Social Concerns Notes – May 2017

Nun assists 87 detainees home

May 1, 2017 The National

A CATHOLIC nun has helped over 130 detained Vietnamese fishermen in a number of prisons in PNG to return home. Sister Ma Theresa Trinh Vu Phuong looked after the needs of those Vietnamese detainees and served as their interpreter and mediator in court.“She has been helping these Vietnamese fishermen to be freed and repatriated to their home country.” They have been detained in the prisons of Alotau, Giligili and Bomana for illegally fishing and harvesting beche-de-mer in Milne Bay. Sr Trinh communicates with their families back home and arranges for payment of their penalties and getting all the necessary documents and tickets for them to fly back home to Vietnam. “Sr Trinh successfully processed the repatriation of 87 Vietnamese fishermen and about 18 more will soon follow and all will soon be able to re-join their families back home, thanks to the courage of this sister and the support given by her Salesian community,” said Fr Ambrose. Sr Trinh is a Vietnamese Salesian Sister working in a girls’ skills training Institute in Sideia Island, diocese of Alotau in Milne Bay. The diocese is proud of her because her charity is truly heroic and worthy of emulation.
Bishop there, Rolando Santos, said the case of the Vietnamese fishermen was disturbing. “They (Vietnamese fishermen )are used by whoever employs them to fish illegally without a proper license or any guarantee of protection or security from their employers. “It is a serious abuse on the rights and dignity of these young men to be sent out by their recruiters to fish in illegal waters without a proper licence and without any guarantee of protection or security.“Once caught, they are almost totally forgotten and abandoned. “The rights of these young men need to be respected, and a better employment worthy of their dignity be afforded to them.”

Papua New Guinea gets a dose of the resource Curse.

The Papua New Guinea liquefied natural gas (LNG) project is the largest resource extraction project in the Asia-Pacific region. Constructed at a stated cost of US$19 billion, it’s operated by ExxonMobil in joint venture with Oil Search and four other partners.

Construction for the project began in 2010, and the first gas shipment was made in May 2014.

In February 2009, the economic consulting firm Acil Tasman (now Acil Allen) produced a report for ExxonMobil about the project’s impact. The report said the project has the potential to transform the country’s economy by boosting GDP and money from exports. These would increase government revenue and provide royalty payments to landowners. It claims the project could potentially improve the quality of life of locals by providing services and enhancing productivity. Workers and suppliers would reap rewards, as would landowners who would also benefit from social and economic infrastructure.

But six years on, none of this has come to pass.

In the years since construction began, Papua New Guinea’s ranking on the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index has fallen by two places to 158, having been overtaken by Zimbabwe and Cameroon. Far from enhancing development indicators, the largest development project in PNG’s history has coincided with an unprecedented downgrade in the country’s development status.

Very little is known about the actual impact of the project on local landowners. This is largely due to the remote location of the gas field in the mountainous Hela Province. The dire security situation in that part of Papua New Guinea also makes any investigation a highly dangerous undertaking.

(for the rest of this lengthy article see the url above]


Manam evacuees receive aid

May 8, 2017 The National

RED Cross and World Vision are providing assistance to hundreds of people fleeing volcanic eruptions on the island of Manam. By last count, 887 people have left the island as lava continues to flow from the volcano after it erupted last month. “Available information indicated light ash fell in areas stretching between Warisi on the east, Dugulaba on the south and Boda and Baliab on the northwest parts of the island,” the Department of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management said.
Madang disaster coordinator Rudolph Mongallee said everyone would be transported to the mainland.
“The islanders will be relocated at the Potsdam Care Centre at mainland Bogia,” Mongallee told The National on Friday. Ten families consisting of around 150 people had already been transported to the mainland. He said the Madang government and the National Disaster Centre were providing food to the islanders. “The Red Cross and World Vision are assisting us with canvas (tents), mosquito nets, blankets and cooking utensils,” Mongallee said.
Manam Restoration Authority caretaker Paul Akuram said volcanic lava was still flowing. “Dust has covered the whole island and destroyed gardens and properties so they need to be moved out,” Akuram said. In 2005, about  9000 people were evacuated, eventually to three principal “care centres”, because of volcanic eruptions. At the time, relocation on narrow strips of coastal land created conflicts with local people over the use of such resources as land for gardens, water, materials to build houses and access to marine resources.


