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.
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.
National chauvinism is an aggressive patriotism that is often displayed when countries are at war. Lately it is raising its ugly head – even in peace time. Writes PNG Echo
Australia, yesterday, celebrated ANZAC Day and the battle on the peninsular of Gallipoli during the First World War where it is said Australia gained nationhood.
It was celebrated royally all over the nation with large enthusiastic turnouts for dawn services and marches even though the surviving Diggers of the Gallipoli campaign have all since passed on.
In contrast, by the late 1970s, when there were many surviving diggers of that campaign, the celebration of ANZAC Day had all but died in Australia. It was revived in the 1990s. Some say that it was not an organic revival but a manufactured one.
Ironically, Eric Bogle who wrote his ballad in 1971 “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” that has become the unofficial anthem of Anzac Day, did not glorify what happened in Gallipoli, nor the way it was being remembered – but condemns it. His hero asks:
And the young people ask me, “what are they marching for?” And I ask myself the same question.
It begs the question of whether the revival of the popularity of ANZAC Day has been a forerunner of a worrying global trend promoted by vested interests – national chauvinism?
For the ANZAC tradition commemorates a war where 56,639 Australia males between the ages of 18-44 died. Fully, 65% of Australian recruits were casualties – the highest rate in the British army.
One commentator has written:
“…perhaps the bravest thing the ANZACs could have done at Gallipoli in April 1915 would have been to mutiny.”
There’s no doubt that Australian troops were regarded by the British as cannon fodder and the Australian Military Commanders facilitated the senseless slaughter of their own – they must have known. Where’s the glory in that?
How well I remember that terrible day When the blood stained the sand and the water And how in that hell that they called Suvla bay We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well He showered us with bullets, he rained us with shells And in five minutes flat he’d blown us all to hell Nearly blew us right back to Australia
As poignantly sad as the whole of Bogle’s ode to the ANZACs is, for me, it is the chorus that is the most chilling as he juxtaposes the band playing Waltzing Matilda – a sign of patriotism – against first, the anticipation; then the horror of what was waiting for the conscripts (and those that had enthusiastically joined up of their free will) and finally their ignominious, desperately sad and inglorious return.
And still the band played Waltzing Matilda… is a perfect illustration of the insensitivity of rampant patriotism and its deadly bounty.
But do we never learn?
National chauvinism, globally, is running rampant – Trump, the resurrection of Pauline Hanson in Australia, Brexit and in a few days time maybe the success of Marine Le Pen, in France. Le Pen, like Trump has, in gentler times, been considered part of the political loony fringe – her party a marginal player. Not any more.
How many casualties do we need before the band stops playing Waltzing Matilda? When will we realise that when we kill or stand by and watch (nay, condone) suffering (as in Australia’s atrocious treatment of refugees) and we claim to do it “For God and Country” it is far from glorious. It is blasphemy.
By PNG Echo
(Keep reading to the end where the document that answers the question is supplied.)
It was the National Executive Council (NEC) that established Task Force Sweep and it was the NEC that terminated the agency.
But Sam Koim couldn’t accept the inevitable. He was enjoying his elevated and internationally lauded position, notwithstanding his inexperienced and inept management of the agency that saw only half of his prosecutions make it through a committal hearing and of many of those that have, have been an unnecessary failure, according to a concerned legal expert.
Koim recently stated of the decommissioning of the agency:
It’s like the accusers threw us out of the ship in the middle of the deep ocean and expected us to drown and die, but when we made it to the shore alive, they then turned around and accused us saying “why are you still surviving?”
Actually, the situation was anything but.
They were let out of a very leaky, inadequate boat on the Jetty and told to go home – but Koim kept wading back into the sea then expecting someone to pay for expensive lifeguards to get into the surf with him and keep his head above water. It has been a wilful and continuing act.
The analogy is plain: We are talking about his many and various attempts to keep the agency afloat using expensive and illegally hired lawyers and barristers. Recently, for the third time, the Supreme Court made the ruling of their illegality bringing into question every and any court victory he may have obtained using the expensive counsel
Anyway, the question of who has been funding the agency as well as funding the litigation has been the burning question.
Ask no more.
Hereunder is an account from the Grand Papua Hotel for Mr Greg Egan, Koim’s senior counsel of choice, accomodation and food. The entity that was picking up the tab was Posman Kua, Aisi – Kerenga Kua’s old law firm.
I am also reliably informed that the ‘Dream Inn’ a Kua enterprise has also been used extensively – but that will remain speculation until someone can find an account I can publish. For now, let’s go with the one we have.
This is page 6 of Mr Egan’s accommodation bill with the final amount disclosed. I have receipt of the other five pages. Please note who’s picking up the tab.
