Papua New Guinea’s golden girls

Papua New Guinea’s performances at the 2019 Pacific Games highlighted to the nation, the importance of its women-folk, who despite myriad challenges, brought back a staggering 29 Gold medals in total, over double that of the men.

Flora Loga’s first Gold

Samoa 2019 presented for Papua New Guinea the chance to really show its dominance as a power in sport in the Pacific. With a failing economy, rising debt levels, crime in some areas shocking, this was the opportunity to tell the rest of our island neighbours that PNG had much more to offer.
And its contingent of athletes would be the ambassadors of a nation that for so long had had a darker pall cast over it.
And sport – was where PNGs true heroes had always united the nation.

In 2015, riding that wave of home support, Papua New Guinea dominated, in the track, the field, the pool, pitch, court, ring, raking in medal after medal.
But gone were Ryan, there was no Nelson, and none of our hunters were in the 9s.
Tennis star Abigail Tere-Apisah bore the nation’s standard on opening night. A moment she spoke of with pride as she looked to retain gold from 2015.

“I’m really excited to lead team PNG this evening and we’re also less than a day away from competing and we hope to give our best and we hope that you guys are supporting from home and wherever in the world you are”

Dominating in the courts and eventually facing off against her niece in a two set victory Tere-Apisah’s medal count boosted PNG even further on the tally.

Weightlifting’s Dika remains a shining light, coming back out of retirement she bore her weight of expectancy in an almost serene fashion, Toua lifted an amazing 175kg ,winning gold in the snatch AND clean and jerk.

“I’m feeling great at the moment… I’ve won the three medals and I’m so excited for Papua New Guinea because we’ve worked so hard for it.”

Powerlifting flew under the radar – Linda Pulsan, Oceania Champion, Commonwealth Champion, World Champion, inspired her own crop to a five gold haul.

“im happy because in the first week (of competition) we were on sixth place, and our Gold medals brought PNG up.” She said at the official Team PNG welcome.

Women’s football had no local national competition and hadn’t had one in over a two year period. That a handful of women could be selected with no domestic league, no international fixtures in the lead, yet go undefeated with a combined 23 goals conceding 5.

Prior to their departure co-captain Lucy Maino had been excited at the prospect of adding more to PNGs growing souvenir collection.

“from four years from now, not just myself but the girls as well have grown in different ways…. We all had one common goal and that kept us united, kept us focussed, it was honestly really refreshing and just to see women’s soccer continue to grow and develop in different levels”

PNG Women’s Football team, leading 3-1 over Vanuatu

Fast forward a month, and she was joined by the football queen’s longest serving player and now multiple pacific games gold medallist, Deslyn Siniu.

“I’m just super proud of the girls, playing in our fifth pacific games.. It’s just awesome. You get to see or know there’s a lot of talent here in PNG in terms of women’s football there’s a lot of potential and I think one of the biggest challenges is to identify those potentials and develop those skills because I know that PNG women’s, we can go for the sixth gold medal in the Solomon’s in the next four years”

While that result may however have been underpinned by their ranking as favorites prior to the games, it was an additional inspiration when the day before, the Women’s Touch team equalled its men’s result, by winning gold on a muddy Samoan field.

New Caledonia after just Day One were already leading the medal count. No surprises there. Out of 15 previous games, they’d only lost it three times and with the exception of 2015, were still overwhelming favourites.

They ruled the pool, and the ocean, racing away to an unassailable lead before half of PNGs contingent arrived in Apia.
But while New Caledonia had their swimmers, PNG had their track stars.

it was the track where PNG women shone, collecting 28 medals, 11 of those a shiny yellow.

Sharon Toako, Annie Topal , Rellie Kaputin, Donna Koniel, Leonie Beu, Isila Apkup, Poro Gahekave leading the 1, 2, 3 and Toea Wisil in the 100, 200 and 400m races.
Toea’s feat an unimaginable 3 by 3, dating back 2007 years.

Toea remains PNGs most prominent track stars

A record that, despite the advances of the rest of the pacific, will take a long time to break. And all this despite her own personal battles. EMTV Sport Presenter Dinnierose Raiko who had been covering Wisil’s performance’s had this to say about the sprint queen.

