(This is a paper I spoke at a Pacific Economic Bulletin (Crawford School of Economics, ANU) roadshow in Alotau, Goroka, and the Madang recently, following a paper on corruption by Peter Lamour.)
Professor Lamour's paper on perceptions of corruption, along with a recent Transparency International report on the same for PNG, form a counterpoint to what I want to talk about here, which might be called predisposition to corruption, or better--perceptions of PNG's predisposition to corruption. One of the assumptions often made in global surveys of corruption is that Melanesian gift cultures are predisposed to corruption. The reference is to Marcel Mauss treatise on The Gift, which talks about Melanesian exchange as different by degree from barter or quid pro quo models. The wantokism, the gifts that build ties between families and individuals, and build trade partnerships that run over generations, are fundamentally different from market economics, as we know. But the perception is that they are vulnerable to becoming palm-greasing, self-aggrandizing gestures. Are they?
I want to talk about something more specific to the highlands, which is incremental exchange. It is this system, which people often gloss to characterize all of PNG's exchange, that has been called 'pre-adapted' to capitalism (by Ben Finney, among others). Take the moka: I give you two pigs, you return three sometime later on. It's an investment. Leaving aside the social aspects of moka and tee, these are most like a market economy, and have been the vehicle for famous success stories, especially here in Goroka, where we used to see Harry Gotoha, that haus boi-cum-millionaire, walking barefoot in the market and talking to one of the earliest satellite phones--- liked to think to his broker in Sydney. These systems of material and social investment rely on the singular role of the highlands big man, the person who charms, persuades, strong arms and sometimes intimidates his clansmen into buying into his personal vision.
They look a lot like certain characters peopling the Christian Bookstores across PNG these days. Charismatic entrepreneurs. These celebrity pastors include, for examples, Kenneth Copeland (author of Managing Gods Mutual Funds), his wife Gloria Copeland (who wrote No deposit, no return), Tim deLay (of the Left behind books and their protagonist Robert Redford lookalike Rayford Steele, leader of the Tribulation Force Commandoes), Kenneth Hagen, Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, Robert Tilton, Joel Osteen, Marilyn Hickey, and Pat Robertson, to name a few .
A new wave of books, tapes, curricula and crusades espouse something called prosperity theology, or the the Prosperity Gospel, the Health and Wealth Ministries, the Name it and Claim it Doctrine, Signs and Wonders, New Life, Third Wave evangelism, the Latter Rain Third Wave Movement, Theology of the Spoken Word, or Faith Preaching. These are new doctrines that traffic in a particular form of apocalytpic fear, a vision of the imminent rapture when only a few of us will really make god's cut for a heavenly paradise. The rest of us will be left behind. Unraptured. Unrepentent. Unprosperous.
These theologies are all about wealth creation, attraction, supplication and enjoyment. They espouse a form of biblical literalism that rests on the book of revelations, and also rests on passages like Deuteronomy 8:18 which says, 'God gives you the power to get wealth to establish his covenant.'
It is God's will for you to prosper—and that does not refer to a garden harvest. The message is that wealth is crucial to these days just prior to the end time (and of course the global economic crisis may be a sign of their imminence). Get rich now, or risk being left behind.
A RaptureReady website tells us: “After the rapture takes place, everyone left behind will know someone who was mysteriously taken away.” That sounds like PNG, doesn’t it? Samting blong ples. Samting bilong Stark Trek. A whole range of merchandise now serves the rapture ready community including things like bumper stickers that tell you 'In case of rapture this car will be unmanned.' That's going to be a big problem alons the Poreporena Freeway when the time comes.
Charming, over-coiffed, shiny suited and enthusiastic, these preachers are not so different from classic bigmen, deftly able to subsume your desires to their own ambitions. Picture Benny Hinn pacing the singsing ground with handless mic, declaiming his enemies—the Pope, the Jews, the one world conspiracy, and most of all an empty wallet---and he draws us into his church of new riches. We can enjoy the bounty of a life in Christ here on this earth, without guilt, without shame, because, as so many of these ministries teach us, Jesus wasn’t poor after all, and so why should we be? The important point is that we must be free to make money so as to become generous to the church. Pastor Smith Wigglesworth (his real name!) tells us that “Yahweh has prospered individuals by making them millionares and even billionaires in order that the money be used to meet the needs of His people.” Joyce Meyer makes $100 million a year, for example, which makes her amongst the most rewarded of Gods spokespersons.
Free markets for the holy rollers. The excitement of unregulated markets, of fundamentalist capitalism, is what attracts Pastor Ted Haggart , who has said it is “time to harness the forces off free-markets in our ministry.' Remember Ted? He was George Bush's pastor before being outed by a male prostitute drug dealer who had been holy rolling with the righteous one.
On one level, all developing countries are all pre-adapted to corruption. There is a kind of petty corruption the greases the wheels of any dysfunctional state, any imperfect cash economy. A line item here, a favour extended there. But this is still public service.
Prosperity theology recalibrates this petty stuff to a truly different order of reciprocity and reward, which is why so many prominent Papua New Guineans have found it attractive, not just as followers, but as sponsors.
Money Rain, U-Vistract, Papalain, Windfall, Hosava all take a page from these books. Windfall was a grassroots Investment and Management Company. Paplain was a compensation scheme for forestry workers, moving through Lutheran and Pentecostal circles; SDA church members were big on Lifetime Benefit Scheme where a special bank card was issued for drawing money from the fund; and Money Rain moved through the Christian Life Centre in Port Moresby. The Clerk of Parliament invested 300,000 kina of public funds in money rain. The Secretary of Finance was said to have invested a similar amount of public monies in the Assembles of God Jubilee University. The 2001 SDA crusade of Mark Finley in Port Moresby supported by a k100,000 national government grant, during which Minister for Lands John Pundari pronounced that PNG would be richly blessed by God's abundant grace (in return?)
The most successful of such cross-marketing schemes has to be the pre-millenium Benny Hinn crusade in Port Moresby when PM Bill Skate and Treasurer Iario Lasaro jumped aboard with a k180,000 contribution, in return for which Hinn declared, “The Prime Minister of this country is none other than Jesus Christ and I am his ambassador.”
Again, bigmen harnessing our resources for their personal ambitions. But without the same guarantee of returns that we have in moka or tee.
This all looks suspiciously like the free market development theory that grew so very popular by the early 2000's with Jeffrey Sachs, Amartya Sen (development as freedom, free markets equal free people, etc) and of course Peruvian Hernando De Soto, darling of the World Bank's efforts to get PN to harness the hidden capital in customary land, by selling it.
Recall, though, that there is a history of little Grameen bank projects in the highlands that predate all of this, like the Wok Meri Scheme in Chuave. These evolved from a number of post-Independent development cooperatives, not all of which survived to prosper, but which include the Kabiswali Movement in MilneBay nd the Dabsau Movement in Madang, for examples.
