MANAM UNCERTAINTY CONTINUES 11 YEARS ON


Manam Island (Photo: Peter John Tate)

From the outside looking in,  the resettlement of   more than 10,000 people displaced by the Manam  volcano  eruptions of 1996 and  2004,  revolves around the passing of the  Manam  Restoration Authority (MRA) Bill.
                It  seems a straight forward matter in which  Parliament passes a legislation that creates a legal entity that will manage  the resettlement t of the  Manam  Islanders.   At least in theory,  that is  how it is supposed to work.  
                But in reality,  the  intention of the legislation and  the  needs of the Manam Islanders   is grinding  against   age old  cultures  and   complex customary land tenure systems  of    the Andarum    people  where the proposed resettlement  is to happen and the Bogia people where the “ Manam care centers” are located.
                While the  National Government   attempts to sell the idea  of  Manam resettlement to the Adarum people,    their representatives have expressed,  in so many words,  that they are not keen on having   some 10,000 Islanders settle on their ancestral land.
                Generally, the people of Madang province are   relatively very diplomatic.  But the resistance  over the resettlement is coming  to the fore as the people who  are expected by the government to play  host   start looking  at a possible future  of  cultural friction and turbulence between them and   another tribal group  occupying their land.
                This is a fear that is not unfounded.  Since  resettlement after  the 2004 eruption,  there have been multiple clashes  between  the Manams and the Bogias  –   whose traditional land  before colonization,    has been used as “care centers.”
                In 2008, four people were killed in clashes sparked by ongoing tensions.  In  2009, a three-year-old child  was abducted and killed  sparking further violence.   Then,  in March 2010,  the government  held a special cabinet meeting to  look at ways to ease tension after three years of  continued violence.
                Understanding the violence  requires a detailed look  at  how Papua New Guineans are attached to their land.   For the Manams,  leaving the island  has   meant  the  severing a relationship    from  a  spiritual source of life for them.  
It is harder for  the old men and women, many of whom,  have died in grief  after  being unable to express their loss of a connection to the land where their parents  and grandparents are buried.  For younger generation,  the  lack of freedom to  use water and harvest building materials from land owned by the Bogias  has had a direct impact on their  health and living standards.
The Bogias, in a sense, feel cheated by the government. 
The initial  understanding was for the Manams to be settled on their land for six months before being moved to a permanent resettlement  area.   After   more than a decade,  tensions over land and resources  remain.
The Manam  volcano,  has been relatively quiet.  However,  with the recent volcanic activity, what the government ignored for a decade has come back  to haunt them.   It  has become a  problem compounded by an island population that has doubled,   whilst living on the mainland,  and a new host unwilling to take in  clans made landless by a force of nature.
Prime  Minister, Peter O Neill,   has chosen to look beyond the petty politics of  Madang’s  politicians  and has given an ultimatum for them to sort out their differences.  Regardless of whether  or not they reach a compromise, the government will use its numbers to pass the long overdue   Manam Restoration Authority  Bill  and start the process of resettlement.
Madang Governor, Jim Kas,  has provided some sense of direction by bringing the MRA  Bill to parliament after  10 years of provincial indecisiveness. However, there is conflict stemming from the make up of the MRA board and it  remains a major obstacle to progress.
While  the National Government is on a path to  accomplishing its duty,    Madang’s political leadership   is  still in disarray and have been  that way for  10 years. 
That  political chaos, is costing lives.
Advertisements

CHURCH DEMOLISHED AS DEVELOPER CLAIMS LAND


By Michelle Amba 

A 40-year-old Catholic Church in Central Province outside  of Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby,  has been demolished by developers. 

Bisogo Catholic church has has a congregation of  about a  thousand people in the Laloki area. 
A new title holder used force to put down the church building. 
The  Port Moresby Catholic  Archbishop,  John Ribat,  was at the site this morning condemning the actions of those responsible.
“This shows that people do not care about  what Christianity and what the church is bringing to the communities,”  he said.  “It shows that people put material things ahead of Christian beliefs  and teachings,”  said Bishop Ribat.
Bishop Ribat said there was an understanding between the landowners and the church and the church has been there through this understanding.
After several attempts to get clarification from the lands department, the church found out that the boundaries of where the church was situated  and the piece of land that was sold off was not quite clear.
It seems portion 230 was sold to the said title holder and the church sits on portion 292.The church believes  there has  been some misunderstanding resulting in the demolition of the church.
The Bishop said, “It is not clear to us whether the land is a customary land or state land however more investigations must be conducted to clarify these doubts”.
Bishop Ribat says the damage has been done and the Church will be working in close consultation with the Lands department to see how this can be resolved.

                     

PRISONERS APPEAL TO PM & CS COMMISSIONER TO INVESTIGATE, STOP BEATINGS


A series of images   showing prisoners bearing  injuries sustained from   alleged beatings by prison officers   have    been sent to the  Correctional Service  Commissioner, Michael  Waipo,  for  further investigations.
 The images understood  to have been taken by inmates soon after the beatings  were  sent out anonymously  with an appeal to get  the CS commissioner,  CS Minister  and  the Prime Minister to look into alleged prisoner abuses that are happening Lae’s Buimo Jail.
 According to information on the photographs,  the  images  were taken in  May this year   from reliable sources who cannot be named for safety reasons.  
 According to the sources,  at least  three prisoners were beaten  with blunt  objects soon after   they were  jailed  for  the killing of a policeman  at Pindiu station in Morobe. 
 The images came with an appeal that  the pictures  to be sent to the CS commissioner, Michael Waipo and the CS minister, Jim SImatab,   so that  the injustices would be investigated  and the abusers exposed.
 About a month after the images were taken, the men in the picture  reportedly escaped  with more than 60 others in a mass prison break out.
In June, the correctional service sent officers from Port Moresby to investigate the circumstances   that could have triggered the  mass escape.  
It is understood the investigators   faced significant hurdles in  extracting information from prison authorities and were forced to  piece together information from external stakeholders including  members of the media.
 The investigation report  into the   prison escape at Buimo,     meanwhile,   has been completed.
In a short phone interview,  CS commissioner, Michael Waipo,   said  the report detailing  reasons for the escape  and the problems within  Buimo  has been passed on the CS minister and will be released  this week.