Morobe’s mine waste dumping debate, reminiscent of Basamuk 

WPThe Papua New Guinea’s environment minister has tried to ease tensions over the proposal to dump mine waste into the Huon Gulf in the Morobe Province.

Wera Mori,  says they haven’t  yet decided if  tailings from the USD5 billion Wafi-Golpu project will be disposed using the deep sea tailing placement (DSTP) method. But he has also admitted that the construction of a tailings dam is not part of the plan.

“We have not decided yet. As minister, I have to be satisfied that the operation will be safe.”

Last week, Wera Mori and Officers from the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) visited at least two coastal villages in the Huon Gulf District in a series of  consultation meetings with the people.

The meetings have brought to light uncertainties and serious concerns over environmental damage.

“The men can say yes. But for me as a woman, I see a lot of problems ahead,” says Giwi Afio, one of the many women from Asini village along the Salamua Coast.

The meetings are reminiscent of a similar process that happened a decade ago in Madang Province when the  government tried to convince Raicoast villagers  to accept the dumping of mine waste by the  Chinese owned Ramu Nickel Mine.

This eventually led to protests and a lengthy court battle which was eventually withdrawn by the landowners.  Back then, the government had already made a decision and it followed a checklist to  ensure consultation appeared to happen.

Despite, a petition of signed by more than 7000 villagers, approval was given to proceed with the DSTP option.

In October 2019, more than 200,000 liters of toxic slurry spilled from the processing plant into the Basamuk bay.  The government ordered the closure of the plant and CEPA sent officers to investigate the cause.

Government officers are delivering a specific narrative to Morobeans when discussing the  Basamuk spill in Madang and the potential risks posed to coastal communities.

Minister Wera Mori has specifically said the Basamuk spill was due to a plant failure and not  the failure of the DSTP system.

Morobe’s Large Lutheran population also plays into the dynamics of this push to extend the people’s voice.  The Lutheran Church has expressed that the environment needs to be protected.

Lutheran Bishop, Dr. Jack Urame, has been echoing a call for strong environment stewardship – a call also made by his predecessor and environmental campaigner, Bishop Wesley Kigasung who passed away in 2008.

The Lutheran voice is important both in this discussion and in the political discourse of its  congregations in Morobe.

The government on the other hand sees this project as a huge catalyst for change and an economic savior,  not just for Morobe,  but for the rest of Papua New Guinea.


Respecting your Tambus: Eva Kuson tells the tale of her K9 family member

The suburban 5mile became a tad bit notorious over the past 2 weeks. Neighbors reported tales of slippers, clothes and shoes gone missing overnight.

I decided to prep my corgi, Fronky. Beef his aggressive nature and bring forth his protective prowess.

I fed him with a raw beef rump and pork belly. Cost me dearly, but anything to feed the pride is no price paid. Or so I affirmed to myself as I cringe at the receipt.

Tonight, I came out of the house to pat Sport, my two month old Rotweiller and the elder, Fronky. A bed time tradition.

Intuitively, Fronky didn’t beckon to the niceties displayed. I knew instantiously, his masculinity has been restored by the earlier feed.

I watched as his sensory piqued at the sound of the neighbors roaring Prado.

Five lads hopped off and walked down the shared drive way.

Fronky launched for the ‘prey’, raced down the stairs, loosing flight and landed on his fore and galloped towards the boys.

The five heard his bark, and ran for cover. Two dashed onto the main Hubert Murray Highway. Two flashed towards house screaming “Frooooonnnkyyyy No! Mi ya bata,” pleaded the scrawny of the group.

One, who is Raymond, stood. He was scared off his wits. Hand clasped to his neck with a slight bend. Probably, his human reasoning would be that, the dog bite to his back is better than his limbs or face.

Fronky sped past Raymond. He did not attack him.

Fronky then receded home, out of breath, tongue hanging past his cheeks. The attempted attack seemed a mission, though not accomplished.

I stood, puzzled that he didn’t pay any attention to Raymond. I wondered why, yet didn’t ask.

I walked down porch, dishing out apologies after apologies. Whilst eyeing Raymond, wondering, why?

