Today’s CIMC forum was well worth
attending, especially because participants were able to get beyond some of the
typical civil-servant-speak that comes illustrated by very dry powerpoint Venn
diagrams and bullets about today’s policy and how it is marginally improved
from yesterday’s policy…and beyond the drone of ‘We should, the government
must, we need to, they have to, it should be…’ and so forth---to almost
practical ideas. Very exciting to hear Joseph Suwamaru today, who left the
telecommunications industry to get a PhD at DWU on the social and economic
impact of ICT and mobile telephony in PNG (great thesis topic), who presented a
model that seemed almost too easy to be true, but one that points to a way
beyond this awful private-public morass in ICT today, which has some of us
paying ungodly monthly fees for internet services that cost one-one-hundredth
as much in Australia or elsewhere, and where rural mobile phone users must walk
to the mountain top and to ledges named ‘Hello-Goodbye’ and ‘ID23’ to catch a
network, only to waste all their money on calls that drop to message services.
Joseph Suwamaru’s brilliant idea
involves pooling all the available private and public ICT capabilities, and
enhancing the current fiber optic opportunities (which
include---unbelievably—accessing the papa fiber optic cable that runs from Guam
to Sydney and comes near shore right by the Kalibobo lighthouse here in Madang)—to
provide PNG with world class communications, and in so doing, solve most of our
service delivery bottlenecks in one swoop. He spoke about the mobile phone
applications being used today in India, Uganda, South Africa and
elsewhere---including SMS pop quizzes from Health Departments on the causes and
symptoms of HIV/AIDS, as part of their public awareness programs; laparoscopic
surgery performed by teams of surgeons online in real time from different parts
of the globe; curricula distributed by internet; education in general moving
online…it’s a revolution that could be sparked by the simplest adjustments from
Telikom and the national government.
During lunch Paul Barker
interrupted my rambling on about this with a digital image from his camera. “Is
this the cable you mean?” he asked, and there it was: the frayed and miserable
fiber optic link offshore Madang, apparently damaged not long after it was
installed—and yet to be repaired.
The gaps in
service delivery are enormous, and sometimes they seem to parallel the yawning
gaps between these symposia and what happens on the ground. Talk for whom? So
much jargon, so much tedium. And it is not relieved by the MPs and Department
heads to fly in and out to open and close such for a only, never spending
enough time to be fully briefed on the few good ideas that arise from
them—maybe reading the book edited a year or so later.
But as we search for ways to
connect people to markets, to health services, to education, we are reminded
that the ICT developments of the urban elite are continually ticking away, and
that there are enormous benefits to be seen already, even from the minority of
fully connected PNG citizens. That imagined community is powerful, if not fully
In the past ten months Papua New
Guinea has been thrice devastated by catastrophe, and plunged into a sustained.
Constitutional crisis. The social media is having a field day. In August of
2011, after Sir Michael had languished for months in a Singapore hospital
following heart surgery (during which time his son and heir apparent announced
his retirement from politics), a coterie of disaffected younger politicians
seized office, declared his seat vacant, and installing Peter O’Neill as PM.
Coming barely weeks after the Egyptian Spring, and in the midst of global cried
for democracy, the founding father of Papua New Guinea never looked more like
an aging dictator than he did then, as cries for transparency and democracy
created a groundswell across the country and bubbled up loudly in the very new,
very raw social media.
Until then, PNG’s public discourse
was print media, and the print media had been dominated by two newspapers, one
wholly owned by a Malaysian logging giant and an overt supporter of the Somare
regime. Barely a handful of social commentators had taken to the web by then,
forming blogs and web discussion groups, and talking amongst themselves, as NGO
voices. But since August this entire scene has exploded, as facebook and fb
chat groups crackle with daily rants about the current and former
administrations, and who is to blame, who is to succeed the current
Constitutional crisis (as Sir Michael continues to fight for his seat in the
courts). Now, though, the discussion is growing ever more boisterous as scorned
girlfriends, loose cannons, self-appointed authorities of all stripes begin to
de-friend other voices and scabrously libel each other on the net in ways that
would and could never happen in traditional PNG societies, where face to face
courtesy is absolutely de rigueur. Every morning I wake up excited by the
prospect of mud being slung across the networks of PNG social media. A growing
number of smart phone participants have begun contributing from remote sites as
well, wherever they can pick up the signal supplied by the ubiquitous Irish
mobile provider, Digicel.
The whole discussion has had deep
melancholic strains, too, as the country has endured a succession of man-made
disasters that seem to be the legacy of neglect and corruption from the former
administration (which has been rumored to have bled PNG of roughly 500 million
$US in the past decade). While the national elites were busy feathering nests
overseas, and accumulating impressive real estate portfolios, they were also
inviting bizarre domestic investments that have left us with controversial nickel
mines, industrial ports, half-built casinos; a sport stadium, private jet and a
palace for the Chief; not to mention lavish state affairs for their new Asian
partnerships. As if the ancestors had been angered, we have now seen a Dash-8
crash with families of university graduates all killed; a landslide that
smothered three entire villages in the area where ExxonMobil is drilling for
liquefied natural gas; and just recently a ferry disaster that lost perhaps as
many as 100 young children returning from the outer islands to school on the
mainland. Poor oversight, bad maintenance, and blatant corruption have played
their part. And people are fed up.
