Social Concerns Notes – November 2019

Cardinal Ribat: Let’s protect our islands

02 November 2019

Pope Francis and Cardinal Ribat, who asks: ““Where will we be after all these islands are gone?”

Cardinal Ribat, the Archbishop of Port Moresby, said that there are many similarities between Papua New Guinea and the Amazon region and many topics resonated with what is happening in PNG. “They (people of the Amazon) are faced with a development that is coming in, taking their land, facing a situation where they are not recognised and sometimes not respected and not being seen as part of that development,” Cardinal Ribat said. When this happens, he said, people sometimes have no voice apart from that of the Church. Cardinal Ribat came away from the Synod more convinced than ever that the world needs to pay attention to indigenous people and their cultures wherever they are situated. He pointed out that “people look to the Church as their only hope for recognition and support.”

For Cardinal Ribat, the Synod was inspiring not only for the people of the Amazon region but for other parts of the world such as the Pacific Islands. “In the Pacific and in PNG many islands are becoming small, we are surrounded by the sea, and we are confounded by what is happening around us during storms and the rising sea level,” he said. “This kind of situation risks our life and makes us ask questions. “Where will we be after all these islands are gone?” the Cardinal wondered. He said that islands in the Pacific do not have vast areas of land as other continents, and that is why the little is so precious. “The land is life to the people, the land is everything, so when you take it away, you deprive people of their lives,” Cardinal Ribat said. …

Cardinal Ribat said, in keeping with Catholic social teaching, the Church in PNG will continue to speak out in defence of the rights of the poor and vulnerable. “We don’t have weapons; our weapon is the faith. “Our faith is our hope in the Lord, and our hope is that there should be due justice for the people.” …

“As I go back home, I will go and encourage our people to understand that in collaboration with our people of the Amazon region, we are facing the same situation. “What is happening to them is also our story.

We’re women, not witches

03 November 2019

Roberta Staley | Ms Magazine | Extract

WASHINGTON DC – Paul Petrus speaks softly about the part he played in the rescue of an accused witch. Anna (not her real name), a young woman in her mid-twenties, was being tortured by villagers outside Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands Province. After a 2015 outbreak of tribal violence in neighbouring Enga, Anna had fled approximately 130 km to escape the conflict. But some members of the opposing tribe recognised Anna at the Mount Hagen marketplace.  “[They] kidnapped her … took her to an isolated place and raped her,” says Petrus, who is on a team of more than 100 human rights defenders from Mount Hagen that rescues people accused of witchcraft. The attack took place on a Friday night. Anna managed to escape her attackers around 3am. In shock, with her clothing shredded, she staggered through the dark and stumbled into a village. Ordinarily everyone would have been asleep, but some villagers had just interred a family member in the community cemetery and were keeping vigil over the burial site, watching for malignant spirits that might snatch the body away, Petrus says. To the family holding vigil, Anna’s brutalised form, emerging like an apparition out of the dark, was precisely what their imaginations feared. Some of the villagers grabbed her. They “started making a big fire and started burning her private parts by heating up machetes,” Petrus says. At 4am, he received an urgent phone call for help from the village pastor.

Petrus ran to the police station and arrived at the scene shortly after 6:30am in a cruiser driven by a woman officer. Together, they bundled the victim, now reeking of burned flesh, into the car and drove her to Mount Hagen General Hospital. Part of Petrus’ rescue work involves training the public in how to react when an individual is in imminent danger from witch hunters; the pastor was one of those trained by Petrus. More people should take part, Petrus says, because the “issues of sorcery [are] starting to escalate.”

A study, ‘Ten Preliminary Findings Concerning Sorcery Accusation-Related Violence in Papua New Guinea’, released this year by the Australia National University indicated that since 2016 there have been 357 incidents of sorcery accusations in Enga and Bougainville as well as some in the capital, Port Moresby. Of these 357 incidents, 117 led to violence against 185 victims.

Human Rights Watch corroborates the reports of violence, stating in 2016 that “PNG is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman, with the majority of women experiencing rape or assault in their lifetime.” In 2018, the organisation further reported that sorcery accusation-related violence was “unabated, with women and girls the primary targets.”

Sex trade in city

November 8, 2019The National Main Stories

PORT Moresby residents have been urged to report to police any illegal activities such as prostitution in their neighbourhood so they can be investigated immediately.
Met Supt Perou N’dranou was responding to concerns raised about the increasing cases of prostitution in the city, mostly during the day. The issue resurfaced last week after police warned foreign-owned nightclub owners to stop employing women for the purpose of prostitution.
Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Donald Yamasombi said police had been made aware of what had been happening in some nightclubs in Port Moresby and other urban centres.
He said they were closely monitoring activities and would arrest club owners if they were found to be involved in such illegal activities. In Port Moresby, areas around 4-Mile are frequented by girls and “clients”. They have their own time and area of rendezvous. A female resident at 4-Mile told The National she had been “approached” a few times by male “clients” who thought she was involved in the illegal practice too. Another female said some women and girls in Boroko were afraid to walk alone along the road. They now walk in the company of others to do their business in Boroko.

