Social Concerns Notes – October 2019

PNG Demographic and Health Survey Report

Click to access PNG_DHS2016-2018_KIR.pdf

The Papua New Guinea (PNG) National Statistical Office (NSO) recently released the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 2016-2018 key indicators report. The survey on which this report is based was implemented by the NSO, the National Department of Health and other PNG agencies with support from Australia’s aid program, the DHS program, UNFPA and UNICEF. There are positive aspects to this particular PNG report. First, the survey on which it is based is relatively comprehensive, collecting information on, “fertility, awareness and use of family planning methods, breastfeeding practices, nutritional status of children, maternal and child health, adult and childhood mortality, women’s empowerment, domestic violence, malaria, awareness and behaviour regarding HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, and other health-related issues.” The DHS also collected information on household agricultural activities and household food security. Second, the vast majority of the tables in the report disaggregate the survey data by age brackets, sex, residence (rural vs urban), region (for example, highland provinces vs island provinces), education levels; and wealth quintiles, thereby providing some insight into equity of access and outcomes in the health sector. Third, the use of a standardised methodology provides the evidence base for PNG officials to themselves track progress over time (and compare trends with other countries.

A decent education is a human right

01 October 2019 

I am not trying to compare the Australian system with our Papua New Guinea system. And Australia is not perfect. PNG has the potential to invest in education as a critical tool to enable our country to become economically viable and healthy. Regrettably, we take education for granted in the way we set up our systems, distribute our resources, teach our children and reward our teachers. Education is a basic human right for all individuals regardless of where they are in the world.

I would argue that the education system in PNG has deprived our right and our children’s right to gain the education we deserve. If you stand back and take a thorough look at the way our children learn, you discover that the education system has pushed out many young people with ability and potential to be leaders. They roam the streets. Our school system has many drop-outs – children who fail exams and return to the community. In PNG, what paid employment can anyone get with a minimal education? I doubt there is any. The multinational, multimillion dollar developments such as oil and gas projects have opened up roads and access to nearby towns and cities and our children develop the tendency to explore city life, which is perceived to be better than village life.

Obviously with no proper education, dreams for a better life are thwarted. Many of these young people go on to steal, vandalise, take drugs and alcohol and even end up in jail. Then these young people are blamed as bad and evil. We have created bad people in our society in the way we manage our education system. All humans are the same regardless of gender, age or behaviour because we all have a soul. So where does the blame really lie?

The festering wounds of Manus and Nauru

30 September 2019


PORT MORESBY – Yesterday was World Migrant and Refugee Day and a message from Pope Francis to mark the day was particularly meaningful for our part of the world. The words of the Pope help uncover a sense of truth about what has been going on for the past six years in Nauru and Manus. “Migrants, refugees, displaced persons and victims of trafficking have become emblems of exclusion,” he said.

“In addition to the hardships that their condition entails, they are often looked down upon and considered the source of all society’s ills. “That attitude is an alarm bell warning of the moral decline we will face if we continue to give ground to the throw-away culture.” So let me mention here some critical language and facts associated with the festering wounds of Nauru and Manus.

Regional Processing  Not a bad idea in itself, but not credible. New Zealand, New Caledonia and possibly Fiji are not involved, only the very remote, hot and mosquito-infested islands of Nauru and Manus. Besides that, nobody knows what the agreements for ‘regional processing’ in these two countries include in terms of the duties and conditions of the contracting parties. It is probably not a ‘regional processing’ exercise, but a punitive measure against less fortunate individuals made unwelcome by the better off white tribes of the continent, more precisely of Australia.

Mental Health. It is outrageous what is being done in Manus, Port Moresby and Nauru by actively inducing mental health issues into young and vulnerable people. People are driven into anxiety, depression and, in a number of cases, permanent insanity by the unexpected turn their lives have taken, the traumas they experienced at home, indefinite detention, tough conditions of life in the camps and the distance from their families. The medication offered is cosmetic. It makes no sense to spend about $A1,400 per person per day in off-shore detention with the outcome of ruined human beings.

Medevac Law  This Australian legislation allows for medical transfer to mainland Australia of asylum seekers and refugees requiring medical care outside Nauru and PNG. It was passed narrowly – and against the government’s wishes – by the Australian parliament in February this year. The legislation covers the 90% of offshore refugees whose conditions have remained unattended for many years. Given the new composition of the Australian government since the May election, refugees still in PNG and Nauru, and the Samaritans who care for them, now live in terror that the provision may be repealed with the support of a handful of Australian senators in exchange for electoral favours. This would be another instance of the detainees in Nauru and Port Moresby falling prey to money and de facto human trafficking.

