Hela quake relief work out of Tari disrupted by tribal conflict

Three primary school students are among seven people killed in a series of payback attacks in Tari, Hela Province.

The violence has also forced the temporarily suspension relief work into earthquake stricken areas of the province as police and military personnel work to quell the fighting.

The three teenagers were killed yesterday during an attack in a village near Tari town. Police said one of the boys was shot and the other two slashed with bush knives.

More than 100 houses including four staff houses at the Kupari Catholic Primary School were burned in the attack. Police also rescued a girl who was injured when she tried to escape.

The violence stemmed from the killing of a local level government councilor in the 18th of March in Linapini village outside of Tari.

On Wednesday, 28th March, the councilor’s clansmen shot dead an enemy tribesman described by police as a ‘hired gun’ who had been involved in recent clashes.

Police reported that his vehicle was ambushed and he died instantly while members of his family were injured in the attack.

At midday, yesterday, up to 400 heavily armed tribesman attempted to cross through Tari to attack Homu villagers on the other side of town as payback. They were stopped by a contingent of the local Tari police, Mobile squad members, military and Correctional Service officers.

Police officers later talked the tribesmen into leaving the area. But the situation remains tense.

“They actually asked if we could let them pass through to fight their enemies,” said a senior police officer. “We refused. We told them that we could not let them put government property and lives at risk. They were heavily armed.”

Police have expressed serious concern about high powered firearms in the possession of the tribesmen they confronted yesterday.

At least two officers on the ground noted that the tribesmen carried SLRs, M16s as well as other assault weapons not found in government armories.

Business and government services have closed many workers leaving Tari town.

Photoessay: Eastern Highlands liquid gold

Samuel Kuku, a beekeeper who produced record amounts of honey in 2017
Inside a beehive 
A tray full of honey
Healthy and happy bees are central to good honey production 
Sampling liquid gold straight from the hive
Fresh honey still in combs 
de-capping honey combs with a capping knife 
Samuel Kuku shows off  beautiful honey 
More sampling 

Honeycomb loaded with honey 


Samuel Kuku with a fresh tray of honey 
Packaged honey from Tella Loie’s small operations in West Goroka 
Honey expert, Tella Loie produces beehives locally
Hive making operation

Photoessay: Eastern Highlands spices

Clip #192
Clip #183
Fresh turmeric harvested from a small patch 
Clip #176
Spice farmer dries spices on a bench.  Women are heavily involved in spice farming
Clip #171
Chillies drying in the sun 
Clip #164
Organic sun dried chillies 
Clip #199
Turmeric powder ready for packaging 
Clip #258
Local muso plays a ‘jews harp’
Dried chilli, turmeric and ginger
Ground turmeric 
Sakarias Ikio, a driving force in the Eastern Highlands spice industry

Let’s change the #PNG agriculture narrative from ‘POTENTIAL’ to ‘REALISATION…’

s1On Tuesday (27 March), we were in Ungai, Eastern Highlands province where we met Sakarias Ikio, an important, influential player in the spice industry.

Sakarias first began buying and exporting spices more than 10 years ago in Mt. Hagen. His office was located in the Kapal house in the center of town. With some donor support, he was able to build a small spice operation in the Western Highlands.

But in 2008, the Kapal house was destroyed in a fire. All his equipment accounting records and other documents were burnt.

It affected his health. He was sick for six months.

Sakarias tried reviving the industry but felt that he couldn’t do it in Mt. Hagen. The relatively long absence of extension work that he had been providing took a toll on the industry.

He then made the decision to move to the Eastern Highlands where he set up a small operation once more. Much of his extension work that reaches close to 200 farmers is done on foot and on public transport.

Last year, his group of spice farmers trading under the Spice Development Corporation began processing and packaging turmeric, ginger and chilies. They have, since, been putting their own products in supermarkets in Goroka.

Sakarias and the Eastern Highlands spice farmers are important in this story because, they are among several groups that make up Papua New Guinea’s spice industry.

Theirs is a smallholder operation that depends on farmers who grow the spices.

What is clear, is the absence of government support for the industry despite the fact that a Spice Industry Board exists in Port Moresby.

Unlike, cocoa, coffee and coconuts,   spices don’t feature much in agriculture discussions, at least from my experience. There is a lot of talk about increasing export revenue but very little action.

At meetings, the phrases that have become cliché include:   “PNG’s untapped agricultural potential…” “The potential is there, we just need funding…” or “…the industry is worth millions…”

Public servants peddle the same information and statistics on flashy power point presentations at gatherings, then drink coffee have lunch and forget about the farmers who are actually working to grow commodities for export.

