It is, by now, well known that, last weekend, this journalist was refused entry into Papua New Guinea (PNG) by order of the Prime Minister.
It was heavy handed, provocative and ultimately an exercise in futility.
May I remind the Prime Minister that there have been very successful revolutions enacted remotely – the Ayotollah Khomeini effected the Iranian revolution from enforced exile in Paris, for instance.
In PNG, political revolution is not called for – the government was democratically elected and ought to be free to do its job. It’s the fact that this government is not doing that job; that it is falling down badly in some areas of concern affecting the human rights of half its population.
The ill-fortune of women in PNG will not change (and it surely must) until there is effective political leadership with a Prime Minister who’s committed to the cause instead of one that merely gives the problem lip service. (see: the article likely to have caused the chagrin that led to my refusal of entry to PNG.)
And it’s not only me that has noticed: In this year of the hosting of APEC by Papua New Guinea – the UN has been scathing.
In a recent visit to PNG, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, tore strips off the record of PNG in this area.
Yet, in a bizarre statement purportedly released before the High Commissioner’s visit Mr O’Neill stated in a confident, self-congratulatory manner that:
The observations of the High Commissioner are comforting [my emphasis] as this government has made a concerted effort to engage with all stakeholders, particularly civil society.
Had he misunderstood? The High Commissioner was highly critical of the PNG government’s record on engaging with civil society and while acknowledging a strong civil society lamented that :
“…there is little room for them to influence government policy.”
I am at a loss to understand what the Prime Minister found “comforting” in those words.
Furthermore, Mr Zeid went on to state that he was “troubled” to hear of the attacks against journalists (and others) working on sensitive issues. I wonder if he realized that one of those “attacks” would come as a direct order of the Prime Minister himself?
To add insult to the Prime Minister’s injury, the Commissioner’s visit and my criticism of his record in women’s issues coincides with a report from “Human Rights Watch’ whose opening paragraph states:
Almost 40 percent of the population in Papua New Guinea (PNG) lives in poverty. The government has not taken sufficient step to address gender equality, violence, excessive use of force by police, or corruption and relies heavily on religious groups and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to provide services on a charitable basis to meet the economic and social rights of the population. Rates of family and sexual violence are among the highest in the world, and perpetrators are rarely prosecuted.”[my emphasis]
The report also serves as a reminder that Australia is PNG’s most important international partner and provides over 70 percent of the country’s overseas development aid. Indeed, PNG is currently relying heavily on help from Australia to pull off a successful APEC – to make PNG look good in the eyes of the international community.
As an Australian rate payer, it is my hard-earned dollars (and many others) that will help PNG pretend that things are rosie – when all the while many PNG women are existing in what can only be described as a living hell – where fear is their constant companion.
It’s where husbands are compensated for the rape of their wives (as if someone has spoilt their possession) before the shamed (?) husband discards her to her own meagre and miserable fate – welfare is not a word with which the PNG government is familiar.
Indeed, the UN High Commissioner noted that the malnutrition rates in some areas of PNG were “comparable to Yemen.” – the poorest country in the war-torn Middle East. The UN has reported that Yemen is the country most in need of humanitarian aid in the world.
What a shameful comparison for PNG with its plethora of resources and my tax dollars at its disposal.
Under the circumstances, you’ll understand why I’d prefer not to contribute to Mr O’Neill’s vainglorious grandstanding.
The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, presides over a country where, according to Médecins Sans Frontières, the women are the most abused in the world outside of a conflict zone and where they “…endure some of the most extreme levels of violence in the world,” according to the Lowy Institute. (Reported in an article published in The National by journalist Grace Maribu.) Over this humanitarian crisis the Prime Minister expresses his “outrage” – but does little.
When the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea finally came out with a press statement on the recent torture of a six-year-old girl over four days at the hands of a baying, adult male mob, it was with ‘weasel words’.
Weasel words are words and phrases aimed at creating an impression that a specific or meaningful statement has been made, when instead only a vague or ambiguous claim has actually been communicated.
In the statement, he called for “Community and Church action…,” rather than his own; he condemned the attack and the attackers (whom he called a few names) and thanked the people (not him) that took decisive action to save the small girl.
He also condemned the practise of Sanguma, praised Christianity and the good Samaritans that helped save the girl and promised to keep doing what he’s been doing – working with the churches and communities as well as the RPNGC “…to end these false beliefs and to protect the lives of all Papua New Guineans.”