You asked for it – here is is. Another nail in the coffin of the Grand Chief’s aspirations to cover up the Singapore dealings. When he asks that advise he says he’s going to of his lawyers, I wonder what they’ll tell him?
What we know so far is that 3 cheques made out to Sir Michael Thomas Somare were deposited in Singapore bank account No 0374026963
Dated 16.08.10 and was for $US280,000 – it was deposited on 16.08.10
Dated 01.09.10 for $US280,000 – it was deposited on 02.09.10
Dated 12.11.10 for $US224,000 and was deposited on 15.11.10
The Standard Chartered Bank “One Account” of Sir Michael Thomas Somare, for which PNG Echo has two bank statements, one can assume is a different account to the one that the cheques written out to Sir Michael Somare were deposited into as one of the transfers in the Oneaccount came from 0374026963
Hereunder, Sir Michael Thomas Somare’s “Oneaccount’ bank statements for the end of 2010
Transactions of interest
9 September 2010 Statement
17 August – Bulk cheque deposit – $280,000
1 September – Cash withdrawal – $260,000
3 September – Bulk cheque deposit – $200,000
3 September – Cash Withdrawal – $125,000
3 September – Transfer 0309980593 – $125,000
3 September – Transfer of $165,500 from account 0374026963 (see above)
3 September – Cash withdrawal $165,500
9 December 2010 Statement
16 November – Bulk cheque deposit – $224,000
7 December – Clearing cheque – $220,000
In August/September there were three large deposits (and other small ones that I have not taken into account). The total of those cheques was $645,000.
In November there was another for $224,000 – making the grand total $869,000.
In the space of 3 days (1-3 September) an astounding $550,500 was withdrawn in cash, $125,000 was transferred into another account (recipient unknown), then in December a cheque was written on the account for $220,000
In – $869,500
Out – $895,500
NOTE; Incomings are in blue, outgoings in red for ease of reading.
The thought that is exercising my mind is how do you move that amount of cash? What does $550,500 cash even look like? How many suitcases would it fill? How were those funds moved internationally? Was it legal?
Disclaimer: Owing to the indistinct printing of some of the documents, although all care has been taken, we bear no responsibility for any inadvertent mistakes. People should rely on their own reading of the documents that are hereunder provided.
A cold political wind is blowing on the islands of Bougainville that’s fuelling a cold war.
This wayward wind, which was downgraded to a tropical breeze at the cessation of hostilities in the bloody civil war on Bougainville at the end of the 1990s, has never been tamed but held in check by a peace agreement signed by most of the warring parties.
The keystone of the accord was the promised plebiscite for an independent state, to take place within 20 years of the agreement. The promise effectively took the wind out of the sails of the immediate call for independence, just as surely as Federation did similarly to the Republican movement in Australia at the beginning of the 20th Century.
This future vision watered down many Bougainvilleans’ commitment and backing for the Me’ekamui State, (declared during the hostilities by the rebels). Within Me’ekamui dwell the more militant Bougainvillean rebels. Me’ekamui refuses to die.
The possibility of independence without bloodshed was an attractive proposition for many who had lived through the war; who had suffered its deprivations and lost loved ones – as brother fought against brother.
It was the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, analogous with the biblical ‘promised land’ for those that had also suffered the loss and pollution of their precious lands at the hands of foreign interests that were supported by a government who were prepared to sacrifice Bougainville and Bougainvilleans on the altar of national economic interests.
As the twenty-year time frame enters its final years, all the old wounds that the peace agreement managed to stitch together are being torn apart by the same old issues – for they were never resolved, just postponed.
The Panguna copper mine is the single most pressing of those issues and the peace agreement did not address it at all or any of the concerns over mining in Bougainville. The sensitivity of the issue, that had been the catalyst for the civil war, was the elephant in the room that needed to be ignored to effect an agreement – and it was. But, like M’ekamui, it never went away.
Bougainvillean independence and Panguna are irrevocably interlinked
Panguna – to mine or not to mine
When the Bougainville rebels shut down Panguna in 1989, it was supplying PNG with 45% of its national export revenue and was the single biggest contributor to the economic viability of the Independent state of Papua New Guinea hence the national government’s interest. It was also the biggest polluter and cause of unrest on the island of Bougainville.
The issues surrounding Panguna were the causal link to the beginning of the hostilities – with the rebels closing the mine and the PNG Defence force being deployed to Bougainville to open the mine – forcibly if necessary. The rebels didn’t budge. There followed, on Bougainville, nine years of war that included a blockade and that pitted the PNG Defence Force against its own people.