Bougainville’s referendum. Uncertain journey

14 November 2019

CANBERRA – From Saturday 23 November, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville will conduct a referendum on whether it will remain within Papua New Guinea with greater autonomy or establish an independent state. The referendum is part of the Bougainville Peace Agreement between the government of PNG and the leaders of Bougainville that was signed in August 2001. The peace agreement culminated a peace process that began in 1998 after nine years (1988–97) of civil war between the PNG Defence Force, its local militia allies and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA).

The conflict has its origins in grievances over a lack of shared benefits from the mining of gold and copper deposits in Panguna and consequent social and environmental issues. It resulted in an estimated 20,000 deaths and significant displacement, including migration to other parts of PNG and the neighbouring Solomon Islands. Operated by Australian-owned Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), the Panguna mine was one of the world’s biggest copper, gold and silver mines before the conflict.

The peace agreement comprised three steps: a United Nations-supervised weapons disposal program; greater autonomy for the Bougainville provincial government; and an eventual referendum to determine Bougainville’s political future. The first two steps have mostly been achieved. The focus now is on the third step – a referendum to determine Bougainville’s independence.

Bougainville’s aspiration for self-government was evident as early as in 1968, prior to PNG’s independence from Australia in 1975. As part of a German and later Australian colony, Bougainville was one of the regions in PNG that resisted the inequities of colonial rule and refused to be part of the greater PNG state. Its refusal was based on a strong sense of a separate Bougainvillean identity and what it deemed a misuse of its land from European plantations and exploration, and the later mining of copper and gold deposits. Their resentment led to a unilateral declaration of independence just days before PNG’s independence in 1975. PNG and the international community did not recognise the unilateral declaration. …

The 2002 amendments provide that the PNG government and the AGB will ‘consult over the results of the Referendum’ and the PNG Parliament will decide on the final outcome subject to the consultation. Independence is therefore not an automatic possibility and there is ambiguity as to the effect of this provision. While the provision is generally understood to mean that the outcome of the referendum is not binding, as it is subject to the decision of the PNG parliament, the actions of the PNG government in reaching a decision would not be unilateral and are subject to ‘consultation’ with the AGB….

If the majority of Bougainvilleans vote ‘yes’ to independence, a key consideration for the PNG government in its final decision will be the likely impact of Bougainville independence on other provinces….

It is likely that the United Nations will not support a ‘yes’ vote prior to the decision of the PNG parliament in accordance with the PNG Constitution. Further, responses from the international community may mirror the contesting regional powers that are closely monitoring developments in Bougainville, notably Australia, New Zealand, as well as China and the United States.

3,000 drowned so far this year

November 14, 2019The National

AROUND 3,000 people have drowned so far this year, according to the National Maritime Safety Authority. This was revealed during a two-day workshop in Port Moresby last week.
Water Police deputy director Chief Insp Christopher Smith said many lives had been lost at sea and urged people to take safety measures.
He said there were two instances last week in which two boats ran out of fuel and had to be rescued by the water police,
“Basically when travelling at sea it is important to have safety equipment on board and sufficient fuel, we have too many incidents of boats going out and having insufficient fuel and they run out on their return.
“Do not overload your vessels. Most of the accidents that we see happening is due to over-loading and insufficient life jackets on board, especially for children,” Smith said.
He said the directorate and the National Capital Distract-Central command would do more awareness on water safety. Focus will also be given on safety equipment needed when travelling to sea leading up to Christmas and the New Year.

Who gives PNG how much?

23 November 2019

In 2020 PNG will receive close to K1 billion in free development funds to assist us in our development goals. Topping the list was Australia contributing K745 million while China only contributes K7 million.

Here are the top six donors:

Australia                             K745.0 million (81%)

European Union                K80.0 million (8.7%)

United Nations                  K41.7 million (4.5%)

New Zealand                     K22.9 million (2.5%)

China                                 K7.0 million (0.8%)

USA                                    K5.0 million (0.5%)

In contrast when you look at it from how much we borrow, China tops the list:

China                                 K446.2 million

Asian Development Bank    K437.6 million

World Bank                        K185.5 million

Japan                                 K181.3 million

India                                  K7.7 million

Australia                            nil

Some countries are happy to lend us money where they benefit from the interest earned and conditional on their companies being awarded contracts.

