Social Concerns Notes – February 2017

Call for govt to clear confusion on school fees
Post Courier, February 08, 2017

INADEQUATE funding from day to day management of Catholic Agency schools had been brought to the attention of the Government last year. The National Catholic Education Board chairman Fr Paul Jennings said this yesterday. “These facts were pointed out to the Prime Minister, Education Minister and Education secretary in a letter from the Catholic Bishops Heads of Catholic Agency schools in July last year,” Fr Paul said. He said Peter O’Neill had directed the Education Minister Nick Kuman and secretary Dr Uke Kombra to respond to the Bishops’ concerns. “So far there has been no response,” he said. Fr Paul said that such disregard for the Catholic Bishops and Education agencies which they lead and educates more than 25 per cent of children, was one reason for going public.

The National Catholic Education Board has taken out paid advertisement in the newspapers this week to clarify its stand on current confusion about school fees. “It’s about finding the best legal way to educate our children,” he said. “There are several underlying issues which we believe the general public needs to understand in the current confusion about school fees.”


‘Manus does not need a brothel’
Post Courier, February 06, 2017

MANUS provincial police commander Senior Inspector David Yapu is concerned about a local landowner suggesting the establishment of a brothel on Manus Island. A brothel is a place where people may come to engage in sexual activity with a prostitute, sometimes referred to as a sex worker. Mr Yapu said it will be illegal and also against Papua New Guinea’s Christian principles. “The brothel will become an issue affecting our traditional family morals and values with young girls and mothers servicing those asylum seekers for the sake of easy money,” Snr Inspector Yapu said. He admitted being aware of asylum seekers engaging local youths to buy home brew for them, however, he said he had not received any reports of local youths soliciting young girls for sexual favors with asylum seekers. “This is news to me. I have not received any such reports,” Snr Insp Yapu said.

He said the asylum seekers outnumber the local police with a total of 911 at the Manus regional processing centre at Lombrum while there are 68 refugees at the East Lorengau transit centre. “We only have 55 police personal in Manus and should there be any unrest or riot, the police will be out-numbered,”


Movement of asylum seekers in Manus now a concern: Yapu
Post Courier, February 08, 2017

MANUS police commander Senior Inspector David Yapu is seriously concerned about the movement of the asylum-seekers in the province. He said since the Supreme Court ruled that the refugee centre is illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional it has given them the freedom to move around including beyond the town boundaries into villages and outer islands. “I am concerned about their safety and the consequences that may arise if the asylum seekers are assaulted, injured or killed. “We are seeking 15 new police recruits from the Police College at Bomana to beef up manpower on the island province,” he said. He said accommodation for the new recruits was being arranged with PNG Immigration Department at the centre. Mr Yapu said that 39 cases were reported to police last year involving asylum seekers and refugees in consumption of homebrew, drugs, possession of pornographic materials, disorderly and resisting police arrest. “The court has convicted those found guilty in a form of fine, others were cautioned and discharged, while some cases were struck out because of lack of evidence,” he said. Mr Yapu said PNG Immigration officers were responsible for the movements of the asylum seekers, but they are currently under staffed. “The general feeling among the public is the movement of refugees and especially at night which is not safe and they should be back in camp by 6pm. “The police have conducted awareness for the asylum seekers to respect the locals and the laws of PNG. But it seems to have fallen on deaf ears and social problems are now an issue with local police and the asylum seekers,” Mr Yapu said.


Manam settlers facing problems

February 14, 2017 The National

ABOUT 15,000 Manam Islanders who are living in care centres are faced with land problems, according to Manam Resettlement Project caretaker Paul Akuram. The islanders were evacuated from Manam when the volcano erupted in Dec 2004 and Feb 2005. Akuram said the people were currently living in the Asuramba and Topsdam care centres in Bogia and the Nangen care centre in Sumkar.
He said 3000 Baliau villagers who had been living in the Bon Kelawa care centre in Bogia returned to Manam in 2009. Akuram said they were facing a lot of problems. “Shortage of land, the land they are using now is useless because they use the same land over the last 12 years,” he told The National yesterday. He said they also faced food and water problems, run-down schools and health facilities.
Akuram said the people could not afford school fees because they did not have cash crops or ways to earn an income. “They can’t afford school fees at all levels from primary to secondary to tertiary institutions,” Akuram said. He said the food supply from the Government and donors had stopped after six months when they moved in and they had been surviving on their own. “They plant taro, banana and other food crops on the land given to them by land owners but they had confrontations with land owners and fight with them sometimes,” Akuram said.


