Social Concerns Notes – February 2019

PNG government’s appalling human rights scorecard

19 January 2019.

Despite an economic boom led by extractive industries such as mining, an estimated 40% of people in Papua New Guinea live in poverty. The government has not taken sufficient steps to address gender inequality, violence, corruption, or excessive use of force by police. Rates of family and sexual violence are among the highest in the world, and perpetrators are rarely prosecuted. The government has been the focus of sustained protests, including student boycotts and acts of civil disobedience, over allegations of corruption. Reports of mob violence, especially against individuals accused of sorcery, continue to be reported. Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, visited PNG in February 2018 and called on the government to tackle a long list of abuses, including corruption, land rights abuses, gender-based violence, and attacks on activists and journalists. In June, authorities confirmed that the country was facing its first polio outbreak in 18 years, prompting an emergency vaccination campaign. Chronic problems continued to plague the criminal justice system in PNG, including abuses by police. Overcrowding and dire prison conditions led to prison breakouts. PNG continues to see high levels of violence and political unrest since the 2017 election, which was marred by widespread electoral irregularities and violence. In June, in the Southern Highlands, a mob set alight a passenger plane in an election-related protest.

Scott Waide – Blog on Cancer Treatment…/cancer-treatment-b…/

Many Papua New Guineans don’t know about the cost of cancer treatment until one member gets sick. The diagnosis alone is problematic. In rural districts and outstations, many community health workers are not equipped with the awareness which would trigger a referral to a major hospital. But that is just one problem.

Take for example, a place like Baindoang in the Nawaeb District of Morobe province. It is only accessible by plane. A young mum with the early stages of cervical or breast cancer will not be able to get the proper diagnosis until the disease is in its late stages.

If the community decides to send her to Lae, they will have to raise at least K2000 for airfares and treatment in Lae City. It is big money for a village community. There is no certainty of the time it will take for them to remain in the city. I’ve come across wives separated from their husbands and children for weeks and months. Many give up and die lonely deaths surrounded by strangers who become family. Many are left with no means of talking with their families either because of the lack of mobile network coverage or no means of buying a plane ticket back home. There are unclaimed bodies at the Angau hospital morgue. Some came from remote outstations.

Today, I learned that a pack of four vials of morphine costs K100. For a cancer patient the family needs to spend K100 a day to ensure some level of comfort for their loved one. That’s K700 a week, K1400 a fortnight and K2800 a month.

Leprosy Highly Endemic in Southern Region

Post Courier January 28, 2019

LEPROSY is highly endemic in the Southern region, according to The Leprosy Mission.

The Leprosy Mission country leader Natalie Smith said, at the end of 2017, 587 new cases were detected in the country where 74 per cent of all new cases were reported in the Southern region. “The six high endemic provinces reported more than 87 per cent of new leprosy cases in the National Capital District, Gulf, Central, Western, Sandaun and East New Britain provinces.

 “587 cases of leprosy is too many cases in PNG. “We want the number to come down to zero, so our aim is to fight against this disease,” she said.

Rapacious loggers & bewildered people – the taking apart of PNG

In late October 2017 I was in Kavieng when I was handed a copy of Government Gazette G161 notifying the gazettal of a SABL over almost 80% of my wife’s island of Lavongai for 99 years free of any land tax. It was one of three SABL that had been foisted onto semi-illiterate rural people as a clever trick to get around the tighter legal requirements of a normal logging permit. SABLs weakened Forestry Department’s regulation of the granting of leases because their intent was alleged to be agriculturally motivated. This gave the developers the wonderful opportunity not to log according to normal forestry rules but clear fell for a monoculture of cocoa, rubber or most likely oil palm with all the inherent environmental dangers a single crop can experience. Over the years coffee and cocoa borers spread worldwide, rhinoceros beetles in Indonesian palm oil migrated into South Pacific plantations and later banana Black Sigatoka. None of these serious agricultural impacts ever slowed down the rapacious loggers. …

Corruption of PNG’s political system infects economic statistics

30 January 2019  Flanagan

Unstoppable youth crime is destroying our social fabric.