But why would he continue doing what he’s doing when, in the NCD (Port Moresby and surrounds) only two convictions have resulted from the 414 cases handled by the Family Sexual Violence Action Committee Secretariat between 2016 and 2017? This is in spite of legislation enacted in 2013 that was meant to protect women and girls against violence? (The Family Protection Act)
Indeed, since 2013, violence has just escalated both generally – gender-based violence (ie men beating and killing women) – and specifically – accusation-based violence (involving supposed witches) even though 2013 not only saw this legislation enacted but also the PNG Sorcery Act repealed.
It’s no coincidence that this was also the year that the mother of the tortured child, Kepari Leniata was herself tortured and burned alive as a witch. The incidents are linked.
Clearly, the response was inadequate.
There’s absolutely no point in providing a recipe if there are neither the requisite cooks nor the ingredients available to bake a cake (ie – to effect an outcome). Peter O’Neill either knew that or should have.
In spite of the Prime Ministers expressed condemnation at that time, the perpetrators of the murder of Kepari have never been brought to justice – had they been perhaps this little girl would not now be in bandages from her neck to her ankles. Violence against women is a low-risk crime in Papua New Guinea. Whose fault is that?
I mean, if the definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome then Peter O’Neill must be mad – but I don’t think so.
In PNG, it is men who win elections for their candidates and although women can vote, they usually vote as their menfolk dictate. A consummate politician, Peter O’Neill knows that. The right to beat women is enshrined in the psyche of many PNG men, especially in the Highlands, where the Prime Minister’s constituency is located. Clearly, it is not good politics to antagonise one’s electoral base.
If we were in that mythical land of Oz, Peter O’Neill wouldn’t be the character without a brain: the Scarecrow, – his lukewarm response is patently politically shrewd. No, he’d be the Tin Man: the one without a heart.
Sign the petition: Enough was enough long ago: when the violence is extended to include little girls of six-years-old being tortured by groups of men, we cannot let this continue and call ourselves human.
“We the Papua New Guinea Community and the International Community are united in this call to action. We demand the PNG Government takes immediate and sustained action to prevent and protect women and children from torture, murder and all acts of violence and human rights abuses.
The latest victim is just six (6) years old. Last week in PNG, in an act of extreme depravity, a group of men burned her with hot metal to persuade her to confess to practising witchcraft – she was lucky, she was rescued before she was murdered.
Not so lucky was her mother Kepari Leniata, a name you may remember. Five years ago, a group of vengeful men tortured this young mother; including unspeakable acts of sexual violence. When they had finished torturing Kepari, they threw her on a pile of tyres and burned her alive. Watched by a crowd with camera phones; no one helped her. Her known assailants were never brought to justice and, since then, the extreme violence against women in PNG has only escalated with perpetrators rarely, if ever, prosecuted.
In PNG, violence against women is a low‐risk, and largely tolerated crime. Will PNG now extend its tolerance to the torture of a child? The PNG government responds to each new atrocity against females (and they are sustained and many) with another piece of legislation that’s never used or the adoption of a combatting strategy never implemented.
THE LAW DEMANDS THESE CRIMINALS BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE – YET THEY NEVER ARE. THIS HAS TO CHANGE.
In 2018, PNG will host APEC. Australia is providing security and other aid for the meeting – with PNG just over 3 kilometres from Australia at its closest point, can Australia afford to ignore the atrocities against women and now children right on their doorstep and maintain ‘business as usual’? Can the other APEC countries?
WHAT CAN YOU DO? Please sign our petition – let the PNG government know that when women and children are allowed to be tortured and burned alive with impunity, it is NOT business as usual – it’s a national emergency.”
We call on the PNG Government to immediately act upon the Family Protection Act and the Lukautim Pikinini Act to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of the recent torture of the young girl from Enga Province.
We call upon the PNG Government to increase funding to support the Taskforce against sorcery accusations and gendered based violence.
We call upon the PNG Government to provide increased funding to support civil groups addressing Accusation Based Violence and Gendered Based Violence in PNG society.
We, the undersigned demand immediate action from the PNG government to prevent and protect women and children from torture, murder and all acts of violence and human rights abuses.”
As an Australian tax-payer, I object to my hard-earned tax dollars going to a foreign government that tacitly condones the wholesale abuse of half of their population – and then does it with my money.
