Thoughts on a colonial mindset.

By PNG Echo

The street where I was born.
The street where I was born.

I am often asked what attracted me to the politics of Papua New Guinea. I can only reply by evoking the country of my birth – Wales.

Although I left Wales as a teenager, Wales has never left me – I see in Papua New Guinea many reflections of Wales – especially in the struggle for identity.

My Country

My Country - my beloved Brecon Beacons covered in snow at sunset
My Country – my beloved Brecon Beacons covered in snow at sunset

Today I was reminded of poet, Gerallt Lloyd Owen: a fiercely patriotic Welshman who, in 1972, published an antholology of poems entitled: ‘Cerddi’r Cywilydd’ which, translated from our language (Welsh),  means ‘The Poems of Shame’.

The poems were written in response to Wales having invested the English Prince Charles as Prince of Wales – a very unpopular event with those of a nationalist bent – although celebrated by many – to the nationalistic horror of Lloyd Owen.

Most striking in this anthology is the poem ‘Fy Ngwald’ (My Country). In it he invokes the name of Llewelyn – the last (indigenous) Prince of Wales who was killed by the English in 1282.

It is a bitter lament on national subservience and the colonial mindset. Here is the first and most well-know verse.

Gerallt Lloyd Owen
Gerallt Lloyd Owen

Fy Ngwald

Wylit, wylit, Lywelyn,
Wylit waed pe gwelit hyn.
Ein calon gan estron ŵr,
Ein coron gan goncwerwr,
A gwerin o ffafrgarwyr
Llariaidd eu gwên lle’r oedd gwŷr.


The valley in winter
The valley in winter

My Country

You’d cry, you’d cry Llywelyn,
You’d cry blood if you could see this,
Our hearts with a foreigner,
Our crown with a conqueror,
And our people are just a privileged lover
With meek smiles, where once there were men.

Strong words.
Do they resonate in Papua New Guinea?  Could the name of our great Prince Llywelyn be substituted by a great warrior/leader of Papua New Guinea and these words become eerily apt?

My convictions

Tapini in Goilala - another valley dear to my heart
Tapini in Goilala – another valley dear to my heart

It is because of my strong nationalist leaning that I support the leadership initiatives of Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, when he takes back what is rightfully PNGs – like OkTedi.

It is because I believe that the identity of smaller nations should not be subjugated to a more powerful neighbor that I applauded when your Foreign Minister, Rimbink Pato, restricted the access to Bougainville for Australians when Australia decided it could ignore PNG national sovereignty and bypass diplomatic channels.

It is also why I support the initiative of Gary Juffa (if not necessarily the modus operandi) #takingbackPNG.

But ‘no’ to racisim

Mty brand of nationalism, however, does not support xenophobia – indeed the Welsh tradition embraces all comers – especially the downtrodden.  And I am nothing if not a product of proud Welsh traditions.

Two of my Welsh wantoks who were children when banish black singer and activist, Paul Robeson, was welcomed in our valley.
Two of my Welsh wantoks who were children when banish black singer and activist, Paul Robeson, was welcomed in our valley.

Welsh coal miners, from which I’m directly descended, defied the British government and, using their own resources, travelled to Spain to fight against the fascism of General Franco in the Spanish Civil War.

Wales supported and harboured black dissidents banished from America because of their civil rights activism against black oppression – such as the singer Paul Robeson.

Robeson stated that It was in the valleys of south Wales (from whence I hail) that he first understood the struggles of white and negro together – after he had been down a coal mine in the Rhondda Valley (the next valley to where I was born) and lived amongst us.

My activities in Papua New Guinea are just a continuation of a proud political tradition transferred to closer, different (but often so similar) arena.

May your God bless Papua New Guinea

Share Button

Overruled and overturned – The courts previous findings for Damaru and Gitua.