Stopping the Boats  I am someone who believes nobody should board a people smuggler’s boat, although occasionally, and in very dire circumstances, it may be the only way to escape death. The international community should establish procedures that put human smugglers out of job. But it is not being done, and that’s why those individuals still exist and are probably growing in number and power. The Nauru and Manus asylum seekers and refugees have served the purpose of stopping the boats at high personal cost; 12 having so far paid with their lives. It’s time to say that they have been used (and abused) enough for very highly questionable deterrence proposes. Why still pick on them?

Since 12 August this year, 53 of these men have been detained at the new Bomana immigration facility on the outskirts of Port Moresby under heavy security and in total isolation.    [See the url above for the full article…..]

Rich paradise or poor third world nation?

05 October 2019


LUFA – There’s disagreement about whether Papua New Guinea is rich or impoverished. Many people, including leaders like Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and current prime minister James Marape, support the view that we are in fact rich. Many others, including myself, differ. We believe Papua New Guinea is a poor nation. Perhaps the difference in opinion stems from the definition of ‘rich’ that each group subscribes to. Let me refer to the two groups as Group_Rich and Group_Poor, where the former supports the rich PNG view and the latter supports the poor PNG view. The Group_Rich definition of being rich sees Papua New Guinea as a nation with fertile land that sustains lush tropical forests and great biodiversity. In their eyes its land has, without fail, fed its growing population for over 40,000 years, perhaps 50,000.

In recent times, minerals and hydrocarbon wealth have been discovered across the breath and length of the land, giving it the unofficial title of an ‘island of gold floating on a sea of oil’. Simply put, in this more optimistic view, the land provides sufficient free food and its people own the land and everything on and in it. So by virtue of this, Papua New Guinea is rich.

The Group_Poor definition of being rich is very different. It perceives Papua New Guinea as a part of the modern world that relies on complex international trade and economics. Its place and value in this world is determined by international standards and rules. And these set out clearly the criteria that defines how rich or poor a nation (and its people) really are. Simply put, a nation is rich if its people not only have assets like natural resources, education, skills and capital, but are able to meet their basic daily needs of health, education, water, and food security without difficulty. Now, if one uses the Group_Rich definition alone, Papua New Guinea is a filthy rich country. But is this true? Consider the plight of countless people seeking medical treatment who die trying. How about those people who continue to face countless adversities just to get an education despite the low quality it comes with? Do we even care about the long walks mothers and daughters take almost every day to fetch water for drinking and cooking? Perhaps the most honourable thing to say is not that Papua New Guinea is rich, nor is it poor, but rather challenged in every way possible.

Abuse of minors a concern

October 7, 2019The National

POLICE say sexual abuse of children aged 16 and below is growing significantly and crippling society. “That is the reality and of grave concern.
“Reports have been received daily nationwide,” acting Asst Comm (Northern region) Peter Guinness said. He said in an interview on Thursday that “this is now a very big problem in Papua New Guinea” and called for stiffer penalties to help curb the crime. “Heavier punishments will at least help deter such criminal-minded individuals,” he added.
He said another measure to help check the growth of such crimes “is raising public awareness”.
“Raising public awareness is not only about the impact of such crimes on children, family or community,” Guinness said. “It must include the punishments and the laws.”
“Awareness campaigns and projects should be targeted at schools, settlements and workplaces to drive people to understand the issues. “Currently, only a small number of perpetrators were prosecuted successfully but the majority of them got away. “Those in remote areas find it difficult to report. “They are being suppressed by compensation payments or by fear.
The young and fragile victims of sexual abuse then fear to report their assailants.
“This, in a way, emboldens perpetrators,” he said. Guinness urged individuals and communities to help curb or eradicate cases of child sexual abuses by reporting such crimes against minors so that the police can act swiftly.

Wagambie says alcohol-related violence ravaging city

October 22, 2019The NationalNational

THE majority of violence in Papua New Guinea, including Port Moresby, is alcohol-related, National Capital District (NCD)/Central acting Asst Comm (ACP) Anthony Wagambie Jr says.
“Alcohol consumption and intoxication are also the main causes of ethnic feuds and violence in the city,” he said. “Such alcohol-related violence is on the rise and the problem is posing a big challenge to law and order and the police.”
Wagambie said some parts of the city had seen on-going fighting and drunken brawls that needed police to quell such violence. “In the past three weeks, alcohol-related fights were reported in the ATS settlement, 2-Mile Hill, June Valley and 9-Mile. “But quick police action managed to stop the fights from deteriorating into serious and tense conditions.”
Wagambie said that was why NCD Met Supt Perou N’Dranou had initiated a special operation targeting drunk and disorderly behaviour in the city. “The operation, code named Drunk Patrol is aimed at arresting and locking up drunkards causing public nuisance and unrest in public places.
“Every Friday night, NCD police will continue to patrol the streets of Port Moresby to contain drunk and disorderly behaviour. “Some drunkards are locked up for their own safety and for the safety of others as well. “In some cases, due to the high number of arrests, drunkards fill up police lock-ups.
“When they are sober, they are cautioned and released. People who are overly intoxicated and clumsy to a point where their own safety is at risk in a public place, we detain them for a short period and release them when they sober up.“We understand their rights, but we have a duty to protect lives and properties too; that’s exactly what we are doing.”