It is time that international sanctions were applied to Papua New Guinea – time to hit them where it will hurt – in the money pocket. The international community need to express their disgust at the ongoing human rights abuses in PNG – we (the international community) can stop this, even if they won’t.
Let’s make this stop at Rosalyn Albaniel.
She died suddenly. People were shocked.
“But I only just saw her yesterday,” and “I was to meet with her Monday,” they wrote incredulously.
For all intents and purposes, for the Senior Business Journalist with one of Papua New Guinea’s leading newspapers, Post Courier, it was ‘business as usual…until she died, that is.
There were outpourings of grief on social media and no doubt many more in the physical world. If there’s one thing that Papua New Guineans do well it is expressing their grief.
“Nooooo – it cannot be true,”
“Why did you leave us so soon?”
they write on social media in the case of loss. And at funerals, even men are heard (expected, even) to wail and cry out “Why, Lord?”
But the shocking truth is, that they had no need to ask “why,” they knew the answer – but they weren’t telling.
Rosalyn Albaniel Evara had been suffering ongoing physical abuse. Her husband often beat her senseless.
The injuries that she sustained are the probable cause of a suspected brain haemorrhage that killed her.
The ongoing beatings would take place within the gated accommodation compound of the employees of Post Courier. I once went to this complex in Port Moresby to drop off a colleague (a Post Courier journalist), who lived there. Whilst I never went inside the building, my impressions of the complex were that it looked like a block of cheap motel units of flimsy construction.
Living cheek by jowl with your co-workers in this way would not offer much in the way of privacy – and it didn’t. All witnessed the beatings that Rosalyn endured – if not by sight, certainly they would have heard them.
Some of her co-workers would take her in after she had been beaten and patch her up – supplying tea and sympathy. Rosalyn begged them not to report her husband’s assaults to the police, as she was afraid for her daughter. And they didn’t. But they all knew.
Her beatings were a likely cause of her death – and they all knew.
In the wake of her passing, not one word was reported by the Post Courier about the circumstances surrounding her death – yet they all knew.
They attended her funeral yesterday, they sat there and grieved for her, yet they did not utter a word of what they knew. Amongst the grievers would have been her husband. They sat beside him even though they knew what he’d done.
It took a brave lady, Rosalyn’s aunt, Mary Albaniel, to tell all. She chose to tell it at the funeral. It was a tale of sustained abuse and beatings leading to her niece’s death.
Mary Albaniel also had post mortem pictures she had taken of her niece’s body – and she showed these too. Rosalyn’s body was covered with the evidence of her husband’s abuse.
Yet with her bruised and battered body, Rosalyn turned up for work each day and performed her journalistic duties on behalf of Post Courier, her employer – her clothes hiding most of the evidence of her abuse
Everyone considered Rosalyn Albaniel a good journalist who never failed in her duties to Post Courier – however, as a media outlet wedded to the idea of ‘the fourth estate’ whereby the media are tasked with a duty to expose wrongdoing, Post Courier surely failed Rosalyn.
Why wasn’t the perpetrator stopped (even if he wasn’t formally charged)?
Tea and sympathy for the victim before she’s sent packing back to her tormentor for more of the same, just doesn’t cut it.
Yet, the fault for her death must surely lie with the person who caused it – and that wasn’t her colleagues at Post Courier. But it could have been her husband.
Post Courier employees and others who knew were merely upholding a sick tradition that has emerged in PNG society whereby violence against women has become normalised and where very few men are ever prosecuted for violence perpetrated on women – especially ones deemed to ‘belong’ to the men through an intimate relationship or those that are said to be witches (yes, you heard right – they still burn witches alive in PNG). However, truth be told, women are fair game for men in most circumstances and age is no barrier.
The sick tradition
When Rosalyn’s Aunty Mary exposed what Post Courier should have at her niece’s funeral, she was wearing an orange T Shirt that said “No to violence against women.”
It was the T Shirt that we wore when we demonstrated against gender-based violence in Port Moresby on 16 December 2016. It was, we thought, a landmark day.
Together with the Governor of the National Capital District (wherein Port Moresby resides) Powes Parkop, who is arguably the sole champion of the cause in the PNG parliament, we managed to put enough pressure on the PNG government that the National Executive Council (PNGs caucus) passed a strategy for combating violence against women that had been languishing in a government department for over 15 months. The irony of that situation was that the negligent minister overseeing that department was one of only three women in the PNG parliament at the time (there are none in this current line up).