30 January 2019.

CANBERRA – PNG’s economic statistics have been corrupted. Even the most basic economic statistic of “how big is the PNG economy” has been manipulated to tell stories convenient to the O’Neill/Abel government. An extraordinary gap of 18% has opened between measurement of the size of the economy (‘gross domestic product’ or GDP) by the PNG government compared with measurements by independent outside observers, led by the International Monetary Fund.

The gap in this most basic economic measure will be 34% by 2023. Specifically, the PNG government claims the PNG economy will reach K125 billion while the IMF estimates it will more realistically reach 93 billion in that year. The NSO 2015 GDP figure was released on 9 March 2018 – a date that marks the clearest point from which the government started manipulating statistics, although there have been questionable practices in the past….

Like any PNG town, Kundiawa is full of unemployed youths, psychopaths, street kids, street sellers, drug dealers, street preachers, pickpockets, beggars, prostitutes and parasites.

the whole town of Kundiawa has become a market place with rubbish everywhere and town authorities and police seem powerless to do anything about it.

On street corners and in public places you can see youths drinking, smoking and gambling. Some sell plastic bottles filled with ethanol or home brew alcohol for K5 or K10 a container. You can see youths selling drugs rolled in pieces of newspaper. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify because marijuana is mixed with tobacco leaves.

When youths are drunk, they demand or steal from anybody: money; mobile phones and other valuables. You will see youths running to catch a thief but they don’t catch him as they are feigning. They all cooperate to execute illegal activity. Long hours are spent in town doing nothing and at night hanging around in front of stores, beer clubs and night clubs looking for opportunities to steal. A lot of strange things happen in town; you can hardly believe them.

There is no quick solution to solve these problems but one way to assist juvenile delinquents is to avoid labelling them as bad people in society. They are troubled human beings and imposing tough penalties is not going to solve their problems. We have to be empathetic and show interest in them as human beings who have the potential to become people. We need to look at how we can provide options to change their lives….

Transparency International  – PNG Highly Corrupt

PNG rating 138/180 Post Courier.  January 30, 2019

A new report by the global watchdog Transparency International has again classified Papua New Guinea as one of the most highly corrupt countries in the world.

The 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), a worldwide examination of perceptions of levels of corruption suffered by individual nations published by TI yesterday, has revealed that PNG is highly corrupt with a ranking of 138 out of the 180 countries that were perceived.

Under the theme ‘Corruption and the crisis of democracy’, the 2018 CPI revealed some crucial areas of the public sector corruption that are contributing to the weakness of democratic institutions and the stagnation to their performance must be addressed by responsible agencies like the government departments and non-government organisations as well.

According to a press statement released by TIPNG, some of the areas that contributed to the rank of corruption in PNG are the deteriorating respect for democratic principles.

“Simply said: There is a massive disrespect for the rule of law,” TIPNG said.

The statement went on to condemn public servants and citizens’ lack of integrity to adhere to proper processes and respectful ways of conduct. And taking the 2017 National Election as an example, the statement expressed great distaste about the way the election was conducted. This was evident in the 2017 National Elections with discrepancies and electoral roll inaccuracy, bribery, and intimidation by voters and candidates, double voting and blocks voting. There was also a lack of enforcement of laws by official agencies responsible during the election providing an opening for citizens to disregard measures to ensure a free and fair election, TIPNG said.

However, when corruption seeps into the democratic system, particularly at the higher levels of power, democratic institutions that keep the government in check suffer.

The O’Neill regime is dumbing down a whole generation

PORT MORESBY – High profile journalist Scott Waide’s recent article about the high cost of his daughter’s university fees highlights a conundrum Papua New Guinea faces in terms of the quality of its education system. Scott was shocked about the high cost. But let us reflect on what is a major crisis in the sector. When the O’Neill government introduced the Tuition Fee Free (TFF) education system for primary and secondary schools, it failed to account for capacity constraints. Schools were flooded and schools lacked and continue to lack learning resources, infrastructure and staff numbers to cope with the influx. Primary and secondary schools in PNG have essentially become child-minding centers as opposed to centers of learning. In terms of TFF, the government contribution is K20-K50 a child and it warns schools not to charge fees.  Schools are then expected to turn this miserly level of fees – five loaves of bread and a couple of fishes – into something to feed knowledge to thousands of students. Universities also continue to be grossly under-funded leading to massive fee hikes. However when one considers the true cost of providing university level education, the fees are a drop in the ocean.

