PNG IN THE NEWS
Review of PNG Constitution
In five years from now, in the next term of parliament, Papua New Guinea will observe its Golden Jubilee as an independent nation. When the country became independent the election of the Prime Minister was mandated to the members of parliament who, at national elections, were elected by their constituencies.
That system may now change as there will be a major constitutional review on the form and system of the government and particularly the election of the Prime Minister.
The Constitution and Law Reform Commission (CLRC) will launch the work into reviewing the form and system of government this year. A nationwide public consultation will be part of the process of reviewing the constitution which determines how the country is governed and how the prime minister is elected.
The CLRC is required to submit a final report with recommendations to the office of the Prime Minister in December 2023.
The government believes that the time is right to initiate this major review of the current form and system of government. The type of government that Papua New Guinea has today is a result of recommendations on the system of government by the constitutional planning committee which operated before independence.
‘Process of Electing Prime Minister to be Reviewed’, PNG Business News, Iss.175, 14 February 2023
PNG Women’s Cricket
There is just one turf cricket pitch in Papua New Guinea, but that hasn’t stopped the country’s women’s team, the Lewas, being 12th in the world Twenty20 rankings.
The national side is known for their uniquely exciting playing style. Coach Kath Hemptenstall says the team, which includes seven mothers, has overcome significant hurdles simply to play. For example, there is only one turf wicket in the country and a couple of turf nets. There are no indoor facilities and it rains four months of the year
COVID-19 hit the Lewas hard: the team did not play an international game for almost three years before the Twenty20 World Cup qualifiers in September last year. Yet, PNG still managed to finish fifth out of eight teams, beating Scotland, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
Lewas batter Tanya Ruma was the competition’s highest run-scorer, averaging 49.5. Captain Kaiya Arua says she was also proud their team hit the most sixes.
Editor’s Note: The Lewas travelled to Australia to compete in the Australian Country Championships in Canberra 16–18 February. They played in five games against Australian state sides winning two, losing two and drawing one.
New Research Project: Memories of the Kiaps: The Work of Patrol Officers in the Prelude to Papua New Guinea’s Independence
Researchers at James Cook University, the University of Papua New Guinea and the PNG National Research Institute are seeking interested former kiaps (both Australian and Papua New Guinean) who would be willing to participte in a study documenting their work experiences.
These researchers seek to capitalise on a rich archival record and a living heritage of oral history among the last generation of Papua New Guinean and Australian patrol officers (kiaps) in the employ of the Australian administration during its final years in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Focusing on the last decade before Independence (1965–75), the project will investigate the development work of the kiaps in preparing the rural population, politically and economically, for citizenship in the soon to be independent nation-state.
Key aims of the project are to:
- Investigate the previously under-examined development work of Papua New Guinean kiaps.
- Generate new knowledge about the underexamined efforts of both PNG and Australian kiaps from 1965–75 to prepare the rural population for citizenship in the new state of PNG, by focusing on case studies of their political and economic development work in rural areas.
- Analyse kiaps’ understandings of their work in encouraging participation and citizenship in what they imagined might be the future political economy of the new nation state.
The JCU researchers involved in the project—Professor Rosita Henry, Associate Professor Simon Foale and Dr Michael Wood—all have long-term ethnographic field experience in PNG and demonstrated experience in archival research.
The International partner investigators are Dr Elizabeth Koppel (National Research Institute of PNG (NRI)) and Dr Linus digim’ Rina (University of Papua New Guinea). Both scholars have deep knowledge of the history of PNG crucial to the project.
The study hopes to make a significant contribution to an important gap in knowledge. Papua New Guinea poses major social, economic, and foreign policy challenges to Australia; yet Australia’s colonial legacy in PNG, which has profoundly shaped the relationship between the two nation states, is largely unknown in the public domain.
In particular, the work of kiaps in preparing the local populace for Independence has received little attention in Australian and PNG history. By drawing on the memories of the last generation of government officers who worked in PNG prior to Independence, and their archives, the project will seek to address this significant gap in knowledge and bring to light this hitherto neglected political history.
A community consultative group composed of former kiaps in North Queensland will be established to disseminate communication of results among the kiap community. Some team members already have well-established existing relationships with former kiaps. Other material will be published via forums such as the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia.
An application for funds to support this project has been submitted to the Australian Research Council. The future of the proposed research depends on the success of that application.
Further information about the project is available from Professor Rosita Henry at Rosita.Henry@jcu.edu.au
Airlift of Drugs from PNG
Isobel Roe of ABC Television reported on 23 March that five men have been charged after allegedly organising a ‘black flight’ from Papua New Guinea to Sydney carrying 52 kg of methamphetamine in duffle bags.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) allege the men, all from New South Wales, are members of a ‘transnational serious organised crime’ syndicate, which it has been watching for several months.