The catalyst for the demonstration was a breathtakingly violent incident in the Highlands of PNG.
There was a report of a young woman suspected of cheating on her husband for which her husband sought revenge. He arrived in her village with up to six of his friends and family and they chopped off both her legs with bush knives (machetes) that men habitually like to carry – a bit like Americans like to carry their guns.
I don’t know whether she survived or whether anything was done to those who committed this act because neither matter a damn in Papua New Guinea. She was a woman, and one suspected of being wanton – she got what she’d deserved. As for the men, well, they had every right, didn’t they? That’s the PNG attitude.
It is what enabled Rosalyn’s colleagues to turn a blind eye to her habitual, and clearly savage beatings – even though they are media and are expressly meant to do the opposite. The sick tradition of condoning or ignoring violence against women prevailed.
Since that fateful day last December, not much has changed. Apparently, implementing government strategies take time – and time is something that the PNG parliament seems to have plenty of. Unfortunately time ran out for Rosalyn.
Rest in peace, my esteemed colleague, this journalist is aware of her obligations.
In the final analysis
The female half of the population of PNG are placed in such low esteem that no one cares when she is brutalized.
It is a national emergency treated by the government as a second or third tier priority, if indeed a priority at all or one which deserves more than lip service. People have given up expecting that anything can or will be any different; that anything will change.
But they are wrong. It must be changed. It’s an abomination that needs resources thrown at it.
Yet the PNG government are blazé because there are no votes in it for them and government in PNG is all about hanging onto power. Besides, many in parliament would have a problem casting the first stone for the reason that one survey (disputed) found that 70% of PNGeans beat their wives. That would make 78 out of 111 MPs potentially wife beaters themselves.
It is time the PNG government was given an urgent imperative to tackle this problem as their priority. To shake them awake from their smug reverie that it’s not their problem because they are men. Let’s do it.
This is the second in the series about violence against women in PNG. It was my intention to just tell the stories in all their horrific detail … alas, although I consider myself a storyteller, sometimes the academic in me will not be still. An analysis of the case outlined below is instructive on some of the problems that women face in PNG when looking for justice. Within that problem also lies the solution (or at least a part thereof.) Read on:
A potential client went to see a young lawyer to complain that her husband was adulterous and wanted to take another wife. While I’m not sure with what she wanted him charged, the young lawyer did consider her case was clearly winnable.
Now, I know adultery is still on the statute books in PNG and I’m not sure about the polygamy laws and/or customs in the province in which she was residing at the time. It’s a fair assumption, though, that she wanted to stop her husband taking another wife.
Notwithstanding that she had a winnable case, this young lawyer dissuaded her from taking court action because winning in court would not stop her husband from beating her (a new piece of vital information) and there were the children to consider, he told her.
What a damning indictment of the efficacy of justice in PNG accompanied by an acceptance of a sick status quo.
Instead he gave her enough money to return to her home province but stipulated it must be alone and without taking any belongings or any of her children. Clearly this put her out of her husband’s reach. Problem solved?
No, no, no – it just exacerbated and further entrenched the customs of an unfair and unsafe society for women.
This lawyer’s solution represents pragmatism over justice and punishes the victim. I’m sure the young lawyer was well-meaning, BUT HE WAS WRONG.
The trouble is, this young lawyer grew up to become Justice George Manuhu of the National and Supreme Courts of Papua New Guinea and the learned judge has recently told this story to a public audience of thousands (available to millions) espousing the wisdom of the decision and exhorting others to take notice. With no juries in PNG, he now sits in sole judgment (in the first instance) on similar cases.
Why was he wrong?
He was wrong because he knew that the wife was living with a violent man – yet he focussed on the victim rather than the perpetrator.
She was the one punished by being banished, penniless, in the clothes she stood up in, back to her home province – yet she was the victim.
He irresponsibly aided her to leave her children with a man he knew to be violent – what’s more, children whose mother abandons them suffer enormously – how would they know, at the time, that she had little choice?
It was ignored that it left a miscreant living in the community who would possibly continue his violent ways because his illegal behaviour was never challenged – and it should have been – and by Manuhu. Removing the victim does nothing to curb the behaviour of the perpetrator who, in all probability, will just find another victim.