Even though the war has been over now for almost 20 years, Panguna has never re-opened, although it’s potential output and profitability remains unchanged. There is wealth in Panguna of unrealised proportions estimated to be in the vicinity of 5 million tonnes of copper and 19 million ounces of gold.
That the mine has been closed for so long is a testimony to just how polarising the issues still are – the mine is considered a jinx.
I have visited Panguna, it’s eerie: there is a chill in the air that is not explained by the weather, I was glad to leave. Having been there, I can well understand the sentiments of a populace far more prone to the belief in the supernatural than I.
Nevertheless, to expect that it will remain closed is not realistic for if Bougainville opts for independence without reopening Panguna, how will the new State sustain itself?
This notwithstanding, none of the main actors in the cold war that’s developing, many of whom are the mandated leaders of Bougainville, have yet been willing to nail their colours to the mast about the mine’s future. But if there is a Bougainvillean, economic Holy Grail, this is it. Politically, it’s a poison chalice.
Into the fray recently, whipping up the already restless political air currents, has come mining giant Rio Tinto, who had controlling stock in Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), the company that worked Panguna copper mine until its forced closure by the rebels in 1989 – BCL still holds the lease although its mining rights were downgraded to that of an exploration licence, after the new Bougainville Mining Laws were enacted in 2014.
In an interesting piece of timing, (why now?) Rio Tinto has gifted all of their shares in BCL: some to the PNG government and some to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG – autonomy being another condition of the peace agreement).
The ‘gift’ has pitted these potential protagonists against each other and managed to seemingly divest Rio Tinto of all further responsibility to clean up their mess.
While the gift of the shares to the ABG comes with all the controversy surrounding Rio Tinto’s stubborn refusal to effect reparations, both it terms of repatriation of the mining site and compensation – the shares gifted to the PNG government have the added controversy of having been gifted to an inappropriate entity.
Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, has recognised that the PNG government is not the correct recipient of the BCL shares: that they rightfully belong to Bougainville. In a politically provocative move, he announced he would re-gift these shares to the affected landowners of Panguna but not through their political representatives, the ABG, but directly –there is 17.4% of the company in the offing.
President Momis was not amused: the Prime Minister had decided to by-pass the ABG – Momis suggested that the Prime Minister seemed to believe that he knew better than the ABG, saying:
You substitute your view for ours.
Prime Minister O’Neill retaliated by accusing President Momis of playing “petty politics” that undermined the peace agreement.
In reality, the politics are not petty and it would seem that the Prime Minister is himself engaging in politics using a Napoleonic ‘divide and conquer’ tactic. With his action, Mr O’Neill has diluted the power of any one BCL shareholder and denied the ABG a controlling interest.
Being an astute politician, O’Neill would be aware that the gift is good public relations for his erstwhile flagging image. It portrays him as a benevolent and generous leader (a Bik Man, if you like) while also ensuring that some time in the future, if the mine is opened under BCL, the PNG Government can form a coalition with one or a few of the other shareholders to gain control (the PNG Government has held a 19% share interest in BCL for many years). Mr O’Neill is a master in the dynamics of coalitions.
For while Mr O’Neill justified his expropriation of OkTedi, as the right of a mandated government acting on behalf of its people, he has denied controlling interest in BCL to the ABG. He can do that because Bougainville is not yet a sovereign state (and may never be).
There are other interested parties that have weighed in on the issue too, not least of all the Minster for Communications in the national government and member for Central Bougainville, Jimmy Miringtoro.
In a press statement, Miringtoro attacked the past record of the ABG and, in particular, President Momis whose involvement in the national government goes back to 1972. (Momis was one of the drafters of the PNG constitution).
Miringtoro asserted that, from his position in the national government, Momis
…could have prevented the war if he’d been honest from the start.
The only way for Momis to make peace with the people of Panguna, according to Miringtoro, was to admit that he’d “failed them,” and he recommended that:
… the President cede control of Bougainville to someone who has the energy, commitment and vision to move Bougainville forward instead of wasting time…
The Minister reminded his readers, on two occasions, that he was a mandated leader of Bougainville – seemingly to add weight to his argument. Yet, in spite of the Minister’s stated opinion on the track record of the President, it was just last year that Momis won the Presidential election on Bougainville. It was a landslide victory.
Coming a distant second was former rebel leader, Ismael Toroama who polled 18,466 votes to Momis’ 51,382 – with such a decisive result, so who is really speaking for the people?
