Monday, August 16, 2010

Waigani Seminar a UPNG Tradition

The 2010 Waigani Seminar will take place between August 19 and 20th at the University of Papua New Guinea Main Campus. The theme for this year is Customary Land Tenure and Evolving Democracy in Papua New Guinea. The Waigani Seminar takes place every two years. Many leading legal experts, development consultants, academics, researchers, and customary land owners are expected to meet at the Waigani Campus this month.


The organizing committee had decided that this year’s seminar will only run for two days. Past seminars lasted for a week at most. With time reduced to two days it is expected that the seminar will consider the Government’s position in relation to the PNG Vision 2050 Vision, the legal perspective and how laws can effectively govern and protect landowners, the social and cultural complexities of customary land ownership, models of sustainable life systems and sustainable land use and the crucial training for effective land administration.

As interesting as the academic discussions are during the seminar days UPNG has several creative activities that form part of the 2010 Waigani Seminar. The first activity is the Book2Buk2 activities involving writers, publishers, authors, editors, and professionals in the book trade industry. The discussion has several key individuals who will discuss the various aspects of book trade, publishing, marketing research, and book sales and distribution in PNG. Some of the possible speakers, include big names such as veteran radio personality, Peter Trist on behalf of Professor Ulli Beier and Georgina Beier, S. K. Ghai, Tom Mosbi, Professor Ted Wolfers, a long time PNG friend, Dr. Greg Murphy, Mr. Nimo Kama, Dr. Linda Crowl, Dean of Arts at the Divine Word University and long time publications fellow of the Institute of Pacific Studies at USP (Fiji), who had assisted many Pacific Islanders to publish their books in the 1990s and early 2000s. Dr. Crowl has also written her doctoral dissertation on the politics of book publishing in the Pacific Islands.

The Book2Buk2 will take place before the main Waigani Seminar. Many Port Moresby based writers, editors, and publishers will participate in this event. Dr. John Evans, manager of UPNG Press and Bookshop tells me that a significant number of new books will be launched during this event. A major sales and promotion of reprints of important publications on Papua New Guinea will also take place during this time.

Participants in the Waigani Seminar will have the privilege of seeing the first performance of No Free Land, a play based on the original short story written by this writer. The adoption for stage and performance of the play are led by the tenacious duo: Martin Tony and Motsy Davidson of the Melanesian Institute of Arts and Communication (MIAC). The play will feature the creative talents of the theatre arts students at UPNG. This play is the first major play written and produced for stage after so many years in silence. Participants will appreciate this creative presentation of the same issues dealt with during the two days of serious academic presentations. A must see for all.

I have one challenge to the organizers of Waigani Seminar. Publish all proceedings of the 2010 UPNG Waigani Seminar. The publication of Waigani Seminar discussions can serve as important references for those involved in advising government on customary land tenure and developing policies to guide the government in fully capturing the evolving democracy in Papua New Guinea. We don’t want another missing reference in the list of works that should have been consulted for the development of this country.

Lesson learnt is that we have yet to see the publication of papers presented in the Waigani Seminar of previous years. Having a seminar without publishing the proceedings defeats the purpose of spending so much money, resources, and time only to have nothing concrete published to reflect the discussions that took place.

If the organizers of the UPNG Science 2009 conference can publish the proceedings of this important conference organized by the School of Natural and Physical Sciences and the School of Medical Sciences and Public Health then a high bench mark was set for the organizers of the Waigani Seminar to consider. Publish the proceedings from the 2010 Waigani Seminar right away. The long-term impact Waigani Seminar has is on the publication of its proceedings and not so much on the verbal presentations during the seminar days.

If I am one of the paper presenters at the Waigani Seminar I would want to see that my paper is published so that it becomes available to a wider audience. As a scholar I am more conscious of the importance of having my work published than to just present my paper to a small privileged audience without making an impact on the wider society. The publication of early and later years of Waigani Seminar papers has created a single corpus of literature on the development of Papua New Guinea that many scholars, students, policy makers, advisors, consultants, and government officers use for their purpose to advance the government’s programs and directives.

The task of publishing the Waigani Seminar papers should be made easier if paper presenters leave the final copy of their papers with the organizers for immediate publishing. Many speakers have the tendency of presenting their papers and leaving no final version of their papers for publication. The organizers must insist that all paper presenters have their papers ready for publication on the day they present their papers. No excuse for revision of papers after the Waigani Seminar should be allowed. Such people will never submit their papers for publication. I say this based on the experience of organizing and presenting papers in many conferences.

Finally, the Waigani Seminar is for everyone. It is open to the public to attend and absorb the intellectual stimuli generated every day. It is a seminar for everyone. This year’s seminar on customary land and evolving democracy is useful to anyone interested in the issues and challenges concerning the same. At least attend one session if you can.

Email: sewinduo@gmail.com

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