Red Cross kits sent to Enga

February 13, 2017 The National

THE International Committee of the Red Cross has carried out its first distribution of relief items at Pilikambi LLG in Enga last week. The items issued are essential tools to hundreds of families displaced by tribal fighting. A total of 757 kits were distributed to 527 households from the three clans (Talyul, Sikir and Andati) that were involved in a recent tribal fight that lasted almost six months and saw more than 500 houses burned and 20 lives lost. Each kit also contained a set of tools intended to help families rebuild their homes. Head of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Mt Hagen, Kakhaber Khasaia, said he was delighted with the success of the operation, which was carried out with the help of the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society. “We spent almost five months in preparation, which resulted in a very good distribution,” he said. The ICRC, which is working to protect and assist victims of tribal fights in the Highlands, began operations in Enga in Sept last year.
The distribution is one of the largest the Geneva-based humanitarian organisation has carried out in PNG. The ICRC’s mandate is to protect and assist victims of armed conflict. In PNG, it provides assistance to victims of tribal fights in Southern Highlands, Hela and Enga. It also provides first aid training in areas affected by fighting and works to ensure people in these zones have access to health care and clean water.


Tuition fee free policy leads to disengagement with schools

08 February 2017.

THERE are differing views among parents and teachers about Papua New Guinea’s tuition fee free policy. The government’s policy is well-intended and should be seen as heavily subsidising tuition fees, which does leave some responsibility for tuition fees with the parents. But this is not the case now. The government wants to pay full fees and has told parents to ensure this direction is complied with by schools. Since its inception the tuition fee free policy has placed schools under stress. Some of the best schools in the country, which were held in high esteem, are no longer excellent as a result of the policy. Schools are struggling and deteriorating rapidly in all aspects. It’s a shambles. School management and boards are confused on how they can reinstate them to effectiveness. The policy, as you might expect, saw an influx in student enrolment. Some schools thought that hosting high student numbers would increase allocated funds. But the fund was never enough to expand the required infrastructure development in schools. In some schools, students spill out of classrooms built two decades ago to hold 30 pupils and now forced to accommodate 60. Realising this predicament, schools decided to charge ‘project fees’ to address the infrastructure shortage – and now the government is telling schools to stop this. The incredible message is that schools should shut up and keep enrolling students without considering infrastructure.

Some parents, not wanting to pay any charges, have aggressively supported the government in creating what is a chaotic school environment. Removing parental responsibility for children’s fees also disengages parents from participating in the development of their children and their school.

The outcome – when parents see children’s education and infrastructure deteriorating, they will remain quiet because they do not have a hand in the schooling process.

In a highly illiterate society like ours, the people do not clearly understand the relationship between themselves as taxpayers and the government. The school authority controls the cheque book and commits schools to spending – scrupulous or unscrupulous. What used to be checks and balances on school expenditure at the weekly parents and citizens day are no more. Some schools incur more debts than the tuition fee free policy allows. Blame is externalised – often on a former principal or head teacher. It seems there is no way of stopping such shady practices or of holding the culprits accountable. Most teachers are quiet on this. A few of them share the loot between themselves and are always looking for the next opportunity. The whole area of this policy needs to be reconsidered and some responsibility for tuition fees thrown back at parents who, with their money at stake, are likely to engage more with their schools and teachers.