Such is the complexity of the Bougainville issues that a simple dichotomy between PNG and Bougainville cannot be taken for granted – for, at present the only position that can be relied upon is that PNG does not want to cede independence to Bougainville – and the irony is that it doesn’t ever have to thanks to that inadequate but temporarily effective peace agreement that gave PNG a veto
There is, however, no doubt that Momis and O’Neill are jockeying for position as the Supremo of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB), especially considering the upcoming plebiscite and the fact that the BCL shares would prove worthless if their mining licence in Panguna is revoked – and it could be, President Momis has already threatened the Prime Minister with this consequence.
Is this a portent of things to come and is Panguna set to become the battleground?
For questions over the future of the mine remain unanswered: should it re-open? If so, when – before the plebiscite or after? …if the plebiscite is successful? …if it’s not? Which company will mine Panguna? What of the shares in BCL …and many other considerations too numerous to mention?
Independence – who wants it?
By 2019, Bougainvilleans will all have to consider this question.
We know what O’Neill thinks but we are, as yet, not aware of the position of President Momis nor of such MPs as the aforementioned Jimmy Miringtoro who may be against Momis but may still favour independence (clearly without Momis) – who knows?
In parliament last week, O’Neill highlighted how the PNG government is helping Bougainville rebuild its infrastructure (as destroyed during the war, I suppose) that he stated was needed far more urgently than independence (I am left wondering why this wasn’t attended to many years ago – is the answer because the plebiscite was not imminent then?) He also highlighted the reforms in education and health taking place on Bougainville thanks to the PNG government.
His one erroneous assertion was that a country with a population of 200,000 (Bougainville) is unlikely to be able to survive because “the economy may not be strong enough.”
Yet, the Bougainvillean copper mine Panguna, once propped up the whole of Papua New Guinea economically, of which O’Neill would be well aware. Without Panguna, in 1976, PNG independence would not have been viable. This single asset is more than able to provide a solid economic basis for a new independent state. The Prime Minister is also well aware of what re-opening of the mine under favourable conditions would mean for Papua New Guinea who still retain 19% share in BCL – and he seems to be trying to force these conditions.
It is, however, reasonable to expect that Mr O’Neill would not want Bougainville to secede – no country or nation willing cedes territory – and it might be equally reasonable to assume that, on the opposite side of the tracks, the ABG would want it – but in that assumption you’d be wrong.
It is not yet known what position the ABG favours, it seems to be sitting back waiting for the best offer – Momis vacillates. At present he is saying that the people will decide, as indeed they will – but leaders should lead from the front, not behind.
If all that is not confusing enough, we have not yet taken into account the other important and major stakeholders in Panguna, the affected landowners who are holding some of the trump cards. Do they want independence and/or the mine to reopen? Well, yes, no and that depends.
The gifting of BCL shares from Rio Tinto and the subsequent re-gifting of them directly from the PNG government has managed to stir up a hornets nest in Bougainville.
To resolve the situation, the ABG government called a meeting of all the landowning stakeholders ,on 26th August, with a view to obtaining a consensus that favoured the government’s position. Momis got it. A resolution was signed by 10 parties including a signature purportedly from the Chief of Chief’s of the Me’ekamui Government of Unity (MGU).
The resolution refused the shares from the PNG government on behalf of the landowners and suggested that they gift them to the ABG instead.
In reality, there was no consensus.
By 28 August, the chairman of one of the affected landowner groups – a group that had signed the resolution, described a social media posting by a chairperson of another group that was a signatory, as being “misleading.”
In the same email he stated that Mr Philip Miriori, President of Me’ekamui did not sign the resolution supporting the ABG’s stance. This notwithstanding, there is a signature above the title ‘MGU Chief of Chiefs’ on the resolution. The signature is too long to be that of Chris Uma, it is otherwise illegible – I don’t know who signed it.
(I am becoming terminally confused about who is the head of Me’eakamui – Philip Miriori, Chris Uma, or this Chief of Chiefs that signed the resolution.)
The original aforementioned chairman finishes his email by saying:
As people mandated [there’s that word again] by our long-suffering Landowners of Panguna…we will not stand by and watch our ABG Government become a monster by convincing our ignorant people by so much sweet talk especially up to date our legacy issues are still evident on the ground.”
The legacy issues
The legacy issues consist of the reparation to the Panguna site and/or compensation that is owed for damages. Rio Tinto has not made any, nor has it offered to do so in the future.
Many of the landowners want this issue pursued vigorously.
One leader of a landowner group expressed the view that both the National Government of PNG and Rio Tinto be sued for the environmental damage but in a separate legal opinion I have sighted, addressed to some of the affected landowners, BCL is identified as the correct entity to sue.
How ironic, with this new share transfer/gift, the landowners could be potentially suing themselves and the ABG for damages, if they take up the proffered shares they would own 53% of the company.