Why did the PNG government allow the pipeline from Hela to be constructed without a first class road alongside it? That would have been available for the developers’ vehicles used for maintenance but more importantly as a vital link from the coast to the highlands heart of the nation.

Why was Komo airfield, the longest in the region, only this past week opened for ANG to use?

Why did the government allow the proceeds from selling the gas abroad to be kept off-shore?

Why did PNG have to pay the Singapore wholesale price plus freight to use the oil drilled from PNG’s land.

Why was Exxon allowed to demand import tax concessions on construction materials, tax-holidays etc to over-contribute to its profits in the low cost production oil and gas fields of PNG?

All these factors have impacted on the need for debt by PNG the richest resource island nation in the Pacific

Health, Corruption, Incompetence Exposed.

27 November 2019

Scott Waide  | My Land, My Country | Edited

PORT MORESBY – Inside a packed conference room on the first level of B-Wing at Papua New Guinea’s parliament house, the Public Accounts Committee awaits senior members of the health department. Already present are representatives from the logistics  and pharmaceutical companies who have been summoned to give evidence in this investigation into a health system in crisis.

Arriving half an hour late, health secretary Pascoe Kase walks into the packed conference room, smiling sheepishly and nodding an apology to the committee headed by chairman Sir John Pundari and his deputy, Governor Gary Juffa. They’re not impressed by his lack of punctuality. Over the past six years, Kase has earned a reputation for dodging the media at every occasion. But in October his evasive manoeuvres were halted and his arrogance cut down to size by the parliamentary committee summons that compelled him to attend this week’s investigation and give evidence as the star witness.

Kase’s mood quickly shifts as a barrage of questions hits him. Deputy chairman Juffa is relentless and unforgiving. Kase is asked about logistics, pharmaceutical standards and the contract bidding process that the committee will come to find is riddled with corruption and ‘insider trading.’ Juffa squeezes out vital pieces of a puzzle that show how PNG’s health department lowered standards by ditching international quality management systems to allow pharmaceutical companies to qualify for the tender bidding process.

“I want to go back to the ISO 9001. What’s your understanding of a specific set of standards? What does that mean according to your knowledge?” Juffa asks. “My personal knowledge? Or my….” Kase is cut off by the frustrated Juffa. “Well, your professional knowledge. You’re the secretary for health so I’m assuming you would know about this.” Kase gives a long-winded response about how there are technical officers who give him advice about various operational areas of the department, but falls short of answering the question. Juffa again cuts him off.

“Sir…sir… what does the acronym ISO 9001 stand for? Do you know? “I don’t know. I would want some of the technical people to tell me,” Kase replies. Juffa lectures the Health Secretary about the meaning of the ISO 9001, about international standards, and asks why the requirement was removed prior to the bidding process for a pharmaceutical tender. This was just one of many examples of incompetence at the management pinnacle of the health department, shamelessly demonstrated in front of thousands of Papua New Guineans watching the proceedings live on Facebook

A litany of irregularities continues to be highlighted during the three-day hearing. One of the logistics companies – L & Z – owned by a Chinese national with no experience in drug distribution was nevertheless awarded a K17 million contract because of the owner’s links with a former health department staff who wrote the tender application. Another logistics company, operating without a formal contract, was paid more than K20 million with Kase using his authority to make part payments of up to K500,000. Then the bombshell came when the owner of another logistics company named a senior manager to whom he had paid bribes of about K100,000. Issue after issue has been raised and exposed:

Medicine shortages still exist. There are chronic shortages of medicines in nearly all rural clinics. The most expensive bidder was chosen. Borneo Pacific’s bid of K71 million was K20 million higher than the second bidder, City Pharmacy Limited. Winning tenders had no prior experience. At least two logistics companies awarded drug distribution contracts had no prior experience in drug distribution. No electronic tracking. One Chinese-owned logistics company admitted it did not have an electronic tracking system because it was “too expensive.”

Collusion with logistics companies. Former and current health department staff alerted individuals and companies to upcoming drug distribution tenders and assisted them in drafting tender documents. Operating without contracts. LD Logistics operated without a contract for three years after its contract expired and was paid more than K20 million in portions of K500,000 to avoid payment ceiling provisions of the finance management act.

Standards lowered. The health department removed the ISO9001 compliance requirement prior to the bidding process, lowering standards to cater to the demands of tendering companies that could not meet the international quality standard. The committee has found that health compliance standards were deliberately lowered so companies could qualify. It has also found that a drug used to induce birth had failed laboratory tests yet may have been distributed. The health department team, when grilled, could not say if the drug had been recalled and removed. They didn’t know.

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