The member for Menyamya recently highlighted in parliament the rural-urban technology divide and how rural students are disadvantaged in terms of securing places at university.

While the predatory elite in government is dumbing down the general population, their children are being trained overseas to rule over a dumb population in the future.

The O’Neill government, whether by design or accident, is increasing inequality and making social stratification much more pronounced. The constitution of the independent state of Papua New Guinea calls for integral human development as its first national goal and directive principle. The way things currently are under the O’Neill regime, this national goal is ignored.

PNG’s constitution also calls for equality and participation as another national goal. Whilst the TFF policy can be seen as being reflective of this, the poor quality of education means many students leave school unable to equally participate in the economy. They become a liability.

The rural-urban divide also means rural students don’t have the same level of opportunity to attend university, thus furthering social inequality. A poorly educated population that lacks capacity to engage in the modern economy becomes reliant on political patronage.

This is a politician’s dream because, as long as people keep waiting for handouts from politicians, politicians can control voting behaviour.

Solomon calls for churches to help kids

February 7, 2019 The National

COMMUNITY Development, Youth and Religion Secretary Anna Solomon has called on churches in the country to help vulnerable children. She expressed appreciation for the efforts of two Catholic churches in the Highlands region for partnering her department to provide “out-of-home care” for disadvantaged children last year.
“The department wants to partner with more churches in the country in taking care of these children who come from broken families and homes, orphanages or whose parents have died from HIV/AIDS, sorcery-related killings, and those living with disabilities,” Solomon said.
“The two care centres that have been given licence in April recognising them as state partners to care for vulnerable children are under the Diocese of Mendi in Southern Highlands and Archdiocese of Mt Hagen in Western Highlands.”
Solomon said the Lukautim Pikinini Act has allowed the inclusion and provision of the out-of-home care centres by churches in partnership with the government.
“The out-of-home care centres are mandated through the licence for removal of endangered children from within the community and having them given due care in the temporary shelter until they are returned to a permanent home.
“These two care centres have each assimilated about 15 children and may take in more as vulnerable children increase in numbers coming from broken homes, or orphanages whose parents have died and those living with disabilities.
“We have all the data for the churches in PNG, especially seven mainline churches.”

The picture of a grieving mum that told a million stories

08 February 2019


Ezekiel’s mum weeps over his body (Sally Lloyd)

SCOTT WAIDE | My Land, My Country

LAE – A few days ago, I asked Sally Lloyd about the picture she posted on Facebook of a distraught mother weeping over the body of her baby who had died.  This is the story behind the picture. They are from Fomabi Village near Nomad. …middle Fly in Western Province. The child got sick with pneumonia, I believe, and Nomad Health Centre could not help them. The facility there has been very run down and ill equipped for a very long time. 

They then had to make the long walk to Mougulu health centre for many hours to get further help. Unfortunately, the child died the following afternoon, and without any helpers with them the parents had to walk back to their village with the dead child….

 “This evening they have the long walk back (6 to 8 hours at least) to Fomabi Village with a very heavy burden – almost too much to bear. “The father offloaded some heavy food items and we gave high protein food and fish, a torch and umbrella- it’s going to storm tonight. “God knows how much we need that emergency vehicle – to bring patients more quickly, but also for parents who should not have to walk a day (or all night) to get home and bury their child. “RIP Ezekiel.”

Kieta Flights Suspended

Post Courier February 11, 2019

Air Niugini has suspended its services to Aropa airport, Kieta in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB) this week due to removal and theft of the solar panels which power the Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) lights at the airport. PAPI lights are a visual aid that are generally located beside the airport runway that provides guidance information to help pilots maintain the correct approach to an airport. They are a requirement for jet operations. PAPI lights at Aropa airport were only installed recently, allowing the resumption of jet operations into Kieta in January this year.

Report Saying Loggers Declaring Losses But Increasing Exports

Post Courier February 13, 2019

A high-end investigative report has revealed that despite decades of operating in PNG, logging companies barely declare profits. Furthermore, the report reveals an odd financial contradiction where loggers have reported doubling their losses while continuing to increase their exports of tropical timber. In a comprehensive report furnished by renowned international researching group The Oakland Institute, new evidence of financial misreporting and grand scale tax evasion in the PNG logging industry have been unearthed.

