Let’s not lose our humanity: A message for 2016.

By PNG Echo

626aecc846441c07e0a15e4e9f9b5834As Christmas celebrations draw to a close and many of us spend some well-earned R & R before gearing up for welcoming in the new year, I have been humbled by all the messages of goodwill and seasons greetings sent to me and to PNG Echo.

PNGeans have kind and generous hearts and I am blessed to call many of you friend and I’m looking forward to making many more in 2016.

However, life is not as easy for many of you as it is for me – you struggle while I coast, I know that.  Yet I don’t want to walk a mile in your shoes, I’d prefer that you walked many miles in mine – and that is my new year’s wish for you all.

I have a question though – and it is not rhetorical: does too much hardship cause a bitterness that demands the constant need for retribution?  It is something with which I’m struggling to come to terms.

When asking this, I am thinking specifically of three incidents that have happened in the lead up to Christmas – the Christian’s season of ‘goodwill to all men’.

For God's sake: this woman is your sister!
For God’s sake: this woman is your sister!

One is the disgusting video of a policeman forcing a young girl to eat condoms which is right up there with the second incident – the allegation of a policeman urinating in a woman’s mouth.  For sheer imaginative depravity, these incidents have few rivals.  The humiliation factor cannot and should not be ignored – who does that to another human being let alone a compatriot?

It seems that the two women had transgressed (I don’t know how) and the policemen allegedly involved thought that they were justified in extracting this sort of retributive justice.  Me. I find both incidents grotesquely sickening, as do most decent people of all colours and creeds.

The third unconscionable incident comes from the anonymous pen (keyboard) of the Facebook ‘anti-corruption’ site Niugini Outlook who on a post about the long-term Governor of Hela Province had this to say:

Governor of Hela, Hon Anderson Agiru in healthier times.
Governor of Hela, Hon Anderson Agiru in healthier times.

Thank God it looks like the end of the line for Anderson Agiru. He looks like he’s aged a decade or more in just the past few years, he’s obviously got a very serious illness (some report that it’s cancer) … Finally the people of Hela and Southern Highlands Province may get justice for the corruption of Mr Agiru,
Whether or not Agiru’s illness and his illness inspired ouster as governor of Hela is divinely inspired, we’ll never know…. Good riddance, Anderson Agiru. Too bad it didn’t happen 20 years ago.”

For goodness sake, the man is sick, possible dying!  Where is your humanity, your compassion?  Are you so scarred – and by what – that you have become less than human?

PNG is a Christian nation – the Christian tenet preaches forgiveness, love and compassion – where are these qualities in the likes of the anonymous poster hiding behind the sobriquet Niugini Outlook?  Do these fair-weather Christians only take heed of the ‘fire and brimstone’ contained in the pages of the Bible and miss the primary message?

And please, don’t speak to me of Anderson Agiru getting his ‘just desserts’ because this attitude is a slippery slope – it starts with the likes of the Honourable Governor where people feel they have a moral right to a lack of compassion and it ends (and has it ended – or is there more depravity to come?) with women being urinated upon and forced to eat condoms.

Get off this slippery slope PNG, you are better than that.  If you lose your humanity while trying to find justice you have lost everything.

An Irish blessing from PNG Echo to all my readers in Papua new Guinea.
An Irish blessing from PNG Echo to all my readers in Papua new Guinea.

Mr Agiru, Honourable Governor, I do not know you, (except by reputation and to pass in the lift occasionally, when you always greeted me with a nod, a smile and a “good evening.”) but nevertheless I sincerely hope that 2016 sees you triumph over the cancer or whatever has invaded your body and sees you once again strutting the political stage on behalf of your constituents. Get well, Governor.

May your God continue to bless you – all of you.

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Mediocrity throwing a tantrum

By PNG Echo

“PNG is emerging as a cult country for MP worshiping,”

writes anti-corruption (?) campaigner, Lucas Kiap, on a post seemingly addressing the front-page article that appeared in Monday’s Post Courier. (The one that had Governor Wingti declaring PNG to be on track with its development goals.)

Anti-corruption fighter or language murderer?
Anti-corruption fighter or language murderer?

Never to let an opportunity for negativism pass him by, Kiap decided to counter with his own bleak take on the state of the nation.