It was this lawyer’s job to prosecute alleged felons, not to find solutions that let off the offender scot free while penalising the victim. Perhaps he could have given her that one-way fare AFTER the courts had suitably punished the behaviour of the perpetrator, did he think of that?
It brings up the problem of the reluctance of anyone in PNG to tackle the problem of male perpetrated violence against females – or to even acknowledge it exists – except in the abstract. (I know, it is not the only problem that exists with violence but it is the predominant one and the one we are tackling here.)
The solution is for men to stop. It’s simple, really. Except who is going to make them?
When we have a system, in the main administered by men, (where are those women parliamentarians?) most of whom do their own share of wife-beating, according to recorded statistics, who’s going to stand up and point a finger and/or make a stand?
If the statistic of 70% (disputed, I know) is anywhere near the actuality, then we have around 78 parliamentarians who are perpetrators – and why would the judiciary be immune?
Apparently, the story has a happy ending for her: but the end does not justify the means and I find it alarming that the people who commented on the Jjudge’s post, to a wo/man, agreed with him. They were admiring – gushing even. No one had the wherewithal and the insight to say, “no, in this instance, you did not do well.”
Instead they said his story was:
“…the Manus way”
“…the ideal way to go”
and my all time favourite – which illustrates my next point perfectly
“…a worthy lesson for a lot of womenfolk.”
The lesson that I took away from the story is that the courts in PNG are all but useless to protect a woman that’s being brutalised and, in fact, they would prefer not to have to bother themselves with such a thing. Prosecuting a man on behalf of a woman would be anathema to many PNGeans – the women should take responsibility themselves (it’s probably their own fault).
I’m not at all surprised that commenters were sycophantic to Justice Manuhu. He is considered a PNG ‘Bik Man’ and the wisdom of a Bik Man is not to be questioned, just marvelled at.
With this one story, Justice Manuhu has set back the cause of beaten women in PNG and further entrenched the paradigms that keep her bruised and subdued.
Yet the perpetrator carried absolutely no responsibility – and that includes an obligation to obey the law – assault is against the law in PNG – yes, even assault on a woman (pardon my sarcasm – it’s hard to contain when I’m utterly disgusted).
Solution within the problem
How much more useful would it have been had the learned judge said something about the evil’s of bashing women? How much more useful if he had roundly condemned the man’s behaviour and said that the courts would not tolerate the flagrant breaking of the laws of the land? How much more useful would it have been if he had talked about zero tolerance in his court for perpetrators of violence against women – that should these miscreants be before him, that he’d throw the book at them? But did he? No he did not.
You ‘Bik Men’ know your word is gospel to those who look up to you – use it to solve the biggest problem you have in PNG today – or can we assume that you are part of the problem: a perpetrator yourself?
This is the first of a series of articles that seeks to give voice to the suffering of PNG women at the hands of PNG men. PNG women are NOT merely domestic violence statistics to be marvelled at and/or tut tutted over. Every one of these women or girls is a dignified human being who has had that dignity stripped away in often the most degrading, humiliating and horrific fashion. If the details of their stories hurt your sensibilities, I don’t apologise. Imagine what it felt like to go through some of their ordeals – like the ten-year-old recently gang-raped to death – all alone with her attackers. No one came to help – no one showed her any mercy. What about her sensibilities? And there are others… too many… Read on:
There was something not quite right about her. Her eyes darted from one side to another like someone who was seeing things for the first time. It reminded me of my son’s birth. When first emerging into the world, he did similar.
But she looked vacant, far away, and when her eyes would inadvertently fall on my face she’d avert them quickly. Her demeanour was suggestive of someone suffering severe trauma.
I’m going to call her Yvonne. It is not her real name. Because her identity needs protecting, I am loath to use her real name. Yvonne is a person – more than a statistic – she ought to have a name.
She was not the first accused murderer I’d interviewed that day and she wouldn’t be the last. There was Nancy, Maggie, Sharon, Betty, Esther and more. All of them had their own tales of horror, each of them increasingly difficult for me to listen to. I felt a heavy burden of privilege; the fortunate sister who’d abandoned them. I felt culpable – still do.
Yvonne endured 17 years of torture from her husband before she ended up killing him. In that time he raped her continually and kept her a virtual prisoner in the house. Yvonne’s husband had an untreated venereal disease, possibly Gonorrhoea – he repeatedly passed this on to her and would only allow her to go and get it treated when it became urgent.