Titled “The Great Timber Heist-Continued: Tax Evasion and Illegal Logging in PNG”, the institute makes public a host of new case studies that have been ascertained through the study of sixteen subsidiary logging exporters.

Following a 2016 report of the same nature which alleged that financial misreporting by foreign firms resulted in nonpayment of hundreds of millions of kina in taxes, the new report reveals an apparent worsening of this pattern in recent years.

According to financial records, the 16 studied subsidiaries of a logger that court injunctions hinder us from naming, have doubled their financial losses in just six years while increasing their exports of tropical timber by over 40 per cent….

After the decline throughout much of 2017, the volume of logs exported returned to their upward trend in October. To date, the abolished special agriculture and business leases which added 5.5 million hectares to the 10 million hectares remains a mystery.

Family Protection Law Not Understood: Kamit

Post Courier February 14, 2019

FOUNDATION chairperson of the Coalition for Change (CFC) Incorporated, Lady Winifred Kamit, has expressed grave concerns regarding the general consensus surrounding provisions of the Family Protection Act 2013. Lady Kamit made this comments yesterday after reading media reports which paraphrased a Mount Hagen District Court magistrate in saying that the new law was “biased towards women” and that it “destroyed the family”.

As the head of the organisation instrumental in the drafting of the law through to when it was passed, Lady Kamit said she was disappointed that a member of the PNG Judiciary would express an understanding of the law which was so fundamentally flawed.

“The statement, if true, is not only wrong, because that’s not what the law is, but it also shows that the provisions of the Family Protection Act are not understood,” said Lady Kamit.

“The Family Protection Act is a law which gives protection to both female and male survivors of domestic violence, who can go before a magistrate for a protective order and other orders which are sanctioned by the act.” Lady Kamit added that the public needed to have a better understanding of the law and its role in the protection of oppressed survivors of domestic violence which was prevalent around the country.

Loloho Digital Tower Equipment Torched

Post Courier February 15, 2019

Communications equipment at the Loloho Digicel Tower situated on the mountains overlooking Loloho was burnt on Wednesday morning allegedly by disgruntled landowners.
This has now resulted in a total Digicel network outage in Arawa and the surrounding communities. Although details are still sketchy, the burning of the tower equipment is alleged to have stemmed from a dispute over the distribution of rental payments amongst family members of people who own the land where the tower is situated on. This act of sabotage is the latest of a number of acts of vandalism targeting Digicel communication towers on Bougainville. This also comes amidst recent revelations from the mobile telco that it was struggling to maintain its services on Bougainville due to the frequent acts of vandalism and burning down of its communication equipment.

“The banks, the easy pay power system, mobile banking and even EFTPOS machines all depend on the Digicel network here and people cannot hold others to ransom by destroying vital communication equipment,” a town resident who did not to be named said.
“Is this the type of behaviour we want to portray to the outside world especially in the lead up to referendum?”There were long queues at the Arawa BSP Bank yesterday as people; especially public servants struggled to access their monies through the ATMs as EFTPOS services in shops have been affected by the network outage and police are investigating.

Troubling Insights On Referendum From NRI Report

PO February 15, 2019

THE final report on the forthcoming Bougainville Referendum was released yesterday and brought out some broad successes with a few peculiarities that cannot be ignored.

Authored by Dr Kylie McKenna and titled the “Status and implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and implications for referendum”, the research document contained just that. As the sixth and final paper of a research endeavor conducted by the PNG National Research Institute into how far the Bougainville Peace Agreement has come and what remains to be done for a smooth transition, many insights were given.

While the document mentioned that significant achievements have been made and named a few in the likes of the implementation of the Weapons Disposal Plan and the successful holding of the first Autonomous Bougainville Government and subsequent structuring, it also detailed many troubling realities. Therein, the report identified that progress on a number of provisions in the Bougainville Peace Agreement have not been met. It stated that ‘weak collaboration with the National Government’ by the ABG and the delayed payments of grants had now resulted in the process’ delay. It also mentioned that there were still an unknown number of weapons still in circulation and a number of groups and individuals that still posed a threat to the ongoing peace process. Furthermore, key risks identified that could harm the peace process included the finding that human and financial capacity was still not where it needs to be for a referendum. The findings also suggested that there was inadequate information on autonomy and its outcomes to inform voter decision-making, continued proliferation of misunderstandings about the referendum and localised conflict.