There was absolutely nothing new in the analysis – just the same old problems of which all are aware and that are the abiding challenges for any Papua New Guinean government.

Besides, if Kiap did have any salient points to make, they were completely lost in the atrociously bad, and grammatically challenged piece of writing that he chose to publish.

In as much detail as I can bear

It starts with the title, where Kiap calls PNG a “cult country” – ‘cult’ being the descriptor for the noun, ‘country’.

The problem is that ‘cult’ is a noun that will not substitute for an adjective – so is PNG a cult, a country, both, what…?

To make the sentence grammatically sound, Kiap needed to write that PNG was a ‘cult worshipping country’ – now doesn’t that sound better?

To begin his posting he says:

Whether you all have realized this or not but I have been slowly observing that PNG is slowly emerging as a country worshiping politicians for delivering of basic services, in the process promoting them as cult figures and not heroes.

There are many problems here – firstly there’s the sheer arrogance of this opening gambit.

Mr Kiap, you’ll be surprised to hear that most of us do not hang on your every word or deed and as such, no, we probably haven’t realized – and I’m not sure that we care.

Then there’s the superfluous use of the word ‘but’ making the sentence clunky, at best.

What’s more, using the word “slowly” twice in the same sentence shows a complete lack of vocabulary skills, imagination, or both.  Besides, was the initial “slowly” really necessary? I mean, how do you observe slowly?

Kiap tells us that something or other promotes them as “…cult figure and not heroes,” while at the very start of the next paragraph he tells us the opposite.  Are you confused now?  Me too.

And I have no idea what a “dumpy God” is.  I wonder whether he does – or indeed anyone, for that matter?

Their actions are like cult figures…,

he tells us.

Maybe he means: ‘Their actions are like those of cult figures.’ Or maybe that ‘they are acting like cult figures’ – but I’m just guessing – trying to make sense out of nonsense.

The law-arkers ...no, that should be law makers.
The law markers …no, that should be law makers.

And while legislators can also be called law makers – they are not law markers [sic] – probably a typo!

Kiap, irritatingly, pluralizes collective nouns like ‘legislation’ and ‘junk’ by putting an ‘s’ on the end.

No, no, no!  The plural of ‘legislation’ is ‘legislation’ and that of ‘junk’ is ‘junk’. (That’s why they call them ‘collective’ nouns.)

And so it goes on, embarrassingly, as he mixes up tenses, uses incorrect prepositions, talks about “ethanic fights” (probably another typo – or could it be auto-correct?) and makes mistakes of which Mrs Malaprop would be proud.

If you want to be a scribe Mr Kiap, learn your craft.  Stop making a virtue out of mediocrity. (And, by the way, what the hell does point 31 mean?)

“I react very badly when mediocrity throws a tantrum of entitlement,” said Lee Siegel, author, writer and cultural critic. And so do I – and that’s what Kiap’s post reads like to me.

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Spotlight on social media:

By PNG Echo

This week there has been two separate innovations mooted to regulate social media by the government and its agencies.

Chief Censor Steven Mala and his deputy, Jim Aban
Chief Censor Steven Mala and his deputy, Jim Aban

Firstly, the Office of the Censorship Board is talking of introducing an ‘internet filtering system’ to control illegal use of the internet that is said to be “rampant at the moment.” (Post Courier).

Robroy Chicki who is the principal adviser on mass media with the Censorship Office has said the system is aimed at creating “… a holistic partnership approach to uphold the morale [sic] standings in the society.”

As such, the main target of the Censorship Office will primarily be blocking pornographic material in all its forms, while it is also envisaged that the system will be a deterrent to organized crime, including making it more difficult to launder corrupt monies.

Minister for Communications Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro
Minister for Communications Jimmy Miringtoro

Not to be outdone, in the office of the Minister for Communications, Jimmy Miringtoro, a Media Appeals Tribunal is being proposed.

It will target, particularly, the abuse in social media, establishing a means of redress for those “helpless victims” who have suffered defamation and damage at what is seen as a medium that has been, up until now, both uncontrollable and uncensored.

While the Censorship Board has recognized that the filtering system will have limited success in stopping all illicit material online, Minister Miringtoro has voiced his own suspicions that his proposal may be seen as government interference.  However, he says that it must be balanced against individuals’ right to privacy and human dignity that is being eroded by the “gross abuse” of social media.

