Five years on, police housing project in Lae remains uncompleted

bumbuThis is a personal view based on Lae and Madang and is not representative of other centres.

For the last seven years, I have been talking about police housing to everyone who cares to listen including the Police Commissioner, governors, MPs and the Prime Minister.

On a Sunday in 2014, I requested the Police Minister, Robert Atiyafa, to go with me to the Bumbu Police Barracks in Lae to see the houses that were left incomplete. The minister was kind enough to oblige.

He promised an investigation into problem. But after five years, the houses at Bumbu Police Barracks in Lae are still unfinished and unoccupied.

Why has it taken this long?

Whenever I meet the Police Commissioner, Gari Baki, I ask the same questions. I think he’s already tired of me.

Reporting on the lack of police housing is not as glorious as political reporting. It’s dull and the same concerns are repeated over and over. But it’s important because of the people who suffer because of poor housing.

Recently, when we interviewed the longest serving police woman, Chief Sgt. Maria Euga, she mentioned how her house had no furniture. She lives in an old dilapidated fibro dwelling built at about the time she joined the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. About 10 meters away, the new houses stand unfinished and unoccupied.

Policemen don’t complain about housing.

They joined a service that drummed into them, the value of service, despite all odds.   I’ve tried to talk to them about housing many times and I get the same response: “We signed up for this job. We can’t complain about housing and conditions. We are servants of the state.”

Their wives and children suffer the most.

The roofs are leaking, the taps can’t be turned off.  They use money from their salaries to fix what they can. When it rains, the sewerage overflows and comes into the yard where the kids play.   Sometimes, water PNG, turns off the water to the barracks because of the non payment of bills.

They are some of the toughest women in Papua New Guinea.

The psychological and physical stress, these men and women of the RPNGC go through is incredible.

How do they stay motivated? What if this was the private sector? Imagine how many strikes we as a country would have to deal with.

But we don’t have any strikes by the RPNGC. If anyone had the right to complain about housing conditions, overwork, lack of transport and difficult working conditions, it would be the RPNGC.

Yet we get few complaints from them.

Everyone, especially in Lae and Madang should go into Bumbu and Kusbau Barracks and see how police families live.

They need our support and understanding to get the message out that they need help… because they won’t ask for it.


PM O’Neill to Kumuls: Carry the Heart of our Nation on your Jerseys

kumula“Our Kumuls went out on the field full of heart and passion for Papua New Guinea,” PM O’Neill said after the game.
“I congratulate our Kumuls for a great win, you served your Nation proud today.
“This is the first time we have ever beaten Wales in the history of the Rugby League World Cup, and the highest points scored by our Kumuls in the history of the competition.
“The team performed strongly against a solid team from Wales, but lets never be complacent.
“There are some strong teams you will meet in the future.
“Maintain your focus, stick to your training regime, and carry the heart of our Nation on your jerseys.
“Papua New Guinea is proud of your heroic effort today, but this is the first match with more to follow.”
The Prime Minister said he is concerned that Kumuls Coach, Michael Malum, was given medical care during the game.
“Michael has put his mind and soul into the Kumuls, and he is a great leader of his team.

How #PNG’s roads deteriorated and strangled agriculture exports


This blog article  is unreferenced  but  is based on my personal and professional experiences and on interviews conducted for  the production of  various TV news pieces  and documentaries.  There are, of course,  online references that can be found to confirm everything written in this blog article.  I just didn’t have time to ‘go look for it’ and to include the links.

Since the early 1990s, Papua New Guinea’s road transport system has  deteriorated to the point where many roads have become impassable.

In the 1980s in the Eastern Highlands and Morobe, roads were maintained on a regular basis. There was a grader, always on the road or within reach of the nearest village. There was no doubt road maintenance was serious government business.

Senior works officers now in management positions can attest to the fact that Papua New Guinea had, arguably, one of the best systems of road maintenance for a rugged mountainous, flood prone country.

We understood our road maintenance  needs better than aid agencies who would come later to advise the government.

In the 1980s, sealed roads were a luxury. But the National Government back then, understood the importance of keeping unsealed roads open and maintained.

Before the 1990s, one could travel from Lae to Menyamya on a two wheel drive. In fact, nearly all government vehicles in Menyamya station, apart from the District Administrator’s vehicle and his deputy’s were two wheel drives.

Morobe Districts had district development authorities  that performed the road maintenance function.  It worked well.

In the highlands, the roads were so good, you could even from Goroka to Lae in a sedan.

The quality of road maintenance hinged on the effective job done by works teams who lived and worked along the highways.   Today, along all major highways, you can still find remnants of strategically placed Works camps.

The Works Department not only built and maintained roads, they also built and maintained government housing in the towns and district centers and provided vehicles and fuel for government departments.

