Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Reminder This Christmas

December began for me with the ambivalence resulting from seeing too many traffic accidents almost every week in our city. It is a sad reminder that people are careless with their own lives. It is also a sad reminder that the irresponsible actions of careless or drunk drivers can lead to the deaths of innocent men, women, and child. The reminder we need to take heed of is that with so many drivers without proper education of traffic rules on the road anything can go wrong.

We also prepare ourselves as Christians to celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ. We prepare ourselves both mentally and physically. Mentally we prepare ourselves to rejoice in the birth of our saviour as man to live among us. Physically we slow down or wind down in our activities or take a break from what we do every day of the year. Christmas is a time to celebrate, sing, praise, and dance to the new born King two thousand years ago in the Holy Land.

It is also a time to say thank you to God who guided us on our journey through many trials and tribulations. Let’s be the three Kings.

It is a time to say thank you to those who shared the faith, walked with us on the journey through 12 months, and made us grow in spirit and in strength to face the challenges we had encountered along the road.

Our families and friends need to know that we are thankful for their support, understanding, co-operation, respect, and company in the past 12 months.

Find the time to say thank you to God and everyone who made your life what it is now.

I take this moment to thank everyone who spent K1.00 every Friday to read Steven’s Window in The National newspaper’s The Weekender. The time you took to read my column every week is acknowledged and valued much more than you realize.

For me it is a rewarding feeling that many people across the spectrum of our society read this column every week. I know it is impossible to impress everyone, but at least in my column I am able to share my thoughts, knowledge, and experiences with the public. Whether my views are liked or not, I know that it is important to bridge the gap between what people know and what they don’t know.

In particular I would like to thank those with whom I have worked with to make a difference in other people’s lives. I am thankful to the teachers and students of the University of Papua New Guinea, The National newspaper, The Bible Society of PNG, the Education Department’s National Literacy and Awareness Secretariat, and the Office of Libraries, Archives, and Literacy, the Department of Community Development’s Task Force Secretariat on Social Protection Policy, the PNG Media Council, the National Research Institute, the University Bookshop, Theodist Stationery, the Correction Institution Services, Buimo Prison officers and prisoners, the Summer Institute of Linguistics (Lae), and the Kubalia students of UPNG.

We must also thank those people who worked so hard this year to bring us happiness through religious processes, through the commitment of their kindred spirit, and through the little things they did to make the difference.

We must also thank those in positions of power who have lived up to their duties and responsibilities to see that our people have their social, political, and economic struggles addressed through proper channeling of government and partner funding. We must also thank the political leaders who made a difference in our lives this year.

In the global level many political and economic changes affect us in Papua New Guinea as well. We must thank the leaders, organizations, and governments that promote positive humanistic changes and ideologies.

We must thank those who continue to help us develop as a nation.

We must also thank those people who made important positive changes in their personal lives so that others were also changed to be good, positive, and productive citizens.

In the Good Book we read of Holy Mary, mother of Jesus visiting her cousin Elizabeth, after the angel Gabriel had visited her. On seeing Elizabeth, Mary expressed her thankfulness and praise to God for choosing her to be the mother of the Lord (Luke 1: 46-49). From Luke 1: 50-55 Mary ponders over the magnitude of her part in delivering the Son of God to the world, especially God’s mercy, deeds, power, grace, providence, goodness, and blessings to those who believe in him:

“His mercy extends to those who fear him,

from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

he has scattered those who are proud in their

inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones

but has lifted the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things

but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,

remembering to be merciful.

To Abraham and his descendants for ever,

even as he said to our fathers.”

Tomorrow is the 25th of December, the day of the Birth of Jesus Christ. Christians will celebrate this day all over the world as they have done for two thousand years ago. Papua New Guineans will also celebrate this important day as a Christian country.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and may you all enjoy the festive season in peace, harmony, and godly ways. Let’s fear God, let’s stop drinking any form of alcohol, let’s stop partying, gambling, and fighting; let’s stay home this Christmas with our families, and let’s make this Christmas a special one for our children to remember as the one they don’t have to cry, go hungry, fear the drunkard father or mother, or be a witness to violence.

Please avoid overdoing what you do, especially drink driving or extravagant partying and other forms of counter productive social behaviours that come with our poor interpretations of the word ‘celebrate’ in the season of Christmas when Christ Jesus was born in Bethleham.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Political Lessons from Shakespeare

As this week’s political drama unfolded we asked ourselves if Shakespeare’s play Julius Caeser had a broader appeal to democracies outside of the Greek-Roman empires. Indeed, the answer lies in our interpretations of the thematic concerns of the play as well as the associations we make from the characterization, plot, and dialogic encounters in the play.

Shakespeare’s intention in Julius Caeser is to present a genuine piece of Roman history to the English audience.

“Roman history offered some of the most impressive themes available to the Renaissance, an era when political lessons were ardently sought in antiquity—themes such as despotism and republicanism, strong rule good and bad, stable and unstable realm, scrupulous and unscrupulous motives, the relations between rules and subjects (particularly the populace), and so on,” says Arthur Humphreys, an eminent Shakespearean scholar.

So what are the political lessons that we can learn from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caeser? What associative meanings are possible in our reading of Julius Caeser against the political stage in PNG at this time? What correlations to our own political leaders can we make to Julius Caeser, Brutus, Marcus Cassius, and Marcus Anthony?

The play is about the events that led up to the assignation of the Roman Emperor Julius Ceaser. Brutus and Cassius plot and assassinate Caeser. Their plot includes assassinating Anthony as well because he is a close aide of the Emperor. Anthony is spared the blood from the dagger of Caeser’s murderers simply because Brutus persuaded Cassius and the Plebians that Anthony is the one to take care of Caeser’s body and later extol the Emperor’s virtues and present to Rome the last will of Caeser.

Arthur Humphreys highlights some of key lessons on politics and morality as captured in Julius Caeser.

“The first and fundamental point of attention is the antithesis between republican ‘virtue’ and imperial ‘tyranny,’ both words in inverted commas since neither is a clear-cut case. Republican ‘virtue’ blemished in a way which idealizations of ‘liberty’ ignore. Casius on principle hates an overlord, yet much of his utterance suggests the ‘envy of great Caeser’ which motivates all save Brutus. Brutus kills in moral muddle, and he stands on his spotless principles while expecting to share in Cassius’ extortions. His followers revere freedom, yet they misread Rome’s prospects and are redeemed only by the dignity of their deaths. As for ‘tyranny’ that amounts merely to Caeser’s imperiousness; Brutus himself admits his moderation, and only in Cassius’s hostile bias are Plutarch’s accusations of violent ambition reflected. Caeser is by turns grand, arrogant, pompous, fallible, genial, dignified, and (in his will) generous. His overthrow proves to be a sacrilege. The second question the action poses is that of personal morality under political pressure, of private conscience under partisan strain.”

The play is based around the ambiguities of Caeser who sees himself as a demigod and fallible man, monopolist of power yet the essential axle of Rome’s wheel. Rome is to Caeser what Caeser is to Rome, an indivisible pack that suggests that Caeser is so sure of himself that he even refuses to have personal body guards accompany him, just before his death.