But there is a big difference between well-meaning cooperatives and pyramid or Ponzi schemes. Ponzi schemes have been made famous recently by Bernie Madoff, the investment banker who never made an investment, and kept paying off one investor with another's millions, until finally, the jig was up and the scores of self-assuredly zillionaire clients were suddenly penniless overnight.
The difference may be that when Noah Misingku could not make good to his U-Vistract investors, and promised the World Bank would bail them out, people continued to believe well past his police confession. Pyramid schemes are based on faith---and always on the sterling reputations of the first people in, who can truthfully testify to getting a 500% return. Today, though, while there may be many Madoff investors who will not admit to selling their Gulfstream (perhaps to the PM's Department?), they are not waiting for Madoff to make good. But along the Sepik the War Carrier's Association still claims victims, as people purchase eir neighbours compensation vouchers in the belief that someday the Japanese government will pay out millions to the veterans' descendants.
If you live only partially on the cash economy, and if you have been starved of government services all your life, you are supremely vulnerable. From this perspective, all development, and especially donor aided development, can look like one great Ponzi scheme, where the trickle never quite comes down to the last stakeholders. Whoever said money cant buy happiness clearly had too much of the stuff. Free market ministries, free market development theory, lassaiz faire theology—are all products of the advanced capital moment that was then, and is certainly not now.
Because highlanders are 'pre-adapted' to profit does not mean they are pre-adapted to grift. We must make a distinction between trickle-down blessings from the lord and what is thinly veiled Social Darwinism for the twenty first century. Poor people, in other wors, are no more damned than Bernie Madoff's clients were briefly blessed.
Most of PNG lives with a feint grasp on the cash economy, so the basis of any good life is the persistence of customary land tenure, whatever Hernando de Soto says about Peru. Few people in PNG would agree that living on money---which amounts to roughly K80 a fortnight for most of us—is worth cashing in the heirloom of traditional land. Poverty is not part of a Divine Wrath Program, and subsistence farmers in Western countries, like subsistence fishermen in Egum Atoll, are no less beloved than Benny Hinn or Bill Gates, any more than they are 'poor' --the the real sense of that word--for a lack of cash. But if we do rush headlong into the Rapture with U-Vistract vouchers and receipts for our registered land, even--mind you--Carbon Credit receipts as they are being touted today--we may get beamed up to the righteous beyond, but we will surely leave the real paradise far behind.
I was asked to open a workshop for the police on sorcery last month, but the event was cancelled (although not before I spent the scheduled morning chasing from one police station to the next in search of it). So Im posting a draft of my talk here, sort of like planting a bit of preventive ginger (kawowar) before the spell. And now I jump in just after the flowery introductions. To begin, I would say it is easy to get caught up in definitions between what is sorcery and what is witchcraft---this seems to keep academics in business for years. For my purposes I would say that we have two main types: poison, or sympathetic magic, which can include marila or love magic, in which nail clippings, hair, food scraps and so forth can be used to cast a spell on someone at a distance. This category hasn’t. fortunately, been much expanded in a modern world so we can share biros, silverware, cold drinks and even seats without much worry still.
Highlandsmedics sometimes treat sorcery caused by poisons with emetics and laxatives—as functional equivalents of traditional medicines. Pangia call this tomo, and it also includes a marila component that women may give men and vice versa. This kind of illness involves stomach upsets of mild nature, and can be treated with vomiting. Then leavings sorcery is sympathetic magic. We always discard all our leavings to prevent sorcery---food gets thrown into water. These cures are more investigative, like CID event, and nothing to do with hospital.
The Manam people accuse women of marila, a supernatural pulling power. But sanguma is men’s work in Manam, and is very serious and mainly fatal, so of an entirely different order. This involves an expert sorcerer, in most cases someone who has been trained in the vocation, and traditional (not so long ago) an initiation which would require him (mostly him) to kill his first child and thus subsume that power unto himself. This is typical of the north coast and Sepik all the way to the Siassi and Huon Peninsula.
When Madang people talk about sorcery they are talking about this, and in present day they are also talking about specialists coming from, say, Bagasin, and new forms migrating from Bogia, for example that involves the sanguma man coming to you while you sleep, slitting your throat and thus making you unable to speak. People also say Raikos is filled with sanguma, whereas Madang proper is less so.
Sometimes you can put kawowar around a house to transform the sanguma man from invisible to a visible being at night, so you can defend yourself. Sorcerers can also waylay a victim and transfix them. They can hunt people down, for example, find a woman in her garden and copulate with her, then kill her and take her heart out. Or the kidneys are pulled out ---one may be placed in the victims mouth, and the person’s insides are said to be stuffed with leaves. He or she is sent home after being sewn up magically, and is told to cook and eat the kidney. Or the victim is given amnesia of the event, or perhaps only told the date when they will die. He/she may be left in a zombie like state that relatives are powerless to interfere in, and die without medical care.
Raikos sangumaman use pigs, dogs and black ants as their cover. The Bagasin use flying kokomos at night. InWestern Province
The direct effects of sorcery are no more heinous and unjust sometimes than the indirect ones, as, for example, when a bereaved parent gets blamed for his child’s death because of some land dispute, or something he himself has done, unwittingly. This happened after the death of one of our most beloved staff and ex-student, Joe Rainbubu, who died, say the medical records, of leukemia (after they were amended from saying 'anaemia'), and who was said to have died of sorcery revenge after a land dispute in his home at Sissano Lagoon; thus his father was made doubly bereft by the thought that he had called Joe home to help settle the dispute.
What people like Linus Digim'rina, the Head of the Anthropology Dept at UPNG, and a Trobriander, suggests is that we look at the effects and not the causes, that we walk backward from the tragedy of a primary or secondary death (an original victim or an accused sorcerer who has been hurt). Tell us what happened---was it physical harm inflicted by someone, or not? --before saying the 's' word.
Some of the worst tragedies come from rumours and witch hunts, where self-appointed jurors and judges hound a suspect to ruin, sometimes even self-harm. If the original sorcerer has not confessed, he or she may be targeted for death by counter-sorcery, or killed by an act of collective bloodlust, or, more likely, enveloped by shame. Signs of weakness or empathy in mourning can also suggest sorcery, or complicity in sorcery, like a father who weeps too dramatically--and some might say is anguished by guilt.
There are two issues here: whether sorcery has been the cause of an original calamity, and whether a second calamity can be vindicated as payback for sorcery. The first is especially hard to confirm, and the second becomes a matter of restorative justice. It really doesn’t matter what someone’s objectives are, if they perform acts that are legal and have no direct bearing on someone’s well-being, it remains a matter of faith only that they have committed sorcery or witchcraft. If I pray for rain, by the same token, and it rains, you can berate me, you can suspect and even shun me, but you cannot convict me of anything [citation].
