STEPHANIE ALOIS | Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude 31 March 2021
She smells of Goroka coffee in the perfume she wears each morning What a beautiful way to start a day Made of strawberry and honey It’s difficult to resist her charms Hooked on her explosive personality
A taste of wine in her presence Spending more time with her Leads to loving her even more It’s difficult not to laugh at her jokes Or her wicked sense of humour She’ll get you thinking, she never cries
Her soul white as Asaro clay She’s a magnet, yet so hard to get It’s difficult to really know her But when you do, you have a life friend Strong, loyal, never backs down No fear or anxiety, she’s always on top
She has a way of making her presence felt When she’s in a room the talking stops Impossible to break her confidence Because she’s smart and full of sense She is an angel among us mortals My goodness, she’s a mud woman.
Edited extracts of questions from a talk by Dame Carol Kidu at the University of Papua New Guinea on 23 April. Dame Carol was an MP for 15 years (1997-2012). The current PNG parliament (2017-2022) has no women members in its 111 seats.
Henry Murau, Student
As a female member of parliament what was the main challenge for you?
Dame Carol Kidu
As a female, the only female there, you’re kind of isolated. When you are in the NEC, the cabinet, and have a ministry, you are part of that.
But if you are not, you are kind of isolated from some of the things that are going on.
I preferred to be isolated but sometimes it means you are not really clear of the games behind the games. Politics is played on many levels.
I was never involved in the inner circle, even though the people thought I was. I kept myself out of the inner circle and focused on my work.
I didn’t particularly want to be inside the inner circle because you hear things you don’t want to hear. So I just focused on things on my ministry and worked on them.
I am very grateful to the late Sir Michael Somare because he gave me the opportunity to serve as a minister. In Papua New Guinea politics, to become a minister your party should have three members on the floor to be given one ministry.
Six members, you are given give two ministries. Nine members, your party gets three ministries. That’s how it is done. It is not about who is the best person to do the job. It’s about the numbers game of politics.
In 2007, I was part of the Melanesian Alliance Party, not Sir Michael’s party. We had only three members, and so we should only get one ministry.
Sir Moi Avei, a member of Melanesian Alliance Party, was a more senior politician than me, and he became deputy prime minister. He also had a senior ministry, but Michael also gave me a ministry. I can tell you there were many men objecting.Nahau Rooney
They said, ‘“They don’t have enough numbers, she should not be given a ministry.” But Michael stood firm, saying, “Sorry gentlemen, this is non-negotiable, she will be in my cabinet.”
And, if you think about it, Michael appointed PNG’s first female minister, the late Nahau Rooney. He was, very quietly, supportive of women. And in 2002 and in 2007 it was the same.
I was the only person in the Melanesian Alliance who won. I was a one-person party but he still gave me a ministry even though we didn’t have the numbers. I was very grateful because Michael was very proactive and gave me the opportunity to do the work I did in the ministry.
And I always acknowledge him for that because, if you are not in a ministry, there are not many opportunities to change policies and legislation.
From your experience as a long term female parliamentarian, what would you say is the main blockage for the indigenous female Papua New Guinean women to become a parliamentarian?
Dame Carol Kidu
It’s a huge question and a lot of writing been done about it. Number one, it has nothing to do with the capabilities of women, the indigenous women. They are capable of being very good politicians. It is more to do with the mindset of communities and things like that.
The communities in general don’t see politics as something for women. They don’t see it as suitable place for women. They see politics as something for men.
Traditionally, it was mainly men who made the speeches, did the public distribution at feasts, and organised bride price and things like that. But we all know that, behind the scenes, women had a lot of influence.
We still haven’t got those communities to change their mindset.
But it’s OK for women to be in the public sphere as leaders. It’s the community that votes and I believe in our push to have women into politics.
It’s really important that people like you go back to your communities and try to influence the mindset of the community. You know very well that in your communities many women are great leaders.
It has to begin with a change in the mindset of the people because it’s the people who vote. I really think mindset is a really big problem.
The other big problem is that politics has sadly become money politics in Papua New Guinea. When I stood for parliament in 1997, money politics wasn’t very strong. By the time I ran my last campaign in 2007, I had to fundraise a lot of money to run the campaign. That’s not money for bribery, or giving out money.
We all know there’s a lot of money politics played in the political game in Papua New Guinea. It’s illegal but it happens, so that is very hard for women too.
Most women don’t have that type of financial backup to fund their campaign. Papua New Guinea is a very hard country to campaign in to try to get all around your electorate.
Again I was very lucky, I was in Moresby South. I could drive around my all electorate in one day whereas women who stand in remote rural areas find it very hard to get around to the communities. And she needs to partner with males to campaign. So the money factor is a very hard factor for women in politics, there’s big money played.
Another factor is that parties don’t like to endorse women. Parties want to endorse winners because that’ll get them into chance of being prime minister. So they often don’t want to endorse women because they feel women are not winners.
There’s legislative reform happening at present and you can lobby for this. Dr Alphonse Gelu, who is very strong in his work with the political party integrity commission is seeking to put through legislation that all parties must at least endorse 20% females.
The political parties should take responsibilities for trying to get women into politics. Women can do a very good job once they are there.
When I was in politics, I wished I had a big research team around me but I didn’t have that. I had to rely on doing a lot of research myself. So if women are elected, other women and men need to help them with knowledge and research.
In national politics, you need to understand policies, laws and what you are there for. As for me, I knew what I wanted to influence before I was elected and the other things I wanted to focus on. I didn’t do them all but I got some done.
