Monday, September 15, 2014


Sir Jerry Nalau
In 1975, Jerry Nalau, became one of the first Papua New Guineans to become  a District Commissioner  when powers were transferred  from the Australian Colonial  administration to the new Papua New Guinea government.
        The  young patrol  officer  who was then already  a veteran  in the new administration became one of the few  Morobeans   sent to Kunidiawa  in the Simbu Province  as part of  the Somare’s administration to help unite the new country.
        “Somare said to me: ‘I want you to go to the highlands.’ And I said: ‘Somare, I’m not the only one! What about the others?’”
        By then,  Jerry Nalau had already served several years  in Bougainville and Rabaul  during  the  turbulent  but  positive  pre-independence period. 
        Nalau recalls that in typical Somare humor, the Chief Minister responded: “You go to the highlands because you Finchafens took the  Word of God  to the highlands calling God’s name… Anutu… Anutu…Anutu… I think if you go, they will respect you.”
        It was a 13 hour flight  on  a  slow DC3 that  eventually took Jerry Nalau from Bougainville  to  Minj.
        “Back then, large planes didn’t land at Kuniawa. We landed at Minj and travelled by road to  Kundiawa.”
        Now in his mid-seventies,  Sir Jerry Nalau,  former patrol officer, former Morobe premier,  says  with hint of mischief,  that Chief Minister, Michael Somare,  had told him that he could have whatever he asked for,   later,  if he agreed to take the assignment to the highlands.
        So when Independence  came and the  Charles, the Prince of Wales, representing  Queen Elizabeth II, was due to arrive,  Jerry Nalau called the soon to be Prime Minister Somare.
        “According to the Prince’s itinerary, he was to travel to Manus to Wewak  then onwards to Goroka. Then drive through Simbu and then rest in Mt. Hagen.”
        “I called Somare and I said: ‘Somare, do you remember what you said? You sent me from Bougainville  to Simbu and you promised you would give me whatever I wanted later.”
        “So I have a small request: I want Prince Charles to sleep in Kundiawa instead of going straight to Hagen.”
        According to Sir Jerry,  Somare  returned his call  15 minutes later. The new Prime Minister granted his request after going through a lot of trouble.
        “He said later, ‘Jerry, it was a problem to me but your request is granted.’”
        The Prince rested in Kundiawa.

Monday, September 8, 2014


This  photo essay from the 4th of September  on the International Business Time  is quite  relevant for Papua New Guinea as the debates over SABLs and illegal logging continue both in and out of Parliament.  In Brazil, the people, tired of the usual peaceful campaigning have taken up arms against illegal loggers.  
                International Business Times reports:  “A group of warriors from Brazil's indigenous Ka'apor tribe tracked down illegal loggers in the Amazon, tied them up, stripped them and beat them with sticks.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


What is the definition of service delivery?   Is it  the secret  and public  cash handouts to key members of a community, LLG presidents  so that political support is maintained?    Is it a road?   The “donation” of vehicles bought using government money?   Or a large investment project owned by a foreign  company where  “dozens of jobs are provided,” many of them smack bang on the minimum wage level?

 Service delivery, in my view, must empower people to make independent decisions both in their own lives and in political choices  that affect their lives.  More importantly, they must be given the ability to make their own money so that they are not prone to  the temptation of political handouts. They must be given the opportunities  for intellectual development  so that opinions are freely expressed without fear or favor.

But this is, precisely, what frightens politicians.   An educated, free thinking population, with independent incomes and the ability to choose  their political representatives,  acts like a sieve straining out the garbage at the polls  even  before they even reach  the Haus Tambaran in Waigani. In PNG politics, only the bravest of the lot have come to understand that taking risks by empowering people reaps huge political gains.  A  case in point is the Buang area of the Bulolo District of the Morobe province.   

The Buang area  is  beautiful and mountainous.  The roads are bad  but  the villages, still    accessible.   For now, the roads aren’t a priority at least for the next two years.    Using government funding, the district  has spent more than K2 million on two important  basic services – power and communications  - giving more than 20 thousand people mobile and  internet access.    For the newcomer, it seems the  district’s priorities  have  been mixed up.  Roads and bridges should have come first because of the  region’s transport difficulties.   But a closer look at Buang will quickly alter  perceptions.  

The  Buang are an industrious people and the arrival of power and communications have  added value to  their unfaltering industrious spirit.   The district spent up to K3000 on each household to  install electricity service lines and PNG Power’s  minimum supply kits that are   ideal for rural areas.    This has allowed for micro business to be created. These are business that understand and cater to the needs of the Buangs themselves.  It is direct income owned and controlled by the people without foreign interference.   They have access to real time information. Coffee and gold prices can be found online.  Information about national developments  and government budgets can be sourced through mobile internet access. An increasing number of teachers are staying in  remote schools for longer. Access to EFFTPOS machines,  SMS banking, television and radio broadcasts keep them up to date with the latest.   State of origin games can now be watched in the comfort of their own homes.    

In a previous blog article I wrote  about the  impacts the projects were having. In a small hut, Solomon Geame,  squats on the ground in a small  and  unimpressive workshop soldering damaged parts of  a DVD player. His generation is the first to have electricity  supplied by PNG power.    With the arrival of electricity, he has been able to start a small electronics business fixing mobile phones, DVD players and television screens. “I don’t think the young people will want to leave their villages because they have the conveniences of  urban life  in their  homes.”

