Social Concerns Notes – February 2018

7000 positions still unfilled at government health centres
February 12, 2018 The National
PAPUA New Guinea has more than 7000 positions still vacant at Government-run health facilities in the country. According to the 2016 annual health report tabled in parliament last week by Health and HIV/AIDS Minister Sir Puka Temu stated that out of the 17,878 positions available in government-run health facilities, only 9985 positions were occupied.
The report said the number of vacancies were due to many reasons, which included funding constraints, rural-urban migration, shifting from clinical to administration and sometimes remoteness of rural health centres which did not attract health workers. “Another reason is that the country has only one medical school that produces only 50 doctors a year, so from 2010 to 2016 only 316 doctors graduated,” the report said. “Also from 2010 to 2016, only 1364 nurses graduated and 2326 community health workers graduated in the country.”
The report said that the country had only 446 registered medical officers of which 421 were in government-run health facilities.
“The National Capital District has the highest number of health workers with more than 15 per cent of the total population of the health workforce practising at the Port Moresby General Hospital, followed by Central.” “And Hela has the lowest with only one per cent of the health workforce practising in the province,” the report said.
Better development alternatives (Letters Post Courier, 29 January)
I support the call by one Alphonse Roy to ban all logging operations in PNG (Post-Courier, December 22, 2017). There are now better development alternatives for our forest resources. Consequently, there is no need for landowners to pursue an outdated development option like logging. We can do forest conservation to mitigate climate change and benefit through climate funding. A tree is now worth more money standing than dead, so it is worthwhile to conserve our forests and attain more social, economic and environmental benefits than to earn a few lousy kina from a cubic meter of wood.
The Managalas Plateau, an area of 360 thousand hectares in the Oro Province, has recently been declared a biodiversity conservation area along with Yus in Morobe Province. So biodiversity conservation is no longer a myth in PNG but a development option that promises more than just the preservation of peoples’ culture and natural environment.
The Rottock Bay landowners of Kandrian-Gloucester in West New Britain Province are now calling on the PNGFA to action recommendations of an audit that was carried out on logging operations in their forests. They claim they are owed millions of kina by the developer, having been paid in part or not at all since 1991 for many of the development benefits.
If the benefits of 60 per cent for infrastructure and the collective 40 per cent levies for education, business, agriculture, spiritual and shelter have been partially paid or not paid at all, then something is really wrong here. We bet Rottock Bay had been utterly exploited for timber in the last 21 years without any meaningful development.
Forest development audits in PNG are pathetic. They actually have no teeth to bite the offender, so the forest developer feels no urgent need to fulfill its social, economic and environmental obligations to its stakeholders.
ANTI-LOGGING

Many Students miss out
Post Courier January 29, 2018
12,234 grade 12 students have been selected for further studies at tertiary institutions this year, according to the Online selection system. The successful ones were out of the 25,848 school leavers who had applied to further their education. According to Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology Minister Pila Niningi, all students with a grade point average of 2.3 and above that met respective GPA and subject to related entry requirements were allocated space within a higher education institution. He said 3204 school leavers will continue their studies at a study program at the six major universities.
According to initial data compiled from the 2018 selection document published on the higher education website, University of PNG selected 1002, PNG University of Technology selected 599, University of Goroka selected 561, University of Natural Resources and Environment selected 200, Divine Word University selected 565 and the Pacific Adventist University selected 277 for the 2018 academic year. The other 9030 grade 12 students were awarded a study program in various government-recognised tertiary colleges.
Last year’s school-leavers total was 25,848. Students continuing were 12,234 (47 per cent), non-continuing students: 13,614 (53 per cent), universities: 3204 (12 per cent) and colleges 9030 (35 per cent).

Sisters working on safe house for victims of violence
January 31, 2018 The National
NUNS in East New Britain are establishing the first safe house for victims of violence in province. The FMI Sisters are setting up the safe house in partnership with the Archdiocese of Rabaul, ENB Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee (FSVAC) and Roar 4 PNG, a non-governmental organisation which supports survivors in crisis. The safe house will provide a sanctuary for women and children who have experienced family or sexual violence. Survivors will be able to access services such as healthcare, police and legal aid.
The project began a few years ago when the ENB FSVAC decided to build a safe house as a priority for the province. The Archdiocese of Rabaul provided land and donors have supplied shipping containers which will be used to build the safe house. The FMI Sisters are being trained as fulltime staff, and the ENB FSVAC is working on a referral pathway network between service providers to ensure holistic care for survivors.

