The (not so) mysterious death of Rosalyn Albaniel Evara.

By PNG Echo

Postscript

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.

Her story:

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.

THEY KNEW

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.

 

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History has lessons for the Anti-Violence-Against-Women Movement in PNG

By PNG Echo

For women in Papua New Guinea, this week has been variable. There have been both lows and highs.

The good news is that the Strategic Plan to combat violence against women, which is a comprehensive document that understands the need for long-term planning, has been endorsed by the parliamentary National Executive Council (NEC) which is a huge first step in a long journey.

The bad news is that it took the mutilation of a 19-year-old woman who had both her legs chopped off by a jealous husband to wake the relevant department from its reverie (it had had the completed proposal for 15 months, languishing and gathering dust) aided by political pressure from the Governor of the NCDC, Powes Parkop backed by protesting women.

The women rally for the cause.

Worst news is that in the interim, between acceptance and implementation, the violence is not over – it continues unabated. The problem needs a band-aid solution immediately while the wheels of progress grind slowly that bring in the more comprehensive set of goals

Because just a few days after the NEC ratified the document the newspapers told of a 12-year-old girl (in fact three girls/women – I don’t know the age of the other two) who were gang raped by 50 men over two days before they were released.

But what is most shocking to me is that none of the established women’s groups in Papua New Guinea had been moved enough by the leg amputation incident to voice their horror and disgust until the ‘wait meri’ did – informed by yet another ‘wait meri.’.

And when it looked like some positive action may come of the agitation, only then did many come to the fore.

This does not augur well for the future.

You see, one of the leading women’s organisations claimed ‘enough is enough’ back four years ago when Kepari Leniata was burned alive after being tortured – but it just wasn’t, was it?  In those four years, enough has not been even nearly enough and when the report hit the newspapers of this recent shocking incident (the leg amputations) where were they?

If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance then where too were the raised voices of PNG’s women’s movements when the next shocking rape incident was reported nationally, so close to the first – just yesterday.

History informs us that nothing is given to women easily and if the struggle to live without fear is to become a reality for PNG women then the women’s movements cannot let up on the pressure. They need to be constantly vigilant.

Each and every atrocity must be forcefully and loudly condemned.

It’s a tall order, I know – but it’s the eternal vigilance needed to effect the desired change. If the current leaders and members of the women’s movement are not prepared to do this, they need to pass the baton, graciously, on to someone who is.

What’s more, the women’s movements need to decide what they are really about – there are many worthy causes and so many women’s movements have been co-opted to those supplementary causes to their own detriment.

In many developing countries and former colonies, for instance, the race issue has overshadowed the women’s issues – and that certainly happened on December 16 in Port Moresby where racism was both palpable and rife – and perpetrated by some (not all) women against other women.

Fazilah Basari – organiser.

In fact, a woman who had done all the hard yards organising the protest was effectively sidelined – she was Indian and hence as unworthy as the wait meri. They should have been embraced as women but they were shunned because of their race.

This is unforgivable in a movement that’s all about opposition to abuse of women.

All women understand fear of male-perpetrated violence. Besides, in PNG there are many ‘wait meris’ and women of all ethnicities attacked by men – all women are vulnerable.

What’s more, while it is desirable to have the backing of men in this struggle – it must not become a ‘man’s issue.’

I was alarmed when a speaker at the press conference that preceded the 16 December rally by a couple of days spoke of the rape of males. Now while this is terrible, it is not within the purview of the women’s movement. By all means, start another movement to combat this because while it may seem interrelated, so is every issue in one way or another and the movement is there to curb the violence against women – the far greater of the two evils.

If we, in the women’s movement, have learned anything from history it is that the struggle will neither be won by a half-hearted effort nor by ostracising some committed women because they are the wrong colour.

Nor indeed will it be won by letting any extraneous issues co-opt and derail the goals.

Leaders of these movements have a grave responsibility because if they drop the ball it will be more likely that another woman will be beaten, maimed, mutilated or killed. I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.

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LEST WE FORGET: Corruption allegations in the NCDC

By PNG Echo

It was over two years ago that the allegations were made.  They were specific and they were detailed – naming names and providing back up evidence in the form of National Capital District Commission (NCDC) financial statements.

All the allegations and evidence were published in 2011 by website, PNG Exposed.

Hon Powes Parkop, Governor of PNGs National Capital District
Hon Powes Parkop, Governor of PNGs National Capital District

In the frame was Powes Parkop, Governor of the National Capital District, his City Manager, Leslie Alu and Financial Advisor, Augustine Ravi.

The ‘Internal Audit’ from where the allegations emanated, was addressed to David Conn, Chairman NCDC Audit Committee.  It was marked as Ultra Vires (without authority) – it was not an official report. It was by an anonymous whistleblower, whose identity to this day remains unknown. On the first page of the report the author told of his “fear of reprisal” and hence the need for anonymity.

Hon Powes Parkop, Governor of NCD and Hon Justin Tkatchenko, Member for Moresby South Open and Minister for Sports and Pacific games
Alleged Political allies, Hon Powes Parkop, Governor of NCD and Hon Justin Tkatchenko, Member for Moresby South Open and Minister for Sports and Pacific games

The allegations therein involved misuse of NCDC funds to the possible illegal enrichment of the Governor, his City Manager and his Financial Advisor.  This was done by the wanton and arbitrary awarding of lucrative contracts to Parkop’s alleged political ally and now Member for Moresby South Open and Minister for Sports and Pacific Games,  Justin Tkatchenko – aka the PNG Gardener (and/or his companies). Other companies associated with Parkop’s Financial Advisor, Augustine Ravi are said to have also wrongly benefited, including Agility, Autozeal and 15 Mile Smash Repairs who the author claims are all owned by Indian nationals, friends and acquaintances of Ravi.

Continue reading LEST WE FORGET: Corruption allegations in the NCDC

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STAY TUNED

Coming to PNG Echo:

  • Cairns property: what the Post Courier didn’t publish and Oz TV didn’t know.
  • Spotlight on Polye. The man behind the beard
  • What’s happening in Alotau, asks a concerned citizen?
  • …and continuing with the theme of ‘Lest we forget’ two controversial matters revisited – exposed by the media but not satisfactorily explained. Forgotten but not forgiven.

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