Panel discussion organised for refugees to raise concerns

February 15, 2019 The National

A panel discussion organised by the Catholic Bishops Conference was held in Port Moresby on Wednesday for refugees to raise their concerns. The panel discussion was attended by church representatives, media personnel from across the country, students, and refugees.
The theme of the panel discussion was ‘Listening across borders’. Participant Sam Kaipu, who summarised the highlights of the speakers, said it was evident that refugees lived in fear for their lives, and have lost their rights and freedom. “They have left their countries at great risk to themselves and their loved ones,” Kaipu said. “They are in search of a better and safer life.
“All the five speakers are young men who have been in PNG for five or six years.
“Despite being from different countries – a Pakistani, a West Papuan, a West African, a Sudanese and a Central African – their stories had a very important decision. “Either risk long imprisonment or even death, or abandon their beloved country, family and friends in order to find safety and freedom in another country. “It was not simply a better life they were looking for, but their very existence as human beings deserving of respect and enjoyment of their rights and freedoms. “As young men they had made traumatic decisions to abandon their families and friends and countries and lands. The suspense of waiting for their cases to be determined for settlement in another country has aggravated their trauma.”

Our daily bread: How scarcity drives the Mosbi mob mentality:


PORT MORESBY – It was on a Saturday that the mob stormed into view, alleging that a dog bit a woman on the leg. There were no witnesses and the incident was not reported to the owner of the dog. The table mamas who erect stalls and sell betel nut along this stretch of the street did not witness a dog bite. These table mamas report everything that happens in the neighbourhood to those returning from work because they tend their stalls 24/7 to make ends meet in this unforgiving city. A heavily bandaged woman was carted in a wheelbarrow escorted by men, women and children to the unregulated hostel in the street where Kol stayed. A grubby man representing the mob came straight up to Kol, pointing at his face. He knew Kol was not the owner of the dog but acted as if he was.

“Your dog bite off a piece on her calf muscle. We took her to the hospital and the doctor said that her leg will be amputated if not properly treated,” was the line. Kol listened politely because he was a loner and the mob were ready to devour anybody who opposed their story cooked up to make some money. There were no medical papers presented as proof of a visit to the hospital. It was also unusual that the injured woman was not given an opportunity to tell of her experience. The leader of the mob resolved that Kol would reimburse the cost of the medical treatment and compensate them to ‘fan their stomach’, as is part of their custom.

Kol said he did not own a dog, or a house or land but he was shouted down by the men and women. The mob insisted that Kol owned the dog and all they wanted was compensation and he should not divert from that. A neighbour, a leader in the area, endeavoured to confirm that Kol was not the owner of the dog but the mob told him to back off. Kol, in his second attempt to defend himself, said dogs being dogs come here to scavenge in the rubbish but he and others here do not who owns the dog that bit the woman. In fact, the dog was owned by Gemo who he lived in an adjacent block.

The mob knew Gemo owned the dog but decided to hook Kol into the problem so he could partly own the dog. The primary reason was that Kol came from the same area as Gemo (though they were not related) and besides, unlike Gemo, he had a permanent job.

Kol and the Gemo were outnumbered in that stretch of the street so Kol had to raise the white flag of surrender. Without going to Gemo, Kol contributed K200 and other people living in the neighbourhood had the courtesy to donate smaller bills adding up to K550.

He handed the K550 to the leader and the guy took the money and stated that if the woman’s leg developed an ulcer he would come back to Kol for greater compensation.

The next day, a Sunday, the thugs went to Gemo, coerced him and got K300 from him.

On Monday morning, the woman sloughed her bandages, chopped her walking stick and without flinching marched to town to sell her betel nuts. This mob had felt the sharp pain of scarcity that makes them insane and unsafe to mingle with and live alongside.

Although a few of them are law abiding and have a mountain of civic virtue.