Teachers without pay for 12 months
Post Courier February 5, 2018
Teachers who graduated and were posted to schools around the country last year have not been paid their wages for the 2017 Academic year. This was revealed by PNGTA General Secretary, Ugwalubu Mowana last week. Mr Mowana blamed the Department of Education for the delay, adding that it is not only new graduates who are affected but also includes teachers who have transferred from one school to another. He said the Department of Education through Teacher Education has the responsibility of registering teachers, issuing each teacher a file number which will then be provided to the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) for admission and payment. He added that this has however not been done and the delay in payment has continued. “All graduates from 2017 and teachers who have transferred from one province to another or have left and come back into the teaching service have not been paid,” he said. Mr Mowana asked why the affected teachers have not been paid their salaries; further adding that there are a lot of problems within the teaching service and these outstanding issues need to be settled. Mr Mowana said that teachers sacrifice a lot and these issues must be settled to give them relief.

Senior hospital staff ordered not to talk about medicine shortage (Scott Waide)
http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2018/02/senior-hospital-staff-ordered-not-to-talk-about-medicine-shortage.html
MADANG – The CEO of Modilon Hospital in Madang and the hospital’s Director of Medical Services have been issued directives barring them from talking about a medicine shortage at the hospital, EMTV’s Madang correspondent, Martha Louis, has reported. This is not the first time senior health staff have been threatened and intimidated through orders from above,
Earlier last year, the health minister also issued directives barring staff and senior management from Angau Hospital from speaking out about the state of the cancer unit and a medicine shortage.
It is good that we still have doctors like Dr Sam Yockopua who are unafraid to speak out when there is a shortage of medicines and consumables. We all need to do the same.
While we understand that there are protocols that need to be followed, the ultimate aim of government is to serve the people of this country. The suppression of important ‘voices of conscience’ like health workers and teachers when the problems are so obvious is detrimental to both the people and democracy. I know of both older and younger public servants who are hardworking. They serve with an unrivalled passion in their fields. I know of health workers in Lae who serve with dignity despite the difficulties they face every day.
They don’t get paid as much as they should. Yet, they know they cannot shut down the clinic just because there is a shortage of medicine.  Their senior representatives should not be suppressed. How can we fix a problem if we hide it? How can a doctor treat a patient if the patient doesn’t say what’s wrong?
Martha Louis reported that the hardest hit by the lack of medicines and the suppression of our voices are the patients. “Papi Kalupi travels from his village at Ono in the Usino-Bundi District to get treatment in Madang,” she writes. “But he says because of the cost of travelling he only comes to the hospital when he is very ill. We have to ask why our people are being forced to buy the most basic medicines – anti-malarial and antibiotics – at pharmacies.

Backlog of Bench Warrants Troubling
Post Courier, February 9, 2018
A massive 6493 bench warrants were not executed in 2016. This is according to the 2016 Judges Report which was presented in Parliament yesterday. The report was presented in Parliament a day after it was given to Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae by Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia who had complained that judges’ reports in the past had not been tabled on time in Parliament. Yesterday’s report detailed that these cases were still pending citing lack of resources by the police force to execute the cases.
But for these specific unexecuted bench warrants, the report stated that 50 per cent of these outstanding cases were criminal matters. “Bench warrants, that is warrants issued by the court for arrest of persons who have not turned up to court for mention or trial of the matter, continues to be a large and troubling issue in the overall context of disposal of criminal matters. “It represents more than 50 per cent of all outstanding criminal matters. Bench warrant matters also increased significantly in 2016 to 6493 from 5083 at the end of 2015.
“While judges can and do take into account the prospects of an accused person not attending when required, it is also necessary to take into account the situation in remand facilities which are mostly overcrowded,” the report said. It said that the only likely long-term solution was more resources for both Correctional Services and the Police. The 2016 report said that there were 5395 “poor returns on executed bench warrants” by the police in 2013. In the body of the report a chart graphically demonstrated the tripling of the court files and workload that has occurred in the years 2008-2016.
“The average number of days to complete a criminal case from committal for trial until judgment is 585, or 20 months,” the report also noted.