Like the time when her tongue swelled up so badly that she could not swallow. There were often times when the infection got so bad that she would develop chronic urine leakage and she told me that she smelled bad.
Yvonne’s husband would not only rape her vaginally but anally and orally. She didn’t understand why he wanted to use places that “were not meant for that” She said she would cry in pain during the violent bouts of anal sex. But it had little effect.
Apart from the rapes, there were also the beatings. He broke her arm with the branch of a tree; he broke her back and almost broke her neck by standing on it. Yet no one helped her- and she had tried police, the church, family and whatever friends she had left. He was a respected member of the community and she was his wife – the suggestion that if she were a better wife it wouldn’t happen was always just below the surface. She was unable to leave him – in PNG it’s difficult or often impossible for a woman to exist alone, without the sponsorship of a man.
When she was at the end of her tether, she decided to end her own life – 17 years of despair were enough. Her life had become not worth living, she told me.
With her husband asleep in the house, and in a moment of lucidity, she decided that she would take him with her – that he didn’t deserve to live. She stabbed him then ran out of the house and deliberately fell on the knife– it penetrated her breastbone. She had already taken all and any medication she had found in the house – still, he died, she didn’t. She showed me her scar.
“I was his victim for 17 years,” Yvonne said. “Now I’m a victim of the state of PNG for the next 20 (her sentence).
I now better understood why Yvonne appeared so fragile.
Anomalies and indications
It was March of 2012 and I was in Bomana Prison, outside the Papua New Guinean capital of Port Moresby, to do a story on women who had murdered their husbands. At the time, the female prison was housing 38 women, all but one or two were there for murder – either in remand waiting for their day in court or already serving a sentence.
This fact, in some ways, is anomalous with global findings, while, at the same time, in other ways, being indicative of them. It is anomalous that such a high percentage of the accused and convicted were there because of committing a violent crime. Violent crime only accounts for a low percentage of crimes committed by females – around 10%.
However, it has also been found that women invariably kill an intimate partner, family member or an acquaintance, in the home – with a spouse most likely to be killed in around 50% or more of cases. In this they were consistent
Violent offenders were over-represented in this milieu while their victims were not.
The clear reason for the anomaly was the presence of extremely high rates of sexual and domestic violence in PNG, these factors being the major cause of creating violent female offenders from otherwise gentle individuals. It was kill or be killed in so many cases – but in a society such as PNG where violence against women is prevalent and even normalised, there was little hope that their plight would get much public sympathy – or indeed judicial justice.
There was a recent case in PNG where a fight between a woman and her spouse resulted in his death because one of her blows ruptured his spleen. The judge gave her a heavy custodial sentence, notwithstanding that there was a long history of domestic violence where she had been hospitalized by him on more than a few occasions and could have expected more that day had her blow not proved fatal. What’s more, many of the beatings she received were while pregnant.
The escalation of the problem to killing was the direct result of her having to defend herself because no one else would.
A surprisingly nice environment
This was not the first prison I’d been inside, but to my surprise, this one was almost pleasant – especially when contrasted against downtown (or uptown) Port Moresby. It was a series of buildings amongst well-tended gardens with shelters here and there for shade. There seemed to be less evidence of razor wire and armed guards than there was around expatriate compounds and five-star hotels in the nearby capital.
Even surrounded by accused and convicted murderers, never did I feel any fear. The women, were generally, softly spoken, and pleasant. Most were eager to talk – to tell their story. In every case, the killing was preceded by a history of domestic violence.
What came through loud and clear was how the perpetrators of the violence (Men) had completely stripped these women of all their dignity and if they were to avoid prison, the courts would tear a few more strips of dignity off as the victims justified the course that most were forced to take.
Many of the women had been raped by their husbands often while children looked on, sexual humiliation being a usual weapon in the wife basher’s arsenal.
As with Nancy, who had killed her gambling, drug-head husband who bashed her up regularly.
Nancy had borrowed money to survive, as her husband was not providing any. He exhorted her to pay back the money by taking up prostitution. Nancy’s husband sold her baby to another woman.
When Nancy killed him, it was self-defence. She feared for her life. “I just wanted him to stop hitting me,” she said. Nancy claimed, that in spite of all this, she loved him and didn’t engage the police because he was the sole provider. The irony completely lost on her; the hopelessness of the situation leaving me dumbfounded.
