Finally, 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.’
The 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.
While 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country moved into the 21st century, the National Housing Corporation remained in the 1960s with a severely deficient, outdated manual filing system desperately begging for a major IT overhaul.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.
On 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.
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.
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.
PS. It was difficult seeing the huts where the women were killed. In case they become forgotten statistics, here are the names:
Our economic investment model as it relates to job creation is wrong. We have had it wrong for nearly half a century. We followed a colonial model of job creation where an enterprise is established, jobs are created and people get a paid job.
Many employers wonder why people don’t stay in a job for a long time especially if the factory or shop is near a village. Many foreigners are of the assumption that people living in villages want jobs. Maybe some do for status. But most get bored with the stressful routine.
In the case of the RD Tuna Cannery in Madang. The cheap labor comes from settlers who have to work for a living because they have to. How many locals are employed? Not as many as the settlers. Many have said they only go and work at the cannery if they need money to buy a fishing net, a boom box or a guitar. Then they go back to their villages after they get paid.
It’s still happening.
This is primarily because their basic needs of food, water and shelter are taken care of. They live on the land. They plant food. Many treat cannery work like a food garden that doesn’t need to be cared for.
Papua New Guineans are traders and entrepreneurs who live in an economic environment that doesn’t support their natural talents. The earliest contact that people on the Island of New Guinea had was with Malay traders. People along the Port Moresby coast traded with people in the Gulf Province.
The ‘Take Anda,’ the cultural center in Enga Province contains archaeological evidence of trade relations between the Engans, the Hela and the Western Highlanders. Shells from the coast are kept in the building. It is part of a puzzle of the multitude of cultures in Papua New Guinea that has not really been understood by this generation.
Yes, we are warriors. But we are also traders and entrepreneurs. This activity consumed a large part of daily life in the past.
The most important point here is that the family unit held the shares to that community enterprise. The family contributed and got its returns.
We still do it.
We do it during funerals, bride price payments and university fee payments. The business model does not really work unless a whole family is involved. The application of that formula continues to be applied in the highlands with success.
Papua New Guinea’s are ‘bad’ workers in restrictive 9am to 5pm environments. But when given the creative space and when given a purpose along with family support, small businesses can grow into big enterprises.
In Meteyufa, Eastern Highlands Aku Kulo a kaukau farmer, runs a kaukau export business. He ‘employs’ at least one member of every family not in the business. Everyone works on the land. Every family gets paid up to K1000 per week. If you want more money you work some more. The only restriction is the land boundaries.
Family businesses solve multiple social and economic challenges.
They can employ whole villages. Family business help pay for school fees, hospital and funeral expenses. These are the same requests that foreign bosses get and can’t understand why the employee comes to them for assistance.
In a family business, housing, food and transport is almost always provided. Individuals eat at the same household after work. The young boys sleep in the ‘big’ house. Married family members have their own homes. They benefit from the psychological support. Unemployment in the western sense is reduced to zero. People remain connected to their families.
Twenty-something-year-olds working with an uncle or older cousin in a business are allowed to go see their parents when they need a coffee plot picked. It’s understood, no questions are asked. They don’t get threatened with a pay cut
That is the kind of employment environment that Papua New Guineans thrive in. A young man or woman will leave paid employment to work in a family business for less pay because it offers that kind of support.
The Family Business should be a category recognized by the Investment Promotion Authority (IPA), the Internal Revenue Commission (IRC) and the National Government. It should get special incentives like lower registrations fees and 20 year tax holidays so that families are able to send their children to universities.
The Papua New Guinea Government should be developing generations of entrepreneurs instead of encouraging investments that ‘gives us jobs.’
We all want change and we want that change to happen quickly.
Many of us feel deprived of certain opportunities and privileges and therefore miss or forget that we are rich already.
As a country we didn’t have to struggle to become an independent democratic nation.
Beyond that we are rich with our good Papua New Guinean ways, our cultures and traditions. Our people have in them various skills and talents that often are given freely. Our land holds rich mineral and natural resources that today in some parts of the country has become the cause our various divisions and tensions.
