Social Concerns Notes – July 2018

Church: DSIP, PSIP Funds Encourage Corruption and must be abolished.
Post Courier July 19, 2018
ONE of the oldest and biggest churches in the country, the Catholic Church through its powerful mouthpiece, the Catholic Bishops Conference, has called on Parliamentarians to do away with MPs’ DSIP and PSIP funds because these have only attracted greed and corruption and overshadowed the real role of an elected MP. The church, through the president of the Bishops Conference, Bishop Rochus Tatamai, made the appeal, saying while the funds may have assisted some MPs to develop their electorates, they have also attracted corruption and made many people in their electorates perceive their MPs as money men.
Bishop Tatamai said: “Since the introduction of the funds in the 1970s, the CBC PNGSI has warned that this confusion in the separation of powers central to any democracy was not in the best long-term interests of the nation. We have consistently appealed for a reversal of this trend.”
He gave an example of the violence in the recent national election, especially in the Southern Highlands Province, and said “we repeat this appeal even more urgently”. “It does not require any great gift of prophecy for us to say that the nation is headed for disaster as long as the nation’s wealth is seen to be directly administered by Members of Parliament, especially those who are in government and not just in parliament. “Why are people so desperate to have their own man or woman elected? Is it because they will be the best legislators, the best servants of the people, and the best custodians of the wealth of the nation? Or is it because if their man or woman gets into power, by whatever means, they will have access to unimaginable wealth? But if he or she fails, they will be in the financial wilderness for at least the next four years. Given the capacity of a sitting member to cement his or her position, this could be even longer.
“If this trend continues, the next election – its lead up, its conduct, and its aftermath—will see even greater violence, death and destruction than we have seen to date.
“We therefore appeal to all our parliamentarians to halt and reverse this trend. …
Recently we heard that a good reason for defecting from Opposition to Government is so that they will have access to funds for the development of their electorate.” Bishop Tatamai said in order to help these MPs and to back up their stand, they want to inform the MPs that Catholic Church leaders do not expect to receive any payments, budgeted or unbudgeted, directly from MPs.
“In fact we prefer not to take part in any event where this is likely to happen. We appeal to other churches, NGOs, and community organisation to similarly inform their Members of Parliament.
“We must communicate to our leaders that we do not expect and do not want them to be financial administrators. If this return to a proper separation of powers is achieved by the next election, we may have a better chance of defusing the dangerous elements of greed-fueled violence and of electing genuine legislators,” Bishop Tatamai said.

Wounded Policeman rescued by fellow officers in remote village
Post Courier, July 4, 2018
THREE Wabag based policemen are being hailed as heroes after rescuing an injured colleague who was held captive by armed tribesmen in the Kompiam district, Enga Province on Friday. Constable Pendao Usukini, Senior Constable Joe Aikel and First Constable Colin Thomson put their lives on the line to rescue their colleague Sgt Peter Heovo. Enga Provincial Police Commander Superintendent George Kakas hailed all four as heroes. The trio drove through three roadblocks, risked being shot and killed in an effort to reach their wounded comrade who had also been taken hostage.
Last Friday morning, Sgt Heovo from Menyama in Morobe Province had responded to a distress call in the Kompiam district from a Chinese company operating an alluvial gold mine at a village called Yaumanda. The Yaumanda villagers had demanded K400,000 from the Chinese company for using their area to establish a communication network. When the Chinese offered K4000, the Wakumale tribesmen were infuriated and allegedly threatened company workers. Sgt Heovo, a 23-year police veteran, led a small force to the site to negotiate with the landowners. Mr Kakas said Sgt Heovo was injured when a villager allegedly shot him. The shotgun pellets struck Heovo in the thigh and buttocks. He was losing a lot of blood,” Mr kakas said.
“The three rescuers arrived and had to cut their way through various roadblocks made of fallen threes, stones and logs which they had to cut through and remove quickly, they went through three roadblocks, they arrived at the foot of the village and using their knives, they cut through thick bush with the assistance of local villagers they picked up along the way and arrived at the village at midnight. “The three mediated and when Sgt Heovo was released they applied First Aid and carried him to the vehicle, he was losing blood and going in and out of consciousness. “They left the district and arrived back in Wabag at 5am on Saturday, Sgt Heovo was already unconscious. “He was operated on and the pellets were removed, he is now recovering at Wabag General Hospital.”

