Ballot paper shortages, roll inaccuracies widespread as Lae ends polling

Unitech students burning ballot papers

Polling in the Lae Open electorate   has ended with widespread reports of electoral roll inaccuracies, inadequate ballot papers and polling disruptions by angry voters.

The incidences in multiple locations happened as an international observer group   traveled   between polling stations in Papua New Guinea’s industrial city.

At Omili Primary School, voting was suspended for over an hour after police fired shots to disperse a crowd of rowdy voters.

Earlier,   a Nawae Block community leader, Nime Dua, led a group that threatened to force the suspension of polling because of shortage of ballot papers.

“In previous elections the ballot papers brought here average between 3000 and 3500,” he said. “We want them to explain why we are being given only 1500 ballot papers.”

The apparent shortage of ballot papers stems from the flawed 2017 electoral roll doesn’t include eligible voters who turned 18 after 2012 elections.

At a polling station at the University of Technology students burnt 1100 ballot papers in protest.

“We fought against corruption last year,” a student leader said. “This is corruption!”

Tensions escalated in West Taraka as voters turned against each other.   Police were called in to quell the violence.

Chinatown polling station

As voters questioned the validity of the electoral roll at a polling station in the center of town, Electoral Commissioner, Patilias Gamato,   stepped off a Port Moresby Flight to Lae and headed straight for the Ward Two council office a few kilometers away  where he was able to find his name on the electoral role and cast his vote.

In Chinatown, many voters had come as early as 4am to vote. But by 8.30am, many voters were left frustrated.

Eng Anuma voted in 2012. This morning she that found that her name was not on the 2017 electoral roll. Names of her family members were also missing.

“What am I going to do? I don’t know. I have a right to vote!”

Delvin Balsen, one of many who missed out on voting

Delvin Balsen planned to vote in this election. The 31-year-old, Lae resident is one of many young voters who will miss out on the election process.

“I don’t feel like a Papua New Guinean Citizen. I am angry about the whole thing.”

Minutes after polling began in Chinatown, scrutineers called for a suspension of polling and demanded to know which electoral roll would be used.

Eng Anuma voted in 2012

Some voters who found their names on the 2012 rolls could not find theirs in the 2017 rolls.While polling resumed, the electoral roll problems remained unresolved for the rest of the day.

Election officers should not be barring media reporting at polling stations


To all media (and especially to younger journos) covering the elections, you have the right to film and report at polling stations. It is an integral part of transparency in a democracy.

The constitution is supreme!

Polling officials should NOT be stopping anyone from filming or reporting on the elections. We do NOT need permission to ensure that we do our part to keep OUR democracy intact through accurate reporting.

Any polling official or returning officer who demands that we seek permission should be asked why he/she is attempting to stop an essential part of the democracy from doing its job.

Any threats of arrest should also be exposed.

Kaibar owner pushes boundaries of Western Highlands politics


Western Highlands businesswoman, Rachel Mura, began a kaibar business when she was 24 and   last month nominated for the Western highlands provincial seat.

While her campaign style lacks the extravagance of highlands politics, she says, its about all about winning the hearts and minds of women and ordinary people in the villages.

Over two decades, Rachel have stamped her mark as a successful small business owner. Her portfolio to includes properties in Australia and the Philippines.

“I still operate the small kai bar. I’ve been to other countries but Western Highlands is still home.”

But why politics? It’s a question she’s answered countless times over the last month during her campaign.

“Many politicians have homes overseas or they live in Port Moresby. If we live away, our people are on their own.”

Rachel Mura says it’s about bringing back services to the people who need it the most like “the mama in the village” who struggles to budget a small income to the youth in Hagen City.

One of her main policies is to create the Western Highlands Microbank – an institution she wants to use to empower women and create business success stories.

“They government has to support the Western Highlands Microbank concept. It will be owned by the women of the province.”



“Small pigs ain’t good enough for politics”

pig1For Christina Yamba, pigs are serious business.   Christine comes from a long line of   women who have raised pigs over   generations for various purposes. For her, it is a lucrative income source.

“I look after pigs for sale. I feed them with kaukau and feed. Large pigs are sold for K5000.”

During election time, the price of pigs rise as candidates come looking for gifts to woo voters and build alliances   before the polling happens.

It has become standard practice as ancient customs are blended with 21st century politics in Papua New Guinea.

pig2Christine explains, candidates don’t come looking to buy   small pigs. .

“Election people don’t want small pigs,” she says. “We don’t sell small pigs worth K1000. People want them.”

During the 2012 elections, Christine made 15 thousand kina from the sale of three pigs. Each pig was bought for 5 thousand kina by intending politicians.

For this election, she won’t be selling any of her pigs. They’ll too small. A pig worth K1000 Kina just isn’t good enough for Western Highlands politics.









The shark attacks that got me addicted to TV News


The month February 1996 is etched in my mind.

It began with a week of intense drama when a senior business studies student at DWU was attacked by a shark at Madang’s Machine Gun beach. It was one of several attacks in the space of a month. I forget his name. But I think he was from Mt. Hagen.