The political development in PNG of recent times, especially under the current regime, brings to mind such ambiguities closer to that of Caeser’s regime. Papua New Guinea much like Rome under Caeser’s emperorship nurses its wounds from hurried legislations and policy directions, lacking sustained, intelligent, and moral debate. As a result the parliament was found to have breached constitutional requirements. Supreme Court rulings on a number of cases are as follows: The Australian-PNG ECP program, the Integrity of Political Parties, and the Appointment of the Governor General this year. The Supreme Court rulings have given integrity back to the people, whose Constitution was breached by its own leaders, and some form of relief and trust in the Constitution it has set for itself at Independence in 1975.

The country is now a stage with an Acting Prime Minister, Acting Governor General and soon Acting Chief Justice when the Chief Justice goes on holiday. The events that led up to this are not limited to the Prime Minister stepping aside to allow a properly instituted Tribunal to investigate allegations of misconduct in office, the unconstitutional appointment of the Governor General, and the Speakers actions of impartiality in Parliament during Parliamentary sessions.

The Ombudsman Commission, the Opposition, Governors Luther Wenge and Bob Danaya and their Provincial Governments, the NGOs, Community Based Organizations, and the populace have made it their business to hold leaders accountable for their actions and decisions that affect the lives of Papua New Guineans.

Issues of corruption and unconstitutional politicking characterize the current regime to the point where the only hope left for people is to depend on the courts to intervene on their behalf. In order for the courts to reach a just and fair decision it relies on its integrity and Independence. In the major decisions of the Supreme Court this year overturning the table where leaders were so sure of themselves, the panel of judges have carefully read, analyzed each case thoroughly, considered the consequences of their decisions, and offered their verdicts on the issues before them. That in itself is maturity, strength, and Independence of the Judiciary.

It is hoped that justice will continue to prevail in the land. Our justice system must continue to serve the greater good of Papua New Guinea. The greater collective good or the interests of the people of this country must come before individual interests. The courts must not compromise their integrity to the interests of few leaders and powerful individuals. It is assuring to read by Thursday that the courts will perform their functions as required by the Constitution.

We hope this political drama viewed through Shakespeare’s Julius Caeser has taught us a lesson in what could go wrong when political leaders ignore the consequences of their actions, expectations, ill-advised decisions, and most important of all using political expediency as an excuse to stay in power.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Media Awards is for Excellence

In this year’s Media Awards, the judges dropped several categories of awards. The main reason is that in those categories only one entry or no entries at all were submitted. This does say a lot about the organizations and media companies’ obligation to those hard working media personnel such as journalists, broadcasters, and TV reporters, programmers, and producers. For a start we don’t have a crowded media industry as illustrated by two dailies, one weekly, two TV stations, and a handful of radio stations. Nominating media personals and programs from these media organizations should be an important responsibility of a responsible media industry. The people who work so hard and with tireless commitment to achieve excellence in their respective media should be rewarded and encouraged to set the standard for excellence.

It is also fulfilling to see some of the students I had a part in their formative education at UPNG receive award in this year’s Media Awards night. Congratulations to them and other winners.

I make these remarks as someone connected to the media industry as a columnist in one of the dailies. If every organizations and media companies can submit their nominations in call the categories for the awards then a high percentage of excellence is achieved.

Talking about excellence I think some remarks as a reader, listener, and viewer is in order. The issue of language and stylistics need also to be addressed in bringing out excellence in quality of writing in newspapers. A reader is easily distracted by poor handling of language. Editing and proof reading of newspapers must be meticulous before they are printed. So many poor lexical errors in writing lower the standard of excellence. The challenge is to maintain excellence in stylistics through high standard of editing and proof reading.

TV presenters need to have clear, voice, and language training before they appear before the cameras. Nothing is more distracting than the poor voice inflections and improper pronunciation of words. Poor lighting on subjects distracts concentrated viewing of TV news and programs.

Radio broadcasting has been around for ages. Difference in radio personalities and approaches are necessary, but voice choice and program control are also necessary to bring out undistracted presentation. Listeners switch stations easily because they cannot bear the way some radio personalities carry on with trivia and unimportant conversations.

Having said that let me return to what I think should be included in next year’s Media Awards. In my view the Media Awards should include Best Editorial in a newspaper, because of the function editorials play in making the most important and sharp statement as the newspaper sees it. I also think the overall quality and presentation of a newspaper should also be considered. The award should also include the commentaries and columns of newspapers as these are written by people other than journalists employed on a full time basis by the newspaper companies. These commentaries inform, educate, prompt, and disseminate knowledge to a broad spectrum of society, helping to initiate political action, enlighten the way people see and do things, and inform people about knowledge that improve their understanding of the world and their own lives.

The media awards should also include the best TV programs that are creative, innovative, and illustrative of the kinds of TV programs that Papua New Guineans like to view. Television and other electronic media in Papua New Guinea are recent innovation that influence people in very profound ways. The total participation of Papua New Guineans in this technology driven media is still developing. Future awards may include categories such as TV documentaries, programs, presenters, and innovative community media programs.

For radio programs I think a survey of the listening public on what radio station they tune to often, and what programs on radio are important to them should be the basis for nominating a radio station or its programs for awards. The public should be the judge on this and not the judges of the media awards. I bet some of the judges might not be radio listeners at all. All radio stations must submit their entries for the Media Award. Having the same station or stations win awards every year does nothing good to setting of standards in radio.

As I remember Mr. Toguata’s comments on this year’s awards, the judges’ decisions were based on what they have before them. If nominations of competitors were made then these were judged accordingly within the categories they were nominated under.

A challenge to the Media Council of PNG is to recognize the benefactors of the Media Council funding through its Community Initiative Programs. I think an award should be created to recognize the media initiatives in our communities and also programs that promote the role of media in the development of Papua New Guinea. Recognizing community initiatives should promote a receptive, responsive, and an enlightened community to media technologies and influence. It would also show the development partners and partner organizations that their funding has achieved the desired result.

So many people are critical of media ethics and standards, especially the politicians. Maybe the Parliament or any critics of media should sponsor an award for ethics and standards of quality in next year’s awards to make the point that this is the kind of ethics and standards they are bragging about. That should set the benchmark for other media organizations and companies to strive for in their conduct. It should also demonstrate a sense of ownership of what people want of media in terms of ethics and standards to follow.

The views I make here do not necessarily reflect those of the daily newspaper that I contribute as a columnist. The views expressed here are made in appreciation of the media’s role and function in our society. The awards made this year, no doubt will, improve and raise the standards of excellence expected of media personnel and media organizations.

The challenge is to remain on top without compromising to the unwitting demands of our societies.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Development of Indigenous Jurisprudence

The government has done well as a responsible government in this year’s budgetary allocation in investing in the human resource capital of the country. The education sector received the highest budgetary allocation this year, which in itself is a political statement of the government’s medium term development policy. By allocating the highest funding to our education system the government has reinvested the earnings from the country’s natural resources and from the taxes it collects from its citizens.

The government has also considered the legal education of our people to be of utmost importance. Its budgetary allocation for the construction of a new law school at the University of Papua New Guinea is major investment in the education of our legal experts. With the construction of a new law school the government is well assured in producing a steady supply of graduates who can meet the expectations of the government and people of Papua New Guinea.

