My name is Anton Lutz. I am a development worker with the Lutheran Church. We have been involved with the Andai people, also known as the Penale people, for close to twenty years now. My father, the late Dr Steve Lutz, began health work from Kupina in 1993. I have been working
for the last seven (7) and a half years to build an airstrip with the local people at a site called Kaiam. We travel for two days upstream on the Karawari River from Munduku to bring in diesel, tools and food.
We are not only working on an airstrip, but also a health facility and school. This project has involved the entire population of this small and vulnerable people group and I know the 19 clans of the Andai people with great detail. The neighboring villages of Awarem, Andapet and Namata have come to work with the Kaiam people, their children come to school at Kaiam in the school we have built, and my health workers have been to Namata, Kupina, Awarem and even to Awim to visit patients. Awim is where Nancy Sullivan is based, 2 days hike from Kaiam. Suffice to say, I know the people and the land involved in ELA2008.
I am going to be traveling soon to go fix the machinery at the airstrip site, and have learned that RH and their partners have come to our neighborhood. I have asked the guys whether they went to this meeting and what they thought of it. They informed me that they had not even heard of it beforehand, and certainly had not attended. At the moment, in fact, they are concerned and angry that they have not been consulted or even made aware of what RH and the PNG Govt want to do to them. As far as they are concerned, they've been abandoned and ignored for generations. "And now some foreigners are going to be told its ok to do whatever-and-who-knows-what on their land without toksave? Husat toktok na ol laik kam long bus graun bilong mipela?!"
ELA 2008 appears to include most of the ancestral homeland of the Andai people, as well as other language groups, of course... and I simply do not see how the PNG Govt believes it can even contemplate beginning to think about granting Exploration or any other Licenses to RH or anyone else without even alerting the Asenam Clan (to name one of more than a dozen Clans) that RH wants the resources on or under their land. To date, there is not even a rumour in the area, much less accurate understanding of the disruption and upheaval - not to mention destruction - that can accompany "development" of this kind.
As responsible Ministers and leaders of this nation, I ask you, What are you going to do about this? Will you do right by the people? What will I ell the Asenam Clan next week when they ask me what's going on?
You have been approached by the applicants of ELA2008. But those applicants don't know the women and kids who live along the Arafundi River. They've never come to look around, never come to consult with people who've lived there for a long time, never taken the trouble to meet the clan leaders, to teach them, understand them, heal them, or to care about them. Your applicants see a chance and want to make more money. Is this the right time and the right way for
your Govt to let RH do this to the remote and vulnerable peoples of the Upper Karawari? You, with respect, don't know a thing about Yapis and Ana. If this nation is to be the nation it can be, i.e. a great nation, it must look first to its people and second to its profits.
I speak on behalf of only the Andai Clans who I will be going to live among in the next weeks. I know that Nancy Sullivan and her team have been working tirelessly to document the extraordinary caves of the Upper Karawari and I know that several of the Clans with whom I work have caves which they are still waiting for her to come and document. Her work is known and respected in the area, and because of the value of tradition which she highlights, the Andai people are slowly trying to take a serious and measured approach to cultural change and development. Sullivan and her team will no doubt be making submissions to your office expressing concern in light of the protection needed for these priceless sites and the people who safe-keep them.
The PNG Govt should be a partner with people like Sullivan whose priority is only to guide and
protect, to safe-keep, the lives and histories of PNG's forgotten and most remote peoples.
But there are other entities in this country which have other priorities, and I realize that a Government must make choices. Yet, the Government always has the choice to do the right and honourable thing.
I think you, Max and Byron, have a chance to make that mandate of honourable leadership a reality. Please do the right thing on ELA2008.
* Anton and his family have provided the ONLY medical care for the Penale people of the Upper Arafundi/Karawari, and they have worked tirelessly with the Kaiam people to create an airstrip for medical and educational services to finally arrive for these remote and vulnerable people. All of this work will be put at risk by mineral exploration and logging, should ELA 2008 be approved (Nancy)