A matter of innocence

By PNG Echo.

Graham Romanong did not deserve to die.
Graham Romanong did not deserve to die.

For the tragic death of student Graham Romanong and the subsequent ransacking and burning of property, blame is being apportioned to almost anyone and everyone.

The opposition are blaming the government, the government are blaming the opposition while some are blaming non -student opportunists.

They all seem to agree, however, that the students themselves, and especially the dead student, are all’ “innocent.”  They’re not!

How do you plead…?

Students hold a meeting on campus
Students hold a meeting on campus

To suggest that the country’s recognised young intellectuals, who were politically agitating for a legally and democratically elected Prime Minister’s downfall, are sweetly “innocent,” is drawing a very long bow.

God help PNG, if these students, the future leaders and hope of Papua New Guinea –all young adults – were not aware of the possible consequences.

If they weren’t aware, then they are abjectly stupid, if they were aware, then where is the innocence?  Neither scenario is exactly desirable – there’s no third alternative.

829504683 (1)
Kenneth Rapa “My students are but human.”

In his press statement, Kenneth Rapa, student leader at UPNG, went to great lengths to condemn the murderous actions, yet he couldn’t resist the mitigation “…my students are but human…” while urging the public to have an “empathetic understanding” of what happened.

He at least didn’t use the word ‘innocent’ but that’s what he meant.

If you are not an infant and you commission an act – you are the one responsible. Not the 40-years-ago-exited colonial government for being…well…colonial, nor the beaten and murdered woman for being a woman, nor the government/opposition/police for urging/suppressing/provoking you.

No one was holding a gun to the students heads – in fact, it was the students holding the gun (metaphorically, in the form of blackmail – more on that later.)

The students provoked, intimidated and from there went on to commit murder – in an act of free will

Victim status

A campus building set alight.
A campus building set alight and burning

The word on the street is that the killing was retaliatory for the earlier stabbing of an Engan student. In other words, it is highly likely that the murdered student was not all that innocent.

The targeting of this student was not totally random – they knew who they were after.

Nevertheless, he did not deserve to die and the murderers must take responsibility for their actions.

A murder is a murder, and is not more horrifying because of the status of the victim’s virtue. One life is as precious as the next.

It is why I am against state-sanctioned murder (ie – the death penalty). It is the slippery slope. If we can happily agree to this type of penalty to legally kill a human being that is judged not worthy of life, how long is it before we start to decide outside of legal processes who should live and die?

And that’s exactly what’s happened here, it seems.

Enter the Commission of Inquiry

A popular British political satire called ‘Yes Minister’ that ran from 1980-1984 had the wily and savvy Permanent Head of Government (Public Servant) educating the forever bewildered Minister on Commissions of Inquiry thus:

The terminally bewildered Minister with his public service advisors in the political satire "Yes, Minister."
The terminally bewildered Minister with his public service advisors in the 1980s British political satire “Yes, Minister.”

Take an honorable retired judge, a doddering old fool, and put him in charge of the inquiry, with a sizable honorarium. Help him to arrive himself at the required conclusions. Feed him the appropriate facts and hint at a peerage. From there on, everything will work out as desired.

This is an overly-cynical parody of what is about to happen in Papua New Guinea.

And while there will be, no doubt, people uncovered whose role, behind the scenes was less than exemplary – ie vested interests – let’s not get carried away.

If there were those, in the political opposition, that will be proven to have bankrolled the students, inspired them and urged them on with promises, threats or whatever, then they should be brought to account. But, as my mother used to say,  “would you jump off a cliff, if she told you to?”

It all comes back to free will.

For while I suspect that the students were merely collateral damage to someone’s political ambitions, it’s not as if they were conscripts, they joined up.

As for the accusation that all this could have been stopped if the Prime Minister had stepped down – as per their demands. That argument is fatally flawed.

Demanding that the Prime Minister step down (or else) is blackmail. Blackmailers are never satisfied.

This is in evidence when the Prime Minister answered all the students’ queries and issues, in a very comprehensive statement – but they still weren’t satisfied. They wanted more.

Had the Prime Minister acceded to their demand and stepped down there would have surely been yet another demand.

The Prime Minister is right to protect his office from these sorts of extra-legal, unreasonable political demands.

All the students would have achieved is political mayhem and anarchy – a scenario that would have favoured the political opposition but not Papua New Guinea as a whole.

They need to wait until next year and try to remove this Prime Minister legally, if they can. It’s only then we’ll see who this ‘silent majority’ is that keeps being bandied around as justification for their actions.

The inquiry may well find that the students have been used by the unscrupulous and I concede that the finding of ‘cannon fodder’ wouldn’t surprise me – but make no mistake, ‘innocent’ they’re not..

Share Button

SABLs – The way forward is here!

By PNG Echo

revised_SABL_billboard-small-1The government has received the eagerly awaited blueprint of on how best to implement the findings of the Commission Of Inquiry into Special Agricultural Business Leases (SABLs).