This new School of Law will need additional funding to increase its teaching staff capacity, attract practicing lawyers as adjunct lecturers to impart their knowledge and experience to law students, fund research and publications and develop a research library within the School of Law.

A major challenge for the government now is that it must invest in the development of law in Papua New Guinea. There are aspects of our law that need more development, elucidation, and refinement. For example, so far the development of customary law as part of the underlying law has not been a successful story. Our courts and lawyers rely on the common law in most of cases before the courts.

The Constitution itself is clear on the place of custom in the underlying law. Owen Jessep, a legal scholar describes custom as the “elusive” partner in the underlying law of PNG. No matter how slow it is for custom to have a fully developed role in the underlying law the future of an indigenous jurisprudence based on custom is a slow evolving process.

Owen Jessep (1998), among others, continues this observation: “In what is now almost a quarter of a century since Independence, there has been no shortage of complaints about the lack of progress in developing an “indigenous jurisprudence” (the expression used in s 21(1) of the Constitution), that is, the failure of custom to achieve its rightful place as a primary source of the underlying law.”

The trend has continued to the present day with more concerns raised by the judges and some lawyers. Finger pointing seems to suffuse and frustrate the efforts to develop indigenous jurisprudence.

“Some early criticisms focused on the apparent ignorance or laziness or antipathy of expatriate lawyers and judges towards custom, and the failure of Parliament to pass the legislation contemplated in Sch 2.1(3) of the Constitution.

Other analyses have referred to the quality and content of education given to Papua New Guinean lawyers, the assumed superiority of common law principles, and the reluctance of practising lawyers to look outside the confines of their common law training. In addition, technical problems of proving the existence of custom and the lack of any consistent judicial methodology in dealing with issues of custom have been highlighted.”

The then Chief Justice of PNG Amet CJ argued that the idea of an indigenous jurisprudence had become simply “meaningless rhetoric or cliché”, and that, instead, there still prevailed in the Papua New Guinea legal system “an umbilical cord of dependency upon principles of the Anglo-Australian common law and equity”. This sums up the position of judges in their view of the poor development of the underlying law based on customs.

In 1983 the Law Reform Commission of Papua New Guinea published a monograph on customary law in Papua New Guinea. “The Customary Law Development Project” according to the editor, Richard Scaglion, “was designed to provide the basis for developing a Papua New Guinean legal system based on Papua New Guinea values, customs, beliefs, perceptions and institutions. It was expected to gather customary law materials with a view to developing such materials along national policy lines and integrating any underlying principles discovered into a self-reliant and uniquely Melanesian national legal system.”

Developing an underlying law based on custom is a cumbersome process requiring more than a legal process to deal with it. The development of the underlying law based on custom is a constitutional direction. In the 1980s the Supreme Court came under criticism for failing to incorporate custom into the courts decisions following the Constitutional directions.

The Chief Justice shifted the blame to lack of time and resources: “In his 1983 National Court opinion in The State v Paul Pokolou, Sir Buri Kidu responded to the criticism by some legal practitioners that the Courts are failing to take custom into account and also failing to develop the underlying law as required by the Constitution. The Chief Justice placed the blame on the legal profession for failing to produce evidence or the material necessary for the judges to use to recognize custom. “Judges have not the time and resources to undertake their own researches in most cases and it is unfair for lawyers to expect too much from judges who are already overworked and under rewarded.”

The Chief Justice also criticized Parliament which “has failed to perform its duties as given to it by the Constitution.” Thus, he made it the responsibility of the legal profession to raise issues of custom and on the legislature to incorporate custom into the underlying law.”

One suggestion is to fund the research and publication of customary law in Papua New Guinea. Law students can return, if they wish, to their own communities to collect data on customary law, which can then be published and made available as evidence of customary law in Papua New Guinea. In the PNG Legal information from PacLII Database, customary law is missing. Maybe here’s where the funding of research of customary law will find its home and serve the need for the development of an indigenous jurisprudence.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Performance and Leadership Success

Sometimes I think leaders need to sit down and read a good book on how to lead. In many of our work places leaders perform below the expected moral level. There are different explanations for their poor performances.

It could also be that they struggle with understanding themselves as leaders who lead through service, moral intelligence, and with clear achievable goals.

It could be that their appointment in the first place was anything, but rigged with fraud, nepotism, and misjudgment of their true character.

A leader is someone who must understand the importance of team work and must maintain an attitude of respect for every member of the team. A leader is someone who consolidates the productive spirit of the team rather than someone who divides and rule. A leader works with the team, not against the team in a company or organization.

In their book Moral Intelligence: Enhancing Business Performance and Leadership Success, Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel explain what an effective leadership is: “the best leaders are not the charismatic or heroic types lionized in years past. According to the latest research, they are ‘quiet leaders’ who accomplish great things modestly and without fanfare. Leaders at the perennially great companies all share a common trait—humility. They inspire high performance in others through their sensitivity to their followers’ needs. The best leaders think “we,” not “I.” They are, quite simply good people who consistently tap into their inborn disposition to be moral. They follow a moral compass—even when it’s tempting not to.”

A long-time friend of mine explained to me that he had left the school he was teaching in because he could not work with the headmaster and his close associates. According to my friend, the headmaster had, since his appointment, become insensitive to the views and needs of the teachers of the school. To maintain power and control the headmaster replaced subject heads of department with junior staff members who know nothing about the institutional history or the culture on which the reputation of the school was built on. Many of the replacements were teachers who accepted the imposing figure without being critical of the decisions deployed by the headmaster. The result of these decisions saw complete breakdown of cooperation and collegiality among staff. The values they held as a team no longer mattered. The headmaster’s preposterous attitude and lack of leadership qualities forced my friend to resign.

There must be a moral compass to guide a leader to achieve the desired outcomes as envisioned in the strategic plans and goals set in the beginning of their leadership. Without such a master plan, leaders tend to go astray, become aimless, and appear ruthless in their deployment of power to achieve total control. Such leadership is undemocratic. What it does reinforce is a master -servant relationship to the detriment of the cooperative spirit and morale of the work force.

Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel explain that leadership power is a double-edged sword. “Certainly, you can use power to accomplish worthy goals through others that you could not reach on your own. But there is something about power that makes it potentially dangerous as it can be helpful. Power is addictive. Using power activates brain chemicals called endorphins that create a highly enjoyable physiological state. Power can provide pleasure much like the satisfaction offered by food, sex, or vigorous physical exercise. Most people in formal leadership positions value power. But some leaders crave it. It is easy to get accustomed to the perks of the leadership role.”

Before anyone in leadership position gets carried away a reminder is in order. The power to lead is both manifests in the organizational structure and those who follow a leader. Lennick and Kiel remind us that “leadership power is not just asserted by the leader—it is given to leaders by followers. Followers allow leaders to be powerful. Because leaders have power, followers are careful about how they present information to their leaders.”

