Social Concerns Notes – October 2020

Doctor raises concern over increasing number of children with cancer

October 7, 2020The National

THE number of children with cancer recorded at the Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH) is increasing every year but there are still many children with cancer in communities. Acting paediatric coordinator Dr Gwenda Anga said “In the last five years, it is estimated that around 300 children with cancer were seen at the hospital,” she said. “Initially, we had 20-30 per year and then it went up to 50-60 per year. “But we are still missing a lot of children.
“The increasing numbers is due to more awareness among health workers in recognising the signs and symptoms and referring them for further care.
“About 30 per cent of our children successfully complete treatment.” Dr Anga said it was important that children were brought to the hospital early to receive the treatment available.
She said the treatment for each childhood cancer was different and the regimes ranged from three months to two years – depending on the diagnosis.

We must change from extraction to inclusion

06 October 2020

PORT MORESBY – With the release of a new report today, Act Now!, Jubilee Australia, and the Oakland Institute, call for an urgent change of course from political leaders in Papua New Guinea. The report, ‘From Extraction to Inclusion’, analyses the country’s economic and development performance since its independence in 1975. The main finding is that the PNG economy has relied on the large-scale extraction of abundant minerals and other natural resources, under the illusion it will improve the lives of its citizens. Yet, on most indicators, PNG is faring worse than its Pacific neighbours and any progress that has been achieved does not reflect the huge value of the resources extracted.

“PNG has allowed some of the world’s largest mining, petroleum and timber companies onto its shores to extract gold, silver, copper, nickel, oil, natural gas, tropical hardwoods and palm oil,” said Dr Luke Fletcher, lead author of the report. “Yet, positive changes have been limited and the economic and social development that has been repeatedly promised has not been delivered. ”The report reveals that relying on the extraction of natural resources has failed to improve people’s lives for a number of reasons. The extractive industries tend to operate as enclaves with little connection to the rest of the economy. Foreign companies are allowed to externalise their enormous social and environmental costs while banking most of the profits offshore. They also contribute relatively little to government revenues. And the growth of these sectors has been accompanied by poor governance, theft of public money, and corruption.

“PNG has already lost much of its accessible forests – part of the third largest rainforest in the world – and this is a disaster for a country where forests constitute a key source of construction materials, food, and medicine for large swathes of the population,” said Frederic Mousseau, policy director at the Oakland Institute. “The pollution of land and waterways by mining waste has also had devastating consequences for local communities, compromising their access to fresh water, to food sources, and to prime gardening land.”

‘From Extraction to Inclusion’ also details how extractive operations often involve widespread human rights abuses. Communities opposing extractive projects face repression, threats, and violence. Through its comprehensive and objective review of the facts and figures, this new report makes it clear that it is urgent for PNG to change course and put people back at the centre of its development policies.

Frieda mine plan disregards human rights

09 October 2020

Lyanne Togiba and Ben DOHERTY
PORT MORESBY – The plan for the largest mine in Papua New Guinea’s history carries a risk of catastrophic loss of life and environmental destruction and “appears to disregard the human rights of those affected”, according to United Nations officials. In an extraordinary intervention, 10 UN special rapporteurs have written with “serious concerns” to the governments of Papua New Guinea, Australia, China, and Canada, as well as the Chinese state-owned developers of the gold, copper and silver mine proposed for the remote Frieda river in the country’s north. The UN’s special rapporteur on toxic wastes, Baskut Tuncak – who has since retired from that role – and nine other senior UN officials, jointly signed letters in July “to express our serious concern regarding the potential and actual threats to life, health, bodily integrity, water [and] food”.

The letters ask for governments and the company, PanAust, to respond to key questions including an alleged “lack of information for free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous people” to the mine proceeding. The mine, if approved and built, would be the largest in PNG’s history, and one of the largest in the world, covering 16,000 hectares. To be built on the Frieda river, a tributary to the Sepik in the north of New Guinea island, it is forecast to yield gold, silver and copper worth an estimated US$1.5bn a year for more than 30 years.