Pomio logging & oil palm damage estimated to be ‘billions’
04 July 2018
PORT MORESBY – Communities affected by three Special Agriculture Business Leases (SABLs) in the West Pomio District of East New Britain Province have assessed the economic damage caused by logging and oil palm planting at more than K2.4 billion. The damage assessment was compiled by 17 communities that have lost 42,400 hectares of customary land under the Pomata, Ralopal and Nakiura leases.The assessment of K2.4 billion comprises both the damage already suffered since the leases were issued and the future loss that will accrue through to 2110 if the leases are not cancelled and the land returned. Community spokesperson Ana Sipona says the communities never agreed to the loss of their customary land or the logging and oil palm planting. “There was never any proper awareness conducted by government departments and people did not give their free, prior and informed consent,” Sipona said. “The SABL commission of inquiry revealed the same thing happened across the country, with more than five million hectares of land being illegally acquired.”
Spokesperson Norbert Pames says the size of the damage assessment is a powerful reminder of the value of customary land to local communities and the damage they can suffer when the State facilitates or encourages customary land alienation. “Too often our leaders are fooled by false promises of the development and government services that will follow if they sign over our land and they do not stop to think about what will be lost in the process,” he said.
“The big differences between our own sawmilling business and the Rimbunan Hijau operation is that ours was owned by the communities themselves and used the forests in a sustainable way while RH is a foreign multinational and has cleared large-areas of forest for oil-palm planting,” said Kene.
“It is a tragedy that the government has favoured foreign-owned destruction over sustainable locally-owned uses and left our communities to suffer the damage”.

Childhood vaccines destroyed in aircraft fire
July 4, 2018The National
THE aircraft burnt at the Mendi airport last month was carrying 13,200 doses of vaccines and 12,000 syringes for the childhood vaccination programme, says Emergency Controller Dr Bill Hamblin.
The United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) is currently trying to have the replacements brought from overseas as they are not available here. The vaccines and syringes were procured by Unicef through Government funding and were being transported through Mendi to Hela for the immunisation programme. “I want the people involved in destroying these vital relief supplies and warehouses arrested, charged and face the full force of the law. They cannot go unpunished,” he said.
Hamblin said the 13,200 doses of vaccines and 12,000 syringes were still inside the plane when it was set on fire. “People involved in those acts do not belong in society,” he said. “They need to be locked behind bars.

Churches Join Forces to Combat Sorcery Accusation Related Violence
Post Courier, July 5, 2018
Churches are joining forces to address sorcery accusation-related violence as part of a national effort to stamp out such attacks. Almost 50 leaders from 14 denominations in the Momase region have contributed to the development of a national church strategy to tackle sorcery accusation-related violence following a workshop in Lae by the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission (CLRC).
CLRC Secretary Dr Eric Kwa has condemned sorcery accusation-related violence, saying it is usually directed against isolated and vulnerable people in the community, particularly women.
Dr Kwa said the three-day workshop was the first of a series of regional consultations to be held around the country to aid the development of a National Churches Strategic Plan on Sorcery Beliefs and Sorcery Accusation-Related Violence. The National Churches Strategic Plan is a key component of the Sorcery National Action Plan, which aims to break the link between accusations of sorcery and violence.
“Churches speak with a strong voice, and the messages they convey will be heard, that is why they are an important partner in helping reduce and eliminate such violence,” he added.
The National Churches Strategic Plan is being developed to help ensure churches act and speak against sorcery accusation-related violence in a consistent and coordinated way.

US government slams PNG for failure to combat people trafficking. Children as young as 10 being forced into prostitution
06 July 2018
Read the US State Department’s full 2018 trafficking in persons report here
WASHINGTON DC – The government of Papua New Guinea does not fully meet minimum standards for the elimination of people trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, according to the United States government.
This year’s annual report on trafficking by the US Department of State says that, as a result, PNG has been downgraded to the lowest of four tiers as a country which does not fully meet minimum standards and is not making significant efforts to do so. The report says the government took some steps to address trafficking, including initiating the first investigation of a government official under the country’s anti-trafficking law. But it said progress was hindered by an acute lack of resources dedicated to eliminating trafficking as well as very low awareness of the problem among government officials and the public. The PNG government did not provide or fund protective services for victims, did not systematically implement victim identification procedures and did not identify any trafficking victims in 2017. It also did not initiate any prosecutions and did not achieve a single trafficking conviction for the fifth consecutive year. In fact, the government decreased law enforcement efforts in 2017 despite partnering with an international organisation to conduct training for officials.
In other cases officials did not apprehend any vessels for illegal fishing and trafficking in 2017, and logging and mining sites operated in remote regions with “negligible government oversight and authorities did not make efforts to identify sex or labour trafficking victims”. For the sixth consecutive year, the report identified PNG as a source, transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. It cited international NGO research which found that 30% of sex trafficking victims were children under the age of 18, some as young as 10. The report also revealed that Malaysian and Chinese logging companies arrange for foreign women to enter PNG voluntarily with fraudulently issued visas. After their arrival, many of these women—from countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, and the Philippines—are turned over to traffickers who transport them to logging and mining camps, fisheries and entertainment sites, and exploit them in forced prostitution and domestic servitude