One young inmate with a baby on her lap, told me of how her husband’s nephew would visit and rape her. When she complained to her husband he laughed. She ended up killing the nephew – but not until he had cracked open her skull with a bushknife and burned down her house. When he came back the day after the burning armed with a knife and started hitting her again, she managed to get the knife from him and stabbed him with it. Dead.
Other causal factors
The paradigm beloved of TV shows and Hollywood where jail wardens are cruel sadists was not anywhere in evidence in the women’s section of Bomana. In the main, the wardens seemed to have a clear understanding of the reason for their wards incarceration and seemed sympathetic. With the prevalence of violence against women in PNG, many of them could well have been empathetic too, suffering similarly. Who knows?
What they all agreed upon was that polygamy was one of the major contributing factors.
That was certainly true in the case of Brenda who said that her husband would beat her up first when he wanted to go and see another woman. He was not polygamous but adulterous and with an unhealthy dose of religious guilt under his belt, this is how he’d cope with the affairs.
But it doesn’t matter whether it’s adultery or polygamy, it’s all about competition and economics. Not only is the partner humiliated by her ‘man’ preferring another, she also has the problem of the husband’s monetary resources going to another family and her family being starved.
It is why Brenda ended up killing her husband’s girlfriend during a fight. She explained that it was the easier option – her husband was too strong physically for her and besides, she needed him to earn money to keep her family.
When Sally’s husband turned up with a new wife, he took all Sally’s belongings and he gave them to his new wife. When he then stopped paying their children’s school fees, Sally ended up killing the rival for her husband’s affections and money. But this was not before her husband had held Sally down while the new wife urinated into her mouth. Sally said that killing the new wife was the easier road to take as she was afraid of the husband’s family and the compensation she’d have to pay to them in the event of his death (compensation being a large feature of PNGean customary law).
In PNG, it is not rare to see two women physically fighting in the street over a man while the man in question looks on.
With this rivalry rife and encouraged, both by polygamy and rampant adultery, there is very little evidence of a ‘sisterhood’ support network, most women viewing other women as rivals.
Jais Aben Resort has warned of lack of integrity in PNG Party as the party defaults on a large payment.
In information sent to all its web members and suppliers of goods and services, the resort complained about an unpaid account of K65,000 that was run up when the PNG Party, led by Belden Namah, held an official function there earlier this year.
When additional services were required by the party, the Resort graciously provided them and extended credit to the Party for the extra services, on a gentleman’s agreement. The agreement was that the account for the extra services would be settled the Tuesday following the function.
However, it seemed the resort was not dealing with the gentlemen it thought it was and eight weeks later and after many attempts to collect the money, Secretary of the Party, Mr Kila Poka, wrote to say:
“I’ve been too much bordered [sic]. I decided to have a bit of a break.”
The account remains unpaid and the Resort intends to take court action to recover the money.
“This is a cautionary tale for anyone extending credit to this outfit,” Jais Aben Resort has written.
Mr Jerry Scott from the Resort said that the outfit were given the opportunity “to prove they were the people they purported to be,” but that it was an “epic fail” on the party’s part,
The Resort finished by saying:
“If you are a supporter of the PNG Party, you might want to think twice [about giving them your vote] since if elected they would have access to the nation’s cash register.”
It seems that the management of Jais Aben Resort believes that certain people representing the PNG Party lack integrity and honesty – a belief formed by bitter experience involving a serious breach of trust
“…every person in the Pacific and the world should read this book.”
by Professor Shaista Shameen, Dean of the Law School, University of Fiji on the occasion of the launch in Suva, Fiji, 14 May, 2017 (Abridged)
Hon. Members of Parliament, Hon. Chief Justice and members of the Judiciary, Your Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Colleagues, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Until I read Dr Merrell’s book last week, I had no idea of the actual facts [of the Julian Moti saga] only that he had eventually been cleared by the Australian courts.
[But] It is just not enough to know that Julian had been cleared. The wrongs inflicted on him by those who otherwise wave the flags of democracy, rule of law, due process and human rights, and trumpet all the politically correct platitudes at us, Pacific Islanders, thus far remain unpunished. The perpetrators have shrugged and moved on, as if to say, you lose some….so what? And that is the evil that this book exposes.
‘Redeeming Moti’ is going to be an important book for universities and scholars for a number of reasons which I will go into in a minute.