Hundreds of families without water supply for five years

February 22, 2019The National

Hundreds of families living in Madang town have had no water supply for more than five years, a survey report said. Madang’s ward seven councillor Bonny Solomon said most families had their water supply disconnected years ago and were using other sources of water for their needs. Solomon said he submitted a report and list of residents in the New Town area to see if the government would assist them pay their outstanding water bills last year but nothing happened. Sharon Halo, living at Kuperu Road, said Water PNG disconnected her water supply yesterday. Halo said high water bills were incurred by previous residents and she was paying K1000 every month to reduce it. She appealed to Water PNG to assess the situation and weigh out reasons before disconnecting water supplies.

Settlers Stand their Ground

Post Courier, February 27, 2019

ABOUT 500 homes have been destroyed in an eviction at Gerehu in the Nation’s Capital on Monday. Women and children were at home when six police vehicles and two excavators moved into the Red Hills and Goroka Block areas between Gerehu and Nine-Mile between 9am and 10am.As  police spoke to the families, the two excavators started their destruction of the homes. In the confusion that followed, houses were destroyed with families unable to remove their personal belongings before the excavators moved on their homes.

The families managed to get representatives from National Capital District Commission to intervene but 10 minutes after they left, the bulldozing and destruction of the houses continued. As of yesterday, families had camped outside their wrecked homes, without electricity and water as many used a single hose for their cooking, washing and drinking water. School children were not able to attend schools amongst the issues that arose.

Robina Yambu and Janet Kuso, both from East Sepik province, said that the actions taken by the person who was claiming to be the landowner was uncalled for as there was no prior notice of an eviction given to the families. “The landowner came just before Christmas of 2018 and showed a court order but did not issue any eviction notice.

Other – Looking back at 2018

Women’s and girls’ rights

Sorcery-related violence has continued unabated, with women and girls the primary targets. In May, in the Southern Highlands, one woman was killed and another two seriously injured after a mob attacked the women following accusations they had used sorcery to kill a man. The government’s 2013 Sorcery National Action Plan is inadequately funded and has yet to be implemented.

In December 2017, the PNG government announced A$4 million (US$2.9 million) of funding for sorcery awareness and education programs. In July, the National Court sentenced eight men to death for their involvement in a sorcery-related killing of seven people. PNG continued to impose the death penalty, although authorities have not carried out any executions since 1954.

In 2013, the Family Protection Act was passed, which criminalizes domestic violence and allows victims to obtain protection orders. In 2017, the government passed regulations to implement the law, but enforcement remains weak and inconsistent.

Police and prosecutors rarely pursued investigations or criminal charges against people who commit family violence—even in cases of attempted murder, serious injury, or repeated rape—and instead prefer to resolve such cases through mediation and/or payment of compensation.

There is also a severe lack of services for people requiring assistance after having suffered family violence, such as safe houses, qualified counselors, case management, financial support, or legal aid.

PNG continues to have one of the highest rates of maternal death in the Asia-Pacific, and the number of women and girls who give birth in a health facility or with the help of a skilled birth attendant has reduced in the last five years.

Police abuse

The PNG government failed to address abuses by security forces. Few police are ever held to account for beating or torturing criminal suspects, a common occurrence. In September, the government indicated it would introduce new measures to give immunity to police and defense force soldiers on special operations supposedly to “curb lawlessness.”

Despite the ombudsman and police announcing investigations into the 2016 police shooting of eight student protesters in Port Moresby, at time of writing no police had been charged or disciplined and neither body had issued a report.

In July, prison officers shot and killed four men who escaped from Buimo prison in Lae. This followed a similar escape in 2017, in which 17 prisoners were killed. Corrective Services ordered an inquiry in 2017, but at time of writing no investigation had begun, allegedly due to lack of funding.

Children’s rights

Police often beat children in lock-ups and house them with adults, despite a child justice law that states children should be kept separate from adults during all stages of the criminal justice process.

In August, a video showing two PNG police officers brutally assaulting a teenage boy in West New Britain was widely circulated on social media. Minister for Police Jelta Wong ordered an immediate investigation and promised to hold those responsible to account. The two officers have reportedly been suspended and charged under the Criminal Code Act, but neither had been prosecuted at time of writing.