People make selves crazy by cannabis abuse, says drug dealer

13 February 2017

IN Papua New Guinea, it is illegal to cultivate, groom, store, consume and trade marijuana. Marijuana, or cannabis, is the main illegal drug produced and consumed in large amounts in PNG. It is cultivated for private use and for sale locally and overseas. Reports suggest it is also bartered for weapons.

Medical research show the effects of smoking marijuana fade quickly, but the drug can be detected in the body for weeks, sometimes longer. It depends on how often it is used or how much the user has consumed. The most common effect upon a user is that, as a result of prolonged use, it alters the mind.

A user for over 45 years, who requested anonymity when I was writing this article, supported the results of medical research. He said the effects are real and that it has affected a lot of lives of PNG users. However, he argued that whether a person becomes affected mentally depends on the person themselves and the way they use marijuana. He added that young people should stop smoking cannabis because their bodies and minds are developing and have not reached maturity. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse in the USA, the brain of young people continues developing until they reach their mid-20’s. Thus the consumption of marijuana at an early age can have damaging effects on the teenager’s ability to progress normally. Cannabis abuse can also affect a teenager’s emotional development, education and social interaction. The drug user I spoke to also said he has seen people who smoke marijuana show signs of psychosis or wild mood swings which have affected their lives and their families.


It’s Friday night, & Port Moresby General has no bandages

20 February 2017

THERE was something of a crisis at the Port Moresby General Hospital early last Friday night.

The weekend had arrived – not to mention the onset of the usual Friday night procession of smashes, clashes and crashes – and Dr Sam Yockopua, the hospital’s chief of emergency medicine and a 18-year public health veteran – was alarmed. So alarmed, in fact, that he took to Facebook with a public appeal for help. “SOS call for kind donations,” he wrote. “As at 6:35pm, after supervision of the pm shift work, at POM Gen Emergency Department; we have none of the following….” And there followed a rendition of some of the most basic hospital necessities including face masks, gloves (“last box left!” wrote Dr Yockopua), alcohol swabs, urine bags, cervical collars, plasters, bandages, nebulizer cups, glucostrips, ECG/defib gel, ECG dots, 16. phenytoin iv, crepe bandages – and there was more. “Friday night chaos is anticipated,” Dr Yockomua continued, “and we know we are not ready and will not give our best. We do, however, have solid manpower. “Inbox me or simply drop by at PMGH ED and offer anything you can. Help save lives. God bless you.” This is more dire than “praise the lord and pass the ammunition”. It’s more like “go to the medicine drawer and bring me what you’ve got”.

Facebook reader Sally Proctor commented on Dr Yockomua’s cry for help: “The national referral hospital shouldn’t have to rely on donations. This is unacceptable. Where is the health minister and his secretary?” Good sentiments and a pertinent question. And corruption fighting lawyer Sam Koim, who drew my attention to this dreadful predicament, commented simply, “Frightening!” It’s an outrage. You can only hope that such total dereliction of duty by the responsible politicians and bureaucrats led to no avoidable deaths. But, whatever the outcome in human lives, it must have resulted in a desperately turbulent and trying weekend at PMGH emergency for staff and their patients.


POM Gen CEO refutes claims
Post Courier, February 21, 2017

PORT Moresby General Hospital chief executive officer Dr Umesh Gupta says the country’s biggest referral hospital has not run out of specific medical consumables. He was responding to a doctor who had sent out an urgent help for donation for certain consumables that were needed at Port Moresby General Hospital accidents and emergency department. Meanwhile, Dr Gupta said like all public hospitals, Port Moresby Hospital runs out of medical drugs and consumables, but whenever the area medical store in the national capital runs out of medical supply, the hospital procures elsewhere under its operational budget. He added that there are specific consumables not available in the country but the hospital makes available alternatives. He assured the public that the hospital was currently stocked. “The hospital is doing what it can,” Dr Gupta added.


