By PNG Echo
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.