By PNG Echo

Appellant: Minister for Finance - James Marape
Appellant: Minister for Finance – James Marape

Rulings handed down today today by a full bench of the Supreme Court (Justices Hartshorn, Sawong and Makail) have dismissed an objection by Police Officers Gitua and Damaru to an appeal by Minister James Marape arising from a National Court decision and have, furthermore, reversed a ruling of single-sitting Supreme Court Judge, Justice Kirriwom, thus upholding the appeal of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Minister James Marape and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.

In the first-mentioned matter, an appeal had been lodged against the National Court’s ruling that refused an application by government and police lawyers for interlocutory orders by consent, restraining police from arresting Minister Marape and the Prime Minister.

Messrs Gitua and Damaru were objecting to the competency of the appeal.

A full bench of the Supreme Court ruled:

In our view all of the objections of the objectors’ [Damaru and Gitua] do not question this court’s jurisdiction to hear the appeal and do not go to the competency of the appeal but rather questions as to the merits of the appeal. Consequently the objection to competency should be dismissed.

In the second matter, the appeal was against Justice Kirriwom’s ruling that police officer’s Gitua and Damaru should be allowed to choose and engage their preferred counsel – in this case, Jema Lawyers and barrister Greg Egan.

Instructions from Attorney General Ano Pala needed to engage lawyers on behalf of the state and state employees.
Instructions from Attorney General Ano Pala needed to engage lawyers on behalf of the state and state employees.

The court determined that as police officers, Damaru and Gitua were required to obtain approval from the Attorney General to engage lawyers to act on their behalf in this proceeding and that Justice Kirriwom had erred in drawing the opposing conclusion.

An interim order restraining the police officers from engaging or instructing lawyers was granted and it was ordered that each party (both the Attorney General and the police officers) make the applications and appointments necessary for legal representation of Damaru and Gitua in this matter.

In both cases costs were awarded against Damaru and Gitua.

Share Button

Court decisions and the fickle social media.

By PNG Echo

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill – a big day in court

The PNG courts, yesterday, (Tuesday 23rd February) handed down two decisions in cases where the Prime Minister was the plaintiff. It was a day of mixed legal fortunes for him.

The first case decided in the National Court and presided over by Justice Colin Makail, was regarding contempt, allegedly committed by Koim. It was dismissed because of a procedural technicality. It was only a momentary and pyrrhic victory for Koim as the court informed the plaintiff that he was still free to bring a charge of contempt against Koim (using correct procedure) – which he is believed to be doing (according to lawyer Tiffany Twivey who said so in open court).

Justice Bernard Sakora
Justice Bernard Sakora

The second was in the Supreme Court where a one-man bench presided over by Justice Bernard Sakora granted the Prime Minister leave to appeal a lower court decision to join Police Officers, Damaru and Gitua to judicial review proceedings. The judicial review is seeking to establish the legality (or not) of the arrest warrant on the Prime Minister authorized by the Chief Magistrate. This latter proceeding was also stayed to allow the first case to be decided.

Social media in conflict with itself

On one hand, social media is hailing Justice Makail as the peoples’ champion and the judiciary as the saviour of Papua New Guinea and on the other bringing into question the integrity of the judiciary because of the unpopular decision of Justice Sakora (even going as far as to impugn his honesty)

Koim - still liable to be charged for contempt
Koim – still liable to be charged for contempt

While social media sees issues through the prism of ‘popularity’ – a popular decision being a correct one (even in law) according to them, there will remain considerable internal conflict and confusion

And it won’t improve – for while Justice Makail may be today’s hero – he may be tomorrow’s villain – if and when he presides over the actual issue of Koim’s alleged contempt – depending on his finding.

Justice Salika

Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika
Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika

It’s happened before with the Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika when he found Jimmy Maladina guilty.

Social media hailed Justice Salika as a hero – his popularity with this demographic soared. This writer was threatened with a ridiculous charge of sedition for criticising the decision. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that judicial decisions were impeccable and were to be accepted and were not to be questioned.