PNG has lost the power to pay its bills as cash runs out

18 February 2017. Rowan Callick in The Australian

ELECTRICITY supplies to Papua New Guinea’s parliament house, the national police headquarters, and government house have been disconnected for non-payment of bills. PNG Power Ltd — the country’s monopoly, state-owned company responsible for the generation, transmission, distribution and retail of electricity — said these institutions owe it about $450,000. The bills have not been paid since last November. The institutions have been closed since they were disconnected on Tuesday, leaving them without lighting, air-conditioning and telecommunications. The parliament building has its own standby generator — as do many private businesses in PNG, since PNG Power’s supply is often disrupted by blackouts. But the acting clerk of the parliament, Kala Aufa, told the Post-Courier newspaper that the building lacked a store of fuel for its generator, and so he had to make such an order before this alternative source of power could be switched on. Mr Aufa conceded that the parliament owed PPL $245,000, but said the payment of utilities had become centralised by the Finance Department, which took over that responsibility for all state agencies at the start of the year.

“We just get the bills and give it to them,” he said. He expressed concern that the parliament might also find its telecommunications and water services discontinued, if those bills were not settled.


Women get it – walk to equality must be a joint project with men

02 February 2017

Her Excellency Ms Winnie Kiap has been High Commissioner for Papua New Guinea in the United Kingdom since 2011. Ms Kiap is also chair of the Commonwealth Secretariat Board of Governors. She was previously secretary to the PNG National Executive Council. Her earlier career was in PNG’s Department of Trade and Industry and Investment Promotion Authority.

My Walk to Equality, edited by Rashmii Amoah Bell, Pukpuk Publications, 278 pages. Paperback $US10.53 or Kindle $US1.00. ISBN-10: 1542429242. ISBN-13: 978-1542429245. Available here from Amazon through Pukpuk Publications

THESE stories give me a sense of exhilaration as well as respect for these women writers and poets.

This group of mostly young writers has the courage to use literature as a means to participate in the conversation on a topic important not only in Papua New Guinea but around the globe.

[See the above url for the full review of several pages]


Buimo Jail overcrowded
Post Courier, February 16, 2017

AUTHORITIES from the Correctional Services Buimo jail in Lae have raised concerns of overcrowding at the prison compounds. There are currently 860 prisoners at the facility which has a holding capacity for only 400 inmates. Jail commander Felix Namane said on Tuesday that the overcrowding situation posed a huge health risk to the prisoners and has tripled its monthly spending on prisoners’ rations. Mr Namane also said they had already spent three times over the usual budget on monthly rations, now between K160-170,000 per month. He said there is an urgent need for more infrastructure to accommodate increasing prisoner numbers which is being compounded by the delay in prisoners’ court cases.

Mr Namane said the courts are separate bodies, but is appealing for them to fast track the cases to help address overcrowding at the jail. “The women’s cells are ok but the men’s are overcrowded,” he said.

Mr Namane suggested the courts put some of the prisoners out on bail and wants the Public Solicitor’s Office to consider the inmates’ bail applications.


Baisu inmates face starvation
Post Courier, February 22, 2017

Prisoners at the Baisu jail in Mt Hagen, Western Highlands Province, have been without food for the past five days. The company contracted to supply food ration to the jail stopped its operation over non-payment of services by the Correctional Services (CS). This was confirmed yesterday by the Baisu jail commander Timbi Kaugla. Mr Kaugla said the supplier discontinued its service on Friday, February 17, but the jail managed to use its own funds to buy food for the prisoners until Monday. “We were able to cater for food for the prisoners last weekend but we fell short as of Monday and the prisoners have been without food,” he said. But a senior warder at Baisu, who requested anony­mity, gave a different story, saying the prisoners, numbering more than 170, had been without food since the weekend. “The prisoners were fed with biscuits at the weekend and some of us concerned officers decided to contribute money from our own pockets to go to the market and buy kaukau (sweet potato) for the prisoners,” the officer said. He said the situation required immediate attention from the CS management. Several attempts to get comments from the Correc­tional Services Commissioner Michael Waipo since Monday were unsuccessful. The Correctional Services media unit could not comment because it had not been briefed about the Baisu jail food shortage. Berry Maip, who is the managing director of Whisky Fresh Ltd which supplies food rations to the Baisu prison, said yesterday when contacted that he stopped the food supplies due to non-payment of his services. “My company was not paid for three months – from December to February. How can I go on supplying rations when I am not paid for my services.” He said he needed funds to run his company operations and he could no longer sustain it when payments were not forthcoming.