Kaunim mi tu….
http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2018/02/government-stalls-on-supplies-of-drugs-as-death-toll-rises.html. 11 February 2018
Government stalls on supplies of drugs as death toll rises. Media reports from around Papua New Guinea have drawn attention to the critical shortages of vital medicines in hospitals, health centres and aid posts. These shortages are causing unnecessary suffering and even death – especially among the most vulnerable; young children, pregnant mothers, the elderly and disabled. All of which could be prevented.
PNGi has discovered that the government has to hand a detailed report setting out solutions that would tackle critical failings observed within the National Department of Health and its private contractors; yet is failing to implement the recommended reforms.
The report, dated 6 November 2017, which is sitting on the Health Minister’s desk, is from a wide ranging ‘special’ audit, ordered by the Prime Minister, coordinated by the Chief Secretary and conducted by the Internal Audit Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department.
The, auditors damning findings, reveal widespread failures throughout the medical supply and distribution chain which, they claim, have persisted and not been addressed over several years. The report contains details on a specific instance of alleged high-level corruption, widespread opportunities for fraud, overpayments to contractors totalling as much as K80 million a year, and delays in orders and distribution which can last not just months but years.
It also reveals widespread violation of proper management and accounting principles within the Health Department and a complete failure to monitor the performance of companies on multi-million kina contracts.
The audit report recommends a number of immediate, short-term and long-term reforms to deal with the most critical failures, including the outsourcing of the procurement function away from Health Department in order to address the “urgent need to have an effective and efficient procurement and distribution of medical supply system”.
Three months later its recommendations have not been acted on.

Momis urges more urgency for Bougainville referendum readiness
http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2018/02/momis-says-bougainville-remains-unready-for-referendum-urges-unity.html#more 12 February 2018
President John Momis says that, although many Bougainvilleans will opt for independence, being ready for the referendum is another matter. “We are not prepared simply because we are too lazy, we are too individualistic,” he said. “We are not prepared to work in unity to create a conducive environment for us to be independent if we so choose.”
Efforts to create a financially self-reliant Bougainville through developing primary and extractive industries have met opposition, especially from landowners around the Panguna minesite. Dr Momis said landowners are resistant to working with the Bougainville government, opting instead to bring in developers that are unwilling to operate under the government’s rules. Although financial self-reliance is not a pillar of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, Dr Momis has stressed it is a precautionary move to ensure that, when Bougainville reaches the ratification stage for self-government, its people will be ready for it if they so choose. The three pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement – autonomy, the referendum and weapons disposal – set a clear target Bougainville must work towards.
The current administration under Dr Momis has encouraged unification, improving the welfare of Bougainvilleans through economic development, securing Bougainville’s future by fully implementing the peace agreement, promoting good governance and the rule of law, and raising awareness. But the vexing question of referendum preparedness remains, driving the government to reassert itself to make sure the people are ready. Dr Momis said despite the seemingly bleak future Bougainville faces, its people must unite with one voice and ensure Bougainville is ready for 15 June 2019. The peace agreement expires the following year.
“We must stamp out corruption, get rid of weapons and ensure the rule of law prevails in our communities,” he said.