But when people admit to a crime, they must be investigated, and when it becomes clear that he or she did cause physical harm, illness or death, then a crime has been committed entirely independent of the act of sorcery. Whatever the social outcome of the crime---if it allows peace or relives strain in a community—it is still a crime and must be treated as such.
We live in a country where restorative justice is most effective, and therefore people everywhere continue to justify sorcery/sanguma/poison in terms of the betterment of the community. But this runs counter to western jurisprudence, and it is becoming far-fetched to see PNG communities as autonomous entities anymore---they are cast out across the country as people from one language move and work everywhere else, and their borders grow porous as daughters move in with their husbands and men marry women from elsewhere, not to mention development projects bring migrants right into your lap. We now have Kerema and Tolai and Sepik people in one compound in the settlements, even here in Madang, breeding new ideas about sorcery and competing in different ways with this instrument of social control—which is magic—to define the larger community.
More importantly, women are more often the victims of restorative justice than they are the beneficiaries, as anyone in village court will tell you. They are martyrs to the peace of a community they only married into. And the first ones to be named as cause when things go bad.
Sorcery is a social regulator, the original form of jurisprudence. For fear of sorcery people gag themselves, stay inline, and most importantly in today’s PNG, fear success for the jealousy it inspires. All of us everywhere have at one time or another said about him or her that he’s courting revenge by being so bigheaded. And by that we don’t mean a verbal reprimand, we mean samting blong ples. And when his wife, her son, or their pig dies, we smile smugly, and feel like saying I told you so.
But increasingly if we hear that someone has put samting blong ples on this person, we are shocked, and saddened. We know he or she worked hard for that car, or loved their child, and was not deliberately courting bad luck for wanting to get ahead.
We can talk about the many reasons sorcery is on the rise---terrible infrastructure and even worse health services, new diseases with unknown symptoms, greater mobility and exposure to other diseases, not to mention fears and prejudices against others, etc. A mushroom of social change which allows enormous variety of behaviors that never existed before and suddenly may be considered to attract sorcery. A rise in ‘blame the victim’ mentality as these behaviors come to confuse us. Breakdown of taboos so that men and women eat together, step over each others things, and even touch each other in wholly unprecedented ways---in public. Emergence of social classes, so that the village wife and the husband’s female colleague are now, more than ever before, from two very different worlds, and where jealousy is an everyday, sometimes uncontrollable experience, especially when we hear about people getting rich by kickbacks and palm greasing and simply being in the right place at the right time. Laki! Makes me un-laki!
But to be clear: I can whinge that she has stolen my boyfriend, but if I stab her with a knife I am guilty of a crime. If I engage a known sangumaman or poisonman to make her sick or ugly or turn her head away from him, I am guilty of what? It’s hard to say. If I engage the same poisonman to make a marila to bring my boyfriend back, I am not guilty either, am I? But if I do so and it causes his new girlfriend to commit suicide, or causes him to recklessly swim the strait and drown, in an effort to reach me, you might say Im guilty. Or liable to some degree. But what if I engage a sagumaman to kill my rival, and she does die in he sleep, the doctors say of a heart attack (she was a fat highlander who ate too many lamb flaps anyway), and if the police find this sangumaman and he confesses to the crime but supplies absolutely no details, and her body lacks any marks whatsoever, can he be indicted? Can I be? Is intent to kill the same as murder? In law, it is not. I suggest that unless we have physical evidence of the act, or overwhelming circumstantial evidence (according to the normal scale of jurisprudence), we cannot indict. The effort must be effect-based, not cause-based. I hate many people, and I may find myself dreaming of their delicious deaths, but that makes me mean, not murderous.
Highlands poisons have been enhanced by modernity, where vague potions can be substituted with bateri---battery acid—and other botol, or glass pieces/shards---can be put into food. Botol was originally from Bundi---and Botoltom (specialists) put glass shards in a body to have them taken out by a price. Specialists from previously neighbouring peoples have come to make their appearance as agents of harm in towns today. Madang people talk about the new Bogia sorceries, for example.
It has never been effective to merely legislate against sorcery. Even after the famous witchcraft trials of the early 18th century inEngland, when the courts finally drafted a witchcraft law, they had to ask---how do we legislate against flying? Here we might ask, how do we make a law that says people cannot turn invisible and go moving around at night?
Sorcery will not end without an intellectual revolution. Kowowar must come to stand for more than a ginger antidote, or talisman, but biomedical facts. Focus on symptoms not labels, and learn about the medical pluralism across PNG. There are extreme differences in regimes of treatment, and what looks like sorcery here may be healing there. Or in both instances. Humoral systems strive for balance. Dual systems of bodily substance usually contrast blood and grease, rad and white, etc—as for the Huli. Tripartate systems include blood, grease and bone---for the Duna, e.g. The vital components in highlands medical systems are breath, thoughts, knowledge, spirits. Illnesses can be attributed to fright (spirit leaves temporarily), desire (jealousy), sorrow, anger (ancestral spirits), spite (sorcery).
Lack of social services, lack of schools, the rise of HIV/AIDs, high infant mortality, all are primary causes of today's mysterious deaths. Dysentery in the highlands once also gave rise to witchcraft accusations. Bun nating people have always been considered sick, and fat people healthy. Suppressed anger will cause sickness, by some beliefs (even for people who dont watch Oprah). Nothing causes anger more predictably in PNG than a spouse, and so marriage becomes an excellent precondition for illness and/or sorcery.
Interestingly, it is thought that the soul-capturing version of sanguma can never be cured by western medicine, but women in mun sik (menstruation) are immune.
The problem is with illnesses that are neurological-- epilepsy, fever and fits, the sort of thing that comes on fast. Ritual cures are almost always considered the only way, and these usually involve fertility issues with women---where (no surprise) they become the object of a social logjam---being barren). Purification becomes a form of peacemaking. In Pangia it was thought that menstrual blood covertly placed in a man’s food could cause an ectopic pregnancy (in the man!) and death of that fetus because it had no vagina to exit.
So a woman could be demonized at any stage of her child-bearing life, even if sanguma itself did not affect her during menstruation. By now, everyone in PNG is aware that women have been stoned, raped, burned or buried alive---not to mention dragged behind vehicles---for suspicion of being a witch. Only a clear understanding of biomedicine will bring women the same rights as men in confronting sorcery accusations. A thorough understanding of biomedical facts, and the nature of Mendelian biology will help alleviate some of the demonization of women’s biology.
But the rise of sorcery is also a reflection of social dis-ease, and as many lowlanders will attest, such crises of social change, anxiety over illness or external threats, have been treated by great social rituals in the past, the best of which is now long deceased, and was called the Devilfish in Lumi. A big female masalai figure who ingests the troubled or ill person, the sorcelled one, and then gives birth to a healed person, thanks to the ritual contributions of everyone.