The Censorship Office’s measure is a pre-emptive strike on internet abuse – in order to stop it, while the Minister is proposing a means of redress for the abused after the fact.

And while the former has caused nary a flutter, not so the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal.

The backlash

Alexander-Rheeney_Potrait_Edited
Alexander Rheeney, head of the Media Council of Papua new Guinea and Editor of the ‘Post Courier’.

One of the loudest protesters has been the Media Council of Papua New Guinea who is arguing for self-regulation overseen by them – for the aggrieved to seek recourse “…under the auspices of the council’s structure.”

They fear that the government is setting a dangerous precedent whereby politicians could determine and influence news in PNG.

But when one of their arguments is that “…Papua New Guinea is… free from State-sponsored censorship of any form and kind…” it gets hard to take them seriously.  What do they suppose the Censorship Board does and to whom do they think the Board answers?

Besides, if they feel it is their role to oversee self-regulation what’s been stopping them thus far?

Why have they maintained their silence through social media abuses that include, death threats, cyber-bullying, character assassination (using the foulest of language), mockery, ridicule and blatant defamation and distribution of lies?

Why have they not condemned this?  Do they really believe that this is what the constitution meant by freedom of expression?

Do they think that the lives and reputations that have been ruined to guarantee that some bored person behind a keyboard can vent his spleen is not worth even remarking upon?

The Media Council talks about the peoples’ right to criticize government and the good that can arise from this but what good arises from media that has, as their focus: a Minister’s missing tooth here, a political commentator’s photograph defaced there, here some subjudice contempt, there some publishing of private correspondence without the owners permission (often by people who should know better) everywhere an oink oink (and other more unpleasant four-letter words.)

The gauntlet is thrown down in the social media
The gauntlet is thrown down in the social media

In fact, had the Media Council spoken out when the Prime Minister had two supposed anti-corruption fighters charged with defamation or when Facebook sites emerged that threw down the gauntlet to the government using the mask ‘anonymous’ and blatantly avowing that they would spread any rumour, publish any half-truth and have dared the government to stop them, then the proposed regulation may not have been necessary.

What did they expect?  What did these ethically-challenged keyboard warriors expect?  Did they think that their actions should have no consequences?

That’s unrealistic.  Life’s not like that.

And while the Media Council branded the proposed move by the Minister as ‘draconian’, I suggest that PNG may be getting off lightly as the Minister said, in the press, that “…the Government was initially thinking about stopping social media…” now that would have been draconian.

Luckily it was rejected for a more moderate measure. Yet had that happened, once again, it would have been the ethically-barren spoiling it for all who use and enjoy social media sensibly and responsibly.

In the balance between freedom of speech and peoples’ right to not be defamed and bullied, the pendulum has swung too far towards the defamers – it’s too late, now only regulation and legislation will have it swinging back to a more neutral position.

To the social media opportunists who think they’ve got away with murder – it’s all your fault.

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Four years ago – have things changed?

By PNG Echo

I have forgotten how stunned the audience was after giving my speech at Bordeaux University, France, four years ago. Have we become so inured to the problems in PNG that we’ve normalized them?  Link to a video of the speech.

4 Years Ago Today
I said:
Photo on 2014-05-20 at 03.59
I am currently in France and have given a paper at a French University on the socio-economic effects of the extractive industry on the people of PNG and their (your) response to environmentalism.
Taking into account my audience, the paper had to cover some very basic information. Many knew nothing at all about PNG.

I purposely steered away from the sensationally negative and didn’t even broach the law and order issues.

The reaction I got was stunned silence.

Then one woman said.

I think I speak for many when I say, I don’t know how to react to that. It’s all so grim.

Now I was the one who was stunned. Have I become so inured that I have normalised behaviour that shocks others?

Stepping outside your own context once in a while is handy to gain perspective, isn’t it?

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Toro! Toro! Toro! A cautionary allegorical tale.

By PNG Echo

He pranced into the arena, young, fierce and arrogant – the audience screamed their encouragement:

Toro! Toro! Toro!      

Standing proudly arrogant - he has seriously underestimated his opponents
Standing proudly arrogant – he has seriously underestimated his opponents

The steam coming from his nostrils is indicative of the fire in his belly.  With head held high, on display, proudly, his two deadly assets: his long sharp horns.