Care centre releases 45 orphans back to community
July 10, 2018The National
THE El Rafa Care Centre in Minj, Jiwaka, released 45 orphans back into the community last week.
The centre caters for orphans whose parents have died of HIV/AIDS. It is run and operated by the Evangelical Brotherhood Church and supported through the Swiss Evangelical Brotherhood Mission.
Since opening in 2004, the centre has cared for about 200 orphans altogether.
In a small but moving ceremony on Wednesday, most orphans, who are now young men and women, spoke highly of the centre and how it had helped them over the years. Johnny Boma, now a father, said he met his wife at the centre. “I lost both parents at an early age,” he said.
“Without El Rafe, I don’t think I will be who I am today. “The centre gave me a chance in education and life. “My school fees since fifth grade were always met by these generous people.”
Counsellor Rachael Kiman said the centre was releasing those who were 15 years old or older.
“We have trained them well to take care of themselves in this challenging world,” she said.
“They leave today armed with a Bible as their guide, and tools and seedlings that will help them start something for themselves.” She said the orphans leaving the centre were trained to be self-reliant and to work hard.

Five PNG women die everyday giving birth: UN
July 12, 2018The National
IT is estimated that five women die every day when giving birth in the country, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA Asia Pacific Regional health economist Anderson Stanciole urged the Government to increase its investment in voluntary family services.
“It is a critical area to think about in the economic development of the country. There is a lot at stake. (There are) about 1000 deaths per year, or five maternal deaths in PNG every day,” he said.
PNG’s high maternal mortality ratio at 733 per 100,000 live births is among the highest in the world, according to the UNFPA. About 88 per cent of the deaths are due to the lack of skilled birth attendants and life-saving medicine. “One maternal death is one too many,” Stanciole said. “No women should die giving birth.

Plight of Psychiatric Inmates always Forgotten
Post Courier. July 17, 2018
Psychiatric inmates at Bomana prison are the most forgotten people in jail. This was the statement made by Justice Panuel Mogish today at the Bomana National Court during his order to the Papua New Guinea Correctional Services to review the psychiatric inmates who had been discharged but are still behind bars. Justice Mogish said that the psychiatric persons are not just prisoners but are citizens of PNG and thus deserved humane treatment. “The se people have human rights, that should be respected,” said Justice Mogish. “We must make it our responsibility to protect these people.”

Total of 194 years for murder
July 18, 2018The National
NINE men from Pomio district in East New Britain who killed a man last year accusing him of practising sorcery have been jailed for 194 years in total.
The nine were convicted for murdering Francis Tangaliurea. Justice Susame told Willie Lote, Wilfred Lote, Lobau, Tolepuna, Ailas and Kangeri that as young offenders they could not come to court and justify their criminal act by hiding behind the cloak of youthfulness when they had brutally murdered an innocent person. “A strong punitive or retributive sentence is justified to stress the need for personal and public deterrence against sorcery-related violation of human rights,” Justice Susame said. The court heard that on Aug 17 last year the men went to the home of the victim and pelted it with stones. Tangaliurea came out with a bush knife to investigate. He cut the hand of one of the men and was chased by the men and assaulted a short distance from his home. He was carried on a stretcher to the Pomio Health Centre – about a kilometre away but died later.

Breaking the Grip of RH over PNG
July 16, 2018
OAKLAND, Apr 20 2016 (IPS) – James Sze Yuan Lau and Ivan Su Chiu Lu must be extremely busy men. Together, they are listed as directors of some 30 companies involved in various activities and services related to logging or agribusiness in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The former is the managing director of Rimbunan Hijau (RH) PNG and son-in-law of RH’s founder Tiong Hiew King; the latter is executive director of RH PNG Ltd.. All but two of these 30 companies have the same registered address at 479 Kennedy Road, in the national capital, Port Moresby–the headquarter of the RH group in the country.
Their ability to magically fit into a relatively small office space on Kennedy Road is not the only puzzling fact about the subsidiaries of the Malaysian group, Rimbunan Hijau. Out of the 30 above mentioned companies, 16 subsidiaries that are directly involved in logging or agribusiness have one other thing in common. According to their financial records , they don’t make a profit. Most of them have been working at a loss for over a decade. During the 12 years for which financial records were available to the Oakland Institute’s researchers, all together, the subsidiaries declared an average loss of about US$ 9 million every year. ….
[For the rest of this article see the url above]