What we need is to appreciate this richness. Our constitution speaks of oneness, and respect for each other where we share equally the fruits out of our land and people. Yes we need to engage in the global spheres but our people are central to everything we want to do.
Papua New Guinea needs to distribute its wealth equally so that our children can have free good quality education that is relevant for our sustenance and growth and that our sick can access good quality health care at no cost in country.
We are rich when our women are appreciated as equals and are free from violence and our youth are an integral part of our decision making. We have to stop blaming the youth for our law and order situations and start taking responsibility to guide them.
As a nation going forward when we see and hear more deep thinking young Papua New Guineans coming out of our very own universities and embracing our values we know we are in charge of our destiny. We cannot continue to rely on foreign consultants to tell us how to run our country. Our ways are unique, diverse and deep and only we understand why we do things as Papua New Guineans. We must stop relying on borrowed concepts and ideas.
We want to be free from depending on development aid and foreign ideas that drive our development. It does not make sense when a mineral rich and natural resource rich nation depends heavily on aid. Take a look around, how many development projects are funded by foreign governments?
Annually we import K3-4 billion in food alone according to former National Planning Minister, Mr Richard Maru. Our dependence on grains has superseded our own food products. We want to stop depending on huge food imports to sustain us. We are rich with land and the right climatic conditions to produce our own food all year round. Rather than taking land from the people we want to help them use their land to produce food.
Lifestyle diseases among young people in Papua New Guinea are rising. Our nutrition status is not getting any better. We need to stop feeding our children unhealthy fast foods and encourage local organic food.
Our own people are paying huge multiple taxes and we let companies get away with taxes. Until our people start earning comfortable wages and salaries then we know we are doing well as a country.
Many of our people who give service to this country do not live in decent homes serviced with proper water and sanitation systems and electricity.
We are rich when our banks and other service providers start doing service for our people instead of building empires based on profits.
Papua New Guinea our land is richly blessed. We have adopted a believe system that commands us to look after our God’s creation. And so when our forests, rivers, sea and land can be free from abuse and exploitation then we know we will be rich forever.
We are rich already. We just need to care more and look at our distribution mechanisms and make decisions responsibly.
Anyone living in Port Moresby without institutional housing or support from relatives or parents, know that it is an absolute nightmare. Port Moresby is the most expensive city in the Pacific. The rental price structures are like those in Australia and yet the wages that employers pay don’t match the cost of living.
Housing is skewed towards the high end market.
Real estate companies charge a minimum of K1000 to K5000 a week in rental prices. The vast majority of Papua New Guineans don’t see that kind of money in a fortnight or even six months. A salary of between K35,000 and K50,000 is next to impossible to live on if you have a family.
The figure looks great on the pay slip. But it can’t pay rent. You can’t save enough unless someone else is paying for rent or your company pays for your accommodation.
In Port Moresby, the buying power of an K80,000 a year salary is still limited if you pay for your own rent. The quality of life diminishes once reality sets in after the first year of work. It’s a painful reality that many young graduates have to face. What appears to be a big salary is ripped to shreds by the reality of big city life.
At one stage, up to 60 percent of our salaries went to pay rent every fortnight. We were evicted three times because our rentals were late. We still paid up. But the real estate companies didn’t like it.
Once we lived in a compound where the rent collectors came with bush knives every fortnight to collect rental payments. At the end of the fortnight, money was always short. Sometimes food ran out three days before the fortnight’s salary hit the bank. It was frustrating and stressful.
School fees were expensive. They have risen over the years. Sometimes, parents can’t send their kids to school because the fees have accumulated from last term. Nobody talks about the difficulties that families face.
Food is expensive.
What we ignore in Lae Market is sold at exorbitant prices in Port Moresby. People have no choice but to buy it because it adds a bit of variety to their diets.
Who can save money in such an environment?
This is the reality that governments don’t talk about. What is large scale investment if our people are paid slave wages or the environment makes their salaries insignificant?