The boys roared in laughter. Mimicking each other in the aftermath of the near dog attack.

Raymond was shaken but beyond relieved.

It turned out ladies and gentlemen, Raymond is the father of two female canine himself.

After the debacle, the lads settled, Raymond called out to Fronky,

“Hey Fronky, gutpla nait long yu tambu”

Fronky returned a slight shy nod.

As it turned out, Fronky has been paying dawn visits to solicit interests from Raymond’s female canines.

Raymond shrugged and revealed to the small gathering,

“How bai tambu kaikai tambu?”

Bottom line, my boy em kastom man. Em tambu blo ol wara Sepik, if I may specify.

I am proud of raising a man who respects his supposedly tambu, yet disheartened that he chose his tambu over my safety and welfare.

Eva’s side note: “Florence please welcomim tambu man blo yupla ol Sepik 🙄”

*Tambu = Inlaw

‘Cultural context’ needs to be clearly defined if you are using culture to defend violence

cultureThree years ago, I asked my dad what the role of women was in his culture and how women were treated. This was when another incident of violence came to the fore.

I needed to understand how his culture dealt with women and their place in society.  My dad is a man of huge contrasts; he is an immaculately patient being with a frighteningly explosive temper. He is not someone you would easily walk over. If you did, it was because he tolerated the situation or he walked away from a fight.

His restraint was and still is legendary. He was not a saint. He did extend his share of violence to poor unsuspecting souls who chose to pick on him. Even in his worst, he never laid a hand on my mum.

The wisdom in his reply has stuck with me since.

His, was a warrior culture, where the men pretty much ruled the daily affairs of the tribe. The decisions on where to settle, which alliances to forge, which clans to attack and destroy were made by men.

However, the secret counsel and the influence came from the women.  Our ancient cultures understood the purpose of the man’s ego.  The women guarded it. They did not interfere or publicly embarrass their men in front of their peers.  But in decisions that were going to be disastrous, the women chided and counseled their men.

The man’s wealth came from the women who cared for the gardens and the pigs in partnership with her man. A careless women spelled the downfall of her husband.

Society understood that wars could be started because of the words of women and disastrous battles that could affect generations in the future could also be avoided through a woman’s counsel.

Women were not mere properties.

My dad said despite the fierce reputations of the grandfathers, women were rarely beaten or abused.  Shouting or fighting with your woman in front of your elders was shunned. It spoke of  a man with boyish tendencies,  unable to control his emotions and unable to function as a thinking, intelligent warrior in battle.

He said it was expensive to fix domestic disputes that came to the attention of older people in the tribe.  You had to pay compensation in pigs and whatever they demanded. Basically, if you are man enough to strike your woman, you must have the wealth and the emotional stamina able to fix multiple relationships affected by your actions.

Diplomacy in the home and outside of it was a skill every man had to learn.

Years ago, when my mum was a feisty, hotheaded, young woman, I used to hear her say during my dad’s most frightening moments, “Noken wari, em ba no nap paitim mi.”

I understood much later why, he always calmed down.  First and foremost, he loved his woman too much to strike her.  Second, as per the wisdom of the ancestors,  it would be too emotionally expensive to fix several relationships that came with the woman he loved.

The disrespect shown to his in-laws –  the young men and women who came to look up to him would be very difficult to repair.  The trust would be broken and it would take years to fix.  To restore his honor, he would work to repair all those relationships.

The parallels to the 21st century relationships, remain the same.  Abuse has high penalties –emotional, financial and legal.

[That is the wisdom from my culture. You have to understand your own cultural context from your elders.]

‘#PapuanLivesMatter’: George Floyd’s death hits close to home in Indonesia | Jakarta Post

wp2As the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died while being arrested in the United States, sparks a global outcry, Indonesian rights advocates and young people have stepped forward to remind fellow citizens that racism has long been an issue at home as well.

The scene of Floyd being restrained by a cop employing a knee-to-neck hold is familiar for some, who compared the incident to the 2016 case of Obby Kogoya, a Papuan man whose head was reportedly stepped on by the police before he was arrested during the siege of a Papuan student dormitory in Yogyakarta.

