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.

Translation

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

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7 thoughts on “Thoughts on a colonial mindset.

  1. The author must have been drinking too much red wine when penning this article – it drips with maudlin B-S, although usually appreciate her articles and committment.

  2. Thanks for that insight. At last you have provided a historical insight in relation to your country’s past in relation to British rule; however; the truth stands that after 40 years of Independence, we still have a long way to go before we take control of our own resources. Definitely, we are taking some drastic steps in controlling our resources but when we do so, we build our own empires than serving the interest of 7 million + Papua New Guineans.

    God Bless You

  3. Sad but a inspiring article at the same time.

    You have a great vision but sometimes one feels like fighting a losing battle when using the appropriate weapon (Rule of Law) to reclaim your traditional rights, inheritance and resources back.

    • I agree, it’s often a frustrating battle but the alternative is to do nothing and accept everything. Not my style.

  4. “I really like that poem … Any PNG working in Mining industries in the country would salute to it.”
    Taking Ok Tedi and Tolokuma was a good move by the government however the government could not run such Mining Industries and therefore both Mines are closed down and has created more unemployment in the country.
    The first mine in PNG was Bouganville strated 45 years ago in the 70’s and Ok tedi in 1984.
    It is sad to see current Mining and Oil Rigs in the country still being run by expats who are not training Papua New Guineans and localising supervisory and managerial positions. This is simply to keep their jobs

    I am one of those PNG victims working now in Africa and I feel sorry for those highly qualified PNG in mining industries now being depressed and treated like foreigner in their own country because our mates from down south who have to tell lies to the Labour & immigration keep their job.
    The government should start screening application for work permits and start questioning the the localisation programs for all enterprises in country to create jobs. This will allow our new graduates to get a job.

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