The works camps provided essential stopover and a point of communication for government vehicles that broke down along the highways.

According to government figures, PNG has about 30,000 kilometers of roads. This includes 9,000 kilometers of national roads and 21,000 kilometers that are supposed to be maintained by provincial and district governments.

In the 1990s, the Papua New Guinea Government, took advice from donor agencies and removed the construction and maintenance function of the Works Department.   The department’s role was limited to regulation and supervision of private sector contractors.

While analysts and economists argue that the decision was good for Papua New Guinea, the results are largely negative.

The removal of the construction and maintenance function from the Works Department resulted in the increased dependence on the profit driven private sector. Funding to the works department was cut. The works camps were removed. Training of skilled personnel by the works department stopped. The cost of road maintenance rose and the efficiency dropped.

Regular road maintenance ended and the steady deterioration of   provincial and district roads began.

Three provinces, Morobe, Madang and Eastern Highlands showed clearly the impact of the decision to downgrade the Works Department’s functions.

Along the Lae- Madang Highway, the removal of Works camps at Usino and Ono, meant that problematic road sections from Ramu, Usino to Tapo were not fixed when needed. The deterioration sometimes delayed travellers for days.

In outer lying districts, coffee production dropped as it became increasingly difficult to transport coffee bags to ports for export.

Corruption then crept into the procurement and regulatory system.   Mushroom construction companies sprang up in the 1990s as many saw the opportunity to make quick money from government contracts.

Roads were left unfinished. Maintenance contracts were dishonored and ordinary Papua New Guineans suffered.

With a new government in place, the Works Minister, Michael Nali and Planning Minister, Richard Maru, appear to be speaking the same language. They want to see a revival of the Works Department and possibly the reestablishment of the works camps.

As Planning Minister, Maru is heading a review of donor funding agencies so make sure those who have expertise in particular fields are used more in their areas of expertise.



PM O’Neill: A man is a coward if he thinks it’s ok to hit a woman

Pic from the ABC

Communities must stand up against any act of violence against women, and Churches must take a leading role in protecting victims and exposing violent men. This is the message from the Prime Minster, Hon. Peter O’Neill CMG MP, to community and church leaders, as well as male family members who he said have a natural responsibility to protect their mothers, daughters and sisters.

“A man is a coward if he thinks it is ok to hit a woman, these abusers would not have the courage to hit a man who was bigger than they are, but they hit a woman who is smaller,” the Prime Minister said.

“We have enacted laws to prevent violence against women, but no Government in any country can stop violence against women without the active support of communities.

“There must be zero tolerance in our nation for violence against women, and community leaders must do more to help victims rather than supporting perpetrators.

“Community leaders are not truly leaders if they turn a blind eye to violence against women.

“Every human life matters and must be protected, and domestic violence is totally unacceptable.

“Any community or Church leader who turns a blind eye to even a single case of violence against women has let their people down, and has abandoned the Christian principles our Nation holds dear.”

The Prime Minister further called on the men in families to take a stand against any violence they see.

“I also appeal to the sons of our nation, if your Father beats your Mother you have to show that you are a man and stand up for your Mother.

“Your Mother gave you life, now you must protect her life and show gratitude for her commitment to you.

“The same goes for all the men in families, to brothers, uncles, and other male family members, do not turn a blind eye.”

The Prime Minister said the National Government will increase public awareness aimed at preventing domestic violence. This will be undertaken alongside the commitment of increased resources for police and courts to deal with violent men, as well as increased support for the victims of violence.

#PNG Media Council calls for investigation into journalist’s death


The Media Council of Papua New Guinea is calling for an investigation into the untimely death of Senior Journalist and Post Courier Business Editor, the Late Rosalyn Albaniel Evara.

While the Council respected the wishes of her immediate family to proceed with her burial, it acknowledges that the pain that Late Rosalyn had to endure is no longer just hers, and a pain that many more women in the country may be going through every day.

To the media fraternity, the call for justice is no longer Rosalyn’s alone.

It has happened to one of our own, and it is time to acknowledge, that it needs to stop. More needs to be said about this cancer, which thrives behind closed doors, and breeds, on fear.

Many of our female journalists suffer from violent, abusive relationships, yet are too fearful of speaking out. The abuse they suffer affects their work, and their families.

We must continue to report on this issue, despite cultural and social challenges.

We cannot keep silent!

While many questions have been asked about why the Late Rosalyn did not get the help she should have received from her friends and colleagues, it is not too late to help those who are living with the same fear she had to endure.

Sorcery superstition thrives where services are lacking

s1In the early hours of yesterday, a woman in her late 40s was dragged out of her home by a mob who accused her of practicing sorcery.