On a hillside, John, another farmer has already planted several rows of turmeric – one of five spices grown by the group. The yellow colored spice is used as the primary coloring and flavoring ingredient in curries.

Fresh Tumeric sells for K3 per kilo. It is good income. But the farmers produce only for the local market. There is already a demand in Goroka. They have no surplus for export because their production levels are too low.

How can they create surpluses? Through external support primarily through government assistance.

“They” talk about export revenue and industries, yet there is ZERO support! Then they talk again about the ‘potential’ of agriculture and don’t do anything.

It’s a ridiculous, vicious cycle.

There is a HUGE disconnect between Port Moresby (which is dependant  on the rest of the country for its food) and the farmers who actually produce the food, coffee, cocoa and spices.

Every conference about export revenue and the economy is stuck in the quagmire of the traditional cash crops that depend on large tracts of land, good roads and, of course, government support.

But what if we changed the way we do business?

Some years ago, ‘they’ talked about low volume, high value crops…vanilla, cardamom, chilies, turmeric…etc…

I guess I am seeking answers myself when I ask: Why is there no support at all for crops that are worth more than coffee, cocoa and oil palm per kilogram?

Why is there no support for low maintenance crops like spices that can grow in the same lot of land that farmers grow food?

Are we too afraid to venture outside our comfort zone? Or maybe we listen too much to overseas consultants? Or maybe the money meant for farmers is stolen in Waigani by “paper farmers?”

These are questions that need to be asked.

EMTV journalist, Edwin Fidelis, writes about what freedom means for prisoners

Edwin Fidelis, somewhere in East New Britain

Nobody can really convey the hopes and sufferings of those in a prison.

Only those who have been there know what it takes, to hold on for a very long time, within the confines of a series of barbed fences.

The outside perception of prisons is centred around negativity most of the time.

Many considered prison as dumping grounds for the unwanted and the ills of our societies.

When  I visited a prison myself,  it changed my negative perceptions about that place.

I met Steven Siname while filming a prison rehabilitation story at the Kerevat prison in East New Britain province – the biggest prison facility accommodating more than 500 inmates and remandees who come from all over the New Guinea Islands Region.

Steven has been in prison since 2008 serving his jail term.

We shook hands and I introduced myself. He did the same.

I never intended to ask him about his sentence or why he was in prison. But I know he is in prison because of one obvious reason; crime.

We sat in front of the prison’s chapel.

I press on the record button on my camcorder as Steven led us through a heart wrenching story of his life behind the series of barbed fences.

“ I first came here in 2008. Life is not perfect. We do mistakes. Prison is a place that make us realize our mistakes and it make us learn from them”, Steven said.

A few meters away from where we were sitting, several layers of razor sharp wires ran across the prison compound.

After talking to Steven, Marcus, a prison officer and my fixture led me through the first, then the second then the third gate.

Eventually we were in the middle of the prison compound.

I looked around and saw nothing except a series of fences and building made of solid bricks.

I felt helpless.

Marcus pointed to the far end of fences. There was a stand-alone brick building.

At the entrance to the building, there were eight boys. They are all about 15 years old.

“That’s the juvenile compound”, Marcus said.

He then pointed to another building towards the entrance of the second gate into the prison.

“That’s where the hard-core live”, he said.

I write this short story to remind us about the freedom we continue to have outside of prisons.

Most of the time we take it for granted.

The fun-fill life we have that those in prison wish they could have too.

We read sensational stories on the media about crime.

The police and the rest of the justice sector receive standing ovations for sending the lawbreakers to jail.

But those in prisons are humans too. The ones we called convicts. They are not animals.

They never stop thinking about when will they live the prison.

Whilst talking to Steven earlier, he told me, “a father sits in his cell every night and worries about his son. He worry about his daughter and he worry about his family’s well being

And he regrets all the bad things he has done.

We will never appreciate the true meaning of freedom from the outside.

Where as in the prison, freedom is something valuable and something that a prisoner considers as a luxury.

For those in the prison, they are only waiting for that day to come, when they will leave the confines of the barbed fences, and to retain their freedom, one more time.
Some won’t be able to make it out alive.


Edwin’s blog is called KANAKA ELITE

‘I wasn’t there that morning when my father passed away…’ |By Nickson Piakal


I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say…*

So goes that familiar song.

It was quite popular in the early 90s of those high school years. Not really a cheerful song. Nevertheless a poignant reminder of the brevity of life.