K3.2 million Child protection Project mysteriously stopped
Post Courier, February 15, 2018. Frank Kolma
The government’s child protection effort that commenced in 2017 has derailed less than a year into its operation. According to 2018 Budget books, the Child Protection project under the Integrated Community Development Scheme of the Department of Community Development has ceased operations for lack of funds. Tabled in the ‘2018 Budget estimates of Revenue and Expenditure’ which was released during the 2017 November Budget session, K3.2 million was afforded to a mysterious child protection project. Efforts to find traces of tangible outcomes of this multimillion kina child protection project were in vain, but it was gleaned from the expenditure report that the sole project was funded by a donor agency in collaboration with the government.
It was confirmed that the Australian Agency for International Development provided funds for this ad hoc project that tackled a rather vital societal issue but that funding ceased due to the lack of government drive. While the now discontinued child protection project was a foreign intuitive both financially and operationally, it would seem the government of the day did not take heed of community deficiency indicators to do with childcare and protection.
The Asian Development Bank’s Aaron Mathews said recently while commenting on child protection in the country that security starts with ensuring youngsters and children are safe.
“It is not only logical but practically proven that the foundation of dealing with security in any capacity is by first having a decent enforcement entity. “You have that in the RPNGC, your Defence Force and relating enforcement authorities. “All the country needs to do is back such initiatives like the child protection project that is now unfunded and abandoned as these are societal gaps that analysts have identified as potholes that need to be filled,” explained Mr Matthews.

Mendi Catholics host workshop to promote children’s safety
February 23, 2018 National
FOURTY-two participants received certificates after a weeklong workshop on the Lukautim Pikinini Act – Child Protection Training – in Mendi, Southern Highlands, recently.
Mendi diocese Bishop Donald Lippert said: “When it comes to children’s issues, it is everyone’s business and responsibility. “I am grateful that you all have sat through the week-long Lukautim Pikinini Act Training. “The challenge now rests with you.
“To be good volunteers in child protection, your mindset must change completely.
“When your mindset changes, your character changes too, so you are prepared to make a change in your communities.” The acting chief executive of the Office of Child and Family Services, Simon Yanis, told the participants that the government was serious about addressing child protection and the churches played an important role in delivering those services.
“I want to congratulate Bishop Donald and the Mendi Catholic diocese for hosting this training and it’s a milestone for the district itself as for too long we have been out of contact with this province,” he said. Yanis emphasised that children were the government’s responsibility and he would ensure that those living in care centres had their data collected and registered.

Opportunists prey on ills in education. Letter Post Courier 20 February.
While the Education Department continues to struggle to improve the failing quality of the country’s education system, opportunist had preyed on the department’s weaknesses by establishing many illegal primary school teachers colleges in the country, as reported in the two dailies in recent weeks.
With the thousands of school leavers dropping out from the formal education system under the government’s TFF policy, many business people and church organisations’ with vested political affiliations are now focusing on making millions of money from the ever increasing school leavers by establishing many substandard teacher colleges around the country today.
Regrettably, this is a sad chapter in the history of our country’s education system where we now see direct political influence in almost everywhere. Hence, obstructing the education department from implementing their delegated roles and responsibilities without fear or favour….
With the thousands of graduate teachers coming out from these colleges, the quality of education in the country in the next 10 to 20 year will be far beyond manageable. Thousands of incompetent teachers will be flooding many of our primary schools with equal number of teachers without jobs.
Worse yet, unlike the formative years where appointments were done on merits, through teacher inspection and performance reports, today’s appointments are determined by the amount of money a teacher give to the education appointment officers as a bribe to secure a teaching position, regardless of experience or new graduate. A common predicament experienced in the Southern Highland Province where huge amount of money and pig is involved to bribe provincial and district education officers.
In the next 10 to 20 years’ time, I predict that applying for teaching positions will be like bidding for a used vehicle auction where a teacher with the highest bidder secures a teaching position. These are already happening in closed doors in every education office in the country where appointment officers and district education officers alike are running the education office like a family business….
Ken Nandawa
Yaporolo Weki

More Refugees off to US
Post Courier. February 20, 2018
More refugees have been sent to the United States of America from the Manus regional processing centre. Immigration Minister Petrus Thomas and Chief Migration Officer Solomon Kantha said 19 more have been sent and departed Port Moresby for the United States of America (USA). The 19 refugees left on February 13 transiting through Manila. They were the third group who were successful in their interview and screening process carried out by the US Department of Homeland Security.
The 19 refugees who left last Tuesday brings to total 84 who departed to US so far. The first group of 25 men left in September last year followed by another 40 early in January.