So number one: please go out to your communities and convince them it’s OK to vote for women. Convince them not to vote for money. It doesn’t necessarily give you the best person. Convince your people to look at the qualities of the person standing and look at whether they really care about the people. Don’t become part of money politics.
You said you were not able to win on equality of representation for women in the parliament – the reserved seats for women. Is it because the members did not understand the Constitution about equality? Is it because you were a dual national in the parliament and that there was some kind of racism so you could not be convince the members?
Dame Carol Kidu
I am a naturalised citizen; dual citizens cannot stand for parliament. And that was to my advantage in many ways. It wasn’t racism. In fact, some males used to say to me, and I found this disgraceful, “We don’t mind you being here but we don’t want our own women in here.”
And now you think about that, that’s a terrible statement. They didn’t mind me in there, but they wouldn’t want their own women in parliament. I will leave you to think about that. That statement was said to me by several members.
The actual vote [on reserved seats for women] lost in the end because the parliament had fallen apart after the vote of no confidence against the late Sir Michael Somare by Peter O’Neill and there weren’t enough members on the floor of the parliament to pass the organic law.
But even if there had been more members on the floor, it would have been a hard vote to get through because a lot of men were not comfortable with it, particularly because it was 22 seats. The present work being done is for five seats – five regional seats for women.
I don’t see the bill not passing as a failure. There was a huge amount of advocacy done, a huge amount of lobbying. And if you think about it, in 2012 three women actually won because there was enormous; lobbying, advocacy, and awareness-raising. Since then the lobbying and awareness have died away.
In 2017 the three women lost their seats so we ended up with no women in the parliament. That’s a sad outcome and we have to make sure the same doesn’t happen in 2022. I believe some women will win in 2022 by the normal process.
But I hope there would be some reserved seats to at least increase the number of women. I do feel some of the women who stand in 2022 are going to make it. They’ll be excellent politicians.
Question on Zoom
The number of women who contested in 2017 was only 6% of all the candidates. Is it possible that no female MPs has to do with the very low number of female contestants?
Dame Carol Kidu
Actually the number of women has increased. In every election it has increased but is far fewer than men.
I’ve been saying to women if you’re interested, just go for it. It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, just make a very clear statement that women want to be there.
Get people to help you pay the nomination fee, campaign the best as you can. Don’t worry about money, just make that statement that we want to be there.
I would like to see as many as possible contesting so the numbers go up a lot. It would probably increase the chances of women winning.
Question on Zoom
What would be your advice to young women who may be interested in contesting an election in the future?
Dame Carol Kidu
You have to have determination. Enormous determination. You have to be willing to diplomatically argue your points, not confrontationally. In Papua New Guinea I wouldn’t do confrontational arguments with men because it’s uncomfortable for men and we know that.
But you have to learn how to diplomatically develop your arguments on why you are standing and it’s really important to know what you want to do. Why you going into politics. What are the things that you want to influence.
If you are women, do you want to improve the maternal mortality rate. Today, five women would have died in PNG giving birth. Maternal mortality is really high. Do you want to work on that issue or work on the economic empowerment of women.
I would say we’ve got to work on people issues, not just women issues. Because women’s issues are men’s issues and I think it’s important we don’t isolate the men. We’ve got to work with men.
Kuson Madelyn, Student
What would be your personal views on why the three female parliamentarians elected in 2012 did not come back in the next term of the parliament?
Dame Carol Kidu
I really can’t comment on that as I did not study the politics of their electorates. I think Delilah Gore came very close to coming back and only missed out by a very small number of votes.
I think Louzaya and Julie were further down in the actual placings but Delilah was very close. It was very sad she did not get back in. I can’t comment on why. People decided not to vote for them again. It’s very hard to maintain your support base, you’ve got to focus on that as well.
Russel Yangin, Student
How do you think women should behave inside parliament: should they be leaning towards the more masculine and the bigman side of politics or should they be reserved to the roles of the Melanesian women, as a motherly figure?
Dame Carol Kidu
What helped me to win and win and win again is that I was seen by the people as a mum to all. The young fellows and everyone they call me mum. ‘Mama bilong Moresby South.’ It’s part of my personality but I deliberately cultivated that image.
I think it’s very important that women portray an image that people expect of them as women. But that can be very demanding because if they see you as a mother they expect from you what they shouldn’t be expecting from you, like providing rice, providing daily needs and all those things.
One thing I was disappointed about when the three women won in 2012 is that they very quickly went into ministries. When I won in 1997, even if I had been offered a ministry, I would have said no. My first aim was to consolidate my electorate and I think that it is a very important thing for both men and women, but particularly women.
First consolidate your electorate and worry about ministries when you get back in next time because once you are a minister you have to be in Moresby almost every week. You are hardly ever back in your electorate. As a cabinet member, there’s always meetings and things.
It was a big advantage for me that my electorate was in the capital city so I could attend to my ministerial duties after 2002 as well as getting out into my electorate. In 1997 a woman, a political activist, was running around trying to lobby for a ministry for me. And I kept saying to her, ‘Stop it, you’re wasting your time, I’m not interested.’
I wanted to get my electorate sorted first. When you become a minister it takes you away from your electorate and it’s your electorate who’s going to vote you back or not vote you back. Leave being a minister until you consolidate and really establish yourself in your electorate.
How did you stay in parliament for three terms?
Dame Carol Kidu
You have to keep very close to your electorate and people. In Papua New Guinea that special relationship is extremely important and it’s so demanding I wouldn’t want to stand again. I always said three terms and that’s it. I was exhausted at the end of it because I think people expect more from women than from men.
