By PNG Echo
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.