SOCIAL MEDIA EXPLODES AS TAVURVUR SPEWS

The ultimate thrill of  a journalist is to be  where the action is and to be the first to get the story and pictures.  I’d like to congratulate  Poreni Umau,  who was one of the first to supply pictures of the Tavurvur eruption to an eagerly waiting  PNG audience.  Poreni’s updates demonstrated the thrill of being in the right place at the right time.

Tavurvur (Picture from Poreni Umau)
It is now  15 hours since the first  images of   the Tavurvur  volcanic eruption  appeared on social networks.
             Unlike  the  1994 eruption, the flow of information  from this emergency has been  relatively unprecedented. 
             Papua New Guineans all over the country and the world were able to get  near real time updates  as the  spectacular  event unfolded from  4am this morning.
 Some of the initial pictures  were  captured by  Kokopo based freelance  journalist, Poreni Umau,  who was  at the scene    hours after the eruption.
            In a matter of hours they  become some of the most shared pictures of facebook.   He provided  up to the minute reports that  showed  the hour by hour state of Rabaul town and surrounding areas.
             As conventional  media lagged behind, Papua New Guineans turned to social media – particularly facebook –  to   get up to the minute updates from Rabaul.
 Rabaul  residents were woken as early as 4am this morning to loud explosions from the volcano.     Businesses have been forced to close because of ash fall.
            More than 200 police officers from Kokopo and Tomaringa have been deployed   to Rabaul.
 Speaking to EMTV this afternoon, Provincial police commander,  Tony Wagambie  Jr. said  Rabaul has been sealed off but residents have not yet left their homes.
              No eviction order has yet been given and  while this is an emergency, there is no sense of panic amongst residents.  But the concerns  remain that if there is a major eruption, we could see a repeat of the 1994 eruption that buried  the town of Rabaul.

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WISDOM IN NATURE


In a sermon about Wisdom, Catholic Archbishop Steve Reichert draws from nature to inspire his Divine Word University Audience.
During the past year I’ve travelled by plane from Madang to Wewak and back many times.  It is an enjoyable trip.  What a beautiful country we live in.
Following the coastline one sees the high mountains inland, the vast forests, the rivers and the small villages here and there in the bush. 
Then suddenly the mighty Sepik River appears, confidently strolling out of the hills onto the plain, meandering toward the sea.  But just before it accomplishes its mission of depositing its contents into the ocean, it turns back on itself, as if it has lost courage at the last minute.   It twists and turns in indecision before finally making its way through the sandy beach to the sea.  And I said to myself, I’m like that sometimes.  Many of us are like that sometimes and often our fear and indecision is a cause for doing wrong and hurting others.
Ramu River – It is bold, dirty and undisciplined.  It is selfish and greedy. It eats away at the banks and the foundations of the village houses.  It builds up sand and silt like so many excuses until its only escape is to slink off in another unplanned direction.  We all know people like that.  But sometimes we also see him or her when we look in the mirror. How many of us fail to meet the challenges of life with honesty?  It’s easier to run away from responsibility and accountability.  We need wisdom and strength.
Manam Volcano – white smoke and black smoke – arrogant, moody, sometimes angry and dangerous.  It is not reliable.
Karkar Island – Elderly, quiet, stable, settled and generous.  It’s like everyone’s grandmother. 
And then comes the broken coastline of Madang – the little islands and lagoons, the coral reefs – inviting, peaceful and compassionate.
We humans are created in the image and likeness of God, but sin makes us less beautiful than we are meant to be.  But there is hope for us.  Wisdom that comes from loving God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, will restore God beauty in us.  And loving our neighbour as ourselves no matter what, strengthens the gift of wisdom within us.
As you circle to land on the sea side of the airport you might catch a glimpse of Long Island in the distance to the Southeast – across an angry sea to this volcanic island which erupted 300 years ago and made its mark on the world, causing a time of darkness.  It is too far away to see it in detail.  But with the help of modern technology, Google Earth, one can see the great beauty of this volcanic island. 
Long Island features a beautiful blue lake in its spent crater –  and as you scroll closer and closer to it, the name of the lake pops up on your computer – Lake Wisdom.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could drink thewater of that lake and gain wisdom?  (DWU Foundation Day Mass – 22 August 2014)

WEAK GUN LAWS NO DETERRENT FOR ARMS SMUGGLERS


Smuggled weapon confiscated by police in one of many cases
Ten years ago, sources close to  Chinese criminal  elements operating in Papua New Guinea alerted then  Commissioner  of  Internal Revenue Commission,   David Sode, of threats to  assassinate him.  Sode and  other government agencies were at the time investigating and clamping down on  a  string of  illegal activities  including the proliferation of  cheap gambling machines, lottery tickets and guns.
Weak gun laws offer no protection for ordinary Papua New Guineans
        Those who issued the threats were  arrested and deported  and within  months,  the illegal gaming machines were banned in Port Moresby and  the premises of operators raided.

 Government agencies responded quickly.