The UN rapporteurs argue the “the project and its implementation so far appears to disregard the human rights of those affected”. There is particular concern a proposed dam to store up to 1,500 Mt of the mine’s tailings could break, destroying villages downriver. “The proposed location is a seismically active area. The risk of major earthquake causing damage to the dam will persist for millions of years. PanAust said it had engaged in “extensive and ongoing engagement … over several decades” with those affected by the mine, running information sessions in nearly 140 villages, attended by more than 18,000 people.

Do we really need sand mining in Madang?

As a Singaporean company with Chinese interests works to get approval to mine sand along North Coast of Madang, many Papua New Guineans are unaware of the impacts of this multibillion dollar global industry. Sand Mining remains, largely, under the radar in Papua New Guinea. The lack of understanding of the environmental and social impacts of sand mining puts communities  at risk of bad decisions that could cause  widespread destruction. Niugini Sands Limited wants to mine a  50 kilometer  stretch of beaches where people from 10  communities live.  The beaches also include the villages of Tokain and Karkum where endangered leatherback turtles come to nest every year. PanAust said it had engaged in “extensive and ongoing engagement … over several decades” with those affected by the mine, running information sessions in nearly 140 villages, attended by more than 18,000 people.

Moresby’s gangsters have high level connections

29 October 2020 – Scott Waide.

For nearly two decades, senior journalists who covered the work of foreign cartels in Papua New Guinea have continually warned successive governments of the impending threat of organised crime. It is no longer just a threat.

In 2003, a father of three, came to the EMTV office in Port Moresby, his face covered in blood from a cut on his head. Earlier, he had an altercation with a Chinese shop owner in Gerehu after finding that his primary school age child had become addicted to playing horse race gambling machines. The machines were made of wood and the electronic parts brought in from China. The businesses that made them had warehouses in Hohola, Gerehu and several other locations around Port Moresby. They were essentially, slot gambling units that paid small amounts of money if your ‘horse’ won.  The machines had no clear legal classification at the time. They could not be easily taxed under the gaming laws and they were a cross between poker machines and arcade games. The man had found his son at one of the shops playing the machines when he should have been in school. He confronted the Chinese shop owner and the argument escalated into a fight.

This was just one of many confrontations that happened in a space of three years. It took several public protests, intervention by churches, the Public Accounts Committee and other government agencies before the proverbial wheels of justice began turning … slowly. The Public Accounts Committee, under chairman and Bogia MP John Hickey went after the cartels, summoning every relevant government agency including the Internal Revenue Commission (IRC). Hickey became the target of several attacks.  In one instance, in the middle of a Public Accounts Committee hearing, his house, in a relatively well protected area, was broken into. Police were called to the scene. He suspended the hearing temporarily and was in subsequent days placed under police guard. IRC Commissioner David Sode was called to give evidence. His testimony at the hearing exposed a network of businesses dealing in counterfeit products, illegal gambling and arms smuggling. Nearly every one of them was being investigated by the IRC for tax evasion.

As the investigation continued on several fronts, the cartels were bold enough to attempt to assassinate David Sode himself. Information was leaked from within their own circles and the police and the IRC came down hard and arrested a kingpin. According to the evidence gathered, the man had five gun licenses in his name, all issued by the government of Papua New Guinea. Within government circles, there was a lot of frustration.  Officers within the National Intelligence Organisation (NIO) said they had limited success convincing police to arrest several key figures involved in human trafficking and gun smuggling, despite repeated offences and evidence provided to police.

During joint raids by customs, IRC and the police Transnational Crimes Unit, the media was shown documents which were authorisations from senior ministers and high ranking government officials. The cartels were using government officials to authorise their operations. Several arrests were made. The lead police officers, the NIO and transnational crime unit faced stiff resistance when they tried to deport a group of foreign nationals during that period. The Chinese Embassy paid for lawyers to represent them, arguing that they had the right to remain in the country. The head of the NIO, Bob Nenta, eventually succeeded in ensuring the deportation happened. At the end of that episode, several people were deported and the horserace machine operation crushed.

Mother Saved

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