“her struggles came to light in the 2017 mini-pacific games when she went to Vanuatu and in the sprints, in the 200 actually that was where Cook Islands beat her to Gold, and she broke down… she didn’t go up to the podium (for the) medal presentation and she was shunned for it, a lot of people considered it as breaking protocol… but I think her mental welfare and her welfare in general wasn’t considered during that time”

“These elite athletes push themselves to the limit and at some point they need mental support”

Our 7s women qualified – our men didn’t, and while it was a bronze medal- their performance stated, if you can it, we can too.
Basketball was a disappointment however.
Allegations of nepotism in the selection process were brought to light after dismal performances throughout the first week of competition in Samoa.

Cricket were hoping to pull one back over hosts Samoa, but lacking numbers and back to back matches under wet conditions, didn’t help their cause, eventually settling for silver.

The silver medals were another aspect of comparative results with the men’s. Bearing in mind that roughly half 190- 182 of PNGs travelling contingent were women, 26 silver medals were picked up, to the men’s 31.

All the women spoke to, shared the same sentiments, that more support is needed for women. That they should be allowed to have the same opportunities as the men do, both in terms of technical support, sponsorships and also from the wider community.

The statistics speak for themselves. And so do their performances.

“Investment should come where there are returns” Raiko finishes off by saying.

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Anslom tribute to SA music great, Johnny Clegg: ‘He used music as a positive force to move the world’

tributeAnsPapua New Guinean reggae artist,  Anslom Nakikus, has paid an important tribute to Johnny Clegg, one of the of the most influential South African  musicians of the apartheid era.

Speaking from Port Moresby, Anslom said he was saddened and shocked by the passing of the legendary  anthropologist, campaigner and musician.

Anslom, who has been working  out of South Africa with the band of the late  South African reggae great, Lucky Dube, said was keen to have Clegg feature in one of his songs if it was at all possible.

“I am thinking of all the wonderful things he did for  Africa and the world.  Imagine a white person standing up against his own in an era of racial segregation.

“It is unfortunate for me that I didn’t get to meet him in person. They are my heroes.  If I had the opportunity earlier and if they were still alive, I would have met all three of them –  Nelson Mandela, Lucky Dube and Johnny Clegg,” Anslom said.

Tributes continue to flow from fans and musicians all over the world.  Johnny Clegg died on July 16th in Johannesburg after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

For three decades, Clegg actively campaigned against South Africa’s apartheid policy also drawing attention to the unjust imprisonment of Nelson Mandela.

“He is an icon. He used music  as a positive force to drive the country forward. Being in South Africa, betting to know more about the history and the culture, It is really sad for me.

“These are people who put down their lives for the country. At the end of my life, I hope I be remembered also as a person who put his life down for the country.”

From Papua New Guinea, thank you South Africa for giving us Johnny Clegg!

I remember  the first time I heard Johnny Clegg’s song ‘Asimbonaga.’

It was in Goroka.  It was a cold  afternoon.  It played off a cassette. I thought Johnny Clegg was   a black South African.  His music was sweet to the ear. It was timeless… and even without  understanding the language, it conveyed an intense feeling of sadness, longing and hope.  It was and still is a song that speaks to the heart, soul and spirit.

clegg4As a child, the words and music  brought the distant, almost mysterious land of Africa close to me.  I saw the veld in my mind’s eye… the land of the Zulu and the Xhosa. I had never been there. But Johnny Clegg took me there.

Photo of Johnny CLEGGI wanted to go to South Africa.

Johnny Clegg’s music stayed with me for decades never growing old.

Asimbonanga spoke of an a people’s longing for a better future.  It spoke of a man  they treasured.

Asimbonanga  (we have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ umandela thina  (we have not seen Mandela)
Laph’ekhona  (in the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona  (in the place where he is kept)

I learned of Nelson Mandela  and others who were the embodiment of the African civil rights movement. I learned about apartheid and racial segregation.  In Clegg’s Asimbonanga, I heard the name Steven Biko, the anti-apartheid campaigner killed in police custody.

Who was Johnny Clegg?  Was he the black man on the cover of Savuka or the white man in brightly colored pants. I didn’t know.  I didn’t care. The music was sweet and my mind drank it up and my spirit was blissfully intoxicated every time I listened to it.

Johnny Clegg, challenged the white South African Government  by the bringing together white and black musicians.  His music and lyrical poetry hammered on the foundations of the apartheid regime until it crumbled and the man he sang about became president of the new South Africa.