Legal opinion to the chairman of a landowner group stated that the divestment of Rio Tinto of its interests in BCL makes the prospect of compensation unlikely and the writer goes on to warn that the share transfer potentially creates a conflict of interests between the ABG and the landowners
The interests of the ABG and the Landowners are not aligned and potentially diverge rather than converge.
Mining is, once again, polarising the people of Bougainville. How this will be resolved is anyone’s guess and throw an independence vote into the fray for good measure and there’s cause for concern.
For while some stakeholders have expressed the opinion that maintaining the peace on Bougainville is the single and most important task of the ABG in Bougainville at present, others have been far more belligerent.
In a recent interview with Radio NZ, John Jaintang, described as a special envoy to Mr Chris Uma the leader of Bougainville’s Me’ekamui rebel group, has accused Bougainville’s leaders of breaking the peace process by engaging with Rio Tinto and BCL. Mr Jaintang says that “the leaders of Bougainville have gone back to bed with the enemy.”
Ominously, he goes on to state that Me’ekamui remains “outside the peace process, ” and warns that “Me’ekamui has 100% of the arms.”
There are many self-confessed mandated leaders in this melee who are refusing to lead. While the minutiae is being attended to, the big picture is being neglected.
How to vote responsibly in the plebiscite, taking into account all of the possible issues, is a vital measure to disseminate and they need to hear it from their government. They know where the national government stands but, to date, they are getting conflicting messages from the ABG.
Yet, coming through loud and clear was the special envoy from Me’ekamui whose point, if I’m not mistaken, in saying that Me’ekamui has all the guns, is that the rest of you had better watch out.
This could well be an ominous threat if O’Neill, on a successful vote of ‘yes’ to independence, decides to exercise the ultimate folly of the peace agreement: the proverbial ‘get out of jail free’ card for the Government of PNG – the right of veto over the decision. In my opinion, O’Neill will not hesitate to use it.
Having said that, clearly a ‘no’ vote would be less problematic for the Government of Papua New Guinea as it would give them the renewed mandate in Bougainville – a clear indication of their right to rule.
And so the ‘courting period’ between PNG and Bougainville intensifies. It’s a period when it’s likely that PNG, like an anxious suitor, will be especially considerate of the needs of Bougainville, even generous.
When and if Bougainville succumbs to seduction and the courting period is over, with no more political leverage left, what then? Those who do not heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.
It’s a sad truth that precious few political scandals in Papua New Guinea reach a satisfactory conclusion: they tend to erupt violently only to soon be forgotten (and often forgiven) as the next crisis or sensation overtakes and overshadows. It is why PNG Echo has a category ‘Lest we forget’.
However, in true PNG fashion, this category has been overlooked lately as PNG Echo has become swept up with current political events. It’s time to address that irony by revisiting the Moti Saga.
The Moti Saga caused a serious diplomatic stoush between Australia and countries of the Pacific – most notably the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea – but not only – Fiji and Vanuatu were involved too.
In the ensuing years, myth has overtaken fact and there are many misconceptions about what really happened.
My involvement with the Moti case and Julian Moti dates back to 2009 when I first interviewed him – and continues to this day
As a political scientist, I was appalled at his treatment and the egregiously bad behaviour of authorities in many jurisdictions and since the first article there have been dozens more – all revealing what both the Australian authorities and, sadly, the Australian press did not want the public to know.
Three years later, the High Court of Australia agreed with what Moti had always avowed and what I had been trying to disseminate, with varying success, through a reluctant media.
This is what happened in Papua New Guinea.
By Susan Merrell
No one would accuse Julian Moti of being politically naïve. When he accepted the position as Attorney General of the Solomon Islands in 2006 he knew there were powerful opposing forces.
None so powerful as the Australian authorities that were having difficulty accepting a change in attitude towards their role in the Solomon Islands brought about by the new Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare.
Sogavare had, over time, become increasingly critical of the intervention of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). Moti backed Sogavare’s position.
Australia’s best interests would be served by a quick removal of Sogavare and his backers.
So when Moti learned that the Australian Federal Police had begun a new investigation into a charge of sex with a minor (a charge that had been thrown out of a Vanuatu court almost a decade previously – Moti was found to have no case to answer), he braced himself for the ‘smear campaign’.
This was how they would discredit him, he reasoned. It was politics and politics is dirty.
But, even though Moti was in Papua New Guinea on his way to Honiara to advise Sogavare how to defeat a parliamentary motion of ‘no confidence’ against him in September 2006, and though he was aware that the Australians would be hoping that the motion was successful, he still did not foresee what would happen next
It must be nerve racking to arrest a lawyer. Lawyers have an air of arrogance buoyed by the confidence of knowing the law, their rights within those laws and how to exercise them. A wise person would be very sure of their grounds before making such a move.
