Beautiful Wewak is being Trashed

June 25, 2013 at 8:53 am (Commentary, Corruption in PNG, East Sepik District, Papua New Guinea, PNG Health, Wewak)


See: Click on Doc14 below


Mosbi Mauswara lived in Wewak for some years.   He was there recently, and he sadly reports:-

The once attractive and leafy tree lined centre of Wewak is being

“trashed”    There is filth everywhere.   Either Health Inspectors are

hibernating, or have been “bought off”

     Young children hawk cheap (and often nasty) Asian goods on the

crowded streets, whilst their employing merchants lurk behind dingy

trade-store counters, with chop-sticks and ill-gotten work permits at

the ready.   Officers of the Labour Department follow the same work

ethic as their health demoting brothers, and do absolutely nothing to

prevent this outrage.

     Youthful pick-pockets abound; policemen do not.   Their station is

some fifty metres away – much too far to walk!

     The town’s new and modern garbage truck “became unserviceable”

a month after delivery – a victim of enthusiastic and 24- hour daily usage.

     In the main street people push and shove their way past other

shoppers; opportunistic bystanders; hundreds of angry and un-serviced

bank clients – many of them on duty public servants; and of course the

ubiquitous tubercular buai spitter.

     But all is not lost, for our local M.P. has just announced a Wewak

 District Road Map 2013-2017…so all this will change in the coming weeks, or will it?

   Sadly whatever happens, the former beautiful avenue of raintrees

 will not be there to watch! 


Mosbi Mauswara

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Successful Asians in PNG – A subject of hot debate!

May 25, 2013 at 11:26 pm (Commentary, Corruption in PNG, Deborah Ruiz Wall, expatriates, Papua New Guinea)

Post-Courier, 22 May, 2013

Post-Courier, 22 May, 2013


Deborah Ruiz Wall made the following comment:

‘GLOBALIZATION has arrived. ‘Free market’ reigns. A free-fall for local cultural livelihoods is the result. What self-determination is possible for poor countries to have control over their economies?

‘Today, governments are less able to protect their people. A quick solution undertaken by many to address their economic management burden seems to be to privatise essential public utilities to enable them to balance their budgets.  In the face of transnational corporations that have the facility to transfer their assets from one country to another, nation-states have become dinosaurs. Global control by powerful corporations reign. What’s happening in PNG is a microcosm of this growing phenomenon.
‘In Australia, for example, corruption over the behaviour of a former NSW government Minister in relation to mining approvals has been investigated by ICAC. Not a rare untypical situation these days. Cases of conflict of interests in public-private partnerships are on the increase — as disclosed by investigative journalists. The powerlessness of ordinary citizens is crystal clear.
‘In regard to the perception of Asians taking over, I remember a fact finding mission went to Manila in 1995 to investigate the controversy over the sex tourism industry.
‘Some bars and hotels supposedly “owned” by local entrepreneurs were in fact owned by Westerners. The “owners”, as it turned out, were used as a “front” by Australian or New Zealand businessmen who married Filipino women to enable them to run their businesses under their wives’ names. Foreigners were not permitted to own local business ventures unless they took up Filipino citizenship.
So my point is: money corrupts. Corruption does not discriminate between race and culture.’
This is an issue that could really get out of hand. It’s obvious that there are many in PNG who have concerns in this area.
I can only hope the debate does not degenerate into a mindless race issue.
Let’s say you got rid of all the Asians with small businesses in the country, would the locals be able to fill the vacuum with their own small businesses?

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An old piece on my blog that might be of interest!

February 21, 2013 at 10:22 am (Corruption in PNG, Papua New Guinea, Peter O'Neill)

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The changing face of Michael Somare – idealist to pragmatist(?)

February 4, 2012 at 3:42 am (Angoram, Commentary, Corruption in PNG, East Sepik District, East Sepik Province, Michael Somare, Papua New Guinea, Peter O'Neill, Sepik River, Wewak)

Michael Somare

The years are rarely kind to any of us both physically and spiritually and friends and admirers are usually like rats on a sinking ship who can’t get away quickly enough  from the declining fortunes of their fellow beings. (Excuse the rather poor figurative language, but I hope you get my meaning.)

With the present state of Sir Michael Somare’s health and his recent political manoeuvrings, he himself, and people at large are forced to face his mortality and assess his undoubted influence on the fortunes of Papua New Guinea now and over more than the past forty years.