Church Reps on Rededication. 

Post Courier 15 May

The Catholic agency of the Mt Hagen Arch Diocese has gathered its representatives from 190 catholic-run schools in Western Highlands Province and Jiwaka at Rabiamul parish to rededicate their duties to God. The representatives were principals, teachers in charge, chairpersons of board of management, members of the catholic education board, and subcommittee members of the catholic education board from Jiwaka and community leaders. His grace, Archbishop Douglas Young SVD gave three reasons for this gathering; dedicate everyone and their roles to God, clear the confusion of the agency and its practice and benefits in schools, and swearing in of new members of the catholic education board. Bishop Young said the aim is to create better sense of unity, commitment, purpose, identity and sense of family for our teachers in catholic schools from colleges to preschools. Young said many people still think that the agency means that the church is the agent for the government to do what the government tells them to do but that is not the case. “We provide education and the state likes the education that we provided so we become partners, many people in the department and teachers in catholic schools don’t understand the nature of partnership,” said Young.
Bougainville’s economic sector ‘failing miserably’, says Momis   15 May

FISCAL self-reliance remains one of the foremost conditions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement as Bougainville prepares for the 2019 referendum on independence, says president John Momis.

Dr Momis called for stakeholders in the government’s economic sector and state owned enterprises to revitalise efforts to secure a viable economic climate in the autonomous province. “You must understand the level of my frustration when the very ministers and secretaries I expect to work with me and carry out the policy statements of the Bougainville Executive Council fail miserably,” Dr Momis said. “All known powers and functions have been drawn down but we have failed to understand this. We are an autonomous government and we should thoroughly understand this. “We have purposely created the Ministry of Economic Development on the premise that it would fast track economic projects and activities,” he said. “The Ministry will create favourable economic conditions that will jump-start economic activities that will transform to economic growth.

“This in turn will provide the basis for the ABG to promote fiscal self-reliance through our own taxes,” Dr Momis said. He said it was time for Bougainville to be realistic, learn to accept the realities and work for solutions and alternatives instead of dwelling on problems. He said that Bougainvilleans are aware that the ABG has been denied what is constitutionally and legally its rights on matters on national government funding. The government is working through diplomatic channels and, if necessary, the courts to demand what is due from the PNG government.


Mum Gives up Hope

Post Courier, May 17, 2017

SHE hears the planes arriving and departing from Tokua Airport every day bringing tourists and business opportunities to East New Britain and New Guinea Islands region. Many have experienced the luxury of using this modern mode of transport. But just across the Tokua runway, ten minutes drive into the peaceful community of Raiven within the Bitapaka LLG in Kokopo district, there is nothing to show for the much-talked about development and service delivery. Pauline Jeffery, 38, is a mother of nine children who goes through the normal struggles of a village mother who fends for her children. Mrs Jeffery goes out to fish and sells her fresh catch in Kokopo town at reasonable prices to feed her big family. A good catch will fetch between K200 and K300.  Recalling her early childhood, Mrs Jeffery said nothing has changed in the past 38 years. The road system needs major upgrading at certain areas which are always inaccessible during heavy rainfall. The entire community has given up hope in making a difference by voting this election, and it is not a concern if they do not take part in the voting. “Candidates can come and campaign here, we will hear what they have to say, but in the end it’s not a major issue that we vote for them,” she said. In the recent past the people have suffered, there has not been any government service into their area, though Raiven is only ten minutes from the main road from Tokua to Kokopo town.
The people need a clean water supply, rural electrification, aid post and a primary school for their children. Even at the back of the airport, and watching planes land and takeoff, there is no mobile phone reception, even just for sending messages. …..


