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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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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