Johnny Clegg’s music rang true yesterday, today and  in the future.   It says stand up for what you believe in. If you don’t like the injustices, stand up and speak out through music and art because positive creative energy is powerful enough to topple governments.

All the way from Papua New Guinea, thank you South Africa for giving us Johnny Clegg, a master and leader in his own right. I hope I can live my life and true to my purpose and fully as you did, Sir!

Great reviews mark a spectacular end to the Andrew Kuliniasi play, #Meisoga

sineThe two week run of the play  Meisoga ended last week  in a smashing gala night performance at the Ullie Beier Theater  at the University of Papua New Guinea.   Each member of the of the cast put together  brilliant performances complemented by  sound and lighting that brought the whole play to  a spectacular finish.

‘Meisoga’ is the story of Sine Kepu,  a young girl thrust into  a position of huge responsibility after the passing of the Meisoga  clan matriarch, her older sister.  Her carefree life is shattered and her clan’s expectations are heaped upon her young shoulders.

The play traces the journey of the Meisoga who are forced  to leave Suau for Misima.  Sine Kepu takes on the responsibility at a time  when her clan is being tormented by rival clans.

Sine Kepu is forced into a world of pain and leadership. She has to rally her clan to fight  enemies more powerful than her own  Meisoga with the full knowledge that they will suffer losses.  Sine Kepu is a reluctant leader bound by duty and circumstance.

Meisoga is the story of a matriarch who grieves bitterly in private over the loss of  younger clansmen and commands enormous respect as time passes.

Sine Kepu loses her husband in battle.  In grief,   her son, Tubiaga,  seeks to avenge his father’s death and  trades his elder uncle’s life for power from a witchdoctor who practices dark magic.  All this is done without is mother’s knowledge.

Tubiaga defeats the enemy clan and establishes the reign of the Meisoga.  The means to  the end draws the ire of his mother.

Later on in life, Sine Kepu, now the elderly matriarch, asks to go back to Eaus, to the beach where she  first arrived with the Meisoga  as a young woman.  She is taken back by her son to Eaus, where the spirits of her husband, her sister and uncle come to welcome her to the afterlife.

Huge credits to writer and director, Andrew Kuliniasi and the cast.

Real estate industry needs to be regulated

houseReal estate companies don’t want to reduce their prices.  It’s an ugly fact of life in Papua New Guinea.

If you ask real estate companies if there should be regulations, they will tell you something to the effect that it is a ‘self-regulating’ industry and that government should not interfere with that ‘self regulation.’

As long as there is demand,  real estate companies have no problem keeping the prices high.  The prices are out of reach  for ordinary Papua New Guineans and still expensive for  others who may be sharing rental costs with their partners or other family members.

In housing, you need economies  of scale.  That is where the National Housing Corporation (NHC) comes in.  The government has the ability to acquire land and build houses and units  that can be leased to Papua New Guineans starting out their careers in  the public  and private sector.

Housing rental rates have to be brought down.  It is  a basic necessity like food and water.

Crooks are allowed to profit from the housing sector through cheap purchases of  badly managed government properties.  The real estate market has been  allowed to suck every toea possible from families  as those living in run down government housing are forcefully evicted by the government agency established to provide affordable housing.

This  system is not people friendly.  This  system does not serve the people. It serves corporate interests that puts our people at a disadvantage. It has done so for over 30 years.

It has to stop.

If you are going to evict families from rundown government housing,  where do you put them?  No strategy, you have. (Master Yoda voice)

The housing minister has to bring down rental prices.  At present, who regulates the housing market? Who regulates the companies and pricing?  It’s a glaring question that nobody wants to answer.

The banks and their part in the equation has to be examined.  At one stage, interest rates were reduced and people were encouraged to buy houses.  Many of those houses got repossessed later due to various reasons.

One simple message here:

Reduce rentals.

Regulate prices.

National Housing Corporation: Ending decades of shameless corruption

h1Finally, there is government acknowledgment of the corruption and disarray in the National Housing Corporation.

Since taking office, Housing Minister, Justin Tkatchenko, has  exposed what the organization looks like from the inside. Its physical state is an absolute mess and a national embarrassment of the highest order.

The suggestion box should have been named: ‘Buai spet box’   and the NHC office should have been renamed: ‘Ofis blo kekemanmeri.’

h2The NHC has absolutely nothing to be proud of.  Its officers have been a waste of taxpayers money. My taxes and your taxes went to pay a horde  that ate from the corruption.  Our taxes paid for their power and the hired vehicles paid to their cronies.