Elections in Papua New Guinea’s dysfunctional democracy

18 May 2017

Author: Bill Standish, ANU

2016 for Papua New Guinea (PNG) was both politically turbulent and economically stressful with government revenues and currency falling, but inflation and deficit rising. The nationwide election in June–July 2017 will be a major measure of the political impact of the government’s critics, and the sustainability of Prime Minister O’Neill’s bankrolling tactics. In May 2016, a five week strike by university students called on O’Neill to resign over corruption and misgovernment allegations. Then in June, police shot at students marching to lobby parliament. After years of parliament not even considering attempted motions of no confidence, the Supreme Court ruled in July that the government must be held accountable. O’Neill survived the 22 July vote of no confidence 85 to 21, after allegedly dispersing district funds totaling many millions of kina through members of parliament (MPs). O’Neill was expanding a pattern set by Sir Michael Somare of a government largely based on allocating billions of kina each year to districts, funds which have contributed to PNG’s fiscal crisis. Unfortunately these funds — which MPs effectively control — have little positive impact on essential services.

The government acknowledges there is corruption but it’s not fighting it hard. The Police Fraud Squad director has estimated that in 2016 complaints of official fraud totaled 1.5 billion kina (US$472 million). Across the country, social media analysts have spread details of collapsing government services and corruption. …. While the constitutional rules of the game will favour the largest party in the house, only a brave observer will predict the outcome of PNG’s upcoming election.

[For the rest of this informative article, see the url above]


As election looms, PNG political parties should consider supporting informal economy

May 17, 2017

by Busa Jeremiah Wenogo

As the National General Election looms Papua New Guineans are contemplating what the future will hold for them. While important issues concerning employment, infrastructure, education and health will be a key feature for most political parties, equally important for most of the urban voting population will be the new government’s approach towards the country’s large and undeveloped informal economy. Apart from market and street vending, PNG’s informal economy includes informal settlement that is expanding rapidly due to high rental costs and limited availability of low cost housing in most urban centres of the country. In urban centres such as Port Moresby and Lae informal economy is central to the livelihoods of the majority of the population. According to PNG’s Urbanisation Policy[1], “more than 80 percent of the urban unemployed are found in unplanned settlements and villages. However, more than not, the unemployed are involved in some form of income generation as they participate in the activities of the informal economy (informal sector)”. This number is expected to increase into the near future as major cities and centres throughout the country experience further growth and expansion. Driven by promises of transformational outcome as a result of the PNG LNG and large investments, many people rushed into big cities like Port Moresby and Lae in search of useful employment as well as other benefits. However, most of these people end up in the informal economy as employment opportunities become scarce. The situation becomes dire when urban development plans run counter to or do not include the interests of participants in the informal economy.  …There is no doubt that the sector is a “sleeping giant” and if given the right support – in terms of  government policies and laws as well as provision of credit and “political voice” – it can contribute significantly towards addressing some of the country’s development challenges such as rising unemployment and poverty.


[For the remainder of this article, see the url above]


Transparency PNG says prison system needs rethink

20 May 2017

TRANSPARENCY International Papua New Guinea says authorities need to rethink the way correctional services in the country are run. This comes after 17 prisoners were shot dead last week during a mass escape from Buimo Prison in Lae. Chairman of Transparency PNG, Lawrence Stephens, said there had been an increase in mass jail breaks in PNG in recent years. He said it was clear the system is not working. “It looks as though there is a challenge either in the budgeting of the corrective institutions or a lack of adequate training or there could be disciplinary issues,” Mr Stephens said. “But whatever it is, when you hear that 17 lives have been lost, you have to start questioning the way in which we are responding.”Meanwhile, Amnesty International called for the officers involved in the killings to be suspended and an independent inquiry held. Amnesty’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Champa Patel, said PNG security forces’ use of lethal force in response to a prison breakout was alarming.

She said the PNG authorities must hold suspected perpetrators to account without recourse to the death penalty. “It is alarming that the security forces’ first response was to use lethal force against unarmed people without any concern for their right to life,” said Ms Patel.. “Prison reforms and accountability mechanisms are crucial to stop these incidents from happening again. “Whatever the crime committed by inmates, they have the right to be treated humanely.” In February last year 12 Buimo prisoners were shot dead in a breakout by 90 prisoners who had overpowered guards at the main gate.