PNG promises come to nought, & Bougainville is getting anxious
24 July 2018
AUCKLAND – Bougainville’s president John Momis has raised concerns that the Papua New Guinea government is not pulling its weight as the autonomous region prepares for next June’s referendum on its political future. Momis recently met with PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill at a meeting of a joint supervisory board to discuss preparing for the vote. However, outstanding financial commitments of hundreds of millions of kina which PNG owes to Bougainville remain an obstacle to preparations. PNG finally made a minor payment of $US1.49 million to Bougainville last week, but the cheque bounced, although this embarrassment has been denied by PNG treasurer Charles Abel.
Momis said in an interview with Radio New Zealand that PNG was continually failing to deliver on commitments and he was considering approaching the United Nations, New Zealand or Australia for advice…. “It’s frustrating. I am saying what is Australia going to do, what is New Zealand going to do? They were the witnesses [to the peace agreement]. What is the United Nations going to do?”

New study reveals dangers inherent in land registration
25 July 2018
BOROKO – Customary land registration processes can easily be captured by local ‘big men’ and companies with disastrous consequences for local people. This is the conclusion of a study on recent oil palm expansion in Papua New Guinea by academic Caroline Hambloch from the University of London. Hambloch’s findings are based on three months field research in East and West New Britain and are presented in a paper titled ‘Land Formalisation Turned Land Rush’ presented at a World Bank conference in Washington earlier this year. The paper demonstrates how land registration processes, rather than protecting customary land, can easily be used to disenfranchise local communities and alienate them from their land. This is because of an environment of weak governance and huge power and information imbalances. Hambloch details how PNG’s weak or non-existent capacity for regulation and enforcement of laws has been exploited by logging and oil palm companies who have surpassed various government agencies.
The results have been disastrous for local communities, which are experiencing worsening poverty, increasing wealth inequality, increased conflict and a lack of basic service provision such as roads, schools and health centres. The study is important for PNG as it exposes and debunks the myth that land registration or ‘formalisation’ is necessary to generate income, improve productivity and drive development. This is a theory that has long been backed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Bank and foreign governments and has therefore dominated the development discourse in PNG.It is frequently repeated by government ministers, industry bodies and ‘think tanks’. But it is not supported by the evidence. Hambloch’s study reveals that, rather than increasing agricultural activity and national income, customary land formalisation has had the opposite effects, deepening poverty and retarding economic growth.

Big timber buyer China is ignoring destruction of PNG forests
27 July 2018
LONDON – Anti-corruption NGO Global Witness has today released research revealing how many logging operations in Papua New Guinea appear to be breaking the law and selling illegal timber overseas. This destruction of irreplaceable ancient rainforest is driving climate change and damaging the livelihoods of indigenous communities. A significant majority of timber from PNG is shipped to China – representing 29% of China’s tropical log imports in 2016. Yet China has no regulation to keep illegal timber from entering its borders. The risk of illegal timber flooding China’s markets can damage its reputation and major trade relationships as many countries which ban illegal timber imports take action to stop the trade. On paper, the legal system in PNG guarantees that Papua New Guineans have control over their forests. In reality, however, the PNG government is responsible for a catastrophic failure to uphold these laws and the forest sector has been plagued for decades by allegations of corruption and law breaking.
In its new report, ‘A Major Liability’, Global Witness uses satellite imagery to show hundreds of apparent violations of PNG’s Forestry Act in major logging operations which hold government permits and which continue to export timber. Seventy percent of PNG is covered by forest ecosystems that are home to some of the world’s rarest plants and animals. Almost all of PNG’s eight million people rely directly on the land for their sustenance, livelihoods and culture.
But this forest and the lives it supports are under threat. The deforestation rate in PNG has been unusually high in recent years – in the past five years, 640,000 hectares of forest have been lost.

PNG, entwined in Chinese expansionism, exports it illegal timber
31 July 2018 The Guardian
SYDNEY –  Millions of tonnes of illegally logged timber, felled from forests across Papua New Guinea, are being exported to China and from there to the world as finished wood products, a new report from Global Witness has revealed. Global Witness’s investigation has found that the majority of logging operations in PNG are underpinned by government-issued permits, which are often illegally “extended” and which fail to enforce laws surrounding logging in prohibited and ecologically sensitive areas. PNG is one of the latest signatories to China’s one trillion dollar belt and road initiative, and its economy is increasingly entwined in Chinese expansionism throughout the Asia-Pacific. One-quarter of all of PNG’s debt is owned by China and Beijing has announced agricultural and transport projects worth several billion dollars across the developing nation.