Spend your first term in your electorate getting yourself established. There are other ways you can influence policies. In my first term, when there was a vote of no confidence and the late Sir Mekere Moratau became prime minister, I said I’m not interested in a ministry but did ask to chair a parliamentary committee.
It was a special parliamentary committee on urbanisation and social development. I chaired it and set the terms of reference. Sir Mekere was happy for me to go off and do that without being a minister.
So you don’t have to be a minister. You can work out how you to use the processes of parliament to be seen and heard. I think people don’t do that enough, they just get up in question time. You don’t hear many people putting forward matters of public importance and trying to use the committee system.
I left things I was not popular for to my final term in politics because I knew they would be very contentious. In other words, you got to use the processes of the parliament for your advantage. Being the widow of a highly respected man also gave me an advantage.
A lot of women have contested but not been elected into parliament. How did the successful ones manage to get elected?
Dame Carol Kidu
A lot of really hard work. There were three women after independence at the beginning of our nationhood: Nahau Rooney, Dame Josephine Abaijah and Waliyato Clowes. Many of you wouldn’t know Waliyato Clowes. She was a very young woman and a member of the parliament straight after independence. Then it went back to one woman. And then it went to zero, zero and then two and then one, one, three and now zero.
Did you have a hand or play a part in the recent amendments to the Divorce Act, the 2020 amendments making women liable to pay 50% of all savings and assets after divorce if the women were involved in extra marital affairs?
Dame Carol Kidu
No, I’m not even aware of this legislation. It is discriminatory. I don’t see any point to make polygamy illegal; to make a custom illegal. It wouldn’t work. But what we should do is to have legislation that will protect polygamy from abuse. In traditional polygamy, a man had to look after everyone and the children and I have no problem with that. But when a man dumps his first wife and gets another that is wrong, and we have to look at the abuse of polygamy.
What was the feeling when you first entered the parliament that was dominated by men?
Dame Carol Kidu
Dame Josephine Abaijah and I first entered parliament in 1997 and we won again in 2002. When we won in 1997 there had been 10 years, two terms of parliament, with zero women.
I think the men were little uncomfortable but very respectful of both of us. Dame Josephine was one of our icons in the early days, a long-term politician.
I think once you win by elective process you are accepted by the men but the disadvantage is that only one or two women can’t form a strong lobby on issues that are important to women, to families, to people of things of common interests.
But I would say that my male colleagues were very supportive of the work I’ve been doing.
With many thanks to Danny Eric (Dan) Agon, a final year political science student at the University of Papua New Guinea, for his great effort in transcribing and editing Dame Carol Kidu’s talk
DUNCAN GABI | Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude 15 May 2021
MADANG – Bride price is a notable Melanesian tradition passed from one generation to another; it is a form of payment or dowry to the bride’s family by the groom.
Traditionally, bride price was a gesture of appreciation towards the parents and relatives of the family who had raised a woman with traditional moral values.
There were criteria for the bride price ceremony. A young woman, newly married into another family, had to prove to her husband’s family that their son has chosen wisely.
A resourceful wife, raised well by her mother, grandmother and aunts, had to show she could look after her in-laws as well as her husband.
In my area, during the first few months with her husband, the woman was under the scrutiny and watchful eyes of her in-laws.
The groom’s family would need to decide if an appreciation ceremony should be made to the wife’s family or not.
If a woman was found worthy in the eyes of her in-laws, the in-laws would get together and discuss the appreciation ceremony.
After careful planning, word would be sent out to the woman’s family of the intention to hold a ceremony including all tribes and villages.
Families of both man and woman brought gifts of food, ornaments and traditional form of money to exchange amongst both families and tribes now united as one by the married couple.
When the husband’s family came with food and gifts, they would recite the virtues of the wife when handing the gifts to the wife’s family.
Where I come from, it worked like this. Say my newly wedded wife helped my aunt when bringing in the harvest from the garden.
As she handed gifts to my wife’s family, my aunt will call my wife’s name and praise her good deeds, resourcefulness and kind and caring heart.
The appreciation is shown first by the man’s family. The wife’s family then returns the favour by handing food and gifts to the man’s family for the good things said about their daughter.
This was a time for the man’s mother to thank the woman’s mother and female relatives for raising a good woman. The man’s mother vows to protect and care for her daughter in-law as she would for her own flesh and blood.
The matriarch of the woman’s family hen offered words of advice to the family and relatives of the man.
They must love their daughter and take her into their home as one of their own, to cherish her, help her in need and take care of her when she is with child.
There followed a long exchange of words between both parties about the welfare of the woman and her future life with her husband.
The bride price ceremony was centred on the woman. The man did not shine; it was not his platform.
Let me now move to the present day. Over the past 30 years, we have witnessed the deterioration and corruption of one of our most valuable traditions.
Bride price has lost its value. Materialism has taken over and corrupted what was once an important tradition that bonded families and valued Melanesian women.
The modern bride price system, corrupted by foreign influence and culture, has made the man the centre of attention.
Bride price is no longer about showing appreciation to the bride’s family; it has become a time for men to show off their status and standing.
With heads held high and puffed-out chests, men present many thousands of kina in payment to the bride’s family.
Bride price ceremonies in this age are littered with white goods, huge amounts of money and an endless supply of alcohol.
A man’s worth is now measured in how much money is paid to his wife’s family, how many pigs are slaughtered and how many white goods are purchased.