Until yesterday, she lived much like them; in a tiny rented shack in a settlement in Lae City at the edge of the Bumbu River.
The men carried, what the landlord later described as a bamboo used for witch hunting. According to them, the bamboo tells them where a sorcerer is.

Police were alerted and came just in time to rescue the women we later came to know as Elizabeth from the Eastern Highlands. They fired shots, dispersed the crowd and took the woman to hospital.

Her neighbor, someone who shared meals with her, was initially confused when they dragged her into her yard.

“They were going to burn her in front of my house,” she said. She continued her tale as I listened.   She told them that she COULD be innocent. Her closest neighbor became her enemy after a few unfounded accusations.

She went on to justify why the accusations were correct.

“She took my baby the other time. I think she ate her heart. I don’t know.”

Her closest neighbor, now her enemy.

As I stood on the banks of the Bumbu river listening to the men and women talk about the “Sanguma meri,” I was going to interject… to try to make them see reason. But I held back.

This wasn’t something you explain and reason to people who have grown up in a belief system that has never been challenged since childhood.   How do you do it?

From the outside, we see the obvious: Brutal violence against women. We see the mob mentality and the abuse. What do they see? A sorcerer who is a threat to society and life itself.

We are on two separate wavelengths. We are not connecting. Police can arrest 100 people or a whole village. But the idea remains. You have to kill the idea with another.

What struck me was that most of the accusers were people younger than me – in their 20s and 30s. These are people you assume would be forward thinking and educated enough to not connect three unrelated deaths to a random woman in their community.

Maybe those who died, perished after drinking water from the contaminated river.   Maybe they died from multidrug resistant TB. But how would they know?

Their world isn’t one where bacteria and viruses live.   They live in a world where people just don’t die suddenly from heart attacks or suffer from depression or mental illness. There has to be a reason for the death and usually, someone is to blame.

I am disgusted that we have allowed our country to come to this state.

We are partly reaping the results of a failed education system imposed on our communities in 1995. An education system that took grade eight and ten dropouts and put them made them elementary school teachers in a few weeks.

We created generations of Papua New Guineans over two decades who couldn’t even read after third grade. We chucked out critical thinking and opted to have our kids parrot whatever the teacher said and did.

The evidence of the results are all around us… in the primary schools, in the high schools and in the universities.

Then, our very own, in the government system stole money meant to go to the health and education of our kids. Over the years, we saw education funding stolen through incomplete projects and medicine from area medical stores sold to private clinics while public medical facilities suffered.

The Public Accounts Committee hearings exposed so much of the rot. But few of the corrupt got the the pain they deserved.

A friend of mine, an academic, told of how students just want to get university life over and done with so they could “get jobs and work for money.”   She said, education has become a burden for those poorly educated in primary school and high school. University is no longer a fun learning experience.

The accusers of the woman are from a generation that came from the broken education system.

Their families are unable to access medical care because then health system is so heavily burdened and still too expensive for them. Every death is blamed on sorcery. Every illness can be blamed on some random old woman living near them.

In Pindiu, Morobe Province where I travelled with a provincial government team, the superstition is so deeply rooted. How can they trust modern medicine when they don’t have access to it?

A village birth attendant assists nearly every woman who gives birth. If a child is born with a deformity, it’s because of sorcery.

Superstition thrives where services are lacking.














Alex Rheeney: Post Courier had the duty of care

alexShe was your employee and one of the best – if not the best – until the end.

All employers have a duty of care to their employees and the Post-Courier continues to fail by not seeking justice for their business editor Rosalyn Albaniel Evara and giving editorial prominence to the issue from the date of her death.

The newspaper failed to get to the bottom of the death of the esteemed journalist and my former colleague when she passed on Sunday October 15, leaving that responsibility to close friends and family.

In today’s edition the PC choose to belittle the memory of one of Papua New Guinea’s top journalist by running stories and pictures on her funeral service yesterday on Page 16, unlike The National which did well by giving the issue front page coverage.

As a formerChief Editor of the newspaper I am shocked and disgusted at the management’s failure to give editorial prominence to the issue and be proactive in relation to the death of Rosalyn and push for a full investigation into her shocking death, as a responsible employer.

Where is the empathy to and for Papua New Guinean professionals who contribute to your annual profits?

Your managing director should have been in the front seat at the Sione Kami Memorial church service yesterday morning, to show his respect to a great journalist who worked tirelessly and remained committed and loyal to the masthead – despite her numerous personal challenges including nursing two sick boys (God bless their souls) – until her passing.

If you think that today’s editorial defending your GBV position against criticism by former staff members is a good move than I am truly sorry for this once famous masthead, as you continue to let down the masthead and the media profession.

Your GBV campaigns are worthless if you cannot effect change and become champions of change by starting in your own backyard.