The Challenge of Tribal Conflict

30 October 2019

AHMAD HALLAK | Australian Institute of International Affairs

CANBERRA – It is often said that tribal fighting in the Papua New Guinea Highlands is part and parcel of the socio-cultural fabric of the region. With a history stretching back hundreds of years (if not more), it can be seen simply as an indivisible feature of the Highlands way of life.

While to some extent true, tribal fighting in the last 30 years has become more akin to conventional warfare on the battlefields of the Middle East or sub-Saharan Africa than the pitched battles using the bows and arrows that characterised pre-colonial confrontations in the Highlands. In the last 30 years, modern weapons, along with other accoutrements of modern technology, have made their way into PNG. They have disrupted the traditional rules of tribal fighting that had historically limited the effects and consequences of the fighting and restrained fighters from going too far.

While in the past, a decision to go to war with an opposing clan or tribe would have been taken collectively, now young and disillusioned men with access to modern weapons can unleash devastation on their enemies and their own communities almost single-handedly. The presence of these modern weapons and their destructive firepower has also meant that the number of casualties is much higher, making it harder for opposing sides to reconcile (and the traditional exchange of compensation prohibitive) and leading to completely unprecedented tribal fighting dynamics.

Instead of pre-arranged battles between warriors in designated areas as in the past, villages are now attacked under cover of darkness as part of a scorched earth policy to kill and destroy with abandon. And while previously fighting was restricted to the geography of the tribes’ involved, targeted killings can now occur against random members of either side almost anywhere. Schools and clinics are frequently attacked and destroyed, and most recently in Hela pregnant women and children were killed and some burned alive.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been present in PNG since 2007 and opened its offices in Mount Hagen and Bougainville in 2012. Since then, we have progressively grown our presence. ……..

S[ee the url above.  It concludes with description of work of the Red Cross working with the challenge of Tribal Fighing.]  “Our teams spend countless hours listening, conversing with and persuading widows and community leaders, policemen and tribal fighters, provincial bureaucrats and church leaders to become partners in an age-old struggle to lessen the inevitable human suffering arising from conflict.”

Illegal acts in clubs: Police

October 29, 2019The National

POLICE have warned people involved in luring young girls into prostitution to stop as such illegal activities are being monitored around the country. Acting Deputy Police Commissioner (Operations) Donald Yamasombi told The National police were targeting foreign-owned nightclubs. “We already have reports of illicit activities taking place in nightclubs which employ young girls as prostitutes under the guise of employing them for genuine jobs,” he said. He recently issued a notice to be distributed to all foreign-owned nightclub owners warning them to stop exploiting young unemployed girls. “Such illicit activities are not allowed in this country,” he said.
“It is against PNG laws to conduct such activities.” He said the activities were not confined to only metropolitan centres such as Port Moresby because they had been detected too in other town and cities. “We have reports that these foreign-owned nightclubs are operating as brothels,” he said.
“There is also illegal gambling and use of hard drugs.”
Prostitution is illegal in the country, although there have been moves to have it legalised.
In October 2016, a Private Member’s Bill was introduced to Parliament by then Sumkar MP Ken Fairweather to instigate legalisation.
The concern is about the exploitation of young local girls who may be looking for money.
“I am now warning these nightclubs to stop enticing young girls to use them as prostitutes in your nightclubs to promote your businesses. Such illicit activities are done in nightclubs overseas, not in PNG.”

Magic hands & a vision for peace

06 October 2019


KUNDIAWA – A new era dawned for the United Nauro-Gor tribe in 2002 when Fr Jan Jaworski, a medical surgeon-cum-priest, responded to a divine call for the purpose of serving humanity and entered a place many called a ‘no-go zone’ because of the warring clans. Fr Jaworski, dubbed ‘the man with magic hands’, has made an outstanding contribution as a medical doctor throughout Papua New Guinea where he has conducted many medical surgeries and procedures on many patients. His former patients speak of him in admiration and awe and to a certain degree believe the work of his hands is miraculously aided by a supernatural power as well as his wealth of experience and specialised knowledge in medical procedures.