“Research has demonstrated that the higher one goes in an organization, the more distorted the information they receive. Followers provide information that they believe leaders want to hear and censor information they fear would upset or anger leaders. The more heavy-handed a leader is in his or her use of power, the more distorted the information they are given. But even benevolent leaders who are careful in their use of power have trouble establishing accurate communication channels because followers’ strong tendency to defer to the leader’s position power, independent of the leader’s actual behavior.”

Leaders need to understand such power dynamics in order for them to lead a proactive and cooperative work force. Without doing so leaders tend to hide behind the deployment of power without needing to worry about the negative consequences of its impact.

The caution issued by Lennick and Kiel is that if leaders continue along this path then they can achieve negative results: “When leaders make mistakes, it is difficult for followers to tell them so. Many organizational cultures discourage interpersonal feedback, even among peers, so imagine how reluctant most followers would be to openly criticize the actions of someone with great power. This leaves most senior leaders operating in a feedback void. Their accomplishments might be praised, but their personal flaws are not brought to their attention.”

“The absence of appropriate negative feedback,” continues Lennick and Kiel, “about our leadership behavior can leave us with the mistaken notion that we are far better leaders than we really are. Without accurate information about the business and about our own capacities, we are at risk making a big mistake that can lead to a devastating business outcome. Workaholism can reflect a subtle abuse of power. When you insist on doing everything yourself rather than delegating work, you deprive others of opportunities for development and their own share of power.”

Lennick and Kiel are right. Use power with caution: “Leverage your power to accomplish morally positive goals that also produce higher business performance.”

Friday, November 19, 2010

Change Your Responses

The kind of person I am now is because of the decisions and actions I took in the past. The kind of person I want to be in future depends on the decisions and actions I make now.

If I make the right decisions and took the appropriate action now then the outcome will be as I had visualized it. That is the kind of lesson, personal development experts like Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles. I have followed Jack Canfield’s success principles the very day I bought this book in a bookshop in Christchurch, New Zealand, 5 years ago.

I had shared one of the success principles in this column some time back in the beginning of the year. Since these principles have changed my life I would like to share at least one principle from time to time.

This week I would like to share part of Success Principle Number 1: Take 100% responsibility for your life. A friend of mine said to me one day that I needed to take control of my life instead of trying to please other people. I am successful in many areas of my life, but equally failed in many other areas of my life. I lived through life in a fast lane without taking control of it.

I listened to other people but myself. I battled through the problem of alcohol in my life. I wrote many books but I was unable to complete them for publication. That sounded more like the life of Stephen King, the one writer who had similar problems before he did something about it. I applied for higher status jobs, but found myself performing below the expectation of the prospective employers or those serving in appointment committees.

My mind was all over the place. I would do anything for anybody without worrying about where such decisions led me to.

My life then arrived at the critical junction three years ago. The next move I made would, either devastate me or save and reinvigorate me to find a new leash in life. I returned to Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles and re-read it in order to make critical decisions to change the direction I was heading. Slowly I began to make some of the changes.

First, I gave up on alcohol to the shock of many people who never thought I would do such a thing. Now I am into the third year of a sober life.

Next, I decided to focus on my family and give some quality time and attention. That was a relief for everyone in my household.

I followed through with restoring some spiritual sense in my life again. I began to renew my faith in the church and finding more strength in my personal and family life.

I soon decided to go back to school. I enrolled for the law degree program and juggled that with my job. That decision had done more good than I ever thought. Now the doors that were closed to me before began to open, revealing more opportunities in front of me.

The days when I relied on borrowed money to get me from one day to next are gone. Now I have enough coins to buy food for the house, have my betel nuts, and filling the fuel tank of my car at a respectable level.

There are many areas in my life I have made changes to since following Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles. I sometimes buy the book as a present for friends I know need some changes in their lives.

All these may sound preachy, but at least I am happy to share with the loyal followers of this column, something positive that could change their lives as well.

Here is one of the commands in Jack Canfield’s Success Principle Number 1.

“Everything you experience today is the result of choices you have made in the past…Everything you experience in life—both internally and externally—is the result of how you have responded to a previous event…You only have control over three things in your life—the thoughts you think, the images you visualize, and the actions you take (your behavior). How you use these three things determines everything you experience. If you don’t like what you are producing and experiencing you have to change your response.”

And then Jack Canfield reminds us again what people have been saying all along but we ignored the wisdom: “Change you negative thought to positive one. Change what you day dream about. Change your habits. Change what you read. Change your friends. Change how you talk.”

“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got,” Jack Canfield continues with his advice, “If you are an alcoholic and you keep on drinking, your life is not going to get any better. Likewise, if you continue your current behaviors, your life is not going to get any better either. The day you change your responses is the day your life will begin to get better.”

Some of Jack Canfield’s commands are: First, you have to give up blaming other people for your problems. All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you—Wayne Dyer;. You will never become successful as long as you continue to blame someone or something else for your lack of success.

Second, you have to give up complaining. The circumstances you complain about are, by their nature, situations you can change—but you have chosen not to. So make the decision to stop complaining, to stop spending time with complainers, and get on with creating a life of your dreams.

Third, you’re complaining to the wrong person. Learn to replace complaining with making requests and taking action that will achieve your desired outcome.

The Kumuls need Jack Canfield. Hire him next time. Use this:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

USP Announces International Competition to Launch USP Press

May 2011, the University of the South Pacific will be launching its publishing arm that will be known as the USP Press.

The goal of the Press is to publish high quality research and writing on issues related to the Pacific Islands, or the islands commonly known as Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

 Toward this end, the University wishes to announce an international competition seeking manuscripts in the following categories:

USP Press Literature Prize ($3000) will be awarded to the overall winner from the following categories.

The winner in each category will receive $1,000.00

Fiction ($1,000)

Poetry ($1,000)

Drama or Screenplay ($1,000)

USP Press Non Fiction Prize ($3,000) will be awarded to the overall winner from the following categories. The winner in each category will receive $1,000.00.

History, Auto/Biography ($1,000)

Sciences ($1,000)

Social Sciences/Humanities ($1000)

Best Children’s Book ($2,000)

The competition is open to all nationalities and closes on 15 February, 2011.

The prize money will be in American dollars

Each submission must clearly indicate the category in which it is to be considered.

All submissions must be in hardcopy. Online submissions will not be accepted.

All submissions should be addressed to:

The Chair, Board of the USP Press,
Professor Vilsoni Hereniko,
Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies,
The University of the South Pacific
Private Mail Bag,
Laucala Campus, Suva, Fiji.

For enquiries, write to

The Development Dilemma

Culture and Human Resource Capital, UPNG  2010

Everywhere I go I hear the words LNG in many people’s talk. So much buzz is made on this economic promise that seems to drive a certain agenda of development. In Port Moresby and Lae there is a building boom. Lae has moved into converting old houses into multiple blocks of flats. Port Moresby has grown into a mega for multi-storied buildings. They are eye catching and startling in a way. The government is proud to see this development, quickly declaring to the people that LNG is here and Papua New Guineans have to cash into the LNG or else they stand to lose out on the benefits. The conclusion I seem to have is that the LNG excitement has also promoted an even growth in our society.

I may be slow in seeing the benefits, but I am circumspect with the use of words like development, economic independence, and cost and benefits. We have to understand some of these words are used by certain people to promote a certain kind of agenda, ideology, and notions about what they consider to be right or is the truth. This does not have to be the case for others.