Moreover, in Papua New Guinea’s international airport on September 29, 2006, it was no ordinary lawyer that was arrested. It was the Attorney General elect of the Solomon Islands, Julian Moti, in transit to Honiara to take up his position.
The now PNG Opposition Leader, Hon Don Polye, in a statement to the PNG parliament (2011) on the Ombudsman’s Commission Report (into the Moti issue) reminded parliament:
Mr. Moti was not an ordinary person. He was the Highest Law Officer of a Sovereign nation. He was the Attorney General of Solomon Islands. He deserved to be treated with decorum and proper protocol of a foreign dignitary.
MR SPEAKER, not only was Mr. Moti deserving of decorum and protocol, (as we would expect other countries to treat our Attorney General), Mr. Moti was also an International Protected Person under the Convention on the Prevention of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons including Diplomatic Agents 1973 (“the IPP Convention 1973”) to which PNG became a signatory in 2003. Under the IPP Convention PNG was obligated to protect Mr. Moti, who qualified as a “representative or official of a State” and grant him safe passage as the highest ranking law officer of Solomon Islands.
The Arrest, Extraction and Detention of Mr. Moti by our Police, was in breach of our International Law and our International Obligations under both the Chicago Convention 1958 and the IPP Convention 1973.
So where was the Arrest Warrant and why was Moti removed from the transit lounge without the correct immigration documents and visas? It’s questions such as these that lead one to suspect that there were compelling forces at work – even more compelling than the law.
How the arrest was effected.
When Moti arrive in Papua New Guinea, he had been travelling for almost twenty-four hours. It’s no simple matter getting from India (where Moti had been an academic) to the Solomon Islands. He took the quickest route – to Singapore through Papua New Guinea, onto Honiara.
Had Moti known what was in store he may just have chosen the long way round.
For there was a reception committee waiting at the transit lounge of Jackson International Airport. It wasn’t welcoming or befitting Moti’s status.
was the instruction as Moti’s travel documents were handed to an awaiting, unidentified, Australian man. After perusing the documents, the Australian conversed with another Papua New Guinean man who approached Moti. Identifying himself as a police officer with the Transnational Crime Unit, he informed Moti he was under arrest.
Why am I under arrest,
Moti demanded to know.
I don’t know. My seniors will tell you when they come.
The Police Officer replied.
Where’s the warrant for my arrest,
I don’t have it, it’s with my seniors,
the increasingly rattled policeman responded.
Clearly agitated by Moti’s questions, the police officer waited anxiously for his “seniors.” He knew who Moti was – he was well-aware of his position.
The seniors never did arrive – neither did the Arrest Warrant. And in spite of Moti not having the required documentation to enter Papua New Guinea, he was taken from the airport to a prison cell at Boroko Police Station.
The Machiavellian Australian figure appeared to direct the proceedings, the Papua New Guinean police carried out the orders.
In the Boroko cell.
The cells at the Boroko Police Station are hot and oppressive. There’s no air conditioning.
Squalid habitations for the wretched of the earth,
is how Moti described them. By this time Moti was indeed wretched.
I remained in a state of shock throughout the day,
wrote Moti of his incarceration.
I had not been given anything to eat or drink. I had never felt so dejected in my entire life. The stench in that cell was overpowering.
Moti became ill and was vomiting. He was having trouble breathing. He had no access to his asthma medicine, which was in his luggage that had been taken off the plane bound for Honiara but had since gone missing.
Moti’s lawyer in Papua New Guinea, Peter Pena, described the condition of the cell as “putrid.” Moreover, the other inmates incarcerated with Moti were being detained for “wilful murder and other serious crimes.”
A more ignominious fate for a high-ranking official of a fellow Melanesian state is hard to imagine, a fact recognised when Moti received a visit from Joseph Assaigo (since deceased). The Intelligence Branch Chief attached to the Office of the Prime Minister, apologised to Moti for the bad treatment.
By this time it was already afternoon.
Moti had received a copy of the Arrest Warrant mid morning. It had been obtained from the District Court at 9.30 a.m. Moti had been arrested at 5.30 a.m.
Mr. Moti, had in actual fact been arrested, extracted from the International Transit Lounge of the airport and held in police custody for over four hours at the behest, direction and supervision of the Australian Government without even a Warrant of Arrest.
wrote Peter Pena incredulously in his affadavit
Moreover, in the abovementioned statement to parliament, Hon Don Polye admitted Papua New Guinean culpability, stating:
MR SPEAKER, the most important fact that has eluded the media and the public eye for the last five (5) years that I must remind this House is that Mr. Moti has not committed any crime in Papua New Guinea. Mr. Moti did not commit any offence in PNG. Mr. Moti has not broken any law in PNG, either on or before the 29th of September 2006.