The social media has never before
been so anti-social, so angry and active. The Melanesian way involved restorative
justice rather than retribution and vengeance, and so people continually strive
to find a working solution rather than to punish the guilty. But that process
is never polite, and always includes a fair degree of cross-allegations and
libel, with demands for outrageous compensation. The new social media couldn’t
be better suited to its purpose here.
So we have the current price of peace in the Western Highlands: K100,000
And with that, an entire tribe will have no money for school supplies, transport, kerosene, salt, rice and secondhand clothes so they can pacify another tribe which claims collective offense for an accidental death of a young man not everyone knew. If you think the 2012 version of this wealth redistribution is as socialist as it may have been even twenty years ago, come back in a year and ask how men members of the beneficiary tribe actually received part of this K100,000. Will we find one overpriced Land Rover being driven by the local councillor of this man’s village?---perhaps a man with no biological or direct social connection to the deceased? What about the hundreds of employers and relatives pressed to advance wages and/or loans without any expectation of return---what do they get in return? Who credits their log book? What accountant will write that off? What party candidate will pledge to step in and make reparations to all the contributors to this huge pay-off who have absolutely no current or historical connection to the victims or the perpetrators’ clan? How many scores of children unrelated to this cause will now be denied school or project fees?—necessary surgeries?---visits to distant grandparents?
It is well past the time we need to reconsider the impact of big cash compensations on the larger community. Time to ask: Who gains?
Thursday 05th April, 2012
Dei tribe sets compo history
By Mal Taime
THE people of Nilka tribe in Dei Council District in the Western Highlands Province has set history to pay more than K100,000 compensation with pigs and cows to Moge Andaklimb tribe on Tuesday.
The compensation ceremony was made following a killing that occurred early this year.
The incident occurred after a man from Nilka tribe and Andaklimb were drinking at MMS Lodge in Mt Hagen and had an argument which ended up in a fight that led to the death of Kansol Paraka.
Both men are married to two sisters and were living in their wives’ village.
The relatives of the victim had set a good precedence and did not want to take the law into their own hands to take revenge.
However, it took only seven weeks for the people of Nilka to contribute to raise the money with other goods to pay compensation.
They paid a total of K100,000 in cash, 100 pigs, eight cows, five goats, one possum, one python and two cassowaries to the relatives of the victim.
The relatives of the victim accepted what the Nilka people gave to them and said it was a pre-planned incident.
According to the Nilka people, when the victim was at Mt Hagen General Hospital they contributed and gave K500 towards hospital expenses but he died.
The incident feared the lives of Dei Council for not travelling to Mt Hagen to do business and other activities.
They spent over K150,000 to buy pigs and also contributed some cash and gave it to the relatives of the victim apart from the K100,000 compensation payment.
Businessman Max Kumbamong said on this earth people always encountered problems and urged people to know how to manage themselves.
He said Godly chosen people should not encourage problem because problems displace people and caused damage to properties worth thousands of kina.
Former Western Highlands governor Paias Wingti was given the privilege to hand over the money bag to the peace mediators to give it to the relatives of the victim witnessed by Mr Kumbamong, who will also run for the regional seat against other prominent leaders.
Mr Wingti said it was very important to negotiate for peace because it would unite people at all times. He said if people refuse to negotiate for peace ceremony in any trouble-related issues there would be unstable society that would dismantle everything and no development would take place. Mr Wingti said peace was very important and if there was peace in Western Highlands tangible developments would come about in the province contributing the country as a whole.
He said this trouble was an unexpected one because the two brothers did not plan for it and thanked the Andaklimb people for not taking the law into their own hands to retaliate.
Mr Wingti commended them for allowing justice to take place because this was the only solution to solve every problem.
He also thanked the relatives of the suspect for taking a few weeks to contribute cash to pay compensation.
He said Western Highlands was the central province to other Highlands provinces and it must be a trouble-free province.
Back from the Karawari Cave Arts Project, having brought one of our major donor reps, Catherine Sparks, and her daughter Kireni, to visit some of the communities. Great travelers, keen observers, and good natured with everyone, we loved having them.
We’ve now expanded the reach of our Karawari Cave Arts project to include villages that have indirect relationships with the ancestral caves, all along the Arafundi and Karawari Rivers. This means that, beside Tembakapa (the new Meakambut village), Imboin, Awim, and Moinene, which have been our principle base camps, we are now working with Sikayum, Kambua, Yaramat, Gumms, Tiariva, Latoma, Chimbut, Binam, Munduku, Amonggabi, Kundiman, Yimas 1 and 2, Wombrumas and Yamindim, representing a rough total population of around 5500.