So pleased were this demographic at the decision (however it was reached) that anonymous writers took to drastic measures not to have it criticised – including threatening this writer (the main critic of the decision) and exalting Sam Koim to have me arrested – notwithstanding that Koim does not and did not have that power. I was labelled, amusingly, as public enemy No 1. (Does this seem a little Quixotic to you?)

But there were tears before bedtime when the newly exalted hero did not impose a sufficiently popularly punitive sentence on Maladina – indeed some would have it that the penalty was nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

Yesterday’s rooster had become a feather duster.

Criticising the judiciary

Justice is blind

Judges are not infallible but most good ones do not succumb to ‘singing for the choir’ (so to speak). Justice should be blind – it is the principles of law and justice with which they should be concerned – not becoming the next pin-up boy/girl for social media’s delectation.

It is healthy to assess and critique decisions coming out of the courts – it is neither healthy nor intelligent to decide on the merits of the decision based on blind loyalty to the subject of judicial scrutiny.

Law is not a popularity contest.

It would also bode well if social media would acquaint itself with the facts before commenting. No, Makail’s decision was not a triumph for Sam Koim – he won nothing except a delay in the prosecution.

Likewise for the Prime Minister – the cases have not been won but he has been granted leave to appeal an earlier decision where his lawyers allege the court had erred. It is just one step in the long and tedious process that is western law – and now the law of Papua New Guinea.

Social media has recognized itself as the country’s elite stratum – the country’s intellectuals… on the strength of the analysis and comments emanating from the most popular Facebook sites, this demographic has not moved substantially from being ‘Mangi (meri) ples’.

In Western government/law it is not the person but the principle that is important – this is a lesson that is being resisted by many – not least of all in the social media demographic.

Share Button

PM to charge Koim with contempt after ‘Show Cause’ motion dismissed.

By PNG Echo

Lawyers representing the Prime Minister
Lawyers representing the Prime Minister

A motion brought before the National Court by the Prime Minister for Sam Koim, to ‘show cause why he should not be charged with contempt’ for allegedly disobeying a court order restraining him discussing matters before the courts in regards to Task Force Sweep has been dismissed by Justice Colin Makail today.

The learned Judge said that there were only two ways to proceed with contempt charges and that was for the courts to bring the charges or for one party to bring the charges against another – to ask a party to ‘show cause’ was a procedural error and Justice Makail ruled the motion as “incompetent” and dismissed it.

However, the Judge advised that it was open for the Prime Minister and the NEC to charge Koim with contempt and lawyer for the Prime Minister, Ms Tiffany Twivey, advised, in open court this morning, (Tuesday 23 Feb.) the intention of her client to do so.

Justice Makail, in making his ruling, dismissed the case purely on a procedural hiccough without considering the merits of the contempt allegations.

It is expected that the charges will be filed within the next week.

Share Button

Supreme Court says “yes” to Prime Minister

By PNG Echo

Justice Bernard Sakora
Justice Bernard Sakora

The Supreme Court, presided over by Justice Bernard Sakora, has today (23 February 2016) granted both appeals brought before the court by Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill.

The Prime Minister, represented by Twivey Lawyers and Mal Varitimos QC, had firstly sought leave to appeal the decision of Justice Colin Makail in the National Court where previously, Justice Makail had granted leave for police officers, Timothy Gitua and Matthew Damaru, to join as parties to National Court judicial review proceedings challenging the decision of the Chief Magistrate, Ms Nerrie Eliakim, to issue an arrest warrant against the Prime Minister.

They were granted leave to appeal the joining by the learned Judge.

Following on from his decision to grant this leave, Justice Sakora ordered a stay on the hearing of the issue of the arrest warrant until the appeal against the joining of the parties was settled.

The learned Judge delivered his decision verbally in court and instructed the lawyers to take out orders immediately to effect the stay on the National Court proceedings.

Justice Sakora’s written decision will be available tomorrow and it is expected that, on receiving the orders, Justice Makail will vacate the court date set aside of March 3 when the judicial review on the Prime Minister’s arrest warrant was, just this morning, set down for a mention.

Share Button