The shark tore his calf muscle but thankfully he was rescued by other students and taken to the Modilon General Hospital . He survived but with serious injuries.

In the same week, our journalism class of 1996 was doing a block course on television and video production. I was fresh from six weeks of work experience at EMTV with Richard Kelebi, Margaret Opu, Elizabeth Paul, and Jacqueline Tarue.

I was keen to learn more.

The man who encouraged us to take up TV journalism as a career, maestro cameraman, Fr. Zdzislaw Mlak, sent Neville Choi and I on a mission to interview the shark attack victim in hospital.   He was in pain but able to talk. We got the interview done. But in my haste, other pictures needed for the story we were going to sent to EMTV were terrible.

“Crappy shots!” Fr. Mlak said in his heavy Polish accent.   The Polish priest was not someone you argued with. He sent me right back to the hospital with a camera, this time with Richard Kelebi. Within the hour, we got all the pictures we needed.

As we were coming out of the hospital’s main door, we were met with chaotic scenes and a flurry of white nurses uniforms and at least one screaming doctor.

All we could make out was: “Another shark attack! Kalibobo!”

It was like watching everything in slow motion. In the confusion and haste, someone said…” Put a stretcher in the bus. It was a 15-seater Coastwatchers Hotel Bus that had come to get a medical worker to attend to the victim.

It didn’t make sense. They put in a foldable hospital bed into the 15-seater bus. I stood dumbfounded thinking…. So if they put the guy on the bed, how will they get him to hospital on a bed that wont fit into the bus when open? Everyone was confused.

Then, someone who recognized us said… “get the students to Kalibobo so they can take pictures.” We were shoved into the bus and the driver dashed off. I was also confused.

Halfway to Kalibobo, we realized a utility was bringing the victim to hospital. We headed back not knowing what to expect.   We got to the hospital moments after the victim was brought in. He was a tall Sepik guy who had been fishing at the base of the Kalibobo lighthouse when he was attacked by the shark.

Richard Kelebi stood behind me and yelled “shoot!” I had no idea what to do but obey and hit the record button.

The chaotic scene was almost overwhelming. In the corner of my eye, I could see the guy’s injuries. For a skinny 19-year-old kid, it was bloody terrifying!   But there was no doubt the adrenaline as pumping like crazy through my veins.

The shark had ripped off the top of the victim’s thigh. Thigh bone exposed. No blood. How do you deal with that?

I followed with the camera. My right eye was stuck in the black and white viewfinder, so I wouldn’t see the blood. Inside the emergency room. The doctors worked frantically to revive him. There was a cop inside the room. The victim’s wife was crying.   That was all I could remember as I worked almost instinctively. Press… 15 seconds record…. Cut…. 15 seconds… cut… 15 seconds… cut.   I don’t even remember doing that.

Then, someone called me to my senses. The Hospital CEO, kindly stopped me. She said… “Son…. You’ve done your job, now you have to go outside and let us do ours.” I obeyed.

Outside, Richard came with a microphone and plugged it into the camera. I was still dazed. He had found the eyewitness. The eyewitness was also quite shaken.

We took the pictures back to DWU. Fr. Mlak’s excitement is usually expressed in a kind of urgency that says “nothing stands in my way.” This was before the conveniences of mobile phones, the internet, hard drives SD card and Google Drive transfers. We took the tapes and rushed to the airport. It was on the next flight out of Madang.

The pictures made it on the 6pm news. Titi Gabi did a special report. The pictures traveled around the world on Channel 9 News, ABC and Reuters.

My fate was sealed. My addiction to television news had begun.


How long can the sick wait? | By Rosa Koian

Today at the clinic I was glad to have special attention. The doctor was very nice and we talked. I shared about what I witnessed in the clinics and health centers in the last four weeks in Port Moresby, Bereina, Kwikila and Hula. Patients were turned away or prescriptions written for them due to no medicine. I saw sick people in bed, some putting their hand out for ‘quinine’. I am lost for words when I visit one sick in Port Moresby. She is already tired of being sent to the pharmacy. Too weak to sit up she didn’t want to say any more.

The big question for me as I lay in bed trying to get well myself, is how many people like my sisters in Baruni and Kamali in Rigo are giving up on life just because our health system continues to fail them – the sick. 
I think of the doctors and nurses who dig into their pockets so that the sick can have that prescribed medicine from the pharmacy. Bless their hearts. 
I think of the economic woes of this country and how the sick would choose food over medicine so that their families can have a meal. 
How much longer can the sick wait? think of the doctors and nurses who dig into their pockets so that the sick can have that prescribed medicine from the pharmacy. Bless their hearts. 
I think of the economic woes of this country and how the sick would choose food over medicine so that their families can have a meal. 
How much longer can the sick wait?

Mainland Holdings aims to grow more chicken feed ingredients locally

S1One of   the biggest agribusiness in the country is looking to reduce the costs of imported chicken feed by half by producing its own feed substitutes.

Marking the start of that effort, Lae based, Mainland Holdings harvested 6000 hectares of sorghum planted on their Sasiang Farm in the Markham Valley.