At home with my Melanesian values; no matter where I am

17 February 2017

AS we do in today’s dynamic employment environment, I recently updated my professional profile or curriculum vitae (CV). Having gone through this exercise, I realised that I’d omitted a major part of my life. Like with most people, my CV emphasised the educational institutions I’d attended, the positions I’d held, my career successes and influential people I’d crossed paths with. It focused on the learning, skills and qualifications an employer might be interested in. It captured what I can do and how I do it. But it was void on the matters of who I am and why I do the things I do. The parts I had left out were the experiences that formed the basis for who I am. They were from the stage in my life that I walked rough tracks to fetch water for the family, shepherded pigs, chopped pandanus nuts 30 feet up with one hand (and no safety harness), climbed rocky peaks with the skill of a mountain goat, and hunted and trapped cuscus. I walked through tropical rain forest in pitch darkness relying on the moon and stars and identified each bird by sound, not sight. When the elders wanted to speak, we youngsters gave up our seats, kept quiet and did not engage in argument even if they were wrong.

These experiences have little value to a prospective employer in today’s economy. Even if I explained them, the listener would not understand their relevance. I am at a stage in life where I am reasonably comfortable placing value on these latter qualities. Like many Papua New Guineans, my life has been a journey from a mountain home across a social divide of religion, race, culture, and hierarchy.

My childhood experiences are embedded in me and I feel comfortable sitting with friends cross-legged around a fireplace in my village or inside a modern work environment in a country far away.

Even if others don’t share my experiences, I embrace them. They represent a unique, enjoyable, once in a lifetime opportunity which can never be replicated. I am comfortable with what I do based on the strength I draw from my Melanesian values.I am at peace with myself. It takes time and a measure of self-acceptance to reach such point.



Women scared of approaching police for help

February 22, 2017 The National

SOME women in Madang are scared of lodging complaints with police following the alleged sexual assault of a woman at the station. The issue was discussed by a committee, for change and progress in law and order, made up of representatives from non-government organisations including women groups. Chairman of the civil society organisation at the Madang government Andrew Mapio said women were now scared of approaching police officers for help because of the alleged rape by two officers two weeks ago at the town police station. “I have told my daughters: If you have problems with your husbands, don’t go directly to police. Come to daddy and I’ll take it to the police myself,” he said Women representative Angela Bugata said most women were now scared to approach police with their problems. Mapio said police officers had been implicated in criminal activities including brutality and were viewed as the enemy of the public. He said the civil society organisation had planned a protest march against the police for the various cases against them. Bugata said the proposed new mobile squad for Madang should comprise members of established mobile squads in the country and exclude any new recruits. She said Madang needed police officers to effectively carry out real police duties and not instill fear amongst the people.


Special ‘lease’ exploitation leads Malmal without land & bereft

THE Special Agriculture Business Lease (SABL) practice is having a direct impact on the environment and cultural values, says customary landowner Anna Sipona. Anna comes from Malmal village in East New Britain Province where logging has exploited the environment. She explained that their forest has disappeared under SABL and the people in her village live as if they don’t own land.

The land in Malmal is under a 99-year lease agreement and the people have been told by the developers that their land is now state land. Sipona highlighted that drinking water and fresh water creeks have been contaminated because there are no buffer zones to protect them. “In reality, what was once our land, we now feel that we are settlers on a land that is no longer ours. “Our right to life has been severed and our way of surviving has been destroyed and we are no longer benefiting from the land as someone else holds the title “Our land has been acquired in the name of development, however we cannot see any development happening instead there is displacement of villages, destruction of forests and food gardens and destroying of cultural values,” she said.