3600 still on Manam, more eruption seen

May 22, 2017 The National

EXACTLY 3693 people are still on Manam Island and will need to be evacuated if the volcano eruption affects the whole island. Baliau village which is located at the safe side of the island from the current volcanic eruption has the highest number -2187 – still on the island. The worst affected Dugulava village has only 30 men left there as security guards over gardens and properties after 785 were evacuated to Mandi care centre two weeks ago. From Warisi village on the side of the island facing the open ocean, 71 people need to be evacuated. Madauri has 147 people, Waia has 153 after 75 made their own way to Potsdam care centre last week, Jogari has 283, Yasa 130, Kuluguma 458, Boda 205, Dangale 100, Koalang 40, Bokure 39, Abaria 70 and the neighbouring Boisa Island has 765 people in 165 households.
The Manam volcano continues to erupt occasionally with the latest big blast on Saturday night. Madang provincial disaster and emergency acting director Rudolf Mongallee said Madang provincial government spent K26,000 on food supplies for Dugulava people who were evacuated three weeks ago to Mandi care centre after the volcano first erupted on April 19. Mongallee said the National Disaster Office has assisted with K31,000 but the cheque printed had an error on the account name and was sent back for reprinting.
“That matter has been fixed and when that money comes through we will look at other logistics and additional operations for the disaster.” Mongallee said he has submitted a full report regarding the eruption to the National Disaster Office last week. Dugulava ward councillor Paul Maburau said food distributed at the care centre has run out and people were now going back to the erupting island to get food from their gardens. “Last week some people wanted to fight over some left over fuel to go to the island just for food,” Maburau said. He said the volcano was still erupting and producing lava that could be seen clearly at night with more thick smoke around the crater.


Sorcery Issue Raises Concern

Post Courier May 24, 2017

Sorcery-related issues reported in the media recently have raised concerns with authorities and agencies that are working to implement the Sorcery National Action Plan. The government has a national core committee led by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General working to implement the Sorcery National Action Plan to address sorcery and witchcraft related violence in the country. Department of Justice and Attorney-General and Family Sexual Violence Action Committee through the Sorcery National Action Plan Committee are raising these concerns following recent news articles on the torture of four women and the eventual death of a young woman tortured in Enga province in relation to sorcery-accusation related violence. As a member for the core committee, the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee is against the brutal nature of violence that is being committed against helpless women in PNG as a result of sorcery accusations.As a sectoral committee of the Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council, FSVAC is mandated to work towards reducing the occurrence and suffering caused by physical, sexual and psychological violence within families. CIMC-FSVAC condemns the torturous acts of violence that is leveled against vulnerable women in the communities with the intension to harm or end their lives. The National Core Committee is aware of the issues and is working with government agencies, churches, NGOs and community advocates in the affected provinces to address the issue and help survivors of violence. Just recently the Core Committee for SNAP held a province wide Consultation in Enga and Simbu to raise awareness of the issue and work with their provincial governments to set up provincial committees to address the issue. “No one or group in a community has the right to take away a person’s life for whatever reason. “Any act of violence committed against a person with the intention to harm or kill is a criminal offence and is punishable by law. The Government has taken stringent measures to address this issue with amendment of Section 299A of the Criminal Code which now prescribes the death penalty for all willful murder cases caused by sorcery accusations.

Extreme vetting process for refugees

May 25, 2017 The National

AMERICAN officials have commenced “extreme vetting” of refugees at Australia’s offshore detention centres on Manus Island and Naru, with lengthy interrogations about their associates and any links to the Islamic State, Reuters reports. Representatives of the US Department of Homeland Security left Manus Island having conducted 48 second-stage interviews, with two refugees divulging details of the process to Reuters. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection this week confirmed 268 people had completed their second-stage security interview with US officials, 220 in Nauru and 48 on Manus Island.
In a separate part of the process, the Department of Homeland Security also collects fingerprint and other biometric data. The third and final stage of the process is a medical assessment. Those assessments commenced in Nauru last week, with approximately 220 to be finished in this round, deputy immigration secretary Rachel Noble told a senate estimates hearing. “It will be some time yet before it is made clear how many people are going from Nauru and how many from Manus,” department secretary Mike Pezzullo said. But the commencement of security interviews indicated Washington would continue to honour the so-called people swap that US President Donald Trump had called “a dumb deal”.