Under the Chief Secretary, Sir Manasupe Zurenoc, the SABL Implementation Task Force has completed its implementation recommendations on the 42 SABL reports and recommendations received from Commissioners Nicholas Mirou and John Numapo.

The Commissioners recommendations were that 30 be cancelled, 11 be suspended, leaving only one legitimate lease.

Sir Manasupe explained that laws dealing with SABLs were complex and ineffective to deal with the revocation of leases, hence the government had sought advice and recommendations on how best to proceed. Amendments to legislation is one of the avenues under consideration.

Alois Jerewai - the recalcitrant SABL Commissioner
Alois Jerewai – the recalcitrant SABL Commissioner

But while there is now no impediment to action on these 42 controversial leases, this is not the case on the remaining leases (around 30).

Government has yet to receive the findings from the third SABL Commissioner, Alois Jerewai and the government will be pursuing avenues to obtain them, according to the Chief Secretary.  He did not explain what action is likely to be taken.

The Chief Secretary commended the work of the committee members, comprising of Dr Laurence Sause (Chair & Policy and Government Advisor), Kutt Paonga (Legal advisor) and Daniel Katakumb (Land Advisor) saying there is now “a clear way to implement the revocation of non-genuine SABL leases.”

Share Button

All of the 77 evil and corrupt SABL’s are cancelled.

By PNG Echo

Today will go down in the annals of PNG history as a day when something insightful, far-reaching and concrete was finally done about corrupt practises in PNG.  But this is not my story to tell – it belongs to all those that have fought tooth and nail to save the environment.  So over to you Tiffany Twivey-Nonggorr who writes:

Tiffany Twivey-Nonggorr, lawyer and eco-warrior
Tiffany Twivey-Nonggorr, lawyer and eco-warrior

You want to talk about corruption fighting?  Well this government has just killed the biggest corrupt dealing of the past 10 years.

During the Somare government, a heinous scheme of issuing SABLs over large forest areas was created under the guise of Agri/forestry leases.

The Forests Act was amended under the then Forest Minister Belden Namah to allow for large scale clear-felling permits that had never been allowed for over 50 hectares before.  SABLs were then given over hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest under the pretext that the trees needed to be clear felled so that agricultural projects could start.

Belden Namah the Minister (and logger) who altered the laws to allow for the evil SABLs and was first to take advantage in Bewani
Belden Namah the Minister (and logger) who altered the laws to allow for the evil SABLs and was first to take advantage in Bewani

These 99-year special purpose agricultural business leases were given over 5 million hectares of land in PNG amounting to the alienation of 10% of all of the land in PNG.

The leases meant that the peoples customary rights to the land were suspended for 99 years.

Up until these leases were issued, only 3% of the land in PNG had been alienated (taken away) since Independence from the customary landowners and 97% was still held customarily by landowners but within a few years 10% went.

That was the food and social security if 100s of thousands of people just taken from them.

Literally 100s of thousands of hectares of old-growth forest was cleared – with clearance permits obtained for shonky “agricultural projects”.

Alois Jerewai - the recalcitrant SABL Commission
Alois Jerewai – the recalcitrant SABL Commissioner

A commission of inquiry into these SABLs was started – yes there were issues with the reports as only two of the three commissioners submitted their reports [ Editor’s note: Alois Jerewai was the Commissioner who did not table his report – he later went on to become a legal representative of the man who enabled these leases – Belden Namah] – so a ministerial committee was established to pool the findings of the commissioners.

Their work is done.

NEC yesterday declared all of these disgraceful SABL leases cancelled.  They are gone. Continue reading All of the 77 evil and corrupt SABL’s are cancelled.

Share Button

Lest we forget: The Tumbi Landslide of 2012

By PNG Echo

Tumbi Landslide site
Tumbi landslide site

On January 24, 2012, almost two years ago to the day, 3 million cubic metres of earth, estimated to be 30 metres high, and 150 metres wide covering an area the size of 14 rugby fields, fell 560 metres from the escarpment to the toe in Tumbi in the Komo sub district of the Hela Province

The death toll

In the debris’ pathway were 25 people who were either killed instantly or, worse, were buried alive. (Official Continue reading Lest we forget: The Tumbi Landslide of 2012

Share Button

Belden Namah and Jimmy Tse: You scratch my back…

Opposition Leader

  What could the Opposition Leader possibly owe businessman, Jimmy Tse that would see him facilitating Tse’s considerable enrichment to the detriment of the people of Papua New Guinea…and not just once?

By PNG Echo.

The recently exposed Telikom land deal and the Bewani palm oil project both share the involvement of businessman Jimmy Tse and the Opposition Leader, Belden Norman Namah.

In a complicated web of intrigue and double dealing, Tse and Namah were seemingly acting in cahoots although it’s not immediately apparent which man has the starring role and which is the bit player, nor at what point in time this unholy alliance was forged.

Continue reading Belden Namah and Jimmy Tse: You scratch my back…

Share Button