primary reason for this proposed law is to offset the high cost of running elections. PNG is known for having one of the most expensive elections in the world.
However, the proposed law may be argued as unconstitutional on the basis that the increase in the nomination fee is unreasonably excessive and suppressive of the constitutionally guaranteed right of ordinary citizens to stand for public office. A fee of K5,000 may be more reasonable.
The Electoral Commissioner’s decision to print the ballot papers in Indonesia also warrants scrutiny. It is the first time electoral ballot papers are fully outsourced to private companies overseas. The Commissioner argued that PNG Government printery is nearly three times more expensive when compared to the costs in Indonesia.
But the Commission’s cost saving measure is open to risks. There are concerns of electoral fraud such as printing of extra ballot papers. The government printery is not immune to this concern as it has been an issue observed in previous elections but the use of private companies overseas, and away from public view, may heighten the risk.
Stability, community awareness and social media
The call out of police and defence force personnel to curb tribal fights in the resource-rich Hela Province at the beginning of this month indicate the kinds of challenges law enforcement officers may face more of this election year. With the suspension of police recruitment in 2017, apparently due to funding issues, there could possibly be a strain on law enforcement officers during the election period.
Public activism and protests marred much of 2016. While the O’Neill government is commended in some quarters for leading development in areas like mining and resource exploration, building infrastructure and organising international sporting events, it is mostly criticised for significant setbacks in the economy through over spending and maintaining a deficit budget, and a lack of respect for rule of law.
The bloody protests of 2016 exemplified the growing discontent. Whether this will lead voters in the coming election to oust O’Neill’s People’s National Congress party (PNC) is yet to be revealed. But if history is anything to go by, both the Somare and Mekere governments, under similar spotlight, lost power after the 2011-2012 impasse and the 2001 shooting of university students respectively.
The new cybercrime legislation comes into effect this year. It will be interesting to see how this is enforced against PNG’s active social media community whose activities will mostly likely intensify during the election period. Depending on how this law is enforced, its compatibility with the constitutional right to freedom of speech may be a subject of future court proceedings.
Traditionally, tribal allegiances often played a critical role in deciding voters’ preferences. People align with a candidate in their own tribe or clan despite the candidate lacking meaningful leadership qualities to successfully represent them in parliament. This was predominant during the ‘first past the post’ system where a voter has only one preference.
However, the introduction of preferential voting in 2007 saw a shift in this practice. A voter now has three preferences. It has certainly allowed greater freedom for voters to choose a better candidate. But in some areas, the comfort of having three votes means voters can auction two of their three preferences to the highest bidder (an intending candidate), shrewdly encouraging bribery. The increase in DSIP funding over the last five years might give the incumbent MPs an advantage in this election either if they have invested in development or if they are able to siphon off the funds as ‘campaign money’. Normally, only about one half of PNG’s incumbent MPs are returned. It will be interesting to see if this ratio increases this time round.
Papua New Guineans have long waited for the year 2017. It promises challenge as well as change. Will the people reinstate Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and the PNC party to government despite the serious allegations of corruption that are yet to be cleared by the courts? In the absence of the anti-corruption team, Task Force Sweep, some have even wondered if the Prime Minister will ever get prosecuted. O’Neill is confident that PNC will return to power.
IMF analysis shows PNG has overstated economic growth
Until last week, Papua New Guinea was the only country in the East Asia-Pacific region, and one of only a handful of countries worldwide, refusing to release its 2016 IMF Article IV report in which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) assesses each country’s economic health. The Bank of PNG (the reserve bank) offered six “critical issues” for refusing to release the IMF’s review but recently changed its mind – KJ
A JUST released IMF report reveals the O’Neill government has overstated the growth rate of the PNG economy by 12.7% since its election in 2012.
The IMF analysis indicates the PNG economy is K6.3 billion smaller in 2017 than claimed by the government. This means, according to the IMF, that the debt to GDP ratio is 33.5% – which is above the 30% limit set in PNG’s Fiscal Responsibility Act. The greatest concerns about economic management relate to the Bank of PNG’s control of the foreign exchange rate and reserves, with more breaches of international norms than previously admitted. While commending the government for its actions in the 2016 supplementary budget and a “prudent” 2017 budget, the IMF expressed a number of concerns. These included the areas in which expenditure cuts have been made, the lack of effort to raise revenue (particularly from the resource sector) and the need to improve public financial management. The IMF’s forecast is that short-term risks are tilted to the downside, although there are medium-term prospects of further resource projects that may balance this out.
Even if countries disagree with IMF assessments the accepted international norm is that they release them along with their own alternative views.
Accountant gives up career to help homeless kids
Over a hundred underprivileged street kids living in Port Moresby will be given a chance at a decent education thanks to the efforts of a local nongovernmental organization. Life PNG Care announced over the weekend that it will be sending 106 street children to school this year as part of its ‘Strongim Pikinini Education Program’. Over the Christmas period the NGO gave over six hundred street children a hot meal and a Christmas present giving them a small but memorable taste of what children in stable homes experience. Indeed, it goes without saying that Life PNG Care has since its conception, done wonders for the seemingly forgotten children of PNG. Yet all this work could not have been done if not for the efforts of the organization’s founder; a humble man with a big heart who dropped his professional career to try to alleviate problems associated with street kids. Collin Pake founded Life PNG Care in November 2013 after ten prior years of volunteer work with various Church based organizations. Back then and as a young CPA certified accountant, he had a well demanded skill set, the papers to go along with them and a good attitude; traits that could have got him a job anywhere. Yet, even with the ability to get a decent job and a comfortable life, he chose a life of selflessness and an interest for others; in particular under privileged children and orphans. Mr Pake said when interviewed by Post Courier yesterday that most of his life he has seen the struggles of children on the street and as a professional starting out his life as an accountant, he was baffled at the way society ignores homeless and orphaned children. “These children have a right to an education and a future but more importantly, they are our children. The you, me, the doctor in hospital, the taxi driver doing his rounds, the Government of the day. Us,” said Mr Pake. “We should give a damn when we see a five year old standing at the traffic light selling peanuts, or a ten year old seating on the curbside begging for food.” Mr Pake said it was sights like the mentioned that gave him the passion and desire to make a difference that ultimately resulted in him leaving accounting practice to start Life PNG Care. “Life PNG Care can only do so much and I am not the savior of the street kids. “There is only so much I can do with the limited resources at my disposal, but as long as I have the energy and support of donor companies and agencies who have supported Life PNG Care’s work in the past, I see no reason why more and more street children can’t be helped,” said a determined Mr Pake. He said that Life PNG Care’s main focus is giving underprivileged children an education. “You give a child education, and you give him or her the world,” said Mr Pake. The nongovernmental organization started by sending 14 children to school in 2014, almost tripling this number to 45 the following year and raising the number to 75 children last year. With over 200 hundred street children now registered pending placement under Life PNG Care’s ‘Strongim Pikinini Education Program’ Mr Pake said his organization would see that 106 of the 200 get an education for the 2017 academic year. He reported that k70,000 was used last year for the 75 children, all of whom did well and are adjusting to a life of normalcy. “This year it will cost K95,000 for education and housing fees for the 106 children,” said Mr Pake.