But it is not a scholarly book- it does not have the kind of language that scholarly tomes tend to have nowadays in the post-modern tradition- convoluted and Foucaultian. It is uncompromisingly straightforward; a High School student can read it and will find in it both tragedy and comedy, take your pick.
The story is so awful it is funny- and by funny I mean gallows humour. When I read it I said ..how can this possibly happen to anyone? Well it did happen. Dr Merrell’s book explains how and why.
Now, what will scholars and universities find in the book? What will my law students take from it? That was the litmus test for me as I read it.
Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell you why I think that every person in the Pacific and the world should read this book.
They will find everything in it. It has all the ingredients of a good thriller; it has a good survey of Pacific and international politics; a good review of media culpability in the persecution of a man who stood up to neo-colonialism, sometimes without support even from those he was protecting; there is a love story (of sorts) in it; and there is redemption, that is, a belief, a desperate belief actually, that one day the truth will be out and then everyone will understand.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there are several observations that I can make in reference to why this book will rightly have a scatter-gun effect.
First, it exposes mainstream media for what it can be- banal, here today, gone tomorrow, slavish to those in power, hence denigrating its own power to do good, or if that is too hard, at least to be fair, occupying its own colonizing space shamelessly, and then, without warning, becoming self-righteous and unjustifiably indignant.
But what Dr Merrell shows as a journalist, and she is one despite her political science doctorate, is that the mainstream media must understand what it means to be the ‘critic and conscience’ of society..
Secondly, I turn to Pacific Politics, both external and internal that is exposed in the book. During this sorry series of events apparently now known as ‘Motigate’, parliamentarians of some Pacific Island states switched sides so fast, it made me dizzy just to read about it. What this book says about Pacific Island politics is revealing, to put it mildly. It appears we have no ethics, no loyalty to anyone but ourselves (certainly not to the constituency), no shame in changing sides to stay, even precariously, in power, and no guilt about selling our country or ourselves to the highest bidder. Instead we say, oh well, that’s politics for you.
Well, I can’t uphold that perspective to my law students; and I hope no lecturer here tonight will be able to say that to their students either.
Dr Merrell’s book exposes the farce of Pacific politics, including in Australia, in such a way that we have now to decide what we want our politicians to do and be.
Finally, the law. Ultimately, what comes out as a force for good in this book are the courts. But not easily. In Dr Merrell’s account, courts’ decisions are based as much on chance as on law. But the Australian court that released Julian into the arms of the country of his birth, was a court of justice – at the time. That is the one bright light in the book.
But above all, for all that I have made some remarks that would be pertinent to scholarship, this book is about human foibles, including the author’s own which she freely shares with her readers, and about, almost Shakespearean, tragedy, and regret.
Nevertheless, the phoenix does rise, as did Julian who is here with us today to talk a bit about the aftermath, the postlude. No one involved in this saga remained unscathed, least of all Julian, and also the author- that is clear.
However, we are reminded that despite the evil that we know for a fact exists in the world in myriad forms, there is good also, and that is the only thing that counts in the end. But, of course, only if we can find the difference between the two because, quite often, evil masquerades as good. That is the message in the book.I congratulate Dr Merrell for having written it, warts and all
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am indeed very happy and honoured to formally launch ‘Redeeming Moti’ and to highly recommend it to you.
If you are in Suva, Fiji next week and you are interested in attending the launch of my recently published book ‘Redeeming Moti’, hosted by the Law Department, University of Fiji, please RSVP to the address on the invitation. Julian Moti will be in attendance and will be a speaker at the event (as will I). See you there.
Today, Sam Koim, of Task Force Sweep, made an application to the Supreme Court to discontinue his appeal. The appeal was against the decision of Justice Colin Makail in the National Court that dismissed the judicial review of the disbanding of Task Force Sweep.
In finally accepting judicial defeat, and after three long years of court battles, Koim, nevertheless still sought to maintain control by asking the courts to direct the government and its agencies, by order, to surrender all Task Force Sweep’s files to line agencies and the Fraud Squad.
While the discontinuation was granted, the order to surrender the files, according to Koim’s direction, was refused.
This effectively puts control of the of the country’s disciplinary forces back where they belong – with the duly elected government of the day.
Therefore, the NEC’s 2014 decision to set up an interim office of ICAC under the direction of retired judge Graham Ellis now stands. I expect that the new office will take custody of those files forthwith and PNG will be welcoming the Judge back to its shores.