Despite repeated promises, PNG’s greatest ever scandal continues
http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2018/02/despite-repeated-promises-pngs-greatest-ever-scandal-continues.html#more
Today is the first anniversary of the presentation of a 10,000 signature petition to the Department of Lands demanding the cancellation of the SABL (special agriculture and business) leases. 2018 also marks five-years since the SABL Commission of Inquiry exposed the full extent of the illegal land grab, which affects more than 10% of the whole country.
But, despite repeated promises from the O’Neill government to cancel the leases, stretching back to 2013, almost nothing has been done. The government’s response to the illegal SABL land grab is the greatest scandal this country has ever seen. Even the brave landowners who have struggled through the courts to have leases declared illegal, without any help or support from the government, or have stood up and defied the logging companies despite attacks from the police, still have foreign companies occupying their soil.
A list released two weeks ago by the Lands Department revealed that of 75 SABL leases examined in the Commission of Inquiry, only 10 have been cancelled, five of those were at the direction of the courts and four voluntarily surrendered. Meanwhile, as the government delays get ever longer, most of the SABL files have disappeared from the Department of Lands. Fifty thousand square kilometres of land, more than 10% of the entire nation given away illegally yet the government does almost nothing to undo the wrong and indeed is still allowing logging companies to plunder the forests. With APEC leaders now preparing to visit PNG, the SABL land grab is a huge embarrassment for the nation.
If the government wants to show we are still a sovereign nation, they must immediately give the land back to local people, evict the foreign companies and pay compensation to the communities for the losses and damage they have suffered.

Corruption Index shows improvement
Post Courier, February 23, 2018
The launching of the Transparency International 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index yesterday has revealed a four point increment in PNGs’ score since last year.
In spite of this slight increment however, PNG still ranks among the top 25th percentile of the most corrupt countries in the world, placing 135 out of 180 countries ranked in the index, with a score of 29 out of 100.
Out of the 180 countries surveyed, New Zealand has snatched the top spot from Denmark this year, although both countries registered lower scores than in last years’ index, with Somalia retaining its position at the bottom of the index.
TIPNG chairman Lawrence Stephens acknowledged that the increment showed some signs of improvement for PNG. However, he stressed that more consistent efforts needed to be made to combat the global scourge of corruption, which for PNG means greater participation of citizens in public affairs. “2018 is the year of APEC for Papua New Guinea and the eyes of the world are already shining a spotlight on us. This is not just a government matter. All sectors; churches, businesses, civil society and citizens must make it their business to improve PNGs’ ranking,” said Mr Stephens.
“We call on the government to enable greater participation of citizens in public affairs and we encourage relevant legislative changes to make this work. Equally important is that citizens need to demand accountability from public officials and speak up and report corrupt dealings in the public and private sector,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Charles Abel said he accepted PNG’s ranking on the index and acknowledged that much more needed to be done to improve the country’s standing in the global community….

Legislative Changes threaten Independent Commission Against Corruption
Post Courier, February 23, 2018
Deputy Prime Minister Charles Abel has highlighted that amendments to the enabling legislation for the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) have threatened to “water-down” the functions of the proposed government agency.
During the launch of the Transparency International 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index yesterday, Mr Able said questions were raised about amendments made to the ICACs’ powers to prosecute perpetrators of corruption, which now risks turning the institution into yet another duplicate government agency.
“There were questions around the ability or not, of the ICAC to prosecute and to make arrests. Of course, if you remove those sorts of powers, does it effectively become another Ombudsman? Which already has a function and is already in existence,” said Mr Abel.
“We need to make sure that there’s clarity around the intent of ICAC and the corresponding tools to implement that intention. There were questions around that happening, which has led to a sort of re-examining of it and emphasising that we want ICAC to be a solid organisation. Otherwise, what’s the point of having it?” he said.
Apart from the subsequent powers and jurisdiction of a future ICAC, there has also been much debate over the functions of an ICAC. Attorney General, Davies Stevens in a public seminar last year, clarified that the Prime Minister, as Head of State, would be responsible for the appointment of ICAC commissioners. The announcement has left many citizens question the political independence of such a body. Mr Abel also said that it was this current dilemma which has stalled the progress of the ICAC enabling legislation.
He added that the government was particularly wary of creating a duplicate institution, which would only constitute further financial strain on an already stretched government budget.
He said other cost-effective alternatives would include not establishing an ICAC, but instead reinforcing existing agencies like the Ombudsman Commission.
Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) chairman, Lawrence Stephens also said that there needed to be an effort to reinforce existing government institutions. He added that a future ICAC will only be as strong as the institutions which support it.
“An ICAC alone does not solve the problems of a country. If you look at the countries where the ICAC is working effectively, you’ll see it’s working effectively because of the institutions that are also working effectively within that country,” Mr Stephens said.