The harvest first of a series of sorghum plantings the company hopes to   make over the next 10 years.

Chief Executive, David Alcock, says the company is confident that the expansion will go according to plan.

“If we can get the crops growing per ton, we believe we can save 50 percent of our costs.”

s3Like other companies, Mainland has also been struggling with the foreign exchange crisis. Its ability to muster enough foreign currency to pay for imports has been hampered by restrictions. But this has not dampened efforts to look at domestic solutions.

“What happened was, we have the choice to continue importing or to use our land to try to reduce the cost of operations.”

Despite the pinch of the foreign currency restrictions, Mainland Holdings has posted profits last year and this year. It is a far cry from the company’s position 10 years ago when its rescue needed a financial bailout from PNG superfund, Nasfund.

Back then, It took some rethinking by the board on the strategic direction of the company. Today, Chairman, William Lamur, says he is looking forward to bigger and better results.

“A lot of work has been done over the last seven years and more particularly over the last five years where we’ve done a full transformation of our business from a non performing entity to a very profitable agribusiness.”

Over the next five years, the mainland hopes to engage with local landowners to use their land to increase sorghum and soybean production.




How elite parasitic troops overran my body systems | #Malaria

Malaria3So last weekend, the Universe answered my impassioned plea to get out of the urban into the rural and I ended up in Bosmun along the Ramu River.

As members of the party bedded down for the night, I was left with little option by to spread out a piece of tarpaulin on the ground and, under a tall slender buai palm, I too, switched off for the night.

Earlier, I remarked to a friend, about how there were apparently, no mosquitos. Well, at least, not as many as I expected for a river community. In all fairness, I had been bitten by two bugs between the hours of 7pm and 11pm.
Slumber was sweet while it lasted. Then as morning approached, the base of my neck felt as if I had received 100 Shuto-Uchi (knife hand strikes) by a Karate Sensei while I was asleep.

I groaned as a turned over on the hard ground trying to find some comfort. It was still dark. My whole spine hurt as I turned. Felt like I was in a headlock all night by a BJJ black belt while Karate Sensei let lose with his 100 Shuto-Uchi taken straight from ancient scrolls the West had not even set eyes on.

Groggily, I stood up and rolled the tarpaulin. The kind woman who gave it to me must have been quite annoyed at the state I left it in. Dirty. Rolled and not folded.

So fast forward to 10am… I was lying on my back. Arms folded on my chest, vampire style, on the trunks of two buai palms laid on the ground.

It FELT like Malaria. (Note the capital ‘M’ because this freakin’ illness deserves respect). But I refused to admit it. Nothing gets me down. Not even Karate Sensei or BJJ back belt. I was stubborn.

My kind hosts, Barry and JC woke me up and organized for some Panadol. One said: “Dude, you have Malaria….”

I said: “Noooooooooo.”

Stubborn, still.

On the cellular level, a LOT was happening and a lot had happened over 24 hours.   The two mosquitoes, that had bitten me earlier weren’t ordinary bugs. They were the equivalent of heavy duty military transporters.

The two bites I received at 7pm and 11pm were actually separate insertions of elite Malaria troops – the SAS – of the parasitic world. While the enemy – aka Me – lay unawares, the troops had secured key installations – the brain, liver and supply lines (blood vessels).

malaria2It was the perfect execution of one of Sun Tzu’s basic Art of War principles of “taking a country whole and intact.”   My insides were taken “whole and intact” by a bunch of crack parasitic troops who then proceeded to set up marshal law at will.

By 4pm, my whole system was collapsing.   A squad of   Malaria parasites had seized my body’s main power generator and were shutting it down.

Inside the 10-seater, I was shivering violently. Maisen, resourceful as ever, handed me a sleeping bag. I turned up the cruiser’s heater in the merciless tropical Madang heat. I was unapologetic.

Then another squad of parasites took over the water supply – the kidney and the bladder. I called for an urgent pit stop and hobbled out to the kunai shivering like a half-naked bushman teleported to the Siberian tundra just for fun.

By 7pm, a larger section of troops had begun a coordinated assault on my brain – my body’s Central Government. Resistance was futile. We were unprepared for an attack of this sort. After nearly a decade of peace, our military establishment had become weak and complacent.

Over the next 48 hours. Deterioration was rapid and severe.

The parasitic section’s, IT and Psy-Ops divisions sprung into action once Central Government was secure.

They didn’t need passwords. They hacked into the main computer systems then messed with my brain and everything. Downloading, deleting terabytes of data and replacing them with fake news, fake accounts and alternative truths.

Dreams were played and replayed again and again. The Matrix was regenerated in my mind. The same images…The same faces appeared and disappeared. Like Neo, I fought a thousand battles and million wars over and over again.

The Malaria army was in TOTAL control.

After 24 hours, I received my first shot of Artemether. The injection unleashed an army of   highly skilled antimalarial agents, who within hours, were able to restore order and control.

While some damage had been done, much of “the country” was still intact and the rebuilding effort is continuing.   Special efforts are being made to rebuild all infrastructure and military establishments.

It’s good food and rest from here on.