This has led to competition among men to see who can outbid everyone else in bride price payment.
With the large amount of money being paid, husbands become arrogant and treat women as their property because they have been paid for.
When the bride price ceremony is over, everybody goes home talking about what the man has done and his achievements in the bride price payment.
The story of the man’s deeds travels far. His popularity grows with the stories of his display of wealth and status.
Yet little is said of the woman. What is the value of the woman?
One million kina? One thousand pigs? A warehouse full of white goods? No, that is not the value of the woman.
And the mothers did not sing praises to the woman and her deeds. No, they sang praises to the man who outclassed other men in paying much money to the wife’s family.
And there is a sense of ownership. The man claims he bought his wife, and not just his wife but her family as well. As long as they are alive, they will look upon and worship at his feet.
This has led to many marriage problems we witness in our society today.
Bride price payment has been identified as a major factor contributing to gender based violence in our now modernising and Christianising Papua New Guinea.
Men believe wives are their personal property and tend to abuse them because they know the woman’s family, the recipient of much wealth, will do nothing.
The family of the woman have also come to accept that, when the husband pays for their daughter or sister, he owns her and that what that happens between husband and wife is a private marriage problem.
Thus, they do not interfere. As much as possible, they try to avoid or pretend not to notice of abuse.
There have been instances where, when the wife runs away from her abusive husband, the husband and his family demand a refund of the money paid to them as bride price.
This method has been an effective control and manipulation mechanism employed by the husband to keep the wife’s family away from his problems with his wife.
The wife’s family, knowing they are unable to repay the largesse, begs their daughter to return to her husband to avoid conflict between the families or tribes.
The wife, knowing she has been placed in a hopeless situation, stays with the husband for the sake of her family. She is threatened that if she disobeys him or runs away, her family will be made to pay.
And so the once valuable tradition of bride price has been marred by materialism, corruption and male control.
Our ancestors would be very sorry to see we have come to this.
I am angry at what we have become. I think we should do away with the term ‘bride price’.
The Port Moresby North-West by-election – for the late Sir Mekere Morauta’s former seat – will be fought out between 39 candidates on Wednesday 2 June. In Papua New Guinea terms, it is an unusual electorate: 75% of the population is literate; people from all 22 provinces live there; and it covers most of the important government institutions in PNG, including parliament. Of course, PNG Attitude has no preferred candidate but I did find that this thoughtful article nailed one of the most critical problems in PNG politics and governance- KJ
PORT MORESBY – I am not against any candidate in this by-election or any future election. I’m not against any particular individual or group.
But I am against our election culture. The culture of buying votes and enticing support through materialism.
That in my view affects the decision-making responsibility of people: to get them to think with their stomach.
This culture and practice has profited a few at the expense of the majority. Our national election mindset has caused owners to be beggars for what is already theirs – the right to vote.
It has also curtailed the ambitions of good men to serve because of resource constraints.
And it has promoted the interest of goon squads and their reckless ambitions.
Thieves, thugs and mercenaries have departed from their responsibility as legislators and turned our public offices and systems into private enterprise for self-gain.
Papua New Guinea is for Papua New Guinea, not an elite few and their wantoks.
There are few good men in parliament. Yupla yet save lo ol. You know them. But they can’t do much. Parliament works on the principle of majority rules.
If we change our election and voting culture, if we vote our conviction and conscience, then tomorrow, good men will be the majority in parliament.
That’s when we will truly begin the journey to Take Back PNG. And PNG4PNG will be a reality.
So don’t vote for your wantok and expect our economy to be healthy. Don’t vote for K50 and expect the future to be bright.
Elections concern our national welfare. Not your haus lain agenda.
Port Moresby North West has to usher in the change. And set a new standard for the 2022 national election. Be a part of that crusade.
Don’t support me; support the cause. Let us all work towards that objective. Together.
I may not get your support. I may not be elected. I am not desperate to go sit in parliament.
But I am desperate to help change our election culture. I have kids who call PNG their home. It’s the only home they have.
If I help achieve that, if this campaign helps start that revolution, tomorrow we will own our destiny. That will be the ultimate victory. Whether you vote me in or not.
It’s not about the individual who gets into parliament. It’s about the values and convictions that get the mandate.
If you deserve an appointment or contract – you should get it. This is your country. But not by voting in wantoks. It must be by merit.
If you work hard, you should enjoy a good life. Not carry submissions and claims around and eat from limited resources that should be prioritised for everyone’s interest.
Parliament is not an interest bearing deposit. Elections are not aim global or money rain.
Resources are limited. They are meant for everyone. Not the winning horse and his crew after the elections. Usim kokonas ya. Use your brain.
We want the next 45 years to be a journey of economic independence. We must start by owning our elections. Then owning our leaders. Owning our parliament. Owning our laws. Owning our land and resources. And ultimately, owning our economy and destiny.
Jackson Kiakari is a young Engan man who grew up in Gerehu, a suburb of Port Moresby. He is an engineering graduate from the University of Technology and held a management position at ANZ Bank
‘Police have arrested a man who allegedly killed his wife, 10 years his junior. The man told police, “I killed my wife. I know I am in trouble”. Police found the body of the wife, Imelda Tupi, wrapped in blue canvas in the back of a vehicle belonging to the husband. Her father, Tupi Tiamanda, said Imelda had married a doctor’ – The National
PORT MORESBY – I’m writing this from my heart… appealing to my brothers, uncles, students, male colleagues and men of Papua New Guinea to respect women, and value their lives.