In thinking about this issue I came across J.R.E Waddell’s paper “The Development Dilemma: Self-Reliance or Dependence?” published in the collection From Rhetoric to Reality? Papers from the Fifteenth Waigani Seminar on Papua New Guinea’s Eight Point Plan and National Goals After a Decade. The book was edited by Peter King, Wendy Lee, and Vincent Warakai.

“The most important quality of a word like development,” writes Waddell, “is that it means all things to all men, thus enabling people with divergent views to think that they are talking about the same things. In such a situation, the rich and powerful can impose and implement their own definition of development and at the same time convince the public that the latter’s interest are being served. They can say that development is taking place even in a country where, according to my definition, economic development plans have failed conspicuously, because they define development in terms of Gross National Product or Gross Domestic Product per head. Indeed, a glance at any text book or United Nations publications should convince one that the division of the nations of the world into categories such as ‘developed’, ‘less developed’ and ‘least developed’ is based almost exclusively on ranking by GDP per head. Other criteria have been used but have never quite replaced this basic one.”

The rich and powerful is a term that applies to the world’s rich and powerful nations, but can also be used to make reference to sectors within a politically Independent nation that another contributor to the book cited above, Peter Fitzpatrick, describes as “the national petty bourgeoisie” who have consolidated their presence in the political and economic chambers. In 1985 Fitzpatrick lamented the absence of such a social class, arguing that Papua New Guinea is certainly no banana republic.

Fitzpatrick argued that “the Eight Aims in operation present a picture of marked success and almost equally marked failure. The key to the success of the Aims is in their character as a charter for a technocracy; much of their failure lies in their not responding to the interests of the national petty bourgeoisie.”

“The conflict between the between the technocracy and the national petty bourgeoisie”, Fitzpatrick continues “has been central to the making and to the operation of the Aims. It has been the basic division in national politics. The conflict persists but it is one that the technocracy must win. The state occupies a central position which the technocracy uses to consolidate its class power. In this, it blocks any challenging advance of the national petty bourgeoisie, even at the price of tolerating and encouraging foreign domination of small-scale and middle-level enterprise. This same situation also maintains the power of the peasantry; but in its ‘natural’ state of ethnic division. Part of the centrality of the state lies in its ability to contain the peasantry.”

These observations were made 10 years after Independence in 1985. The situation 35 years on has turned out to reinforce the dilemma Waddell had in mind at that time. “How is ‘development’ to be redefined so that it accords with the needs of the have-nots rather than the haves?” Waddell asked at that time. “The most important step is to turn conventional thinking upside down and start with people rather than the economy as a whole,” was Waddell’s answer.

“If we think solely in aggregate terms,” Waddell adds, “we shall merely reinforce an inequitable and inappropriate system established by and for foreigners. If we accept the inherited economic system as datum, an unalterable given, we shall immediately be concerned with the need to generate massive amounts of foreign exchange and expand cash-cropping and the extraction of minerals and timber—activities which bring in foreign exchange and budgetary revenue but do not necessarily bring net benefits to the population at large.”

Since this observation 25 years ago our people have not done any better in area of small business developments, but rather have become mere spectators in the increased Asian domination of wholesale and retailing business. The national petty bourgeoisie has emerged as the small political and technocrat elite with millions of people’s wealth diverted into personal accounts, and political decisions have been made for the convenience of few powerful individuals defending a degree of accrued interests in business, political power, and maintenance of flawed bureaucracy based on biased appointments to senior positions that does nothing more than a show of puppetry. Instead of technocracy resisting the influence of the national petty bourgeoisie it has compromised itself as revealed in many of the Parliamentary Audit Committee reports in recent years.

In writing this I am asking myself one simple question: Why bother? The answer is not as simple as it seems. Understanding development in the academic sense is not the same as development in the lived experiences of our people.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Failure of Traditional Safety Nets

Roadside fish market at Yonki Dam area, EHP

The general sense of a failure of the traditional safety nets in PNG can contribute to an impoverished society. The traditional forms of authority no longer matters to the post-independence generation. A host of uncanny hooliganism throws its dark shadows on what remains of the traditional structures of power. It is the perfect recipe for chaos, crime, violence, and unlimited threat to life.

Traditional safety nets support social notions of care for elderly, looking out for each other through an elaborate wantok system, communities and hauslains maintaining peace, harmony, and respect for each other and their properties, and promoting sustainable communities with happy people.

Many of our young people are stranded in the crossroad between introduced ways and traditional expectations. Young people stray into alcohol and substance abuse, aggression, and violence. Violence against women and general disrespect of older people and traditions mar our everyday lives. Disruptive social behaviours have become the norm.

Subsistence farming is too hard and labourious to many people. Fast money through street vending of cheap Asian goods and betel nuts coupled with a variety of informal sector activities draw the rural population to flood into urban areas. The consequent result of this is over population, over-crowding, congestion, and suffocation to every nerve of development in our evolving democracy.

In the academic sense, our traditional idyllic village societies are no longer the same village societies we left asunder a while back to move into the modern world.
 Global trends and fluctuating economic conditions force our people into scratching deeper into the skin to make ends meet. Already the income earning Papua New Guineans are stressed out. Their social obligations to support other members of their families and communities are becoming thin. The Government tax regime without any rebate is too harsh on individuals.

What we can do, however, is to reframe, rethink, or reinvent the elements of our traditional societies that are effective as social protection safety nets. Some of these are retrievable through various programs within the ambit of community development, cultural and social advocacy networks, and through various community-based initiatives in agriculture, law and justice, literacy and knowledge transfer activities, and in health and education.

We already have in place many such activities, thriving with or without the support of government, church agencies, and international development partners and organizations. The challenge is to have them work together through an enhanced policy framework that delivers service as well as protection to all Papua New Guineans. The state can then without haste perform its democratic function of service delivery to its citizens.

The question that begs an answer now is whether our traditional safety nets of social protection and social services have failed in today’s PNG societies. That is the million Kina question.

The answer to the question is so critical in understanding the work undertaken by the Department of Community Development through the National Taskforce on Social Protection Policy and the Secretariat. Right now, PNG has no Social Protection Policy.

The Secretariat, headed by Mr. George Wrondimi, was tasked to research and report their findings on the possibility of a Social Protection Policy for PNG. The result of that report should help the National Taskforce, chaired by Secretary Joseph Klapat, to persuade NEC to set up the Social Protection Policy.

The Secretariat’s work is strengthened by a number of international organizations (World Bank, UNICEF), development partners (AUSAID, ADB), and local organizations (INA), institutions (UPNG, NRI, PNG Medical Research Institute), and various local community groups and individuals.

Department of Community Development Minister, Dame Carol Kidu, Secretary Joseph Klapat, and Mr. George Wrondimi and his team should be applauded for taking on this mammoth task with the promise of bringing positive change to our societies.

In line with their strategic plan, the Secretariat organized a workshop on the Social Protection Policy at the March Girls Resort in Gaire Village last week. The workshop involved the Focus Group and the researchers for the development of the Social Protection Policy. A report prepared by the Secretariat was the focus of the workshop. The final report will serve the foundation for developing a Social Protection Policy for Papua New Guinea.