Children’s access to education improved from 2012 to 2016 following the introduction of the Tuition Fee Free Policy in 2012 but was still low, with only 76 percent of children enrolled in primary school and 33 percent in secondary.

Land rights

More than 5 million hectares of land has been awarded to PNG-based subsidiaries of foreign companies on Special Agricultural Business Leases, resulting in loss of ancestral land and forest for rural Papua New Guineans. The leases represent over 10% of the country’s total landmass and potentially impact more than 700,000 people.

Government corruption

Corruption in PNG is widespread. In December 2017, the Supreme Court quashed a long-standing arrest warrant for corruption against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, finding that the warrant failed to meet a number of requirements and was issued without jurisdiction.

That same month, anti-corruption police arrested and charged the country’s deputy chief electoral commissioner with corruption for allegedly manipulating votes, for perjury and making a false declaration.

In April, media reported that anti-corruption police are investigating the Governor of Port Moresby Powes Parkop, after a former official revealed the city council was paying K2.8 million a year to a yoga and health company run by his alleged partner.

Asylum seekers and refugees

About 570 male asylum seekers and refugees live in PNG, most on Manus Island. Nearly all were forcibly transferred to PNG by Australia in 2013. Following a 2016 PNG Supreme Court decision that detaining asylum seekers is unconstitutional, in November 2017, the Australian and PNG government closed the main centre on Manus and relocated refugees and asylum seekers to other accommodation facilities on the island.

Many asylum seekers and refugees suffer complex health problems including mental health conditions that have been exacerbated by long periods in detention and uncertainty about their futures. In May, a Rohingya refugee died by apparent suicide having jumped from a moving bus, the seventh asylum seeker or refugee to die on Manus Island since 2013.

The Australian Department of Home Affairs has acknowledged that medical services have been reduced since the men were forcibly removed from the main center in 2017. There have been urgent calls, including by Australian doctors, to improve healthcare standards on Manus Island.

Australia pays for refugees’ living expenses but refuses to resettle them in Australia, insisting they must settle in PNG or third countries, such as the United States. US resettlement from Manus remains slow, with 163 resettled as of October.

Refugees and asylum seekers do not feel safe on Manus due to a spate of violent attacks by locals in the town of Lorengau and ongoing disputes with the local community. In January, neighbouring residents blocked access to living compounds in a protest about leaking sewage. In May, a fire in Hillside Haus forced the relocation of 120 residents.

Since June, a 12-hour curfew has been imposed on the refugees and asylum seekers in violation of their freedom of movement, following a car accident in which a woman died; an allegedly drunk refugee was driving the car. In October, a local man violently assaulted an Iranian refugee who was hospitalized with serious injuries to his head and eyes.

In June, following a class action settlement, the Australian government paid K164 million in compensation to asylum seekers and refugees for their illegal detention on Manus Island.

In July, the Queensland Coroner ruled that the death of Manus detainee and Iranian asylum seeker Hamid Khazaei in September 2014 was preventable and the result of “compounding errors” in health care provided under Australia’s offshore immigration detention system.

Disability rights

Despite the existence of a national disability policy, people with disabilities are often unable to participate in community life, go to school, or work because of lack of accessibility, stigma, and other barriers. Access to mental health care is limited, and many people with psychosocial disabilities and their families often consider traditional healers to be the only option.

Sexual orientation and gender identity

The PNG criminal code outlaws sex “against the order of nature,” which has been interpreted to apply to consensual same-sex acts, and is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

Key international actors

In March, then-Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop visited Port Moresby and met with PNG foreign minister Rimbink Pato to discuss health and immigration. In November, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill signed a joint defence agreement to deepen relations and security cooperation, partly to curb China’s growing influence in the Pacific.

China is set to overtake Australia as the largest donor to PNG, though most assistance is in the form of infrastructure loans rather than aid. China is committing approximately K13 billion to developing a national road network. Australian government aid to PNG for the year 2018-19 is K1.3 billion.

In November, PNG hosted the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum which was overshadowed by growing tensions between China and Australia for regional dominance in the Pacific. China provided significant infrastructure support—including the K82 million convention centre—and President Xi Jinping invited Pacific Island leaders to a special summit ahead of APEC.