I’m writing this piece after reading how a professional PNG man, a doctor, killed his wife, wrapped her in a canvas and was on his way to dump her remains when police, conducting routine checks, discovered her.
This comes after two women were tortured right here in the heart of PNG’s capital – Port Moresby.
Violence against women is supposed to be illegal, uncivilised, and sinful.
But it’s obvious – starting from villages where men burn women in the name of sorcery, to settlements and cities, to professional men – that in every strata men are guilty of perpetuating violence and murder against women.
This afternoon I felt that something within me died. I have a passion for research. I write articles on the politics of PNG. But now I feel like I’ve been writing about things that don’t really matter.
What good is all the analysis and debate, if women are raped, tortured and murdered each week? What good is education if doctors kill women? What good is development when women are tortured in the capital of our city?
It all means nothing guys, if we continue to kill our own kind.
Where on God’s green earth can I find a justification for the violence perpetrated against our own kind?
How can we – in an era where we send and receive messages in an instant, conduct lectures and conferences online, have breakfast in Wewak and have dinner in Daru the same evening – still perpetuate something as primitive as torturing women?
How can we have 97% professed Christians in PNG and still take the life of our women in cold blooded murder?
Can we all please stop and have a serious conversation about the plight of women?
It’s about time men had a serious conversation about violence against women.
It’s not an UN Women’s issue. It’s not a women group issue. It’s not an NGO issue. It’s not a donor country’s issue. It’s a Papua New Guinean issue.
And when we have a serious issue in our villages and clans and tribes….men talk.
PNG men, let’s talk about violence against our women. Let’s end this.
The plight of women must be discussed in the halls of Haus Man. It is a serious matter.
Pastors using the pulpit, preach that wife bashing is wrong. It’s a sin.
Lecturers and teachers, condemn it in class.
Young men, tell your peers it’s wrong to raise your hands against women.
Chiefs, tell your tribe to respect woman.
The conversation must enter the sacred halls of Haus Man.
We must all rise up. Seriously there is no justification to raise your hand against any woman.
If you don’t want her, please let her go. Don’t kill her. She’s someone else’s daughter, grand-daughter, sister, mother….
Make it personal. Say no to violence against women.
I pray to God that we will know and value human life. That we can live in peace.
Sir Julius Chan: Playing the Game: Life and Politics in Papua New Guinea
PORT MORESBY – As MP for Namatanai, Julius Chan was one of the founding fathers of Papua New Guinea, twice serving as prime minister (1980– 82 and 1994-97) and currently governor of New Ireland Province.
Unlike Michael Somare in ‘Sana’, who focused much on the principles and traditions that underpinned his statesmanship, ‘Playing the Game’ admits from the outset that it is a book about politics.
True to this, it tells of the rise and fall of Chan’s controversial periods as prime minister.
It tells of the alliances and betrayals of PNG politics; and it tries to explain why Chan made the decisions and took the actions he did.
The only non-political aspects of the book are initial chapters on Chan’s early upbringing.
Born the fifth of seven children on the Tanga Islands in what is now New Ireland, he is the son of Chin Pak, a trader from Taisan Province in China, and Miriam Tinkoris, a native New Irelander.
Educated at a Marist College in Brisbane, Australia, he started his career in the family business in New Ireland.
Chan’s interest in politics began in the 1960s and he was elected to the pre-independence House of Assembly in 1968, re-elected multiple times and deputy prime minister four times in addition to his two prime ministerships.
In 1970, he formed and led his successful political vehicle – the People’s Progress Party.
As you might expect in a political autobiography, Chan is critical of others and lenient on himself. This is understandable and, as this is a personal account, he can be forgiven for that.
In this book, in explaining and contextualising the key decisions he made, we finally get some answers on why.
Chan’s name is synonymous with the Sandline Crisis and the devaluation of PNG’s currency, the kina.
Whilst there are some economists and businessmen who defend the devaluation of the kina, almost no-one defends his decision to bring the Sandline mercenaries to PNG.
So when I got the book, my main interest was to understand his explanation for the latter.
It’s best at this juncture that I state the assumptions I had before reading ‘Playing the Game’.
First, my view that ‘Sandline was brought in to kill Bougainvilleans’, a prevailing PNG narrative I subscribed to before reading the book.
According to Chan, however, Sandline was brought in to infiltrate rebel leader Francis Ona’s hideout to take him dead or alive.
Chan argues that the Bougainville crisis had gone on too long, and there seemed no end to it. He thought that eliminating the ring leader would begin reasonable negotiations.
Even if you’re critical of this logic, it makes sense to some degree. Sandline was a small group of mercenaries, which means they could not have taken on Bougainville. They didn’t have the manpower and resources to fight the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.
It made sense if Sandline was brought in for a specific and limited purpose: in Chan’s words, to take out Francis Ona.
Secondly, because of Sandline affair, I had the view that Chan was responsible for the Bougainville Crisis.
Whilst he served in several cabinets, he writes that disagreements between Francis Ona, Rio Tinto and the PNG government started during Rabbie Namaliu’s prime ministership. These included demands for fair compensation and expressions of environmental concern.
Instead of renegotiating the Panguna deal, Namaliu sent in the Police Riot Squad and then the PNG Defence Force. Paias Wingti, who replaced Namaliu sustained this intensity and eventually escalated it into a full blooded war.
Chan insists that this inherited conflict predated him. And the conflict continued. Several peace talks collapsed and people continued to die.
Chan reveals the negotiations and deals that occurred, sometimes behind his back, to bring in the mercenaries. They included army commander Jerry Singirok, who some international media reports said favoured a group competing with Sandline.