MR SPEAKER, there were no charges laid against Mr. Moti at the time of his arrest – for arrest, extraction from the International Lounge [Jacksons Airport] and lock-up. You can’t lock up international transit passengers without any charges. But that’s what we did.”[original emphasis]
Furthermore, Moti’s lawyers (including, now Acting Judge Danajo Koeget) noted numerous legally questionable premises on which the Warrant of Arrest had relied including an old extradition law that had since been repealed and replaced.
It was clear to Pena and Koeget that this document had been written in indecent haste and with scant regard to the laws of Papua New Guinea.
Nevertheless, and to the lawyers’ astonishment, the magistrate refused to discharge Moti but took it upon himself to grant bail.
So, in spite of Assaigo’s expressed regret at the bad treatment of Moti, the Solomon Islands’ Attorney General elect was left for twelve hours in a prison cell with murderers.
It was a cell that stank of human faeces, urine and sweat. He had not been allowed a shower or a change of clothes.
Ominously, that afternoon, Moti had also been made aware of plans to keep him away from Honiara. If he was to believe Assaigo he had every reason to fear for his life. In Moti’s affidavit to the Queensland Supreme Court he recounts this conversation that occurred at Boroko Police Station:
You watch your back, Moti,
“The stakes are high. You’ll be finished. This whole intervention is making a lot of Aussies very rich. We’ve kicked them out. [most likely talking of the aborted Enhanced Cooperation Program], they’re kicking you and Sogavare out before you guys can kick them out too.”
Late that afternoon, by the time Moti was released on bail, he was shaken and physically ill. The lawyer’s confidence had deserted him. Clearly, the law could not be relied on to keep him safe. He was a marked man.
Papua New Guinea’s political opposition has just two weeks to oust the Prime Minister if they want to get their hands on the government cheque book before the next election – and they do – desperately.
They’re pulling out all the stops.
As I write, there should be a decision being handed down by the Supreme Court as to the recalling of parliament to allow a motion of ‘No Confidence’ to go ahead. With the three judges sitting on the case being Mikail J, Salika DCJ and Injia CJ, I don’t like the chances of the government winning this.
The opposition are likely to get their chance at a Vote of No Confidence – whether they win it, is another matter entirely.
But they’re in there trying!
Bring out the big guns
They’ve got former Prime Ministers Sir Mekere Morauta and Sir Michael Somare joining forces in the attempt to depose the Prime Minister and asking other MPs to join them in a press statement that is the most hypocritical and self- serving document imaginable.
These men live in a very fragile metaphoric ‘glass houses’, yet they insist on throwing stones.
The two masters of the ironic (Morauta and Somare) are saying:
As former Prime Ministers we have made our choice, and we ask our fellow Papua New Guineans to join us in rescuing our country. We cannot, through inaction, see our democracy and the institutions that support democracy ruined. The nation’s future is at stake. Today we are declaring that the Prime Minister must stand down, for the good of all Papua New Guineans.”
For the good of all Papua New Guineans? When did these two have the good of Papua New Guinea foremost on their agenda?
Sir Michael was the architect and founding father of what Wikileaks called “a dysfunctional blob” and when Wikileaks made a comment on the possibility of Sir Michael coming back into power after the 2011 political coup, they referred to the Somare regime as
…a cesspit of corruption, incompetence and mediocrity.
Then again, Sir Mekere Morauta presided over what the Prime Minister has described as “the lost decade” with opportunities and good times squandered.
They are proposing a rescue plan that, on scrutiny, is actually a plan to make a plan. – they provide no solutions but plenty of criticism – all wreaking of gross hypocrisy.
The past five years of Mr O’Neill’s leadership have been characterized by mismanagement, waste and corruption on an unprecedented scale.
As Minister, Arthur Somare regarded the SOEs [state–owned enterprises] as toys to be owned to glorify his image.
He said that the Somare family regarded these SOEs as their “honey pot”
It’s an interesting criticism when you consider the similar one the Prime Minister made of Sir Mekere when he recently said that that the
“…ongoing stream of hate and malice is all about the former Prime Minister trying to undermine the Government to keep control of the Sustainable Development Program (SDP) money…[Morauta] thinks that if there is a change of Government he might get to stay on and keep spending the money belonging to SDP [Sustained Development Program associated with compensation for the OkTedi mining environmental damage].”