              While much of the focus was on illegal gaming machines  and lottery tickets, authorizes still had difficulty clamping down of the owners of illegal weapons.
                In a conversation  with  a senior government official, who cannot be named for security reasons,  he said one  of the men  who allegedly  issued  threats to the former IRC commissioner had “six licenses to kill. ”    All six gun licenses were seemingly legitimate  and were all signed by appropriate authorities.
                Back then, my  ignorance on  the  Firearms act  of 1978 prevented me from understanding that the  main reason  preventing severe action against importers of illegal weapons were  Papua New Guinea’s weak gun laws.
              Ten years on, the gun problem has surfaced yet again. This time with the appearance in a Lae  court  of a foreign   national who  allegedly smuggled in  M4 assault rifles and handguns.   
Police and customs officers dealing  with the case found  that Papua new Guinea’s  Firearms act  of 1978 has not proven to be a strong deterrent against  well financed gun importers who can easily pay the specified fine of K1500.  
               The head  of the  Police  Criminal  Investigation Directorate,   Donald Yamasombi,   has been trying to convince  key government agencies  and legislators  to amend gun laws to reflect  the changing  PNG  landscape. He  maintains the old gun laws do  little to help police deal with security issues in Papua New Guinea. 
               Earlier this year,  in Bogia,  Madang province, police intercepted  a small shipment of guns including M4 carbines commonly used by the US Navy Seals.   What  is worrying for police is the larger network of buyers in the highlands provinces   who are willing to pay up to K20,000 for  a weapon.

SEARCHING HIGH SCHOOL KIDS FOR WEAPONS…WHAT THIS REALLY MEANS

Bugandi student shot by police

For years, we’ve heard the rhetoric about the need for  good parenting  and how a good  families  are  the building blocks to  a  good society.    
        This morning,  it hit me  how  we,  as nation,  have allowed our country  to  slip towards   a crisis point  in our history.

This morning, I saw  students at the Lae Secondary School having their bags  searched for weapons and other contraband.           While much of the blame have been leveled at the bad influences from student groups,  an equal portion of blame – perhaps more-  should be shared by parents.   Every parent should also ask  themselves several important questions;
           “How much of a positive influence do I have in my child’s life?”
 “Do I know his friends and where he hangs out after school?”
“Why is my son or daughter  arriving home at 6.30pm?”
“Why is he spending a lot of time alone with his mobile phone and who is he conversing with?”
Why  have we reached a point in our country’s history  where  secondary school kids  have to undergo bag searches  by security guards?   From 2012 to 2014,  I’ve   covered numerous school fights, one stabbing death, two police shootings of students involved in school fights.
           I’ve witnessed  how  teachers,  including  senior members of the schools,  have become so afraid  of their own students because of the potential physical harm that their  students may cause to them and their families.  Why have  people in positions of authority  become so afraid of exerting  authority?
I hear this a lot: “Let the authorities  deal with the problem.”   But me break  this down into its most simplest  form.
1.                   The first authority that the child is supposed to recognize  and submit to is the authority of a mother,  a father,  uncles and aunts.   If that authority isn’t respected,  how can we expect that  the rules of this great nation of ours to be followed?
2.    A child is, first and foremost,  the responsibility of  a father and mother.  If left unguided and not cared for,  he or she evolves into a problem  for the government of Papua New Guinea.
Unfortunately,  Papua New Guinea’s justice system  sees things in black and white and has no patience, flexibility nor tolerance for  rogues  who were once children.

MANAM: 10 YEARS AFTER THE ERUPTION


Charles Yanda, former local level government councilor

It has been 10 years since the Manam volcanic eruption  abruptly forced  more than 15000 islanders  to move  to the  mainland of the Madang province.
Many of the families, still living in care centers,  have been left destitute with  very little  fertile land to grow food and little means of generating an income.
For 10 years, both the National and Provincial governments have ignored the plight of islanders making no firm decision  on their resettlement.
Gabriel Kabarapun is a displaced Manam Islander  who has been living  in the Asarumba care center.    He built this house  in 2004 when they were evacuated during the volcanic eruption   and since then, he  has changed  the  sago palm thatch on his roof only once.
Asarumba, like the other Manam  care centers,  is  located on old mission  plantations.   Building materials are scarce and   the  islanders  are not always allowed to get sago thatch and wood  from  the traditional land  that belongs to  the Bogia people.
“I can’t get materials to build  a new house,” he says.  “The posts are slowly rotting, the walls are falling apart.  The  owners of the land don’t allow us to use  their land to get wood or roofing.”
Because  of the scarcity of land  and limited resources,   it has become increasingly common to  find two families sharing one house. 
Gabriel shares  this house  with his nephew. Both men have large families.  The house can not  fit them all.  This  means some family members have use the verandah  as sleeping quarters after the evening meals.
In 2004,  Gabriel and more than 15 thousand people  were forced to leave  their Island home after the Manam volcano suddenly erupted.   