Fr Jaworski is renowned for conducting complex surgeries and procedures, particularly mending fractured bones and cartilage, cutting off flesh from different body parts and stitching them on another, treating cancers, hernias, bowel infections and neurological problems, and expertly performing surgeries on newborns with congenital malformations and women with obstetric emergencies.

Professor David Watters, chair of surgery at Geelong Hospital and a former professor of surgery at the University of Papua New Guinea, describes Fr Jaworski as “a remarkable and wonderful man who has served the people of Kundiawa and Simbu Province well and whose breadth of surgical ability would be hard to match anywhere”. Watters has written about the priest in a book on the history of surgery in Papua New Guinea, recognising him as “a true general surgeon, who could plate bones, perform laparotomies or open a head”. Fr Jaworki is loved and respected not only by the people of United Nauro-Gor but right across Simbu and PNG. But leaving a legacy in medicine and surgery was not enough for this intelligent and hardworking man, so at the age of 55 he became a social entrepreneur and a peace builder.

His initial posting was to Yombar Parish, located in the heart of Nauro-Gor, a place of warlords and gruesomely uncompromising warriors; an area exposed to the use of high-powered guns and bows and arrows that caused massive destruction in human lives and property over three decades. This mostly emanated from the regular political upheavals occurring every five years during national elections and took the form of overwhelming jealousy, greed and pursuit of power amongst the factions that existed within different clans. Fr Jaworski’s astute leadership clearly manifested the scriptural words, “Go therefore and save those that are lost and in need”. He demonstrated with certainty and passion, the serenity and humility needed to serve a community that had become victims of their own actions. So he served as the Yombar priest through fierce and bloody tribal conflict. He saw his entire congregation damaged by the fighting, their homes razed, girls raped, women and children go hungry because food gardens were destroyed and school children miss their education for many years.

As he watched their suffering and patched their physical wounds, he wondered deeply about his mission and about what good he might achieve and he would prayerfully encourage his parishioners and others to believe in his vision and ambitions for sustainable peace, equality and economic development in the tribe. Against the backdrop of his own psychological and spiritual trauma, Fr Jaworski focused on trying to ways to stitch together this brutalised community to help it heal and find new ways of survival.

And about a year after the 2002 national elections, the Nauro-Gor people did begin to regather their botched lives, and start building new houses, schools and aid posts, maintain roads and bridges, and encouraging each other to put away their guns, bows and arrows and talk about making peace and uniting the tribe for a better tomorrow. In January 2006, with the help of church elders and clan leaders and support from the police and the Catholic Diocese of Kundiawa, Fr Jaworski arranged for a reconciliation ceremony (‘katim suga’) in which the warring clans came together and made peace amongst themselves. With his guidance, a community-based association, United Nauro-Gor, was incorporated and successfully introduced the concepts of community-based laws and community policing. Young men and women were selected to become community protection officers or auxiliary police officers. The associations interim directors and management adopted the 32 community laws to guide their conduct and ensure peace. The laws covered major areas: peace and stability; politics and national elections; witchcraft (sorcery); drug and alcohol (home brew); rape and adultery; domestic violence and child abuse; compensation payments; gambling; stealing; and much more.

The people remained steadfast in the belief that they would be guided by the laws that they introduced themselves and accorded with their own local customs. It was the foundation of the community-based law we still take pride in today. The association pioneered numerous community projects particularly in coffee, agriculture and farming, poultry and inland fisheries; skills training, carpentry, sawmilling, sewing, cookery, mechanics and muany others. Fr Jaworski’s main aim was to build a highly resilient community driven by peace, cooperation, tribal unity and success for a once dilapidated community. The people believed that a stable, caring and respected population can create an agile environment, breeding law-abiding citizens who are hard-working, responsive and lead better lives.

The first notable breakthrough made by United Nauro-Gor was our fight against sorcery and we continue to maintain peace, harmony and a carefree community. As a result, cases of rape, drug abuse, stealing, bushfires and destruction to schools, health clinics and bridges have enormously diminished. In 2014, United Nauro-Gor won the Tomorrow’s Peace builders Competition Award from Peace Direct, a global peace building organisation based in the United Kingdom. We were the first Pacific organisation to win this prestigious award. As a consequence of Fr Jaworski’s work, both social and surgical, he is spoken of with such deference that he seems more myth than a man. His work has reverberated to transform this tormented and war torn community to an enviable place with peaceful people united in their beliefs and aspirations and a model community in the Highlands region and PNG.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s