They have not all received water tanks (yet), or solar panels (yet), but thanks for Dr Samiak, they have been given basic meds for this season. Dr Louis Samiak, the pediatric surgeon who has conducted all our village medical patrols, this time delivered a total of 70 kg of medicines to Village Health Volunteers in all these villages.
No aid posts and no fuel to get to any clinics in the region, these villages lose people every year to some of the most ordinary of ailments: childbirth, malaria, flu, physical traumas, and infections. Before we can talk about a sustainable means of protecting these historic caves of theirs, we need to keep them alive and happy.
Indeed, these are some of the most resourceful and cheerful people in PNG, not so much despite their lack of services, but because of how much they have accomplished without any government help whatsoever over the last twenty-plus years.
There are cocoa fermentaries, churches, community schools, womens groups, and fishing/hunting cooperatives all along these rivers which contribute to the general well being of the community---but cannot solve the problems of hunger and disease that occasionally knock these communities sideways during the rainy season’s flooding, or following natural disasters.
For many of them, the village remains a semi-permanent site, and moving from hunting grounds to wild sago stands, back to the village, and out again every few months, keeps them from slipping into abject need.
Their bush is still a supermarket, their culture a driving force. These villages represent four language groups: Penale, Alamblak, Ewa and Sumariop, and both the Alamblak and Sumariop retain the clan totems of their slightly western (Blackwater) origins: cassowary, eagle, crocodile, hornbill, cockatoo, flying fox, pig and bird of paradise clans are spread all across both river systems.
And while we have been recording some of the Penale sago paintings of Awim, noting how much they borrow from their Alamblak neighbours, we can also note that enterprising Alamblak carvers are now making Ewa-style carvings in more stylized forms for sale to the intermittent tourist trade.
They live in a landscape of Dr Seuss shapes, great leafy tall trees swamped by heavy curtains of vine: the entropy overcoming enthralpy everywhere. This bush is the perfect symbol of community life here, too, as people get ahead by great ambitious deeds, and are held back by so many social responsibilities. In the end it is a wall of wildly ranging leaves and hues of green all knitted together by the endless vines and bamboo shoots. Some wind around trees like Christmas tinsel, others drape like the strings of a maypole.
After the rains, a whole wave of trees and vines and epiphytes fall over like the hanger rail in your closet that has just collapsed. A messy heap of biodiversity that can never be replaced by secondary growth after oil palm or some other counter-productive crop.
Our plan is now to purchase solar refrigerators for the few aid posts in the area, to hold childhood vaccines the Village Health Volunteers can administer. This round we also brought Peter, a young Meakambut man, back to Awim to travel in a week or so to the Boram Haus Sik in Wewak, and have his cataracts removed, if possible, by the ophthalmologist there.
We also want to write pamphlets for each of the cave art communities to add to their school curricula: stories about the history of their caves and their culture, something to instill pride in their past and a conservation ethic for their future. Which reminds me: we showed the Meakambut their pictures in the February National Geographic, and tried to translate the story of Lidia (pictured here) being saved by the heroic threesome from Nat Geo, but somehow no one could remember those visitors actually bringing her to an aid post in Munduku, as the magazine says. "Like wounded refugees from a jungle war, they depart single file down the slippery slope. It will take them six hours to machete their way to the Manbungnam River, where we have a dugout canoe with an outboard motor waiting. From there it's another six hours downstream to reach the clinic. We have little hope that Lidia will live."
Strange, I myself remember carrying Michael's malarial son, as Pasu carried Lidia, and the rest of my team trudged down the mountain in about 4 hours to our canoe, then drove 3 hours to Munduku clinic where there was no medicine to be had, as we could not fulfill the command of the Nat Geo team to have Lidia airlifted. They stayed in the caves to finish interviewing the Meakambut.
Lidia remembers two things: she was scared to death when one of the team put her on a drip; and she was told, to gales of laughter, that the National Geographic men stripped down to nothing for a swim in the Arafundi! ---Scandalous! Naked white men!
Here Eric and others study Da Vinci's female portraits and their lovely lips.
Women in all these villages have also asked us to help them start sewing projects, so we also plan to find hand powered sewing machines for them, and bring in skilled seamstresses to teach short courses for each village.
Finally, we also plan to purchase HF radios for Awim and Moinene villages (one on each of the Arafundi and Karawari Rivers) that can communicate with a radio in our office in Madang for regular updates and emergency communication. Our hope is that this will allow us more reliable communication than the mobile phone networks, and enable us to know immediately when and if there are mining or logging threats to the perimeters of these community’s land boundaries.
For the time being, however, my three sons, Jeffrey, Edward and Chris, have taken to terrifying small children in the Karawari River, just to keep in practice.