It is,  as one commentator put it on Facebook: “a no brainer.”    It is not the job of the politician to provide services.  But  about 20 years ago, they realized that it was sexy  to be out there providing services than to be stuck in parliament  making laws as is their mandated duty. So to the politician (currently, the functional service provider), I say, provide services that add value in the lives of people.  The kind of services that empower and encourage people to remain in the villages and develop at their own pace.  Not the steroid infused large scale investments that   demand land from people and give them a minimum wage with slave like working  conditions. Empowerment was Sam Basil’s ticket to an absolute majority vote in 2012.  Learn from it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Last Sunday, another  teenager, a student at Bumayong Secondary school  died  at Lae’s Angau hospital   from severe knife wounds he sustained in  another  unnecessary  clash  between students.
The foolishness of   students who succumb to peer pressure  is inexcusable. But  the ignorance of parents and  education authorities  of the  root causes behind the ongoing school fights is unforgivable.
Three months ago, education authorities  along with stakeholders in the Lae community   met to discuss possible solutions  to the school fights.   I attended  as an observer of the proceedings. 
I could not take the jeers  and  sarcasm  displayed by older  members in the meeting who downplayed the organizational structures of the school based groups  responsible for the  violence.
I felt the need to stand up in the crowd, uninvited,  and vent on  the unsuspecting senior members  attending the meeting.
Why do you  joke about student  organizational structures that have  become more powerful than school administrations?  Why  do you find it funny that  key members of the groups carry titles like “Right Hit man” and “Left Hit man” or “the President?”
Is it amusing that  three teenagers have died  so far since 2012 from school fights?
For a journalist and a father of a teenage son who turns 18  in July next year,  it  infuriates me  that  education authorities mask their  impotence and indecisiveness   by   hiding  behind  government  protocols and failing epically  to expose the perpetrators  and  end the problem.
School  authorities in Lae remain tightlipped this week  over measures  they’re taking  as a result of ongoing school fights.
Bumayong secondary School has been closed since  Monday.  Police were called to Bumayong  early Sunday morning  when  angry relatives stormed  into the school grounds  to seek revenge. 
Meanwhile, formal classes at Bugandi – another school  that witnessed the death of a student -   are not being conducted.    Students at Bugandi  Secondary are currently taking school work home  as a means to discourage organized school fights.
            School authorities  and those who have done studies on the problem say “it’s a sensitive issue and information can’t released.”
           I say:  “a wound that is covered and left unattended  festers and  kills”

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Pangu Pati leader, Sam Basil
One of the parties that led the country to independence   in 1975 is  undergoing  a revival.
            On the weekend, Pangu Pati held its first  meeting to appoint new executives   since Bulolo MP, Sam Basil took over the reins as party leader.
The Pangu  Pati leadership  wanted the revival to be symbolic. 
The gathering was held in  Muniau villge  in the Bunag area of the Morobe province.  It was where party founders including Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare   established   the party  in the 1970s.
Two weeks ago, Sam Basil announced his move to the Pangi  Pati.  While the general consensus amongst his people is that  he will become  prime minister  when the next government is formed,  Sam Basil,  says it would be unwise to discuss the PM’s post now.
“I don’t think I can announce  that I want to be prime minister,” He said. “If the people want  us to take government we will.  But first we have to show what we can do for them.”
Basil has   enjoyed strong public support  particularly  during the second term in office.  In the 2012 elections be won with an absolute majority using  the Limited preferential voting system.
Much of his  political success has been due to simple  programs aimed at benefiting  large  populations of villagers.   In the Buang, Bulolo and Watut areas of  the Bulolo electorate,   large  amounts of funding are being put to build communications and rural  electricity grids.
Those projects are in turn producing new business ventures  owned and operated by  the people.
Despite the slow release of district funds and ongoing disagreements between the Finance Minister, James Marape  and Sam Basil,  district programs have survived because of   good understanding between the  Bulolo district and contractors tasked to build  various infrastructure.
Next week,  Pangu  Pati offices in Lae and Port Moresby will be  hives of activity.   Basil will be making a personal appeal for Public  funding support.   He  aims to raise up to nine million and  he will be asking  for one kina contributions  from every  citizen of Papua New Guinea.  
He wants the party to be owned and funded  by ordinary  Papua New Guineans and for Pangu politicians to be held accountable by  the people.
It is an ambitious strategy  could turn out to be an embarrassing failure or  a smashing people driven success.

Friday, August 29, 2014


The ultimate thrill of  a journalist is to be  where the action is and to be the first to get the story and pictures.  I'd like to congratulate  Poreni Umau,  who was one of the first to supply pictures of the Tavurvur eruption to an eagerly waiting  PNG audience.  Poreni's updates demonstrated the thrill of being in the right place at the right time.

Tavurvur (Picture from Poreni Umau)
It is now  15 hours since the first  images of   the Tavurvur  volcanic eruption  appeared on social networks.
             Unlike  the  1994 eruption, the flow of information  from this emergency has been  relatively unprecedented. 
             Papua New Guineans all over the country and the world were able to get  near real time updates  as the  spectacular  event unfolded from  4am this morning.
 Some of the initial pictures  were  captured by  Kokopo based freelance  journalist, Poreni Umau,  who was  at the scene    hours after the eruption.
            In a matter of hours they  become some of the most shared pictures of facebook.   He provided  up to the minute reports that  showed  the hour by hour state of Rabaul town and surrounding areas.
             As conventional  media lagged behind, Papua New Guineans turned to social media – particularly facebook -  to   get up to the minute updates from Rabaul.
 Rabaul  residents were woken as early as 4am this morning to loud explosions from the volcano.     Businesses have been forced to close because of ash fall.
            More than 200 police officers from Kokopo and Tomaringa have been deployed   to Rabaul.
 Speaking to EMTV this afternoon, Provincial police commander,  Tony Wagambie  Jr. said  Rabaul has been sealed off but residents have not yet left their homes.
              No eviction order has yet been given and  while this is an emergency, there is no sense of panic amongst residents.  But the concerns  remain that if there is a major eruption, we could see a repeat of the 1994 eruption that buried  the town of Rabaul.