But Chan opted for Sandline and lost the support of Singirok, who went on to lead the fight to deport Sandline. I hope Singirok writes a book one day so we get his side of the story.
On to another subject. One thing that I still don’t understand about Chan is why he has been, and still is, against the establishment of the Ombudsman Commission.
When the idea was first discussed by the Constitutional Planning Committee, Chan was against it and he has been consistently critical of it. In the book he says the idea of the Ombudsman Commission shows we do not trust our leaders. And he argues it hinders leaders from freely performing their mandated roles.
After the massive scale of corruption experienced in this country, I would have thought that Chan would eventually come around and argue for increased funding and staffing for the Commission so it could hold corrupt leaders to account.
Chan has, however, never wavered in his criticism despite the systemic corruption experienced in PNG.
I’m glad Chan wrote this book. It gives answers to some of decisions he made, although one might not be convinced of all his explanations at least we get to hear from him.
I would have loved to read Sir Mekere Morauta’s story in his own words. I hope Paias Wingti, Namaliu and other senior leaders will similarly write about their time. Autobiographies give first-hand insights into the authors’ journeys, and ‘Playing the Game’ does that for Chan.
Chan, J. (2016). ‘Playing the Game: Life and Politics on Papua New Guinea’. University of Queensland Press, Queensland. Australia. It is sold for K45 at the UPNG Bookshop. Also available here from Amazon for $39 (shipped)
I would like to announce the publication of my newly published children’s story book When I grow up which is now available in paperback on amazon for 6.20 US dollars
This book is a collaboration with Papua New Guinean female artist Clarisa Alu and poet Bradley Gewa. Inspired by traditional art, every character in this book represents a province of Papua New Guinea. It teaches children to dream big and helps them understand that regardless of their gender or ethnicity, they can grow up and achieve anything they wish for. When I grow up is suitable for early learners up to grades 4 students, and it’s my first independently published children’s story book with the assistance of both a Papua New Guinean artist and publisher.
Hard copies will be made available by mid June so if you would like to pre-order or purchase a copy for your child, you can reach me on email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My collection of children’s story books published under the Library for All’s Together for Education project in Papua New Guinea consists of the following titles:
PORT MORESBY – At independence the constitution of Papua New Guinea did not separate church and state.
In fact, the constitution declared Christian values as a decent custom to be adopted, upheld and passed on to the next generation.
Besides, the constitution did not forbid any other religions of the world to be practiced in PNG, including Melanesia’s Animism.
Animism – the belief that all elements of the material world possess a spiritual connection to each other.
Throughout our peoples long, long historical journey, Melanesian Animism kept the many different nations in the islands of New Guinea – big and small – functioning and industrious.
Unfortunately, the early missionaries ignorantly condemned Melanesian culture in its many variations without appropriate understanding, and the kiaps continued in the same way.
The intruders used coercion – whether through sweet talk, guns or bibles – to undermine and destroy a cohesive socio-economic, spiritual and politically astute society.
Missionaries made the indigenous people feel bad about their language, names, dress and knowledge, including knowledge of the spiritual world.
The native people were taught the foreign understanding of spirituality and made to say prayers such as ‘In Nomine Patris, et filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen’.
The Pope came to PNG in 1984 and reinforced this.
The wave of cultural imperialism that swept through Melanesia forced the natives to abandon their world view and forgo a vault of knowledge about the physical and spiritual world.
The now independent state of PNG would have built Heaven here if Christianity had brought in noble customs. But it did not.
Self-proclaimed baptised Christians now manage the state institutions and they are notorious for their corruption and they intimidate the justice system with impunity.
Christianity manipulates the masses with promises of the good life and in return the masses feed the pastors and priests from their scarce and hard-earned cash.
“The Lord will bless you threefold and heaven is yours,” are the words offered to the hard working masses who give others a more luxurious life.
And, just like the missionaries, the politicians and bureaucrats have also easily fooled the God-fearing masses.
The national elections in 1997 were dominated by the issue of Sir Julius Chan’s engagement of Sandline mercenaries earlier the same year in an attempt to turn the Bougainville crisis PNG’s way.
The employment of mercenaries led to mutiny by some army officers, street protests and public disgust with politicians and their perceived corruption.
At the height of this scandal, Operation Brukim Skru (genuflection) gained momentum. This was a pan-denominational prayer campaign for repentance and for the election of a God-fearing government.
In the highly charged atmosphere leading to the elections, many candidates chose to use Christian language and slogans: ‘I am God’s Servant’; ‘I am a Born Again’; ‘God is Number One’.
Some inserted a picture of Jesus beside their own photograph on election posters.
So what happened? Bill Skate was elected prime minister. He was a man who claimed he was Christ-like – sleeping and eating with the poor and the sick; being persecuted by the political opposition.
Then in 1999, Skate declared God as the prime minister of PNG and the ‘healing’ pastor, Benny Hinn, was brought in by the government.
People on crutches and in wheel chairs came to the crusade at Sir John Guise stadium and Pastor Hinn shouted insistently, “I command you in the name of God to stand up and walk”.
The disabled struggled to rise but to no avail and that night they returned home disappointed.
Skate must have accomplished whatever political aspiration he had for flying in Pastor Hinn (and paid him K1 million) but the masses gained nothing.
Did God make a mistake in giving the people prime minister Bill Skate after Operation Brukim Skru that almost ran PNG over an economic cliff-edge in 1999?