The photographs of Michael Somare above: the first taken in 1973 at the Angoram Hotel and the next one taken at the Wewak Yacht Club in 2009 – radiating from the first snap is the face of a young, dynamic, enthusiastic, smiling, and likeable man, while in the second snap the young man is no longer there, but one can still see a man smiling, perhaps less enthusiatically, but still, I think, likeable, with the old Somare charm intact. I also see something of sadness and disillusionment in the older Somare’s face.

There are those who revere him as the father of the nation and others who say: “perhaps originally he came into political life to do good, and he’s certainly done well for himself and his family.” Between these two extremes maybe, lies the man.

Somare has always had that rather intangible quality of personal charm, an immense asset for a politician. So many people I’ve talked to over the years I know have not been impressed with his performance in power and after talking to him often describe him as such a nice man. Charm, of course, can be such a beguiling characteristic and in the words of Evelyn Waugh’s character, Anthony Blanche, in Brideshead Revisited, “it spots and kills anything it touches.” An “English blight” in Anthony’s terms, but perhaps more universally applicable. Of course, in its positive aspect the charm of an idealist is an embellishment to the human condition.

I well remember meeting and speaking to Michael Somare in the town of Angoram on the Sepik River in the early 1970s, and being most impressed with his personality, and in Konedobu, Port Moresby, with the concern he had in approving the proposed Ok Tedi Mine (BHP) in the then Western District.

Sir Michael was, and I’m sure still is, an extremely sensitive man. In 1972, I was on my way to the Philippines to marry my future wife, and as a help to me he gave me a letter of introduction to the Australian Ambassador in Manila. Subsequently, Deborah, my wife, returned with me to PNG and got a job as press secretary to Matthias Toliman and then with Tei Abal of the United Party, a  political rival of Somare’s Pangu Party. I felt that Somare considered that this in some way was an act of disloyalty to him on my part. Years after in 2009 in Wewak I mentioned this to him and in his usual charming way he brushed it off as of no consequence.

Some consider that Somare has always had a sense of his own importance as PNG’s Prime Minister, and online references maintain that in 1975 he wasn’t impressed with Australia’s gift of an official residence, and he asked for and got a much grander building, but in point of fact, what actually happened was that Somare refused to live in the residence on offer because he wanted to continue to live humbly where he had been living. This is an example of the young idealistic Somare who is well remembered by many old PNG hands.

However, by 2005 his sense of his own importance was greatly enhanced, and his sense of dignity was, he considered, directly violated by security officers at Brisbane Airport when he was asked to remove his shoes and go through a routine security check.

What and when was it that muddied the Somare political waters – please forgive the mixed metaphor? Somare was a man who embraced his Murik Lakes Sepik identity with his appointment to the position of Sana or peacemaker in the village of his forebears. But the big man of the Murik Lakes seemed only too ready to grant questionable logging rights to Malaysian interests in and around his own village backyard in the Kaup area. There are a lot of environmental issues surrounding deforestation in this logging concession. The Thomas Barnett Commission in 1989 exposed the practice of Rimbunan Hijau, the Malaysian logging company in bribing PNG politicians. Prime Minister Somare was implicated in this. Questions about tax evasion have surfaced throughout the career of Sir Michael. Questions did emerge but I still like to maintain that a man is innocent until proven guilty.

Somare’s family own houses in Queensland, and it is rumoured that Sir Michael owns a rural property in New Zealand. There is a mansion being built for him in Wewak by overseas interests. Be he nameless, but a very prominent late PNG judicial officer is reputed to have said: “I know I shouldn’t say it, but I wish someone would kill Somare, he’s so greedy.” Here again there is much rumoured about what Sir Michael owns and how he got it. Lots of things he owns were actually given to him by various people. In the seventies Reg Ansett gave him quite a bit of property around Wewak. This said, it’s not surprising that there are those, and among them many PNG villagers, who wonder how many of their past and present politicians can sleep straight in their beds, when they have presided over the demise of much of government services and structures in the country after Independence: a breakdown of law and order and the delivery of education and health, corruption in the public service, with a subtle conniving request being made for additional payment if you want something like a passport, a visa or a work permit. It is generally believed that the government has no idea who is exactly in the country. The corruption of politicians is an open scandal, but what is surprising how few of them are successfully prosecuted.