What is it with Americans who travel the world only to break local laws? John Yettaw travels to Burma and decides to swim the lake behind Aung San Suu Kyi’s house, just to say hello; and in the aftermath of this reckless act the military junta may find an excuse to indefinitely prolong the democracy leader’s house arrest. It is one thing to map out a strategy for civil disobedience as a means of drawing attention to a cause, and another thing to impetuously follow your dream in another country, within a fraught political environment. Did he imagine this larkish adventure would result in goodwill all around? That Aung San needed his company? That the military junta would ignore this as misguided (unguided) adventure tourism?
I ask these questions because our company recently hosted a photo team from National geographic into a very socially and politically sensitive situation, and trusting (naively) that the magazine would understand our oft-repeated concerns, especially after we vetoed a travel writer for the project who had actually been fired from the New York Times for making up characters in his stories, we were sent another adventure writer whose ‘cultural sensitivity’ was said to be impeccable. Ultimately, we almost came to fisticuffs with the man who insisted he trek on his own to make a form of first contact with the subject group, against our very clear instructions that this would frighten them unnecessarily, and the expressed concerns of his self-appointed guide who told me he did not know how to look after a white man---did he have to take him along?
Apparently, yes. Because if an American wants to do something slightly illicit, he considers it his obligation to do so, without jural or social constraints. Especially if he (and I say ‘he’ advisedly) has an audience to report to. What I should have done, and wholly regret not doing, was read some of this writer’s ‘award winning’ travel writing, including a piece about eluding state officials in Burma so that he may get beyond the barriers of ordinary tourism. So that, to be clear, he can pursue an obsession with a WWII-era jungle road despite the current civil unrest and the fact that it is closed to foreigners.
Such is the state of the old adventure-lit genre that it sometimes looks like the participant-observation of anthropology, and almost always co-ops the research of anthropologists to describe ambient rapport as if it were without translators or state of the art gear and satellite phone. Adventurous locations everywhere boast a small industry of people (and I have unwittingly become one of them) exist to escort such visitors beyond the pale, to impress his or her feet in the sand were no one else has dared to tread, and thus prove that he/she is not bound by the laws of a State that is either too young or too oppressive for their taste; that government everywhere are anathema to real adventure; and the people who live beyond the footprint of a global communications network are well and truly deserving of this contact---it cannot be denied! Like laptops/celphones/IT technology for everyone, we demand there be journalists for everyone, especially hardy male American adventure travel writers who dare the midnight swim in Burma, and dismiss the consequences as all publicity being good publicity for dear Aung San, who, after all, must have yearned for such good company and the tales of adventure travel he could tell. You have to wonder what that first night was like.
The Pig in a Garden: Jared Diamond and The New Yorker series:
Art Science Research Laboratory's StinkyJournalism.org and SavageMinds.org is simultaneously cross-publishing on both web sites, a series of essays on the controversy surrounding Jared Diamond's New Yorker article, "Annals of Anthropology: Vengeance is Ours." The essay series titled,The Pig in a Garden: Jared Diamond and The New Yorker, is written by ethics scholars in the fields of anthropology and communications, as well as journalists, environmental scientists, archaeologists, anthropologists and linguists et al., and edited by Rhonda Roland Shearer, Alan Bisbort and Sam Eifling. Each contributor's mission was simple: To examine Jared Diamond's article, and The New Yorker's decision to publish it, through the lens of their own discipline. We think you will agree that these issues will not soon be put to rest. As Nancy Sullivan writes in her contribution, part of the reason for this series is to reclaim some of the ground among general readers lost to "experts" like Jared Diamond. With tis series, StinkyJournalism.org and SavageMinds.org seek to capture that wider general audience for writings about anthropology. Sullivan's essay is first in the series.
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I am an anthropologist who has lived in Papua New Guinea (PNG) for more than twenty years, most of these in the highlands. In 2002 I also taught a course in PNG war and peace, so the concept of Melanesian vengeance is not unfamiliar to me, either personally or academically. My understanding of Jared Diamond’s point in the piece “Vengeance is Ours” is that revenge is natural. It’s a Hobbesian message for the twenty-first century: humans are hardwired for revenge and require a social contract to prevent madness and mayhem. Savages are rational, because they also have rules to obey and urges to forfeit for the greater peace. But because tribes are such small units, Diamond seems to say, their rules lie closer to the human impulse.
Apparently the Melanesian social contract is somewhat thinner than the European one, superficially veiling the urge for revenge and permitting its satisfaction in controlled acts of “payback.” People like Daniel Wemp, for example, live but a step away from the pre-Leviathan Eden, where all men were islands and under no social constraints. Diamond invites us to see the difference between Wemp’s smug vendetta and the lifelong frustrations of Diamond’s father-in-law, who could never experience revenge for his family’s murder during the Holocaust. The modern state fully thwarts our urge, whereas tribal edicts do not -- presumably even tribal societies within the state of Papua New Guinea. In an interesting anti-sentimental twist, Diamond also tells us that tribal people are ultimately happy to submit to a state apparatus, if only to be freed at last from the cycle of violence and payback.
If indeed Papua New Guineans are so eager to throw off the shackles of tribalism and finally live in peace, Daniel Wemp can now thank Diamond and The New Yorker for alerting the state apparatus of his crimes.
No one will ever find ‘Daniel Wemp’
I want to make three points here. First, that Diamond has seriously endangered this subject, whom he identifies by real first and last name, by claiming his responsibility for a series of murders. Beyond the Nipa tribe and the Southern Highlands Province is a thoroughly modern state of Papua New Guineafor which these acts constitute murder.
The second point follows from the first. The field of anthropology has a code of ethics that includes “informed consent” -- a not-incidental notion that if you use people for research purposes, they must know the risk involved, the nature of the project, how the data will be used, and how it will be publicized. In short, they should have the choice to remain anonymous. In a pinch, when these conditions cannot be met, you have to mask the subject’s identity.
But we know that Diamond’s piece does not actually come from the “annals of anthropology,” or at least not professional anthropology. That field has a distinct method, something called the ethnographic method, coined by Brownislaw Malinowski in ew Guineaninety years ago to prod the discipline out of the armchair and into the field for a minimally required period of time.
Informed consent has been an important topic to anthropology since Margaret Mead sat down for a chat with young women in Samoa(and Derek Freeman told us she got it wrong). But none of us would be discussing this now if it hadn’t been for Mead’s savvy decision to publish her first book with William Morrow, for a general audience, and thus bring cultural relativism into living rooms across the English-speaking world. Americans were especially blessed by her Redbook columns, where we learned that childhood, adolescence and even gender roles are not, as had been imagined, biologically determined. It was Mead who first taught the wider public about the tenaciousness of culture.