Free education policy is destructive (Letters Post Courier 23 February.)
THE Government’s free education policy is the most destructive policy against education in this country. This policy budgets K600 million annually for education. Of that sum, K360 million trickles into schools or never get there and nobody cares. Schools all over the country get to see K240 million paid in dribs and drabs from February to the following February.
I live within a secondary school with up to 1500 students. Assuming the government is paying a conservative figure of K1500 for each child in their TFF, that means about K675,000 of the annual TFF fund for that school is sent to the District for infrastructure.
In the last three years, this school would have had K2.025 million allocated for school infrastructure. Now this is a reasonable sum of money for a school of average size like this school.
As I write this letter, about 60 per cent of this school, teachers live with wantoks at blocks and settlements and catch bus to school and return. The girls dormitories are in such shameful state of disrepair, one will soon collapse over the poor innocent girls. Thank God for the wisdom of one of the former school principals, the classrooms were lifted and another built underneath otherwise there will definitely be no space to take in all the students that get selected to this school.
The question is, has the school received all this money and spent it on things other than infrastructure. If not we want to know what happens to these funds that are tied funding to schools?
The other component called the curriculum component get another K675,000. From the content of the issues given to students, the package contents are similar to a package sold in one of our stationery shops for K40. That will mean in real value, students from this school received K60,000 worth of curriculum materials.
Where is the remaining K615,000? Who is receiving it and for what?
This school is forced to provide quality education with K900,000 paid in intermittent payments spread over 10 months, while K1.35 million rightly for the school is sent elsewhere under complex circumstances, nobody gets to ask if these funds actually arrive at the school in whatever form or state?
And the most learned minister for education vehemently argues that no school must charge any project fees.
Can Papua New Guinea see how this government is providing “quality” education?
Manning Forepe