Australia spent K305 million on security costs for APEC, and provided 1,500 Australian Defence Force personnel.

The PNG government drew criticism for its purchase of 40 new Maserati cars for visiting APEC dignitaries, when the impoverished country struggles to pay teachers and faces a health crisis. The summit ended in disarray when Chinese officials physically forced their way into the office of the PNG foreign minister and refused to sign the final joint statement.

Bishops appeal for refugee action in open letter to O’Neill

02 February 2019

Fr Giorgio Licini – ‘I appeal to your sense of humanity and the responsibility of your high office’

FR GIORGIO LICINI | General Secretary, Catholic Bishops Conference

WAIGANI – Dear Hon Prime Minister: It is with heavy heart and an intense sense of sadness that I report to you on my recent visits to Lorengau town in Manus Island and to the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby. At the two locations, I had the heartbreaking experience of making contact with an appalling level of desperation in which refugees and asylum seekers live. I am not referring to the logistic conditions in which the men are kept, which appear to be decent with security, cleanliness, and respect by national and expatriate personnel. My concern is rather about their fast deteriorating health status, which is making now acts of self-harm and attempted suicide a daily occurrence: three cases only for the two days I was in Manus on 20-22 January.

While travel to Manus and to the detention centers may prove hard to your busy schedule, I warmly invite you to make a quick visit to the [Intensive Care Unit] ward of Pacific International Hospital at 3 Mile.

You will come across well-kept health facilities and extremely kind and professional personnel, but you will also meet about twenty refugees and asylum seekers in a deplorable state of mental health compounded with other ailments affecting their cardiac and respiratory system, kidney failure, fractured bones, etc.

Pacific International Hospital and the PNG health system in general cannot cope with these types of diseases and the men are prevented by their status from seeking independent and autonomous medical attention elsewhere.

Needless to say, Hon Prime Minister, that the foreigners hosted in Manus, at Pacific International Hospital and other locations in Port Moresby have never committed any offense against the people or the State of Papua New Guinea.

Their detention, mainly at the hand of the government of Australia was organised between July 2013 and February 2014 because of their irregular arrival by boat on the shores of that country and as an attempt to deter additional asylum seekers from taking to the sea.

The people of Manus expected the offshore processing of those more than one thousand men taken to their island at Lombrum naval base to last two or three years at the most. Now half of the initial number of those men are still there after six years.

The uncertainty about their future, the rejection of claims and applications for resettlement, the length of the review process has brought to a significant breakdown in their mental health conditions.

From the information I gathered the situation has begun to become alarming by September 2018. Self-harm and attempted suicide, due to depression and hopelessness has now practically become a daily occurrence.

You may see by yourself the men admitted at Pacific International Hospital, and there will be no need for me to supply additional details and information.

I am therefore appealing, Hon Prime Minister, to your sense of humanity and the responsibility of your high office.

As you accepted in 2013 to offer help to the Kevin Rudd government of Australia and the refugees themselves to have their status processed in Papua New Guinea and begin a new life elsewhere, I am now humbly asking you to give a very close deadline to the authorities in Canberra for the removal of all refugees and asylum seekers from our country on the basis of strongly compelling medical and humanitarian reasons.

Having achieved the objective of “stopping the boats” their detention now amounts to cruelty and plain mental and physical torture.

Without this decision, the mentally impaired people will grow by the dozens in the next few weeks and months. Who is going to care for them?

They risk outright rejection by any third country. They will be unproductive and a burden to Australia if that government is eventually forced to take them in. It is unthinkable that they are treated in Papua New Guinea and spend the rest of their lives here in total abjection and poverty.

Dear Prime Minister, the photos I attach to this letter are indeed distressing and painting a picture of the country that may easily appear of complicity, injustice and irresponsibility. The people of Papua New Guinea, your people, are of a completely different stock and do not deserve this bad international publicity.

I am sure that everybody will appreciate you demanding from the Prime Minister of Australia that any offshore processing in Papua New Guinea is ended within sixty days at the most, and these men immediately receive proper medical treatment in Australia while waiting for the final decision on their future in any safe country.

Thank you very much and may God bless all your efforts!

Most cordially,


General Secretary, Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands

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