After all, in April that year, the Catholic Church warned of an uprising in PNG unless Skate quit the government. The church accused him of presiding over political corruption and economic mismanagement.
Another disordered politician in Theodore Zurenuoc burnt the cultural poles and totem symbols from different parts of PNG that adorned the parliament building in 2013 thinking that he was doing a service to the people.
Two years later Zurenuoc wasted taxpayers’ money to send five politicians to the United States to bring to PNG a 400 year old King James bible.
The crazy politician treated the bible as a rock-star with superstitious pastors and parliamentarians carrying it, singing and dancing around it and then parking it in parliament.
Now, six years later, prime minister James Marape seems to be a loyal disciple of Zurenuoc, perhaps the last one still standing.
During this acute time when Covid-19 is a threat to the people’s lives and livelihoods, Marape is asking Papua New Guineans whether they want PNG to be officially declared “a Christian nation”. Public consultations began last week to gauge support for a change to our constitution.
The inquiry is forecast to consume a K5 million and the masses are wondering what the nation will gain for expending these millions.
Most other countries are not so obsessed about their religion. Their citizens do not openly talk about their religion or hang murals of Jesus in their office.
But they are more Christ-like in their daily endeavours.
Their leaders are transparent and accountable for their actions and if they misuse $100 they tender their resignation.
Before the arrival of Christianity, the natives did not understand the Gregorian calendar and could not tell if the day was Sunday or Monday, or what the year was, but they picked up their digging sticks each dawn and went to the garden.
Each day they worked and sweated hard and their gardens bloomed with organic food. They had domesticated animals and built huge traditional houses and from time to time hosted big feasts.
Whatever God they adored through Animism, that God served them well for their honesty and hard work.
God, Allah or whatever name you give the ultimate being, does not care if you wear a tie, call his name every day, preach in public places or get circumcised.
God just wants individuals to be hard working and contribute to the advancement of humanity.
Jewish folklore said God created Adam and Eve and gave them the powers to procreate and their love resulted in the birth of Cain and Abel.
Likewise, God wants us to get married and procreate and raise children to become productive members of our society.
God also wants us to tend the different varieties of food. We simply have to dig up a banana sucker and carry it to a plot and plant it and when it bears fruit we are extending the creation.
God wants us to do simple things in life to extend his work. He does not want hooligan pastors and politicians running around wining and dining from other people’s hard work and then telling them how holy they are.
That said, I am fed up with prime minister Marape constantly referring to God when addressing the nation.
In the secular world, a prime minister whose country and government is elected by the people to govern them is expected to research, debate and develop agendas to benefit the people rather than shoving problems to God in the hope of Divine intervention.
The government has research institutions at its fingertips and the has universities to seek clarity on how best to address socio-economic and political ills.
Nominal Christians can sharpen their relationship with God in their own private time in the confines of the family unit or the chapel.
The missionaries came in the 1800s and brought their worship and prayers but life began to slide in the direction of Hades and now missionaries, government, scholars and village sages unanimously lament the demise of the good life.
Perhaps it’s about time PNG shelved Christianity and examined the religions of some of the well managed countries and economies of the world. Their religions must have served as a pillar to their good life.
Otherwise reneging on Christianity and returning to Animism may be a better option, because our ancestors were better-off before the arrival of this Western religion.
Sex in marriages or sex between a husband and a wife is undeniably a contentious issue of research and formal discussion. From a cultural perspective, in many cases, Papua New Guineans are strong believers that whatever that happens in a marriage is private. On one hand, there are arguments that lack of sex causes spouses to cheat, on the other hand, too much sex may be a catalyst to sexual health issues.
While these arguments remain significant another important question arises, one that concerns inequality and patriarchy.
First, what are the implications of unequal sexual power in marriages?
Second, what happens when one partner dominates sexual activities in a marriage?
This thesis will assess the implications faced by Papua New Guinean wives as a result of having unequal sexual power in their marriages. Specific emphasis will be on the effects of unwanted/unplanned pregnancy, general health implications and also on sexually transmitted infections.
Unequal sexual power means not being able to decide when to become pregnant, have sex or whether to use contraceptives or not when having sex.
In respect to PNG cultural norms, it is common knowledge that men have always dominated the household. What is also common knowledge but less talked about is that this domination extends into the bedroom where men decide where, when and how sex is undertaken with their wives.
All this happens with little to no consideration of women’s needs and the future consequences that the family may face.
Regardless of modernization which brought with it feminist ideologies and legal rights, many of PNG’s cultural practices have come to co-exist with these changes. And unfortunately, one of which is the subordination of women by their husband’s when partaking in sexual activities. As a result of such negative cultural practices, an implication faced by women is unintended/unwanted pregnancy.
Firstly, unintended/unwanted pregnancy is described by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (2019) as pregnancy that occurs when there was no intention/expectation or pregnancy that occurs at an undesirable time. This issue is commonly experienced throughout PNG. Presently, as explained by Sanga et al. (2014), PNG’s unwanted pregnancy rate is high, it is quite impossible to establish exactly by how much, this is because of the isolation of villages and demography issues. Sanga et al. adds that this rate is fuelled by ignorant sexual conduct and lack of contraceptive usage.
Raising a child is a delicate task, among others, it requires time, patience, resources and finance, as a result, unintended pregnancies bring about new problems for a family. And this burden doubles if there are other children. It can be argued that as a result of the inability of parents to support their children due to unwanted pregnancies, many children are forced to make a way for themselves and in doing so, they resort to criminal activities and petty crimes.