They were placed on  the old plantations with the understanding that a long term solution would be found.
Initially,  tons of  relief  supplies and millions of Kina  came  from both local and international sources.   But  as donor agencies left one by one, the Manam islanders slipped  off  the list of government priorities and were eventually forgotten.
“We are a forgotten people,” says former Local level government councilor, Charles Yanda.  “It the government can look at foreign asylum seekers, what not pay attention to our needs.   We’re Papua New Guineans and we’ve been here for 10 years” 
While there has been much talk about  a permanent solution  for the displaced Manam Islanders,    much of it has been political talk with no  action on the ground.    It  is one of the biggest frustrations  for Yanda. 
“I’ve lost confidence in the government,”  says Bogia landowner, Francis Suku.  They keep telling us that this issue will be resolved. I’ve seen very little.
The Manam population on the care centers  has more than doubled  since the evacuation. There are now an estimated 30 thousand people scattered  along the Bogia coast with remnants of  village communities on the sheltered part of the Island.
The relationship between the Islanders and the  people along the Bogia coast  has not been smooth.  Over the years,  clashes between the Manams and the Bogias have  resulted in deaths  and injuries.
As another decade approaches,  the Manams remain in care centers still without a permanent  solution.   Both the National and provincial government have not articulated  what will become of  them.

CELEBRATING THE LIFE OF JERRY GINUA – A TRUE MELANESIAN JOURNALIST


Four days since  his passing, I’ve finally mustered the courage  to write about this great man who taught me a lot.  These words, however,  will be forever inadequate for he was greater than the descriptions in this blog post.  There is an emptiness for many of us who came after him.  It is the loss not of a journalist but of an older brother and a humble leader in his own right.
So let this piece be a celebration of  his life.  For being human  is all we can be in this life.   
We can never be perfect and flawless.  We can only be as honest as we can be and as honorable  as our human will permits us to be.  It is impossible not to make mistakes.  For  the absence of mistakes rarely means  perfection. It means  stagnation in the  journey of our lives.   Somebody somewhere has had to make mistakes in order for some level of  perfection to occur.  Somebody somewhere has had to make mistakes in order to us to learn from  the lessons.  
Jerry Ginua was the embodiment of  it all.  He was not  perfect.   What stood out with him was that he never claimed to be.  He would admit that he was wrong.   He would always be brutally honest  when things went bad and he would  take responsibility and never complain. 
He made as many mistakes  as  were humanly possible.   He learned many lessons and his lessons were ours as well.   He had the guts to make those many mistakes, to learn from the experiences  and in turn pass on those lessons.  He was generous enough to share  so that others younger than him – others  like me  – could become better. 
One of the most valuable skillI learned from Jerry Ginua  was that  of relationship building and diplomacy.  Jerry was the  “Melanesian journalist”  in the truest  sense.   He  was a master at building and maintaining  relationships.    He had the natural ability  to establish contact  and build trust.   I learnt from him that  no matter how difficult the story got,  you should never lie  and you should never mince your words if either  party in the story felt aggrieved or angered.  Above all, never run  from difficulty.
Jerry never sought the fame and the attention that television  tended to bring.  He was very humble for a person who spoke to Papua New Guinea’s prime ministers  and decision makers.    I never saw him wear  shoes or tuck his shirt for a whole month.  But you could be sure he would wear a tie when it mattered: In front of the camera. Television was – at the end of the day – just a job.
Jerry taught me that TV journalism was a 24-hour-7-days-a-week job.  He taught me that television life was unglamorous, difficult and dangerous.   On one or two occasions, he was punched and verbally abused.  He always saw the fun side of  things and would later guide us on how do things better.   If a story happened,  he would be there while the rest of us were asleep.   He would attend  a seemingly  mundane dinner party  and come back with  an angle that would be headline news the next day.
During the Sandline Crisis in 1997,   Jerry Ginua,  Benny Malaisa  and  cameramen – Jerry Kuasi and Francis  Benny,  shot  some  of the best exclusive footage for EMTV.  Channel 9, Channel 10, Channel 7 and other major networks carried these pictures.   They filmed the assault of PNGDF  officers by fellow members as well as the burning of  the former commander’s car late at night.   They filmed the Siege  of Parliament   by PNGDF soldiers.
As I said,  Jerry was a master at building relationships and those relationships served him well. 
With me, Jerry never shared a great deal of his personal life.   We were professionals in every sense of the word.  But that did not stop him from providing guidance when I was not paying attention to what mattered:  Family.  He would be stern like a big brother would and keep me away from what he did not  want me to see.  He would always be there to back me up  where  I fell short in terms of experience and wisdom.
 He allowed only a  glimpse of  what he thought and felt.  But there is no question about the fact that his life revolved around his children and  his home. These were things that were very important to him. 
If there was anyone who was not  afraid to live,  to make mistakes and to pass on those important lessons to those who came after him,  it would be Jerry.  It is with these words –  as inadequate as they are –  that I wish to celebrate the life of Jerry Ginua.