Rubi Miranka and the Bougainville Healthy Community Programme

May 9, 2017

The Bougainville Healthy Community Programme (BHCP) is a program run through the Department of Health of the Autonomous Government of Bougainville (DoH) in PNG. In an evaluation report of the BHCP program, it is claimed as an ‘excellent example of well-planned and well-executed public health and community’ and that it is ‘rare to see such a holistic logic and rationale in a project, which has been effectively implemented within the enormous constraints and challenges of a post-conflict setting’. BHCP’s journey is a positive example of partnership between formal and informal institutions, stories of change agents and transformational leaders and good donor coordination. BHCP, which started as an offshoot of the Leprosy Mission in 2009, has now expanded and covers 739 of the 817 villages in Bougainville with 40 full-time staff.

… Bougainville is entering into the next chapter of its history with a referendum due in 2019 to determine its independence. Irrespective of the outcome of the referendum, there is an acute need to develop its resources. While income from the Panguna Mines and other sources of natural resources are being considered, Bougainville needs to focus on developing its human resources too. Rather than relying on mining of natural resources and the uncertain market, there needs to be a greater focus on human resource development.

Ramu sorcery-related case adjourned to July 13

Post Courier, May 26, 2017

A decision on the Ramu 122, sorcery-related murders has been further adjourned to July 13, yesterday afternoon. Resident judge Justice David Cannings, adjourned the case to July 13 for further final submissions from both the state and defense, despite giving theirs on Tuesday this week. In their recent submissions, the defense argued that the state gave conflicting names and couldn’t properly identify those picked out. The state said because the accused opted to remain silent, it made extra work, but all were involved as they had a common purpose and intent when proceeding to kill armed with weapons.

Justice Cannings said he needed further submissions from both, having taken into account; the number of accused, the number of counts of wilful murder, the potential consequences of finding one or more of the accused guilty of one or more of the charges on the indictment, that submissions on verdict presented by both were not sufficiently detailed enough, and that each of the accused are afforded full protection of the law. He therefore, directed that both parties prepare detailed submissions on verdict in relation to proper identification of the accused picked out during the walk through identification in the courtroom during trial.

The Ramu 122 case is so far the biggest murder trial so far to be heard in any court in the country since Independence. The trial was a sorcery-related killing in Naho Rawa LLG in the Rai Coast area of Madang, where a group of armed men in black soot and offensive weapons of sorts, attacked and killed five adults and two children under five years of age. Medical reports showed that all five were killed, their skulls broken and their brain matter removed. The killings were at Sakiko village, three hours by foot from Ranara junction.


3000 stranded while transport issues stall evacuation of Manam islanders

May 16, 2017 The National

MORE than 3000 people are still on Manam Island in Madang awaiting transportation to the main land after the two recent volcanic eruptions.

Dugulava Ward Councillor Paul Maburau said the volcano erupted again on Sunday around 6pm and continued to yesterday morning.

More than 2000 people are at Baliau village and 1000 living in the small villages. They need transport to come to the mainland quickly. “They are prepared to move out but they have no means to travel,” Maburau told The National. “The islanders are waiting for the prodisaster office to transport them out.”

According to a report from Volcanological Observatory, the behavior of the summit activity seen in the past few weeks is expected to continue. It advised the people on the island to remain vigilant and to take precautions when necessary. It also advised the remaining islanders to avoid venturing into the four valleys where they do their gardening. Last week, 887 people were evacuated from the island and were now living at the Potsdam care centre. Maburau said food supplied by the provincial disaster office should last for about a week. He said the Red Cross, World Vision and a woman only identified as Maureen has provided tents, mosquito nets and other basic necessities for temporary homes.


PNG needs mature education policy, not unsustainable give-away 16 May 2017

WE ARE going into the third week of this eight-week election campaign before polling in Papua New Guinea’s general election commences.