Confused, excited and agitated by the roar of the crowd, disoriented by the flashes of a red flag here; a pink cape there – the bull charges at anything, head lowered, horns poised to inflict maximum damage

This is what audience has come to see – they love this savage beast.  Expectations of him are high.

Toro! Toro! Toro!

But even with his potently destructive headgear, the bull has little hope: his opponents have his measure – always have had.

Every charge, every primitive attempt to maim and gore is sidestepped and countered with spears and knives that are driven into the back of the charging bull’s thick, fleshy neck.  Each wound is potentially fatal – but it’s not over yet.

The bull is brave – he was selected for the arena for his tenacity not his intelligence.

So, mortally wounded he doesn’t give up. He keeps charging and is rewarded, each time by a fresh wound.

The crowd applauds his bravery and encourages more of the same – by now they are baying for blood.  They want more.

Toro! Toro! Toro!                                       

The Matador taunts the wounded bull before he administers the death thrust.
The Matador taunts the wounded bull before he administers the death thrust.

Enter the Matador.

Magnificent in his bejewelled finery, he bows to the audience and waves his red cape at the wounded bull – who, predictably, continues to charge.

For the prescribed time, the Matador, taunts the bull to the predilection of the crowd whose allegiances have shifted.

‘Olé

…is now the cry of appreciation for the Matador as his red cape is lifted, with a flourish, over the charging and disoriented bull.

Finishing off the bull. Poised with his sword and cloak before he delivers the death thrusteath thrust.
Finishing off the bull. The Matador poised with his sword and cloak before he delivers the death thrust.

Then the drums roll to thunderous applause. Now is the hour.

With gleaming sword in one hand and red cape in the other, the Matador faces off for the last time against the charging bull. In a savagely beautiful move, he plunges the sword deep into the flesh of the bull. The death thrust.

Olé

As the bull staggers and falls to his knees he is jeered and booed even as he takes his last brave, dying, stupid breath.

Gardiane de Taureau - (Bull Stew)
Gardiane de Taureau – (Bull Stew)

To the delight of the crowd, the ears and/or the tail of the pathetic creature are cut off and given, as a trophy to the Matador for a job well done.

He holds them high as he parades in triumph.

Olé.

On the menu for dinner in all the fine restaurants that evening – gardiane de taureau (bull stew)

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He urinated into her mouth

By PNG Echo

With her nephew dead in the driver’s seat of the car from a gun shot wound and another man wounded and bleeding following a police chase, Londe Pindia was dragged, resisting, from the back seat of the same car by police at the scene.

Police killed her nephew and urinated into her mouth
Police killed her nephew and urinated into her mouth

She was afraid. In particular she feared being raped by the police.

But run-of-the-mill rape wasn’t depraved enough for this creature who was being paid to uphold the law.

Londe was ordered to lie down and open her mouth while he urinated into it and ordered her to drink it.

This incident brings up a plethora of issues about police brutality and the undisciplined nature of PNGs ‘disciplinary’ forces. (There ensued gun battles and retaliation by the military against the police as the two young men in the car were soldiers.)

Pacific-womenBut the incident also brings up, once again, the plight of women in PNG because the only way that this inhuman incident could have occurred is for the perpetrator to have believed that his victim was less than human and less than an animal for which he would have had more respect.

Raising the status of women

Many good people are trying to address the problem of violence against women in PNG and most agree it will take a multi-faceted approach and a gargantuan effort.

I am of the opinion that a large part of the solution lies with raising the status of women – especially in the eyes of men but also in the eyes of women themselves.

The lone female MP for many years, Dame Carol Kidu takes a courageous stance as sole opposition MP during the impasse in 2011 as the ‘Equality Bill’ that would have seen 22 reserved seats for women is shelved due to a lack of a voting quorum. Male MPs purposely absented themselves.

An efficient way of doing this it to have very visible women leaders for all Papua New Guineans to look up to – doing the same job as the parliamentary ‘Bik Men’

Yes, to sponsor women into the corridors of power at Waigani as Members of Parliament and Ministers of the State.

For it is only when the prestige of women is at the point that committing atrocities against her become unthinkable because of her status that things will start to change. The problem needs an attitudinal shift and this would provide it.

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