Of course, if you’ve got the cash you don’t have to worry too much. Send your children to Australia for education in expensive private schools, and should you have an aspiring daughter La Sorbonne University in Paris even beckons. If you have any major health problems, the elite classes know exactly how to handle them – get off to Australia or Singapore.  Sir Michael Somare’s recent heart treatment in Singapore cost the country millions of kina and huge reimbursements were claimed by minders, family, and visitors to Sir Michael. A reliable PNG source has disputed much of this, telling me that a big part of Sir Michael’s medical expenses were paid for from his  own superannuation fund.  Not that I blame Sir Michael for not putting himself in the hands of the local health service. As a little aside, I found on my recent visit to Wewak the local hospital didn’t even have a working X-ray. Here is a legitimate question that could have been asked of Somare, why have health services deteriorated so much in the country?

According to a recent report made by Sir Mekere Morauta as Minister for Public Enterprises, there are millions of kina unaccounted for in PNG under the stewardship of Somare. Perhaps this is true, and I wonder how many other PNG prime ministers would have a lot to answer for  under their stewardships.

I have some faith but little hope that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill will deliver on his promise, “of a full-out war against corruption.”

If half of what is said about Somare is true, I still don’t like to see a man like him kicked while he’s down. Sir Michael’s health is failing, members of his family are in trouble. He may be a great disappointment to many people and the recent political impasse in Papua New Guinea has been badly handled by him – his actions of calling out the army to support him are highly questionable to say the least, but the way his parliamentary seat was taken from him can’t be defended.

I often think of the young idealist charming man I met many years ago in Angoram, and I ask myself, if he is still embodied in the old Somare today? I believe there’s a lot still there. The nation needs to remember the sense of unity and direction Somare gave to it in the early post-independence years

No man is perfect, and I firmly believe that Sir Michael has done much to be proud of, but of course, like all us, politicans and others, we all have some character flaws. I suspect in Sir Michael’s case it’s that he’s far too precious in his opinion of himself, and local and international sycophants have played up to this, and the temptation to enrich oneself can become an entitlement in the mind of a precious person.

During a visit he made to Angoram some years ago when he was in the business of promoting a scheme for the commercialization of the production of sago, the area’s food staple, he was questioned by the locals, and his response was to call them bushkanaka. (An abusive term meaning wild and uncivilized native) Hardly an appropriate term to use when addressing his constituents, but like all politicians they can get out of touch, and in the words of Lord Acton: Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

All this being said, I must confess that it saddens me to see the Grand Chief treated the way he’s now treated in PNG.


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Sydney Morning Herald 14/12/2011

December 13, 2011 at 10:34 pm (Commentary, Corruption in PNG, Papua New Guinea, PNG)

PNG imploding

Since Papua New Guinea’s independence a gaggle of corrupt and inept  politicians have created a basket case of the country (”PNG court reinstates  Somare as PM”, December 13). The present turbulent judicial/political situation  with the reinstatement of Somare as Prime Minister has all the elements that  could lead to the final disintegration of the country into a classical failed  state. I only hope Australia has formulated plans for an intervention  strategy.
David Wall  Newtown

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Coconuts and Tearooms: A review

May 14, 2008 at 3:40 am (Corruption in PNG) (, , , , )

A review

Boys, Pat

Coconuts and Tearooms: Six years in New Britain, New Guinea in the 1930s – The Colonial days, Pat Boys: Auckland, 1993


What a fascinating and informative tale of pre-war expatriate life in New Guinea this book is!


As a post-war resident of PNG myself, this account of the bipos or befores as pre-war Territorians were known, I found most illuminating. They were highly regarded by all who lived in PNG after the war.


Pat Boys in her mother, Margaret’s words and in insightful writing, conjures up bygone years: The allure yet isolation of plantation life, the liveliness of Rabaul’s social life are all related in language replete in the domesticity of food recipes and daily life. Accounts of ship voyages add to the appeal of the time.


The book is made more interesting with the number of photos and maps included.


The undercurrents of human experiences are mentioned and implied: Coping with Japanese trochus poachers to natural disasters like the volcanic eruption in Rabaul. Margaret’s marriage breakdown and her return to New Zealand with Pat seem analogous to a breakdown of expatriate pre-war life in New Guinea with the coming of the Second World War.


This book tells us so much by implication in words, pictures and maps of a life that is gone. It is easy to read and enjoy.


For those readers wanting a copy, I would suggest writing to: Mrs Pat Boys, 19 Andresen Street, Foxton Beach, New Zealand 4815


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