The NHC officers and management fed off the corruption and the illegal sales of properties.   They are partly responsible for the deaths of elderly men and women who lost their homes soon after being evicted.

These heartless crooks continued their activities unabated for years until we began exposing their activities in Lae and Port Moresby.  Some of their senior officers  shamelessly  offered  money to their victims to move out of the homes that were being sold – some to foreigners.

The organization had  and still has no asset registry.  In short, they don’t know how many houses they actually own.

h4While the rest of the country moved into the 21st century, the National Housing Corporation remained in the 1960s with a severely deficient, outdated manual filing system desperately begging for a major IT overhaul.

Titles were stolen, reproduced and sold.

While property rentals and prices rose… and rose… and rose… over 30 years, the NHC  remained oblivious to its mission to provide affordable housing to Papua New Guineans.  This government agency is responsible for the high rentals and unaffordable cost of living because it could have done something but it didn’t.

The previous minsters who owned the problem had no political will to seize the bull by the  horns and wrestle it to the ground.

Fighting zone declared in Tagali LLG after massacre, long term solution needed

k3On Wednesday, some of the bodies of 18 women and children were buried by the roadside in Karida Number One village.  They were the latest innocent victims of a 20-year tribal war driven by local warlords in the Tagali Local level government area. Karida Number One was not directly involved in the fighting that initially left seven people dead in neighboring Munima village.

But they were accused of harboring an in-law involved in the attack. And the women and children paid the price.

For the older generation of the Hela, the killing of women and children has broken the traditional protocols of tribal fighting.

“This, I have never seen this in my life. This is new,”   Chief Hokoko Minape said in Tok Pisin. Chief Hokoko is a household name in the Tagali LLG.

Chief Hokoko Minape

Hokoko Minape has  been councillor for as long as anyone can remember.  Then, expressing himself poetically through his grief he said:  “The women and the children are like my mothers. I died with them. They are close to my heart. I died of grief. I am already dead.”

Muks Maia, the local church pastor, lives on a nearby hill in Karida village. He ran to the site when he saw the fire from the burning houses.  He was too late to do anything.

“When I got there, I saw the women and children. They had been cut up like animals. There were no men. The total number of those killed is 18.”

Beside the smoldering remains of a hut, one of the men said the women who died were the anchors in the community. Their lives firmly rooted in the village. They cared for the land and the animals, while the men traveled in between Tari, Port Moresby and Mt. Hagen. It has been difficult to mourn for them, with the people unable to settle into their normal lives.

The hut where the worst of the attacks happened, still stands. A whole family, including two pregnant women and their unborn children also died in the attack. On Wednesday, the Hela  Provincial  Government declared the Tagali Local Level government area a fighting zone.

The Police and the Defence force numbers are stretched with only 40 police personnel and one PNGDF platoon. The only thing giving them some sense of security are the army and police patrols that have been going into the village since the raid.

Like Chief Homoka Minape, police and provincial authorities say the killing of women and children is unprecedented.

Three months into office, the Provincial Police Commander, Chief Inspector  Teddy Augwi, is facing his first major crisis. He says dialogue remains key in finding a solution and bringing the warring parties together.

Clip #217

Today (12/07/19), Police Minister, Bryan Kramer, and Hela Govenror, Phillip Undialu, went  to Karida village. Kramer has called for the immediate surrender of the killers. He has also called on the leaders to not retaliate.

He says the government will be looking at long term solutions based upon his recommendations to cabinet.

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PS.  It was difficult seeing the huts where the women were killed.  In case they become forgotten statistics, here are the names:

1. Keapu Etape (woman)
2. Kirume Nakapi (pregnant woman)
3. Arawali towako (elderly woman)
4. Tukupili minape (woman) 
5. Harime Hari (pregnant woman)
6. Tugu Apale (woman)
7. Kay Haralu (woman)
8. Hangai Hamono (woman)
9. Aipe andrew (boy, 8)
10. Mangape anduru (boy, 7)
11. Kep andrew (boy, 6)
12. Michael andrew (boy, 3)
11. Warame andrew (woman)
13. Chenain pichape (girl, 13)
14. Girume hos (girl, 6)
15. Tapali hotape (woman)
16. Andrew Kalu (man) 
17. Unborn baby
18. Unborn baby