Promises by prime minister Peter O’Neill since June 2013 to cancel the leases, stop illegal logging and return the land to its rightful owners, recommended by a Commission of Inquiry, have never been honoured.


Itching for money, gold digger parents compromise their daughters

13 February 2017

IN this modern era, most parents discharge their parental duties with diligence and aspire that their children complete school and craft a career in life. But conversely, some mothers chew tons of betel nut, smoke like highlands fires and gamble the family’s savings to deficit. And some fathers fall for the lure of sex workers, fleecing their mates, drink their heads off and leave nothing behind in the trough of life. In fact, it does seem that many parents sit on their backsides and care little about giving their children a decent formal education. It’s an attitude that leaves their sons at the mercy of whimsical government policy while they coerce their daughters to forage for men with money.

These indecorous parents forbid their daughters to court village boys because they think villagers lack money and will not build a decent future. “If you marry these village boys you will carry loads on your heads and walk the long tracks to and from the gardens,” they say. “Your hair will wane and fall. Open your eyes and marry men with money and shop with Save Card, cook with electricity and sleep with a stash of cash.” Anyhow, the real motive for such sermons is about parental gold digging using their daughters as a bridge to economic capital. Such parents are misfits who cannot cope with toiling the land like the other hardworking village folk.


One such senseless couple sold their 15-year old daughter in marriage to a tycoon from an economic enclave. Dessy, the couple’s first daughter was in her twenties and the boys trembled to ask for her mobile number, or what we call ‘like’. Ailana, the second daughter was only 15 but had already surpassed Dessy in terms of sheer beauty. If Ailana was given a decent education and a few more years, the mere sight of her would make boys skip heartbeats. But when the parents saw how beautiful their daughters had grown, they started talks with a tycoon for an upfront dowry in order to be given Dessy in marriage. From then on, the father received cash from the tycoon and consumed unending crates of beer in town. Word reached Dessy of the imminent plans for her to marry the tycoon. In the dusk of night she packed her clothes and ran off to her village boyfriend, vowing never to return.

When news of Dessy’s village marriage reached her parents, they feared the tycoon’s reaction and agreed that Ailana would take her sister’s place. However, Ailana refused. The tycoon was much older than Ailana’s father and had many wives. Being heavily indebted, the parents coerced and demanded Ailana take heed and enter the marriage regardless of what she planned for her life. The stunning Ailana, a girl village boys yearned to hear sing in church and referred to as the Empress of Alimapara, was to marry a stranger. Before she was led to the waiting five-door Toyota LandCruiser, she pulled a small girl to the side and muttered something in her ear to be passed to Ailana’s village boyfriend.

The boyfriend collapsed when he returned from a village rugby league game that afternoon and got the message from the small girl. His peers gathered around and consoled him. As Ailana’s parents still feasted on the dowry, news reached them that Ailana – taken away into a far-off land – had been attacked and bashed by the tycoon’s meri-brua (co-wives) who had chopped off her long hair.

A few months later Ailana rang home, sobbed and told her mother that she had been sold into slavery and constantly lived in fear of being slashed and killed. “You can’t return because you have married a ‘money man’ and he paid a massive dowry,” the mother replied. “Besides, you have to repay me for begetting you so stay put.” A couple of years passed and recently Ailana returned to Alimapara but she was not the girl the villagers knew and referred to as Empress. She was frail and ill. The symptoms looked obvious, so she was told to do an HIV antibody test and the result was positive. The parents then cooked up a reason and told of how Ailana had married a tycoon and jealous village folk had performed black magic on her. The couple refused to heed the medical result. The witch doctors received a stash of cash. They narrated a feel good sermon to the gullible parents. But fortunately Ailana was identified as requiring treatment. However, she has suffered permanent harm to her health and has been placed on anti-retroviral treatment for the rest of her life. Whatever the witch doctors and the parents cooked up won’t help her. The gold digging parents have abused human rights and inflicted enduring pain on Ailana, her village boyfriend and Dessy. We all know there is a better way than this.

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