The National Housing Corporation and the evictions they conduct always draw my ire because of all of the above. Housing is a basic need. Yet the corruption in that one organization continues to rob Papua New Guineans of affordable housing.
On Sunday I received a notification on Facebook that Wilfred Kepui mentioned my name in a comment. When I clicked on the notification it took to me to a post by Remase Hariwa (real name Augustine Pouru. Mr. Pouru posted the following message on is timeline:
Soon after posting the above message Wilfred Kepui commented notifying me. I respond asking Mr Pouru to please inbox me the details of the mother’s name and contact number.
He explained he doesn’t know the mother personally but heard of the incident through a friend as they were walking past the Gordon’s Police station on their way to the bus stop and brought it up in conversation. He said he will try contact them tomorrow to find out if they can assist locating the family.
I explained that had a Ministerial hand over take over program tomorrow morning as well as full debriefing from Police Force Hierarchy and Divisional Commanders from around the country and will raise it with the Commissioner as a matter of priority.
During my key note speech I made mention of this incident. I also made the point the only reason I accepted the invitation by the Prime Minister James Marape to join his Government and be part of his Cabinet was to take on the Ministry for Police to address the escalating issues of sexual violence against Women and little girls, including children generally. Following my speech I passed on Mr. Porou’s contact to NCD MetSup Perou N’dranou asking him to look into it ASAP.
An hour later, with the assistance of Gordon’s Police and Mr Pouru taking time off work, we able to locate the mother and little girl who is actually 5 years of age. Police arrested her grandfather, I then contacted a friend to have the Mother and her daughter placed at Bel Isi Safe Haus and ensure she received the urgent medical treatment.
Following the interview of the mother is was discovered two other girls living with them were also victims of sexual abuse from the same alleged perpetrator.
When I thanked Mr. Pouru for bringing this issue to my attention he said he had two young boys and was heart broken after hearing of the story from his friend.
Two weeks ago, straight after being sworn in as Minister of Police I explained to the press that I intended to run social media program where the public would be able to get directly in touch with me in an initiative to making it safer for mum’s and dad’s and their kids.
Yesterday’s incident is on such example of the changes to come. As promised you can expect sweeping changes in how our Police address sexual violence and Police brutality .
To avoid any doubt, I’m still very much committed to addressing high-level corruption and once I’ve had the opportunity to address the issues facing our Police Force I expect them to take the lead without political interference.
*Augustine is a musician and recording artist. He previously helped to raise funds for the Braun Hospital in Finschaffen.
In 2018, one year ago, senior works engineer, Brian Alois was suspended from his job after making a presentation at a National Planning Summit in Lae.
Brian did his job as a senior government engineer. He highlighted what was wrong in the system and he pointed out how it could be fixed.
Brian is a highly qualified civil engineer. He could be working in the private sector, if he chose to. But he found his calling in the service of his country and his people.
Brian knew what was coming when he made that presentation in the presence of the Works Secretary, David Wereh. He spoke, not as a senior officer of the Works Department, but as President of the Institute of Engineers PNG, and as a professional, he had every right to do so.
In summary, this is what Brian Alois covered in his presentation:
PNG’s road construction costs are inflated (for various reasons stated in his presentation)
It currently costs up to K3million kina per kilometer of road
Our education system isn’t producing skilled road builders anymore but focuses on producing engineers with degrees.
The works department is not conducting prior investigations and assessment to establish the actual cost of new roads
Contractors are charging more than what should be charged
The Works Department is underfunded and unable to conduct its duties independently.
If we want to build a strong economy, we have to get our road building right. We cannot inflate costs and steal from the system and then preach about building an economy. Brian simply said the costs are too high and that the costs did not need to be that high.
In the following days, Brian received a letter of suspension. They charged him. But one year on, he still remains suspended without any actual penalty delivered. Nobody has had the guts to admit that the Works Department was wrong in suspending him.
Brian Alois represents the voice of the people. He stated the truth and he was punished for it.
I stand with Brian Alois and I call on the Papua New Guinea government and Prime Minister, James Marape, to reinstate him immediately!