At this stage the basic premise driving the push for a Social Protection Policy is that many Papua New Guinea societies are no longer able to buffer against the onslaught of dramatic changes sweeping through the land.

The observation that the traditional safety nets for protection against social, cultural, economic, and global political shocks on small communities is weakened to the point of being useless as a safety measure or utility to service the needs of the fragile communities. The risk is that a whole wave of negative impacts on our communities can stunt growth and cohesiveness in our societies.

The need is for the intervention of the state to use its instrumentalities in the service of its people. At the outset, the State has initiated the process through a NEC decision for the Department of Community Development to set up a Taskforce and a Secretariat to research and propose a model of social protection policy that is home-grown and relevant to Papua New Guinea.

Among several key issues considered in the workshop, there was a general feeling that the report of the research group must “stress the complementarity between core social protection provision and other policy areas, such as health, education, social services, agriculture and labour policy. Social protection programmes will be critical in supporting human and economic development outcomes across all sectors. At the same time, ongoing commitment to strengthening the quality and reach of essential services is required to ensure that social protection gains are maximised. Coordination and partnership across all sectors will ensure that social protection and other sectoral policies mutually support each other.”

Prudence tells me that caution must be exercised in the development of a Social Protection Policy for it to be realistic, do-able, and achievable. Such a policy must aim at finding a balance between successful universal models and indigenous models.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Coping with Tides of Change

Big Brother's Help is Social Protection
The big question asked now is whether Papua New Guinea needs a Social Protection Policy? I, like many others, think that after 35 years of Independence and Statehood our people have seen the tide of change swept their villages away, created a rift in the social and cultural fabrics of life, economic necessity has driven many a village folk out of town, and created an urban chaos that threatens to normalize tribal behaviors and attitudes against the ever changing, vulnerable, and fragile modernity that many have started to embrace in a reluctant way.

In the 1980s when we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of our Independence we seemed to have done so with a strong sense of assurance about ourselves as a nation, young, strong, free, and with a strong population of about 3 million people. Since then the populations has tripled and the social and cultural woes seemed to have entered the stage without us noting its double edge sword. This coupled with the fragile political and economic imperatives that drove through the eighties and nineties saw a swell in urban population, trendy urbanization, and infrastructural development that ate up what used to be ‘free land” with its hasty housing development, conspicuous commercial centres, and strengthened the resolve to crime by those deprived of social and economic equality.

I have lived through that period in Port Moresby only to reflect on it to see the need for Papua New Guinea to have a National Social Protection Policy.

The 35 years of rapid transition from stone-age through to the processes of colonization, modernization, and globalization has had significant negative impact on the traditional social safety nets and social protection systems in PNG societies.

In recent times concerns were raised on the development of macro resource projects such as the Ramu Nickel and the LNG projects. The development of these projects are widening the gap between the (few 20 %) haves and the majority (80%) have-nots. The country is becoming a wealthy nation—an experience, which in itself poses as a shock for those who are ill-prepared to encounter the surplus cash flow situation in their lives, particularly the resources owners. This is already happening to the resource owners.

If the abundance of wealth is mismanaged and distributed unequally throughout the whole spectrum of society, the poorer segments will continue to have fewer assets, savings, or opportunities to fall back on and advance in life. Such a scenario will increase the level of poverty among the majority of the country’s vulnerable population.

The rapid growth of the country, in terms of population and modernization, and the increasing demands on suppliers for basic goods and services has also increased risks associated with individual lifestyle, cultural identity, economic management, environmental dependency, good governance, and the overall impact of the development process.

The government’s efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals and the dreams outlined in the government’s Vision 2050 will fail if the trend described above continues.

On the 26th June 2009 the National Executive Council, based on a join submission by the Ministers for Community Development and Treasury, made a historical decision in terms of its general policy direction on human development and poverty alleviation initiatives in the country.

The NEC Decision No.97/2009 of its Meeting No.04/2009 established a National Taskforce, comprising eight key line departments to initially conduct an investigation and report on a suitable model of Social Protection policy for PNG. The recommendations contained in this report will form the basis of a new National Policy on Social Protection that will be developed in Phase Two.

The National Taskforce on Social Protection (NTSP) comprises the following economic and social sector ministries or departments:

Department for Community Development (Team Leader)

Department of National Planning and Monitoring (Deputy Team Leader)

Department of Treasury

Department of Education

Department of Health

Department of Agriculture & Livestock

Department of Labour & Industrial Relations

Department of Provincial & Local Level Government Affairs

The National Executive Council requires an investigation on a policy framework and a report submitted back to NEC with relevant recommendations on suitable forms of Social Protection Model (s) for this country.

The state has a mandated responsibility to intervene now by directly assisting families and communities in areas where their own resource capacities have been exhausted or depleted as a result of the ever-increasing demands from the poorer and disadvantaged members of their families.

Traditional social safety nets are weak in many parts of the country over time. External intervention is needed to revive it. In parts of the country where traditional social safety nets are still in practice, empowerment of the families and communities are necessary to enable them to sustain these forms of social protection models.

Safety nets are a highly recommended form of social protection model for traditional PNG societies.. Traditional safety nets have many advantages. Traditional safety nets are practiced nationwide. The basic principles, concepts, and their benefits are familiar to individuals, families, and the society at large.

The safety nets, according to the World Bank provides immediate redistribution of wealth and reduces poverty: “they allow households to invest in their children and their livelihoods, they help households manage risks, and provisions of safety nets can handle redistributive concerns thoroughly thereby enabling governments to make more efficient policy choices in other sectors.”

The decision to develop a national policy on social protection is also part of the government’s ongoing efforts towards meeting the 2015 MDG on Poverty Alleviation. It is not a one-off policy initiative, but an over-arching strategy to eventually alleviate poverty and improve quality of life for all Papua New Guineans, as spelled out in the Vision 2050 National Development Strategy.

Experiences from other countries indicate that social protection has multiple roles to play and hence contribute significantly to improving productiveness of the people and nation building. Social protection is a long-term investment on human productiveness for nation building.

We look forward to the outcome of the Task Force on Social Protection Policy in Papua New Guinea.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Language is a Living Museum

Is it hard to see that this country needs to have its own National Language Institute to train Papua New Guineans as linguists and literacy workers to serve as custodians of our Indigenous languages and as a special task force responsible for shouldering the national burden of eradicating literacy? We no longer can afford to lose many more of our languages. We are struggling with the slow pace in eradicating literacy. Language and literacy are the two sides of the same coin that we have not invested enough resources to develop.

The National Language Institute can serve other purposes as well. It can serve as the central point in facilitating research, development, symposiums, translations, and publication of such data that pertains to the status of language, the linguistic properties of our languages, and the evidence of the intellectual or epistemological foundations of our languages and cultures. The Institute can also serve as the center of cross fertilization of languages and involved in developing policies that concern themselves with language, literacy, and culture.

I am not the first to call for a National Language Institute. In the 1980s and 1990s, prominent linguists, the late Professor Otto Nekitel, and the then UPNG Vice Chancellor Joseph Sukwianomb made impassioned plea for the government to set up the Institute to no avail.