But it is our fault as anthropologists that no one has picked up the ball Mead dropped, and produced enough popular cultural anthropology in recent years. Jared Diamond is just filling the vacuum we left. No one seems to realize anymore that the field is not about making generalizations about humankind, but about describing the defining differences between cultures. It is not about expanding biological knowledge, nor defining the line between culture and biology, but about understanding the diversities of what is manmade, what is not natural after all. Anthropology teaches us about the power of world views.
Diamond has been fantastically successful at bypassing particulars for the single European worldview of history, a worldview that professes to treat all societies with equal respect, but which, in fact, takes a remarkably Victorian approach to culture. Much like armchair anthropology, Diamond’s anecdotal evidence of other peoples is used to support an evolutionary view of culture, where social progress and moral growth bring us to a somewhat imperfect (but more advanced) present. We miss the idyll of a tribal past, but we are too sophisticated now to ever return.
Though we might wonder how Daniel’s society came to revel in killing, ethnographic studies of traditional human societies lying largely outside the control of state government have shown that war, murder, and demonetization of neighbors have been the norm. Modern state societies rate as exceptional by the standards of human history, because we instead grow up learning a universal code of morality that is constantly hammered into us: promulgated every week in our churches and codified in our laws. But the differences between the norms of states and of Handa clan society are not actually so sharp. In times of war, even modern state societies quickly turn the enemy into a dehumanized figure of hatred, only to enjoin us to stop hating again as soon as a peace treaty is signed.
There are whiffs of L. Ron Hubbard, Joseph Campbell, and even Jeffrey Sachs to this logic. Great masters of the sonorous single narrative, by which all manner of irritating complexities are put to rest. In the end, dear readers, it's a small world after all.
Excess and restraint
This brings me to my third point. Diamond gets it wrong. Any thesis based on Melanesian justice as being retributive in the Western sense is absolutely wrong. It is solipsistic simplification.
Anthropologists most frequently define groups and their borders by whom they fight. There has been a long history of anthropologists studying conflict in Melanesias a means of describing group identity, governance, and the social contract that is community. C.H. Wedgewood made the first stab at synthesizing this material in 1930, arguing that warfare in Oceaniaserves to integrate and knit together a community by defining the enemy – the Other. But the watershed years for studies of warfare in Papua New Guinea (PNG) really were the 1970s, when a cadre of anthropologists produced seminal ethnographies on the causes, forms and function of violence, especially across the highlands (see Barth 1975, Berndt 1971, Brown 1978, Hallpike 1977, Koch 1974, Meggitt 1977; Scaglion 1979, Schieffelin 1979, Sillitoe 1978, Strathern 1977, Vayda 1976, e.g.).
The triggers and causes of inter-tribal conflicts are never the same. Any pretext can initiate a fight, but this may be only a superficial altercation. It is the older, submerged reasons that make the blood boil and really sustain a war. Only the most assiduous research can tease these out of the gossip, bragging, historicizing and campaigning that surround warfare everywhere. Ronald Berndt’s 1962 classic of highlands warfare, Excess and Restraint, is more about excess than it is about restraint, seeming to imply that there are far more fights than strategies for keeping peace. Similarly, Ryan’s 1959 work on the Mendi (near Daniel Wemp’s region) calls inter-clan fighting volatile and chronic (1959: 268), and Glasse (1959) says the nearby Huli are hell-bent on continuous war. It can all look pretty rogue and bloodthirsty from the outside – like Homo sapiens in some pre-modern state of self-interest. But none of these writers would suggest that this is the whole story.
In the words of one Melanesian expert:
"[N]o worthwhile comment can be made on the cause of a particular [inter-clan] clash without inside knowledge of the longterm relationship between the contesting parties, or about the bearing group memories have on the conflict. Empirical accounts of the formal procedures, frequency, weaponry, and strategy of war, what is more, have only partial value in explaining conflict if little can be said about consciousness and underlying beliefs. There is no better introduction to this cognitive side to the matter than through analyzing notions of revenge. Killing was not carried out for the sheer love of it; it was virtually always an act to repay or satisfy some material grievance. But vengeance against enemies, in particular, was almost invariably backed up by appeals to legitimacy. Whether taken at the socially acceptable moment or not, it was normally sanctioned by those helping, perhaps paying the killed, or by those sharing the drive to assuage the sense of loss in ongoing 'revenge warfare' (Trompf 1994: 28-9)."
Even when war attracts hotheads and loose cannons (and Diamond tells us “The New Guinea Highlands are full of aggressive men seeking revenge for their own reasons”), and even when warriors seek unsanctioned revenge, there is still the distinction between legal and illegal bloodshed. Violence must have social legitimacy greater than one’s own personal ambitions. It is hard to glean whether Diamond knows this or not from comments like the following:
"Daniel was proud both of the aggressiveness displayed by all the warring clans of his Nipa tribe and of their faultless recall of debts and grievances. He likened Nipa people to 'light elephants' ": As Diamond quotes him in his New Yorker article, "They remember what happened thirty years ago, and their words continue to float in the air. The way that we come to understand things in life is by telling stories, like the stories I am telling you now, and like all the stories that grandfathers tell their grandchildren about their relatives who must be avenged. We also come to understand things in life by fighting on the battlefield along with our fellow-clansmen and allies.”
Berndt also recounts some of the most fantastic and improbable boasts of war (see Knauft 1999: 118).
If Diamond would have us understand that a revenge culture in highlands PNG is also rule-bound and rational, closer to a Babylonian law or the Torah than a modern state, we must also assume that it cultivates a system of punishment intended to end a conflict. This is consistent with an evolutionary view of culture in general, where an eye for an eye emerged in response to the endless personal vendettas posing a threat to the social fabric. In the earliest forms of statehood, defining tit for tat was a means of finishing warfare rather than perpetuating it. But again, listen to the highlands experts. Glasse says of the Huli that they have no idea of lex talionis. A man tries to inflict a greater injury than that which he has suffered. Moreover, the people who suffer as a result of vengeance do not accept their injuries as just or appropriate; they too seek counter-vengeance, and the conflict is unending (1968: 68).
This is precisely why there are so any young highlands men willing to do battle. As Glasse tells us, “nearly every [Huli] man nurses a grievance that can precipitate war” (Ibid: 88).
Revenge in the Western sense simply does not exist in the highlands of New Guinea. Outsiders are constantly left dumbfounded by the open-endedness of the system. But the Melanesian worldview is no simple subject to tackle, even for battle-hardened anthropologists. Payback killings and apparently indiscriminate acts of revenge are as common as prodigious (even self-destructive) acts of generosity, gifts without promise of comparable return, and infinite strategies of deflecting blame. None of these conundrums is separable in a Melanesian worldview.
Behind the Melanesian pidgin term "bekim" (payback) lies the presumption that life, punctuated by dangerous feuding and competitions, colored by the excitement of reciprocities and trade, is to be apprehended as a continuous interweaving of gains and losses, giving and taking, wealth and destitution, joy and sorrow, vitality and death (Trompf op cit:1).