Unlike previous elections, this election appears more sedate. Social media is playing an important role with almost all political parties advertising their messages on Facebook and using social media more effectively. The ruling People’s National Congress has reportedly spent much money disseminating information about its polices in social and mainstream media. One of the PNC’s major pitches is the free education policy. It implemented this policy in office and it proved to haves weaknesses. In what looks like a counter attack, opposition leader Don Polye on behalf of his THE party seemed to write a political suicide note by saying he will scrap the free education policy and introduce “compulsory and subsidised education”. THE party’s policy will make it compulsory to attend school and for parents to pay fees up to Grade 12. But technical and university education will be free. Prime minister O’Neill condemned the opposition saying this was a reckless policy that would set the country back, reverse development and undermine economic growth. “This is the most reckless opposition campaign to be seen in elections for a long time,” he said.


Candidates are issuing weapons, teacher says

May 18, 2017 The National

A BOUGAINVILLE primary school teacher, who has been working in Southern Highlands for many years, says weapons are being smuggled in mostly by better educated people. BO, a teacher witnessed a helicopter carrying weapons landing on a sweet potato garden at the village where she was teaching.

She shared her experience during a meeting on social and security issues with key government security agencies and partners last week in Mendi in preparation for the general elections.

She said poor youths and subsistence farmers in the province were provided weapons by educated people, mostly candidates, in preparation for the elections and during tribal conflicts. “It was the poor people’s food garden that was destroyed and many people from the area thought someone important came but weapons were smuggled to the area,” she said. “The owner of the garden watched in surprise about what was going on, but it was the deal of the educated people doing all their best to smuggle high-powered weapons and that has now contributed to the build-up of firearms in the province.” She said she had been moving around the province, teaching in remote areas and during elections, and weapons were displayed and the hot topics were how to win the election and enter parliament. She said there were many awareness programmes carried out over the years on the freedom of choosing leaders and educated people should be the ones telling their people what should be done when electing leaders.


El Nino to hit us again

May 31, 2017 The National

THE people have been warned to brace themselves for another El Nino-induced drought soon, similar to one two years ago which badly affected thousands of citizens.
The National Disaster Centre is leading the planning for the natural disaster forecast for August this year so that the mistakes in 2015 and 2016, especially the lack of preparation, are avoided.
Centre director Martin Mose said planning was underway for the El Nino conditions predicted by global and regional climate agencies to happen in August.
It is likely to bring drier-than-normal conditions to PNG.
“In the past when El Nino happens, everybody starts going out and responding everywhere. We don’t like to do that (again) because we can miss the areas heavily affected and we can waste too much time on areas less affected,” Mose told The National.
He said their planning was based on scientific information from the regional integrated multi-hazard early warning system and the National Weather Service.
“It will show us exactly what area in the country is going to be affected and so we can focus our response effort accordingly,” he said.
The Government in its 2016 national budget allocated K220 million towards the drought recovery programmes. It also had to table a 2015 Supplementary Budget to address the shortfalls in revenue caused by factors including the closure of the Ok Tedi mine in Western.
Mose said the El Nino in 2015 and 2016 was challenging because they were still organising themselves when it struck.
“But because of our responsible Government, we were able to mobilise resources with the help of the United Nations,” he said.
He said for this year, they would be more prepared. National Weather Service assistant director Jimmy Gomoga said so far, the El Nino thresholds had not been reached.


No plans yet for Manam

May 31, 2017 The National

THE National Disaster Centre is awaiting word from the Madang provincial administration on the future of Manam islanders evacuation because of the recent volcanic eruptions.
Centre director Martin Moses said there were no plans yet for the islanders who were evacuated to the mainland after two eruptions early this month.
The Government through the disaster centre had allocated K31,000 to assist in the evacuation plus other expenses for their stay at the care centres in Madang.
“We haven’t got any plan or arrangements yet but they are our people and we cannot just leave them there,” Mose told The National.
“They (provincial administration) have to give us some indication as to how long they are planning to keep the people at the care centres.
“That will depend on the scientific advice from the Rabaul Volcanic Observatory. For the budget, we expect the Madang provincial administration to give us information so we can ask the government through the treasury and finance departments to make funding available. I’d like to know how much they need.”



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