The difficulties we have in saving moribund languages, increasing our literacy rate, and poor protection of our biolinguistic diversity necessitate the establishment of a National Language Institute. This should also be one of the medium term goals of our national developmental plan. The Institute should to be set up as a fulfillment of our National Goals and Directive Principles, Basic Rights, and Basic Social Obligations.

In addition we need to create a law to protect our languages and enforce or reinforce the use of our languages in whatever form, medium, and where possible in our changing environment. Right now, even with a Language Policy in place no one seems to attend to it or own it for the greater benefit of all Papua New Guineans.

The importance of our national languages is taken on face value without there being any concerted efforts to see the development and protection of our languages. Our language diversity is closely linked to our biodiversity that without attending to the specific demands for protection, development, and sustainability we can lose cultures, knowledge, and people in this tide of modern changes on our shores in the form of economic development, negative social changes, media communication technologies, and the rush to modernize ourselves.

Papua New Guinea is a land of language diversity and biodiversity. An international scholar Tove Skutnabb Kangae (2003) observes that knowledge “about how to maintain biodiversity is encoded in small languages because it is their speakers who live in the world's biologically (and linguistically) most diverse areas.” The consequence of “killing these languages (or letting them) die is that we destroy the biodiversity in these areas.”

Linguist Peter Muhlhausler (2001, 135) argues that “our ability to get on with our environment is a function of our knowledge of it and that by combining specialist knowledge from many languages and by reversing the one-way flow of knowledge dominating the world’s education system, solutions to our many environmental problems may be found.”

We can also take action to slow the rate of language and biodiversity extinction, and better understand the needs and ways of the indigenous people’s knowledge systems. Muhlhausler (2001, 135) is correct in pointing out that to see the continued survival of our species we need to recognize the importance of “learning from local knowledge, such as learning from the insights and errors of traditional rainforest dweller or desert nomads.” Such knowledge is embodied in our Indigenous languages as uncovered by many linguists and researchers of Papua New Guinea languages.

Muhlhausler (2001, 136-7) observes that as “Enga are becoming dependent on foods imported in tins and containers, as their children have to attend government schools where they are expected to acquire nontraditional knowledge (which leaves little time or opportunity to acquire the full traditional knowledge), and as the habitat of much of the indigenous fauna and flora is destroyed to make way for coffee plantations and gardens in which introduced food is grown, as well as for roads, towns, and airstrips,” the language itself is under threat of losing the indigenous knowledge. He adds further that many studies on other Papua New Guinean language “point to very much the same development.”

Several international linguists observe that few studies have looked at interactions within or among language and of the functional relationships among languages. The study of languages at this dimension is described as linguistic ecology. Where indigenous subsistence activities are abandoned the “specialized syntactical structures and their associated vocabularies” are left to no use (Zepeda 1984). Nabhan argues: “In most cases, however, it remains unclear whether retention of lexemes associated with the knowledge and use of biodiversity has fared any worse than overall lexical retention within an imperiled indigenous language (Spicer 1986, Wurm 1991; Hinton 1994; Nabhan 2001: 146-8).

It is important that we give some thoughts to language and biodiversity in our country. The world of the indigenous people is viewed through their language, which Nettle and Romaine (2000, 14) describe as a window, a living museum or monument that losing one language we also lose one culture: “It is a loss to every one of us if a fraction of that diversity disappears when there is something that could have been done to prevent it.”

Instead of depending on international organizations and institutions to document, study, and translate our languages we need to set up our own National Language Institute.

Discussions are taking place among various stakeholders and interested parties along this line of thinking. What is needed is political action and will to see that the National Language Institute or PNG Institute of Languages is set up for the people of Papua New Guinea and their descendants in the future.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Activities of Our Ancestors

This week I am inspired to write about the origin of domesticated plants in New Guinea after learning of the significant discovery by archaeologists Prof. Glen Summerhays of the University of Otago and UPNG’s Dr. Mathew Leavesley, at Kosipe archaeological site. Congratulations to both of them as well as to Herman Mandui from the National Museum and Art Gallery for a spectacular job. The UPNG students who worked with them deserve praise for making the discovery of the century.

The discovery is significant enough to warrant an extended story about the activities of our ancestors. It is our ancestors’ story as much as it is ours. There is more we need to discover about ourselves. I have always been a keen enthusiast for the peopling of the Island of New Guinea and the domestication of plants. The island of New Guinea is truly a world of its own basked in the mysteries of this world.

Domesticated plants in New Guinea were introduced from the Southeast Asian train. The traditional food crops introduced from Southeast Asia include starch staples such as Colocasia esculenta (Taro), Dioscorea alata (Long Yam; Greater Yam), Dioscorea esculenta (Common or Round Yam; Lesser Yam); from Tropical South America the introduction of Ipomoea batatas (Sweet Potato) from Southeast Asia the introduction of Musa (Eumusa Section) or the banana. Two of the secondary crops introduced from Southeast Asia are the Psophocarpus tetragonolobus (Wind Bean) and the Lablab niger (Hyacinth Bean).

The entry of these crops, with the exception of sweet potato, to New Guinea together with domesticated animals is thought to have gone back to more than 50,000 years. The entry of the sweet potato is so recent and is dated to the arrival of European colonialism in island Southeast Asia, which began in the early 16th century. The introduced plants were domesticated together with plants indigenous to New Guinea.

According to the archaeologist, J. Golson of Kuk fame “agriculture could have begun independently of Southeast Asia” since the “starchy foods….could have been the staples, with edible grasses and leafy green vegetables providing minerals and fats; Pandanus trees supplying fruits or nuts rich in proteins and fats, together with other unlisted nut and seed bearing trees; and sugar cane an fruits as intermittent energy sources.”

The following food plants are indigenous: Starchy food such as Musa (Australimusa Section) or banana, Dioscorea bulbifera (yam), Dioscorea hispida (yam), Dioscorea nummularia (yam), Dioscorea pentaphylla (yam), Metroxylon spp. (sago); edible grasses such as Setaria palmifolia (for shoots) or Fox-tail or Bristle Grass; Pitpit (Tokpisin) and Saccharum edule (for inflorescences) or Pitpit (Tokpisn); Leafy green vegetable (Kumu in Tokpisin) such as Abelmoschus (formerly Hibiscus) manihot or Aipika (Tokpisin), Amaranthus spp. (native spinach; Amaranths Coleus); Coleus sp, Commelina spp. Oenanthe javanica; Rorippa sp (Native Cress), Rungia klossii, Solanum nigrum; Nuts and fruits such as pandanus spp. (Screw Pine; Pandanus) and Rubus rosifolius (Native Raspberry). The indigenous plants were either domesticated or were naturally growing or transplanted in gardens from the bush.

The pattern of cultivation of these plants suggests that people in New Guinea were for the most part aware of the abundance of starchy food crops and plants that are easily cultivated to produce sufficient supply of protein and vitamins for their survival. This could explain their early horticultural activities around cultivated agriculture, and reliance of the forest, swamps, and grassland to sustain their livelihood. “It is a reasonable inference from archaeological record,” Golson agues, “that the human settlement of New Guinea began before agriculture of any kind was established in the island.”