Smoke in the Hills, Gunfire in the Valley
Rosita Henry has a particularly apt 2005 Oceania article (Henry 2005) by this title about the Nebilyer fight in the Western Highlandsthat broke out in 1990 and ran for almost a decade. It also serves to illustrate Trompf’s point above, about the inevitability of violence as part of – not a rent in – the social fabric. Outsiders know the Nebilyer war from Connolly and Anderson’s third film in the First Contact trilogy of films, Black Harvest, which was shot while the couple lived on Joe Leahy’s plantation and bore witness to the opening salvos of the fight. I would assume Diamond himself is familiar with the film. Henry deals explicitly with peacemaking strategies and the complexities of negotiating compensation throughout a conflict, and she walks us through some of the event analyzes provided by participants themselves. That is, she cites the explanations they give for paying certain parties, and not paying others, and for electing certain causes of the conflict while ignoring others.
It’s an excellent paper that rings true to me because I was living in Mt.Hagenwith one of the participant clans, the Penambe, at the time; I am familiar with some of the folks’ quotes; and I was a business partner to the person whose song lyrics form part of the title. Maggie Leahy Wilson’s plaintive song says: “There’s smoke in the hills / Gunfire in the valley / A woman is wailing / A loved one is killed / My heart is aching / My Heart is aching.” It’s about heartache, Henry reminds us, which always makes highlands violence regrettable, especially to women, even if we concede that it is integral to the warp and woof of highlands life. She goes on the demonstrate how, like it or not, peace compensation strategies during and after warfare are as important to the community as traditional exchange ceremonies. Along with Rumsey, Merlan, and M. Strathern, Henry argues that warfare is not a mark of social degeneration (sensu Hobbes) but a structural component of highlands society, even as it is bemoaned and avoided by most highlanders.
Alan Rumsey (Rumsey 1999), Francesca Merlan (Merlan and Rumsey 1991) and Marilyn Strathern (M. Strathern 1972) all have written about peace negotiations in the Western Highlands as highly social events, as layered and important as moka exchanges, funerary feasts and bride price ceremonies. But moka wealth exchange partners are never the same people you oppose in battle, so the relations defined there are very different. In battle, for example, direct and primary enemies never compensate each other; they compensate their allies and their minor enemies who may have lost lives and property. In some cases this seems counter-intuitive (to people like Diamond), but it is part of a strategy to ensure future alliances, and not to seal an absolute peace. Special transactions can secure longer-lasting peace, however, and help settle a matter more conclusively. These transactions require lengthy discussion, in which every trigger event, and then every secondary cause, is re-examined for latent significance and hidden motives. First the key causes are revealed to the communities and left to percolate in gossip for awhile, to accumulate variant recollections and memories of past causes. It’s what we call “planting the seed” in tok bokis or euphemistic tok pisin: a proposition is placed on the table for a while, and public conjecture accumulates around it. Finally, the best orators from all sides will reap the fruit of this and present it in a formal debate, literally redefining the terms of the fight as they do so. Their eloquence can weave insinuation into clever parables that may, if successful, satisfy all parties while leaving acceptable loopholes for the future. Consensus, and definitely not emotions, seals the conclusion of these peace negotiations. People like Daniel Wemp might walk away with one interpretation, and his enemy may take away another, but neither view shakes the tree of consensus.
In the Nebilyer fight, for example, one of the trigger events was a mistake. A Ganiga man shot dead his clansman, a security guard, after a theft on Joe Leahy’s coffee plantation. Initially, the Ganiga assumed a Kulka had shot the guard, and they retaliated against the Kulkas. But they actually chopped up a Kulka ally, a Poi Penambe man, and this elicited a fierce alliance between Kulkas and Poi Penambe. In turn, the Ganiga brought in the Ulka as their allies, re-activating a series of debts and obligations between these sometimes-allies. Ultimately, the internal compensations were labyrinthine: Ulkas paying each other, Ganigas paying Ulkas, Poi Penambe paying Kulkas, and Ulka Kundulge paying the Ganigas (because it turns out the man who shot the security guard was not Ganiga but Ulka Kundulge after all).
In the midst of all of this, Henry cites the Poi Penambe man who was chopped up by the Ganigas and survived. His complaint is clearly made in the hope of eliciting sympathy from the listener, fully aware that his problem is “unjust” at some level, but knowing that the social contract, and not his personal emotions, will prevail.
He said, "The Kulkas are putting the pressure on me and my tribe you see, because I was axed. I was axed and the fight started. Probably about 30 or 40 men were killed, Kulkas. And the pressure is on me now, May father and my small tribe, Poi Penambe, you know. They’ve been given pigs and money and all that thing, and they’re still putting pressure on us today…They want cash now. I have to initiate that by putting in a couple of grand, which I haven’t got. They [Kulka] sort of feel that because they [Ganiga (Ulka)] chopped you and we supported you and we lost our men in the fight and then you’re still alive, we should be compensated by you for our men (Henry 2005: 438)."
This is “restorative” justice, or what Alan Rumsey prefers to call transformative justice (Rumsey 2003) – and it has nothing to do with either personal or collective revenge. It is about finding a way forward, as painful as that may be. Indeed, I imagine the Poi Penambe man still harbors resentments from that period.
In addition (and this has to do with the Daniel Wemp case) these analyses are made all the more complicated by new factors of the cash economy: a cash crop income (coffee, in this case) and the resentments over whose land is used for cash crops, and the obvious jealousies of an emergent class system. Some people are vastly wealthy in the Western Highlandstoday, while others are modern peasants. Any substantive discussion of Wemp’s story, and his gloss of events, must take these factors into consideration. Like the Western Highlands, the Southern Highlandscontext involves the segmentary politics of clans, and the new hierarchies of cash.
The problem is that Papua New Guineans are more and more likely to describe warfare in ways that Europeans prefer to understand it.
When hostilities break out between two sides, the outsider is apt to regard the situation as arising de novo. And when Melanesians are asked today why given fights have occurred, they themselves are prone to give deceptively simple answers, to do with land-grabbing, for example, theft of pigs, rape or perhaps sorcery. Rarer reasons are known to have been voiced: such as women stealing, elopement, jilting a marriage suitor, threats to a trade specialty, or even insults directed at gardens by a visiting tribal leader. Perhaps the most common type of response, though still simplistic as it remains, is to give a narrative account, an informant telling how A was angered by the actions of B and led a raiding party to kill B or one of his associates (and did so in a way worth telling), the deeper or long-term reasons behind the act of revenge being barely touched. After years of interaction between “subject” and “ruling” peoples, these replies to outside researchers have taken on a stereotypical quality…[and] such replies have been absorbed into pre-existing explanatory frameworks to vulgarize the already dissolving subtleties and complexities of traditional perspectives. When it is blithely accepted, however, that Melanesians view human conflict in terms of disconnected, separate episodes, with acts that require revenge, followed by acts of vengeance (or satisfaction), supposedly forming a self-contained unit of affairs, only a half-truth has been swallowed. (emphasis added) (Ibid: 32)
Traditional justice in New Guineais not based on the Western model of retribution, but on that of restoration. Restorative justice is far from the eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth blood-lust Diamond attributes to Wemp and would wish for his father-in-law; it has more to do with repairing the social fabric. Restorative justice as the tribal dispute logic is also being increasingly formalized in PNG’s statutory law. In village courts it has always been the leading form of jurisprudence: Whatever custom makes the best peace is the best option. But even the greater legal apparatus of PNG has more and more customary law folded into it these days.