To say your piece. To make peace. To see eye to eye first. To say it loud, and to say it clear. Before it is all too late. Before those you hold dear are gone.

I loved that song, but I could not relate to it then. My father was away for the most of part of that period. I related to it by projecting myself into the future. Into the world of what-ifs. Would those words be ringing true for me when my time came around?

He was a soft spoken man. He was one to always go for the more peaceful option when in the midst of conflicts. He had a knack for choosing the path that was less desired. A path most would shy away from, for fear of being seen as unmanly and weak.

Only now I realise that it was the exact opposite. It takes true courage to take that path. The kind of courage that is seasoned with humility. To walk alone.

He recollected once to me of how he saved another man’s life when in prison. A man who was supposed to be his enemy.

I wish I could sit down with him one more time and get more of those stories from him. Going back even in time to the stories of his childhood.

I want to ask him.

What were your favourite pastime when you were growing up in Elakalde?
Was the earth of Konggouldum paste-like and as yellow as I picture it in my mind?
What made you leave the comforts of the fairytale fields of Nangguin in pursuit of a western education? To journey on foot from the top end of one province to the tail end of another. From the headwaters of Ambum River in Londol down to the muddy plains of the Waghi in Fatima in the early 60s.

I want to say sorry.

That afternoon when my friend Kumdi Max showed you to my room at Niomuro flats when I was doing my first year in Uni. I was consumed with rage to see your face. It felt like betrayal all over again. I was lost at what to do. A part of me wanted to punch your lights out. Instead I blew cigarette smoke into your face and told you to get the hell out as you came sobbing and hugged me.

Perhaps the better thing I should have done then was to ask you. To get your side of the story as to WHY you were missing from the picture for the most part of my high school days. Now that I have joined you in fatherhood, I want to know even more, but I still come up empty handed.

It is only in retrospect that we learn some of life’s tough lessons. That emotions left unchecked and unrestrained always gets the better of us. If we could empathise more, then perhaps we could understand better.

I would eventually make peace with him over the years. I brought him his first granddaughter to see. The joy was all around as he held her in his arms with tears welling inside. He beamed with pride as he called the name we gave her. Nisoron. A name of his language.

His health had been deteriorating for a while. It took its toll on him but he hung on. He would still be up and about with his black weather beaten briefcase as if everything was ok. He was one to hide such things from people. Smiling at every turn.

In early March of 2016 I spoke very briefly to him. It was a rushed phone call before I left for Mt Hagen. His voice sounded a bit weak over the phone. I put that down to one of his many faint spells. He was not in a good state to journey with us, he told me. I think I said I would get back to him. Maybe I didn’t. I do not quite remember that last phone conversation clearly.

There was so much on my mind then. I had planned this traditional bride price event for over a year by that time. My wife and daughter were flying to the village with me. This was where I was going to formalise the traditional chapter of our union in front of my tribal kinsfolk and elders.

I had no time to talk. I would talk to him later, I told myself.

On the morning of 30 March 2016 I would board the plane for the return journey to Australia with my wife and my 7 month old daughter in my arms.

Four days later news would reach me. That my father passed away that same morning I was boarding that flight. I still did not get to tell him all the things I needed to tell him.

Life goes on and the memories are all we have. All those stories that remain untold fade from memory with every passing day. Yet more get swallowed up by the grave.

All those unasked questions go still unanswered. For now they may remain as ‘crumpled bits of paper filled with imperfect thought’.


The Living Years by Mike + The Mechanics

Spices: The neglected #PNG cash crops worth more per kilogram than coffee & cocoa


In 1989 when the government established the Spice Industry Board, the hope was that farmers would be supported though through high level government intervention.

Thirty years on, farmers continue to struggle to produce small volumes of spices in an industry that is potentially worth more than coffee in export revenue.

Zacharias Ikio from the Eastern Highlands based PNG Spice development Agency, is frustrated about the years of neglect and the lack of government support.

“Government services don’t reach the people. We want to realise the potential of this lucrative market,” he says.

DSC07499Farmers in the Eastern Highlands grow only five different spices at present – Tumeric, Ginger, Chilies, onions, garlic and cardamon.

Collectively,   these crops have a potential export volume of between 6000 and 7000 tons. In terms of revenue, it’s worth about K100 million.

Spices are what agricultural planners describe as a low volume, high value crops.

A kilo of cardamon   can fetch anything between K5 and K12 per kilo. It’s value per kilogram exceeds that of coffee when the prices are good.

All the Spice farming is happening on small portions of customary land with the people in control.