Same-sex marriage shouldn’t be allowed: Eoe
July 27, 2018The National
Community Development, Youth and Religion Minister Soroi Eoe says Papua New Guinea is a Christian country and believes that same-sex marriage should not be allowed here.
“Personally, I find it hard to understand (same-sex marriage) and I think for me as a person, my decision is mine and is personal and that is that God created men and women to procreate and that is the institution that as Christians, we should uphold.
“I think PNG is a Christian country and most of our behaviour and conduct are defined by our Christian belief system and being a Christian country. It is defined in so far as man and woman and that has always been cherished and known of marriage and family.
“And then we are mindful of what is happening in other countries. And recently a law was passed in, I think in New Zealand and Australia, for same-sex marriage which raised the question of the very norms of what the churches preaches and in particular Christian countries.
“However, it is a difficult question to answer. But then one of the issues that I will bring to the attention of the Parliament is the issue of declaring this country a Christian country. And that issue will come before the National Executive Council and eventually to Parliament. So I think in terms of our decisions and our behaviour, it is already being defined in our move to address the issue of marriage, particularly when it concerns same-sex marriage. ”
Daulo MP Pogio Ghate said that he was against same-sex marriage that was being legalised in neighbouring countries and he wanted to know if PNG would allow it. “This is very serious to this country. This is a Christian country. And this same-sex practice that is coming from outside of this country and minister, are you aware that it will come to PNG and it does not look good.”

Deferral of elections is assault on democracy, says Transparency
29 July 2018
PORT MORESBY – Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) says the on-off-on and now, finally it seems, off again 2018 local level government elections in Papua New Guinea is both unconstitutional and will disrupt basic services in local communities. “The decision by prime minister Peter O’Neill to defer the elections to 2019 is unconstitutional and an assault on democracy,” said TIPNG chairman Lawrence Stephens. O’Neill has justified the deferral by claiming that funds set aside for the election need to be used to provide outstanding allowances to councillors. “This is deplorable,” said Stephens. “It indicates that it is the government’s view that constitutional rights can be violated on the basis of poor fiscal management by state agencies. “Financial matters, such as outstanding allowances, is an administrative issue and shouldn’t be used as an excuse by the government for the delay.”

Persistent Sexual Abuse common
Post Courier July 31, 2018
Sexual abuse of children by family members is common in PNG, says an officer with the Public Prosecutors Office. Prosecutor in charge of the Family and Sexual Offences Unit with the Office of the Public Prosecutor, Mercy Tamate, said the office receives an approximate 70 to 80 per cent of these cases. “We receive a lot of cases for sexual assault, sexual penetration, sexual touching of children, indecent assault and these are some of the common cases and also one that is common is persistent sexual abuse offences, a continuous abuse over a period of time,” said Ms Tamate.
She said because these are the family member who are the perpetrators, children are not likely to report these cases either because they are traumatised or are fearful for various reasons.
“It’s prevalent, it’s happening on a daily basis and it’s really up to us the law enforcing agency to be able to reach that level so that we deliver quality justice for vulnerable boys and girls,” she said.
The challenge for prosecuters, she said, comes with the skills to understand how to interview child survivors and not “generalise cases” depending on their background. Meanwhile, Milne Bay and East New Britain have reported the highest in sexual offences against children, but Ms Tamate said it could be due to their effective reporting system, otherwise other provinces would have recorded even higher statistics.

Eight get death penalty over PNG sorcery killings in 2014 Eight of the 97 Papua New Guinean villagers convicted of killing seven people in a sorcery-related attack four years ago in Madang have been given the death penalty. The National Court judge Justice David Cannings imposed life sentences on the remaining 88 after one of the accused died last month in hospital. The 97, from villages on Madang’s Rai Coast, were found guilty of the murders of three elderly men, two children and two young men at Sakiko village near Ramu Sugar town. They were each charged with seven counts of wilful murder. The eight on death row were found to be directly involved in the murders. Justice Cannings said the 97 villagers had marched into Sakiko village on April 14, 2014, motivated by concerns about the number of deaths in the area attributed to sorcery. He said a genuine belief in sorcery cannot be regarded as an extenuating circumstance to lessen the gravity of the crimes.

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