For women in particular, it continues to be a very unsatisfying form of peace. As traditional clanswomen were subject (rather like Sharia law) to their husband’s whims, and more likely to be thrown in as part of a compensation payment than avenged for injury, they are beginning to seek more equable status in the courts these days. None of this has been easy (see Garap 2000), and some of it has been remarkably successful in recent conflict resolution cases (see Rumsey 2000, 2003). But it continues to resist the Judeo-Christian concept of a bounded and autonomous individual before the courts – someone wholly responsible for his or her action – because that product of Western civilization simply does not exist in Melanesia.
Women are struggling with this across the developing world, and anyone familiar with non-Western worldviews would be able to appreciate the steeper uphill battle of feminism outside the Western world. Not long ago, for example, a young woman from the Southern Highlands of PNG, not far from Daniel Wemp’s home, took her own father to court to establish her jural individualism (and won): It was determined that she could stay at university in the capital and not, as her father and clan had determined, be part of a compensation package to an enemy clan.
Let me try to explain restorative justice with a personal example from the Western Highlands. In 1993, I was kidnapped in Mt.Hagen(which is about 60 km from Nipa) by a gang of young men who were members of my hosts’ enemy clan. I was living with the Elti Penambe, and these were Kopi clansmen living just next to Penambe clan boundaries on Kuta Ridge, outside of Mt.Hagentown. The gang held up a car carrying me and two tourists on our way to town, as we passed through their customary land. We were really just caught up in traditional Penambe-Kopi tensions made more fraught by the nearby Nebilyer fight. Our kidnappers did not target us per se, but as accessories to the Penambe cause. The tourists were an Australian father and son visiting from Port Moresby, and I was a familiar Penambe resident at the time. In the course of the day we walked through the bush, were held at gun and knife point, and finally, after threat of a gang rape, fought the captors, after which I ran away and was molested by one of them
During the year of court proceedings that followed the incident, clansmen and friends did what they could to dissuade me from pursuing the case, not so much because they couldn’t understand my anger, but because they said it would jeopardize the inter-clan peace. How could I be so selfish? Even when the enemy tried to substitute one young man for the culprit (someone who could do the jail time because he wasn’t in school), I was (for some reason) dogged in my need for retribution. The kid who put a knife to my neck was going to be the kid who paid the price, I insisted.
As my clansmen hammered out their own precarious peace, including an exchange of pigs and money that never involved me, I went back and forth from the courthouse in town with sympathetic cops from the lowlands who openly despised Hagenpeople and made no bones about roughing up the young man in his cell.
Eventually, a public prosecutor helped me apply a new restorative justice law when the young man was convicted: In exchange for the detention time he had served, I would accept a collection of kina compensation from the clan. This new restorative clause seemed fair to me, because the kid had spent a year in detention anyway, and I was in fact angry at the clan for harboring the gang and not assisting us to bring it in.
By the time a conviction was made, I was thoroughly disgusted with my “host” clan as well as these neighbors, and entirely on the grounds of Western “fairness” I had deeply internalized. At one point, while still living in the village, we’d put out word that there was a reward for some of the cargo stolen from the tourists, in particular their video camera. When the gear came back, at the hands of one of the culprits himself, I snickered and told them I’d lied, there was no reward – and my hosts were furious with me for the deceit.
They had not been angry in my behalf at the lies we were continually told by the clan representatives (that they had no idea who these kids were and no notion of where they might be hiding). And they were not appeased in the least when we found the gang had left in the camera a home video that, when played, revealed the clan representative to be part of the gang and pledging, in local language, that the next time they kidnapped me they’d kill me after all.
During this period, as a bushfire in the enemy land grew out of control and threatened to cook our gardens, I was told to leave the clan land for fear, with the fire, of starting a renewed war. Joe Leahy (himself deeply embroiled in the Nebilyer fight) offered me safe haven in one of his town flats.
I distinctly remember two offenses I took very personally during this period, even as I knew better than to do so. At one point, the enemy clan leader was accompanied by a Peace Corps volunteer, a very nice young man working in the region, when he came to visit one night and plead for me to drop the case. I had by now seen him in a home video (and still keeping this fact secret), so when I grew impatient and accused him of lying, the Peace Corps volunteer quite disingenuously came to his defense, asking, “Don’t you think you’re being little culturally insensitive, Nancy?”
At another time, my business partner and host, with whom I had written several grant proposals for women’s projects, told me I was aggravating clan tensions and putting the poor accused lad’s family in great distress by not dropping the case. So much for female solidarity, I snarled.
Finally, when the young man was convicted and returned with the clan counselor on the designated day, with the agreed-upon fine, there was no one to receive him at court, and the two walked back to the village, never to be pursued again. I took churlish satisfaction to find the young man repeatedly re-offended afterwards, and was pleased to hear he was caught for robbery and thrown into jail sometime later.
But every time I passed the rest of the gang on the streets of Hagen, for years afterwards, they would wave and shout friendly hellos to me like we were old pals. And I’ll never forget one afternoon when I waited in the courthouse for our hearing and the young man was led past me in handcuffs. “Hey Nance, yu orait?” he said, or some such unaffected greeting. I stood there for a long time trying to understand how he could be so friendly, so impersonal about his arrest.
In the end, it was this depersonalization that got me through the ordeal, because every Hagenwoman I might have commiserated with preferred to say “Get over it,” and “What makes you special?” I was a cipher in a group war, and nothing, not even the assault, was a personal gesture. The fact that I was a woman only further diffused my “rights.”
It hit home one day, several months into the trial, when the lowlands policeman assigned to my case came to pick me up for the proceedings. He had the case file on the seat beside him, under his holstered gun, and I took a quick look out of curiosity. He was a nice guy; I liked him, even though he had been among those who relished bashing the kid when he was first picked up. (The most disturbing instance I saw came when they pulled him out of the cell, for my benefit, and stood him before a low desk, where they lay his penis and gave it several boot whacks – certainly not to be confused with an expression of feminist solidarity.) When I opened the case file I noticed that the charge against this kid was “theft,” and nowhere did it mention the attempted rape. “What?” I must have asked. The cop told me yeah, he’d forgotten, and they’d tack that on afterwards when they got a conviction.