Unintended pregnancy is an issue that has a multiplier effect – where one issue creates another and the cycle continues. In order to help ease the rate of unwanted pregnancies, family planning and the use of contraceptives should be widely talked about, especially on (social) media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and television where people’s attention are drawn towards. Also, it should be a conversation that parents openly have with their adult children.
Adding to unintended pregnancy, women also face health implications as a result of having unequal sexual power in their marriages.
In terms of health implications, this thesis is concerned with problems faced by women when pregnant, during the stages of pregnancy and soon after childbirth. After giving birth, Laing (2016) states that it takes approximately four (4) months for a woman’s body to fully recover. However, if the sleepless nights, anxiety, stress and normal caretaking duties of an infant are taken into consideration, a full year would be highly preferable for a thorough physical and mental recovery. This rarely happens in the case of PNG women, especially in the rural areas which accounts for 85% of PNG’s population.
Take the case of Julie, a rural mother a six in her thirties, who has consecutively become pregnant soon after childbirth, Mola and Costa (2020), upon examining Julie (who is also diagnosed with cervical cancer) stated that she had faced constant vaginal bleeding and discharge. Also, as a result of pregnancy complications and labour, one of her sons had died and another was stillborn (born dead).
Julie’s case represents the struggle of many women around PNG that occurs on a daily basis. Further, it needs no medical advice to know that a woman’s body is fragile when pregnant. Therefore, being healthy is paramount for her and the child’s wellbeing. Women who give birth and become pregnant soon after have a high risk of facing delivery complications and even dying in labour. Child Fund (2018) has reported that in PNG, approximately 215 mothers die in every 100,000 delivers, this is arguable the highest in the Pacific. Additionally, the report highlighted that women who become pregnant again soon after delivery are 37 times more likely to die or have seizures.
Other health issues likely to be faced is the contraction of a variety of deadly diseases and infections due to a weak immune system and health. To minimize these issues, medical professionals should sternly warn men of the deadly complications that women face and further advise couples on contraceptive usage and family planning methods. Hudson et al. (1994a) recommends that basic antenatal and contraceptive information is vital to all, not just parents but also to young adults who will eventually have children. A stand out of the various illnesses that women are prone to face due to having unequal sexual power in their marriages are sexually transmitted diseases.
Thirdly, sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are infections contracted as a result of unsafe sex (sex without contraception) or having multiple sex partners. According to Hudson et al. (1994b), the most common STDs in PNG are Gonorrhoea, Nongonoccal Urethritis, Syphilis, Donovanosis and Herpes. Although not entirely fatal, STDs are responsible for a considerable number of deaths in PNG. STDs are said to have social effects such as shame, disassociation with the public/community, lack of intrapersonal and interpersonal skills and also, this may even affect one’s ability to secure and be employed for longer periods.
Additionally, STDs such as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) attacks the body’s immune system (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). Hence, a HIV positive individual can easily contract other fatal infections such as Tuberculosis and various forms of Cancer, among others.
All this makes the need to minimize the contraction of STDs more important. Married men are much more vulnerable to STDs, supporting this, after conducting a study, Andersson et al. (2002) revealed that one in every three men in PNG are likely to cheat, have multiple sexual partners or use the service of sex workers and in doing so increases their chances of contracting STDs, which can easily be passed to their wives (and other sexual partners) especially when there is disparity in sexual power.
Without proper treatment and basic knowledge of STD, assuming that if a woman becomes pregnant after having sex with her husband who had contracted a STD, their child would also be positive – and for a child whose immune system is much more fragile, the chances of death is higher if not found and treated on time.
Most STDs are treatable, however as discussed, between the recover stages, one is vulnerable of contracting other deadly diseases. Basic knowledge on the types of STDs, how they are spread and how one can safeguard oneself such as by using contraceptives should be made known to the public through varying mediums in language that is easily understandable.
In summary, unequal sexual power is being unable to decide when, where and even, how to conduct sex. This may include not being able to choose when to become pregnant and whether to use contraceptives or not.
In a patriarchal society such as that of PNG where men dominate almost all decision-making, this dominance extends into the bedroom where women’s needs and opinion are least considered during sex. As a result of these realities, the implications (apart from the others, this paper discussed only three) faced by PNG wives are unintended/unwanted pregnancy and its associated social effects, various health implications and associated diseases and also, contraction of STDs such as HIV and Syphilis, among others.
This disparity issue and its implications are great barriers to the development of PNG. Therefore, it is important to empower women so that they can become independent from their husband, empowerment may be in the form of education, employment and easy access to help, all these may assist to reduce the implications discussed.
Andersson, M., Sandstrom, C., Mola, G., Amoa, A. B., Andersson, R. (2002). Awareness of and attitudes towards HIV among pregnant women at the Antenatal Clinic, Port Moresby General Hospital. Papua and New Guinea Medical Journal 46(3-4):152-65. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7320650
Hudson, B., Lupiwa, T., Howard. F. P., Meijden. I. W., Tabua, T., Tapsall, W. J., Phillips, E. A., Lennox, A. V., Backhouse, L. J., Pyakalyia, P. (1994). A survey of sexually transmitted diseases in five STD clinics in Papua New Guinea. Papua and New Guinea Medical Journal 37(3):152-60. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/15531210
Sanga, K., Mola, G., Wattimena, J., Black, K., Justesen, A. (2014). Unintended pregnancy amongst women attending antenatal clinics at the Port Moresby General Hospital. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 54(4).https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262533687
Banabas Menie is a second year student at Divine Word University