“The early communities” Golson continues, “must have lived off the wild resources of the land” as indicated by in various ethnographic studies. It is important to keep in mind that the crop variations in time and space, varies greatly in New Guinea. Some of these plants were cultivated in different time periods and at different levels of topography and climates. The example of banana is that it can only grow at elevation of 2200 m where as sweet potato can grow very well at higher altitudes.

It is generally held that the history of New Guinea agriculture at large has been one of adjustments in response to a variety of circumstances, including the introduction of new plants. The New Guinea agricultural system, for the most part includes shifting cultivation to enable its tuberous crops to be cultivated.

According to Golson the persistence of shifting cultivation throughout the tropical world, under different climatic, physiographic, soil and vegetation regimes, serving a bewildering variety of cultivated plants. marks it out as a highly successful adaptation of forested conditions.

In agreement is the view that “partial or complete clearance of vegetation, burning the debris, the temporary cultivation of an assemblage of crops in the cleared area, and the clearing of further forest for new gardens while the old plot is abandoned to fallow under regenerating forest” helps regenerate the ecosystem (Clarke 1977; 1978; Golding n.d.: 44).

“The complex inter-planting of a diversity of crops,” Golson argues “reproduces the ecosystem diversity of the rainforest from which the garden is cleared, and to which it will shortly return.” The advantages of this polycultivation system is that “it supplies a variety of foods to diversify the diet, which comes to maturity at different stages during the life of the garden; it provides a continuous ground-cover that cuts down the need for weeding and checks erosion; and it reduces the threat from crop diseases and pests to which monocultural plantings are prone.”

Golson observed further that this forest fallowed cultivation is self-maintaining, has no need of external energy or nutrient sources, and produces a greater yield for every unit of human energy than other agricultural systems.

Tropical rainforest with its species diversity and high biological productivity, can flourish even on the poorest soil, because a large part of the nutrients is contained in the biomass itself and their recycling is rapid and efficient.

Agriculture in New Guinea began in the lowlands before entering the highlands.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blue Eyed Angel of Kusaun

Yauwiga displays his medals of honor. Courtesy of  Bikmaus Journal published by IPNGS
 The only famous Papua New Guinean fuzzy wuzzy angel with a blue eye happens to be Paul Yauwiga Wankunale from Kusaun village in the Kubalia area of the East Sepik Province. I grew up marveled at this tall, well built, giant of a man from my area; legendary in his lifetime for his bravery in the Second World War, fighting alongside the Allied forces on Guadalcanal, Buka, Rabaul, Madang, Morobe, and the Sepik.

Warrant Officer Yauwiga was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Bravery Award, and other such medals for his valiant war efforts. One such campaign is described in Lorna Fleetwood’s book, A Short History of Wewak: “On 27th March 1945 Yauwiga was with an Australian Infantry Brigade (A.I.B) party at Aravia. It was learned that an enemy party of about eighty Japanese was approaching their camp. While the A.I.B escaped with their codes and essential equipment Yauwiga took up a defensive position with just three rifles. He and two other soldiers managed to keep the Japanese at bay for fifteen minutes, exhibiting great bravery. In two years Yauwiga killed fifty-seven Japanese.”

Yauwiga lost a hand and both his eyes when holding a grenade used as a signal for Australian planes to drop supplies. No one showed him how to use it. He spent three months in a hospital in Canberra. He was given the eyes of a motor cycle accident fatality. One eye grafted well and Yauwiga became a very rare being, a Melanesian with a blue eye.

In The Bishops’ Progress: An Historical Ethnography of Catholic Missionary Experience on the Sepik Frontier, Mary Taylor Huber notes: “the major figure in Wewak and its immediate hinterland in the first years after the war appears to have been Yau[w]iga…who was also a war hero, and whose decoration ceremony in 1948 was witnessed by some 30 Europeans and 80,000 natives from near and far.” Yauwiga’s war exploits is an exemplary military valour deserving far more attention than is observed.

Yauwiga was more than a war hero to his people. He was a catalyst of many transformative changes in East Sepik right after the war. Yauwiga’s contemporaries Ludwig Somare Sana and Pita Simogun were articulate leaders in their epoch, taking the bull by its horns to wrestle it until it came under their feet.

Yauwiga succeeded in destroying the practice of sorcery in Nagum Boiken villages. In each village a two-to-three meter deep hole was dug where all the powers and sorcery tools like plants, bones, lime, ginger, stones, and other items of sorcery were buried. Only the old men opposed him here and there. But Yauwiga made the refractory ones stay the whole day long in the hot sun until by evening they showed some pliancy.

Father Andreas Gerstner, the Catholic missionary anthropologist, in charge of the parish covering the immediate hinterland of Wewak records his admiration of Yauwiga as a messianic figure: “this unusual man…undertook a war against old heathen spirit cult and has had up to now wide success. Beginning in 1947 and then up to February 1948, he has already undertaken one reform expedition to his own people, two in the Wewak region, one in Boiken region, and one on the island of Kairiru. On each of these trips he stayed three to four weeks. Delegates from many different villages accompanied him. After arrival in a new village, Yauwiga would first give a speech. He asked all the men to give up their spiritual and magical paraphernalia and whatever other things were known as causes of conflict and feud. He said, ‘So long as you keep the old things, you think only of them. You threaten with sorcery, quarrels, and fighting. A new time has come for us. We will better ourselves and follow the whites of the Administration and the Mission.’”

Was this Yauwiga’s way of avenging the rebuke and shame he received during his initiation into the maiye sorcery society? It is said Yauwiga had failed his assignment, as an apprentice maiyenduo, to bring back to normal senses a young woman victim of sorcery, who was still in a state of trance. He went against the rules and code of the maiyenduo society, resulting in his rebuke and banishment.

The knowledge of maiye saved him during the war. It earned him the reputation as a one man army. Yauwiga used the maiye knowledge to ambush and kill many Japanese during the war. He was invisible to his enemies because he used the maiye spells and powers to great advantage.

In the film Angels of War, Yauwiga speaks proudly about his bravery.

In the first years after the war Yauwiga advocated bisnis with a campaign for reform of village society. Yauwiga had the support of his people who worked on a variety of projects, including salt extraction, a coconut plantation corporative, and a sago-processing operation. It is said Yauwiga purchased a saw mill from the government.

Yauwiga had a vision for the future of the Sepik District. He organized the Boram school in Wewak. The Boram school was his brain child, inspired from the discussions he once had with wounded soldiers from Samoa and Fiji he met in the hospital in Canberra. Elders from Kreer village gave him land to build the school, with the help of his own people from Kusaun, Porombe, and Ulighembi.

The famous pupil of this school is our Prime Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare.

Yauwiga died in 1982. He was given a military service and buried conspicuously on his land at Marinumbo.

Yauwiga fought for his country.

He had the vision to develop his people through education, through various business ventures, and developmental activities. Given the atmosphere at that time Yauwiga had the leadership persuasion that is poorly acknowledged and given recognition for its accomplishments.

Yauwiga’s individual gallantry in World War II, his post-war visions, and pioneering leadership legacy is best honoured if a foundation or scholarship is set up to continue his dream.