Ultimately, I learned what the Poi Penambe man interviewed by Rosita Henry knew too well. I could cry forever about my personal wounds, but I’d evoke no sympathy until I worked for a larger social reparation.
Patterns of aggression
In conclusion, I would say that anthropologists are not the only elephants who remember past injuries. Conservationists and development workers in PNG have similar memories. In 1992, for example, World Wildlife Fund US, on whose board Diamond sits, sponsored an eco-forestry project in the Kikori Delta region of PNG. Chevron was then drilling for oil in the region and had become concerned about publicity surrounding its environmental effects, so they enlisted the help of the WWF to green up their image.
Internal Chevron documents at the time suggested that “WWF will act as a buffer for the joint venture against environmentally damaging activities in the region, and against international environmental criticism.” The eco-forestry project would be an alternative to the industrial logging made possible by laying Chevron’s oil pipeline, and would be additionally supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the U.S. State Department and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.
The problem was, however, they did not source their timber from the logs felled by Chevron, but instead from a local company that was known to be harvesting mangrove forests. Unfortunately, harvesting mangroves is illegal in PNG, for conservation reasons. When the sawdust hit the fan, though, WWF US proved unrepentant. Apparently (in a remarkable foreshadowing of this debate) the state of Papua New Guineadid not mean much to the project sponsors.
As the Sydney Morning Herald reported, “Jared Diamond, a WWFUS board member and Pulitzer Prize winner … says that what is happening at Kikori is ‘sustainable logging of mangroves.’ Diamond adds that, regardless of whether it is illegal ‘if it can be done on a sustainable basis then by all means do it’" (Rowell 2001).
NANCY SULLIVAN: Director, Nancy Sullivan and Associates, Ltd. does anthropological consulting, qualitative research, survey design, report writing, training and workshop design for a range of private and public entities. The field teams consist of DWU graduates from the Department of PNG Studies (former students of ethnographic research methods]. In 2009, she served as Team Leader, Karawari Cave Arts Expedition, The National Geographic Society Magazine, March 2-28, covering the cave art project National Sullivan & Associates have been conducting since 2007 with National Geographic and Guggenheim support.
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Yesterday was the second day of the 25th Papua New Guinea Australia Business Forum, held here in Madang. The very last session of the day included a presentation by Dr Rona Nadile, the First Asst Secretary of the Dept of Labour and Industrial Relations, speaking about PNG's new work permit laws. Lots of info on relaxed requirements for foreign workers, etc, and yet at one point she noted that there is a new language requirement to foreign work permits: they must be able to speak English, Tok Pisin or Hiri Motu, and be accredited as such by an independent agent. When I asked afterwards how it is that we have a major resource extraction project in Madang where most of its foreign workers speak no English and have abandoned English tutorials that were offered by Divine Word University, and considering that some of the violence sparked over the last week was said to have arisen from complaints that Chinese do not even speak English-----she was incredibly candid, to her credit. Before the entire forum, she explained that when these work permits came across her desk she was told that the PM's Department wanted her to 'make it happen' and issue all work permits for MCC employees. A collective gasp and giggle could be heard across the room.
At another point in the point in the Forum, I will just add, Richard Kassman made a statement couched in a question for two Australian environmental consultants who had just presented breathtakingly dense and naively optimistic power points on carbon trade initiatives (and the investment opportunities they represent). Richard was responding to the breezy way they had noted the 'mosaic of landowner agreements' that would have to be established within this vibrant economic environment, saying they were confident that Sir Michael was such a strong proponent of carbon trading, and the REDD strategy (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), that with such government backing, surely there would be few if any problems.(!)
asked fort clarification (which didn't come) by stating that (more or less)
'You have no idea about Papua
New Guinea, and the fact that the timber
industry runs the country now!' Scattered applause and murmurs all around, with
Henry Kila and the rest of the Business Council stifling laughter, and someone
in the peanut gallery behind me adding "RH and MCC run the country!"
Papua New Guinea, and the fact that the timber industry runs the country now!' Scattered applause and murmurs all around, with Henry Kila and the rest of the Business Council stifling laughter, and someone in the peanut gallery behind me adding "RH and MCC run the country!"
Very good session I'd say. Surpassed only by drinks later when John Leahy of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce said to me---Hey, do you really think Somare would force the Chinese into anything for their work permits when they promise something like 1! billion kina worth of investment here? It's not like they're bozos, this is the Chinese government we’re talking about.
Not bozos? I asked John. We both shook our heads. I reached for another slice of beautiful sashimi tuna, thanks to Pete Celso of RD Tuna and a small army of masked RD slicers and handlers, no doubt the easier option than (what they actually market) a hundred tins of low grade tuna swimming in oil or tomato sauce.
the absolute highlight of the Forum was Monday night's dinner speech by Sean
Dorney, too hilarious to do justice to here, but comparing and contrasting the
different kinds of deportation strategies deployed by
Today's National newspaper:
*Rules ‘bent’ for mining project*
By BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS in Madang
CHINESE nationals employed by the Ramu nickel mine were issued work permits despite not meeting Papua New Guinea’s labour laws which stipulate that all non-citizens must be proficient in English.
Department of Labour and Industrial Relations acting executive manager for employment promotion Dr Rhonda Nadile revealed this yesterday at the 25th Australia-PNG Business Council forum in Madang.
She said despite strong opposition from the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations over the legality of the issue, the National Government directed the department to issue the permits “because the agreement has been signed to develop the Ramu nickel project”.
According to Dr Nadile, the National Government overlooked the labour laws because the Ramu nickel project was far more important.
Dr Nadile said “under Labour laws, all non-citizens must be proficient in English before being issued work permits”.
However, a special allowance was made for Chinese employees of the Ramu nickel project.
“I must be frank with you that we followed Government directives to issue the work permits,” she said when responding to questions raised by forum participants.
Dr Nadile said if the department tried to question or oppose the issuance of work permits, the applicants only go higher up, “even to the Prime Minister’s office”.
She explained that to address the language barrier between the Chinese and nationals, the National Government had signed an agreement for the Chinese to undertake English language studies at the Divine Word University.
However, sadly, this has not transpired.
The National Government is now in the process of signing another agreement to teach the Chinese employees how to speak English.
“Language is an important aspect in employment but, at this point, there are huge problems trying to solve this issue with the Chinese at the project,” she said.
Dr Nadile’s presentation at the forum was about Papua New Guinea’s new Labour and work permit laws.
I've spent more time trying to blog in the past few weeks than I've ever spent blogging before. Some combination of viruses and IT stupidity have combined to prevent me from updating anything at all, and this blog is no more than a test to see if I can somehow make it back.