As for corruption, well the ‘Father of the Nation’ is still allegedly at it (see here) and it would be more important to him than ever, now that he’s announced his retirement, that he install a government that would be sympathetic to his, and his family’s, ongoing needs.
No, neither of these two has earned the right to access the public coffers -especially not prior to an election that would recognise either of them as the mandated incumbent – and that’s unlikely to happen ever again making them no different to thieves, taking what doesn’t belong to them.
The question has to be asked why the opposition so desperately need access to the state’s coffers, doesn’t it? What plans do they have for money belonging to the people?
These two weeks are so crucial to the Opposition because if they depose O’Neill after this small window of opportunity, then it will trigger an election – and they will have to go to that election without the benefit of the public purse.
Make no mistake, these next two weeks are nothing to do with the good of the nation and everything to do with the financial ambitions of the Opposition who’d like the trough for their snouts.
They’ll be quiet come the end of July – mark my words. The good of the nation will be forgotten.
They say that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Here are a few historical lessons I’ve dug up for the protesting students of PNG to keep in mind.
What’s the issue?
On initial reflection, it seemed to me that the difference between the protests of the PNG students and other past student protests elsewhere in the world is that the PNG protests have been partisan and blatantly political, right from the word go – targeting one man, not even a government or a party and that’s not usual.
For even though the most famous of student riots – Paris 1968 – eventually adopted the slogan “adieu de Gaulle” (goodbye de Gaulle – the then French President) they had begun by a revolt against what the students considered to be outmoded and repressive rules – specifically that they could not have a member of the opposite sex in their dormitories. They wanted the right to have unbridled sex with each other.
The reasons for the French protests became very diffuse and were badly articulated. They were more an attempt at cultural and social revolution against the backdrop of a conservatively repressive government. They arguably succeeded in their cultural and social goals, but politically, they failed miserably.
When De Gaulle called an election in response, far from it being ‘adieu de Gaulle’ it was ‘bienvenue’ as he was returned with an even larger majority than before.
The lesson PNG students can take from this historical episode is that however noisy and disruptive they become, they should not assume that they are speaking for the majority, nor assume that others will follow their political lead.
…but wait…there is a precedent
Although not usual, there was a situation in 1992, in Brazil, that closely resembles the causes in PNG with the Brazilian students having a similar political demand
They called for their President’s impeachment after the President’s brother revealed a corruption scam in which the president was involved.
There followed a Commission of Inquiry the results of which were accepted on the floor of the lower house, that then referred the president to the Chamber of Deputies who progressed the charges to the Senate that then proceeded to hear the charges in an impeachment trial where the President of the Supreme Court was presiding officer.
But while the underlying reasons are similar, that’s where the similarities end.
You see, the whole of Congress was against the President – as was, apparently, the media (yes, a neutral media is indeed a myth – everywhere).
On the other hand, O’Neill has unprecedented political support and although the Prime Minister has been referred to the leadership committee in a situation similar to the President’s referral to the Senate Committee, this has yet to progress.
What’s more, the mainstream media is not campaigning against O’Neill and is generally considered to be sympathetic to him– although there is a very noisy social media backlash – mainly orchestrated by impotent political opponents.
But back to the Brazilian President:
He didn’t resign until the last day of the hearing (it’s a myth that every politician willingly falls on their sword), knowing he was losing the case and hoping to avoid the eight-year suspension penalty.
He didn’t avoid the suspension penalty and was impeached. Success, I hear you say, something to buoy the PNG students. Well…it was extremely limited.
When the, by then, former Brazilian President was later charged criminally, all charges were dropped as the prosecution couldn’t make the case and by 2006, he was back in the Brazilian Senate and in 2015, he’s again facing corruption charges.
The French have a saying: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – the more things change, the more they remain the same. It’s something to think about.
The missing Ingredients
The students have presented their issues to the Prime Minister and he has answered them, more than adequately. Now all they have left is a demand that he step down. Why? I may remind you that the prosecution has yet to establish that any crime has been committed – so he’s an accessory to what? The arrest warrant was always previous, cavalier and political.
Before the students continue with this campaign they’d do well to remember that the Prime Minister still retains the confidence and the backing of those with the power – including a large part of the electorate (that silent majority that the students claim to speak for).
The students no longer have any issues that are not partisan and blatantly political and, if history is any indication, to effect their political goals they are going to need more than a handful of desperate political wannabes and has-beens backing them.
It’s becoming more and more evident that the students’ latest efforts are nothing short of early election campaigning for political interests, at best, or a blatant use of their enthusiasm to effect an agenda that over ambitious vested interests have been unable to do at the polls, at worse