How should peace be measured in Papua New Guinea?
By Michelle Nayahamui Rooney on Feb 16, 2018 06:00 am
Development Policy Blog
For most of us our raison d’etre for seeking to understand violence is the need for peace. If we understand violence then we can reduce it and thereby have peace. For many people working on the frontlines, it is not a career choice but a labour of love and life often unpaid or involving great sacrifice. PNG women like Dame Carol Kidu, the late Josepha Kiris, Ume Wainetti and many others have paved the way for legal reform, national action and policies like the recently approved National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence and the Sorcery National Action Plan. National actors, in partnership with development partners, have also been instrumental in paving the way for the emergence of new initiatives like the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee, PNG’s first case management service Femili PNG, and much needed counselling services. Through these and other initiatives such as work in the Law and Justice sector, the next generation of actors are also being trained.
I proceed with deference to this extraordinary body of knowledge generated by scholars, national actors, and development partners leading action to reduce violence in PNG. This work unequivocally informs us that violence in PNG is multilayered, gendered, involves multiple actors, and is fast changing. It also counsels that there are no silver bullets, that our responses need to be multifaceted but may also have unintended consequences that may exacerbate violence.
Media narratives, often sensationalised and essentialised for Western audiences, mask the breathtaking diversity, breadth and the depth of issues that the term ‘violence in PNG’ canvases.
For example, media reports that cite the statistic ‘2/3 of PNG women have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime’ paints the majority of PNG women as victims rather than as remarkably resilient and vulnerable at the same time, actors seeking to secure themselves while simultaneously being the vanguards of peace in their families and communities. Another typical headline ‘Why is Papua New Guinea still hunting witches?’ reinforces the demonization of particular women and community responses yet tends to fall short of explaining why this phenomenon appears to be spreading. With among the highest homicide rates in the world, the lawlessness and crime in two of PNG’s largest urban centres, Port Moresby and Lae, rank them among the least liveable places on earth. The human cost of ongoing tribal warfare exacerbated by the proliferation of modern arms in the Highlands Region cuts across all aspects of daily life. Such entrenched ethnic-based conflicts extend their tentacles to the urban setting where ethnic violence engenders collective security at the cost of subjugating action on domestic violence. Election-related violence and contestation of resources are often resolved through violent means. The images of bashed up asylum seekers on Manus Island reinforce the demonization and marginalisation of Papua New Guinean men.
We have come to take for granted these portrayals of a violent PNG.
Oversimplified narratives of violence carry the risk of conflating different phenomena. For example, work on gender based violence may conflate domestic family violence with sorcery related violence targeting women. These are extremely different phenomena requiring different solutions. In the case of sorcery, Miranda Forsyth and Richard Eves highlight the complicated legal issues and that ‘understandings about what the actual problems are differ widely depending upon the world view of the person concerned’ (p. 2). How do we reconcile a community’s sense of security (that they feel threatened by a woman they believe to be a sorcerer) with the worldview of those trying to measure SDG16.1.4, which seeks to measure the proportion of people who feel safe walking alone in their neighbourhood?
Nor are formal laws and institutions a simple answer. The entanglements between Western laws and customary norms mean that families trying to address domestic violence must navigate complex webs of jurisdictions and actors. See here for a discussion on some of these complexities. Or, as Christine Stewart’s research shows, formal laws can work to reinforce violence against those whose choices on consensual sex – prostitutes and homosexuals – are deemed criminal acts under PNG law.
Understandings of security in the PNG context diverge significantly from Western notions of security. In PNG, belonging to social and ethnic groups are important for security. The nuances and cross-cutting nature of this can be seen in Vicki Luker and Sinclair Dinnen’s edited collection of papers in Civic Insecurity: Law, Order and HIV in Papua New Guinea. How do we reconcile inter-ethnic violence that engenders collective security with policing when the police lack capacity or are non-existent? Where they exist, police often deploy their monopoly power on violence in ways that violate human rights. Stephanie Lusby’s research shows that the formal and male dominated security industry can work to reinforce gender based violence.
To conclude, I draw your attention to Aletta Biersak, Margaret Jolly, and Martha Macintyre’s edited collection on Gender Violence and Human Rights in the Western Pacific. Inspired by Sally Engle Merry’s work on Human Rights and Gender Violence, and ‘translation’ and ‘venacularisation’ the authors examine the interface between universal human rights regimes, from which the SDGs (particularly SDG16) emerge, and local understandings and responses to gender based violence in the Western Pacific. Amongst an immensely rich terrain of issues, the collection reminds us of the contradictions inherent in universal concepts of human rights. For example, on the one hand, universal human rights concepts are based on universal rights and equality of persons. On the other hand, they promote cultural diversity. These contradictions raise questions like whether there can be ‘universal’ human rights. Or, as Margaret Jolly discusses in the conclusion, what do universal human rights mean when notions of individualism and person-hood change alongside PNG’s rapid social transformation?
If violence is so expansive and complex. If violence has multiple faces each wearing multiple masks evading our search to understand it. If violence can conceal itself within the world views of communities to provide them clear logics to harm their own. If violence has such power and agency, then surely the same must be said of the dynamics of peace – our raison d’etre – for understanding violence.
This blog only touches the surface of the wealth of scholarship and nationally produced knowledge on the complexities of violence to highlight the challenges of applying universal measures of peace to the PNG context. Nonetheless, PNG is a signatory to these universal goals and has an obligation to both its citizens and the international community to measure progress towards the goals. The work being undertaken by the Institute of Economics and Peace on ‘Measuring Peace in the Pacific’ is an important start and should complement these existing works. It is also an opportunity to acknowledge important work being undertaken to achieve peace and security in PNG. After all, as this study by David Craig, Doug Porter, and Fiona Hukula shows, Papua New Guineans work every day to make their communities safer places.
This is an edited version of a talk given at the launch of the Institute for Economics and Peace report ‘Measuring Peace in the Pacific’ on 1 February 2018.

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