Police said that two men flew a twin-engined Beechcraft (pictured) from Wilton, south-west of Sydney, to the rural town of Monto in Queensland to refuel. They then flew on to Bulolo in PNG, where they allegedly collected 52 kg of methamphetamine, hidden in duffle bags.
It is alleged the pilots flew back to central Queensland on a ‘black flight’, turning off the plane’s transponder, and flying at low altitude to avoid detection.
They were met at the Monto airstrip by AFP officers, who say they seized five duffle bags from the plane.
Sepik Logging and the Frieda River Dam
In a Foreign Correspondent episode broadcast by the ABC on 9 March 2023, Port Moresby Correspondent Natalie Whiting, Alex Barry and Theckla Gunga suggested that the Upper Sepik had become a ‘battleground’. Logging on the river’s upper reaches was being met with violence, while a proposal for a massive mine and hydroelectric dam have also generated opposition.
The logging operation is in an area surrounding Edwaki, a village on the Yellow River. The Foreign Correspondent crew attended a recent meeting there convened to discuss some of the problems which have arisen in the ten years since the project began and perhaps to gather evidence for a legal challenge to the operator’s activities.
The operator Global Elite, a Malaysian company, was first granted access to more than 100,000 ha of land after they claimed to have legally obtained consent from properly identified landowners. The question of ownership is now in dispute and so is compliance with the conditions of their access to the land. Rather than being registered as a logging operation their lease, a Special Access and Business Lease, was based on an undertaking to clear the land and make it ready for plantations of palm oil and rubber. Meanwhile, it is claimed, some 40,000 round logs have been shipped, or prepared for shipping, overseas.
Local landowners expressed dismay at the loss of their local environment, continue to question the legitimacy of the original agreement and have protested vigorously about the company’s activities. They claim also to have been beaten by police apparently working for the company. The company, on the other hand, asserts that there has been no progress with plantation development because local landowners, on multiple occasions, burnt down nurseries established for this purpose.
One landowner who claimed that he was entitled to sign an agreement with the company said he was happy with the 150 kina ($A60) paid to him every fortnight. He said it helped him educate his eight children. He went on to say that he worried about the damage to the life of the river and pollution of the water but also said: ‘today we live differently. We live on money”.
On the other hand, the convener of the meeting, Luke Amial, was keen to rally support for a lawsuit against the company. ‘It’s your land, he said, ‘they’ve brought in big machines, they are killing the pigs and throwing us the bones.’ He told Whiting that logging had destroyed much of their environment and abused the traditional rights of the local landowners.
The Foreign Correspondent team also visited the village of Paupe on the Frieda River. Here they met Rhonda Aiypanai, the daughter of the man who signed an agreement in 1964 which allowed the exploration which led to the discovery of extensive gold and copper deposits in the area. Now Pan Aust, a Chinese company registered in Australia, is planning to proceed with the mine and a hydroelectric dam.
Although Rhonda supports the mine many others oppose it given the history of mining in PNG, its impact on the environment and the relatively poor financial returns to both government and local landowners.
The plan provides for the building of a dam which would be capable of holding more than a billion tons of mine waste. There is opposition to the dam from further down the Sepik. Opponents claim that in an earthquake prone area there is the potential for massive flooding of villages downstream.
PanAust says that the safety and stability of the dam is their ‘number one priority’. They said that the project had been designed to ensure that the Sepik and its tributaries would not be impacted.
If the mine goes ahead Paupe will need to be relocated. Even so, Rhonda is still in favour of the mine. She and many other villagers believe that the wealth created by the mine would make their lives better.
Papua New Guinea Association of Australia: Facebook / ‘How the ‘second Amazon’ became a battleground’, ABC News
Sir Bob Dadae Re-elected as Governor-General
Papua New Guinea’s Governor-General, Sir Bob Dadae CMG, was re-elected by the country’s parliament following the elections in 2022. Sir Bob is a graduate of the University of Papua New Guinea and Griffith University in Queensland. Before entering politics he was an accountant for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea and a board member of the Christian Press publishing house.
Representing the United Party, he was elected to the Parliament in 2002 as the member for Kabwum Open, becoming the party’s deputy leader after the election. He became Deputy Speaker in 2004. He was re-elected in 2007 and served as Minister for Defence from 2007 to 2011. He joined the People’s National Congress and was re-elected in 2012.
He received the Order of St Michael and St George in 2017 and the Order of St John in 2017.
Sir Bob represented Papua New Guinea, leading a delegation, including the Foreign Minister, Justin Tkatchenko, at the Coronation of King Charles III in London on 6 May 2023.