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which has accompanied a call for street rallies worldwide, has since been adapted into #PapuanLivesMatter, with many turning to social media to urge Indonesians to also speak up against the racial discrimination and violence that Papuans have long endured.

“Many Indonesians support the hashtag #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd to denounce the actions of the American police over racial discrimination against black people. This is inversely proportional to when Papuans are racially abused,” Papuan activist Rico Tude tweeted on Tuesday.

Rico, who writes for Papuan media platform, criticized the “double standards” of Indonesians in addressing the issue of racism abroad and at home, saying some might fear the risk of discussing sensitive topics related to Papua or lamented the history of Papuan political attitudes.

“Some people think that the racism experienced by Papuan people is a logical consequence that must be accepted by those who are considered separatists,” said Rico, who is also the spokesman for the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP).

Read also: Global fight against racism: Papuan lives also matter

While being far from the central government’s reach at home, many native Papuans have to put up with discrimination against their skin color and stereotypes while searching for a better life in other cities.

Some students previously told The Jakarta Post that they faced rejection by landlords when looking for rooming houses to rent only because they were Papuans, while others had to endure racial slurs.

In other circumstances, such as when engaging in peaceful rallies to voice their political aspirations, many Papuans have reportedly faced physical intimidation and brutality by law enforcement personnel.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has tried to reach out more with his development and infrastructure approach but critics and activists argued that Jakarta continues to fail in addressing human rights issues and the repression against their freedom of expression.

On Sunday, Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman and two native Papuans held an online discussion on how the #BlackLivesMatter campaign had echoed the Papuan movement against the long-standing racism and injustice they felt in Indonesian society.

They agreed that the string of protests against Floyd’s death were similar to what happened in Papua last year — when thousands rallied against racism after a Papuan student was called a “monkey” by security personnel in Surabaya, East Java.

“Dialogue to advocate for Papua-related issues is not enough. Unlike the Floyd case, racism in Papua continues because the public lacks knowledge of it,” said one of the speakers, Mikael Kudiai.

Cisco Mofu, another speaker, called for other Indonesians to open their minds and listen to the aspirations of Papuans and be willing to “criticize the state for its mistakes”.

Read also: Internet ban during Papua antiracist unrest ruled unlawful

In a statement to the Post, Veronica said it was time to raise awareness among the public, as people outside the activist circle, including celebrities and influencers, had also reached out for discussion.

Actress Hannah Al Rashid, for instance, is among those who have amplified such discussion and called for people to actively listen instead of making assumptions about the issue through her Twitter account.

“Let’s start speaking up for Papua. The government has been able to perpetuate impunity in Papua because the people haven’t spoken out. We do need your voices but please be mindful in amplifying Papuan voices,” Veronica said.

Many internet users have also geared up to help disseminate information on issues surrounding Papua and shared links for people to sign petitions and donate to various causes to help Papuan people.

Young initiators, through online media platform Kudeta Mag, were among those who compiled the links and reading material on the website

“It should be our responsibility as Indonesians to feel obligated to understand our own country,” Kudeta Mag chief editor Jordinna Joaquin told the Post, “We need to talk, have these conversations, donate whenever and whatever we can and demand justice where it’s needed.”

Amnesty International Indonesia also called on the government to take a strong stand against systemic racism by guaranteeing Papuan rights to freedom of expression and stopping all forms of violence against those who peacefully express their opinions.

“The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis must be a reminder that discrimination and intimidation also happens to native Papuans in Indonesia, and most of the cases have yet to be resolved,” executive director Usman Hamid said on Wednesday.

The rights group also urged the authority to immediately release 51 Papuan prisoners of conscience. “They do not deserve to be in jail because they did not commit any crimes. Justice must be upheld,” Usman said.

Death threats made against Lae City Authority CEO

Neill Ellery 
A formal request has been placed with Lae Police to investigate death threats made against the Chief Executive of the Lae City Authority (LCA), Neil Ellery.
The threats were sent by text message two days ago. The sender told Ellery that he would be shot and that they knew where he lived. A second text message issued a separate threat to Ellery’s wife.
“I think they’ve mistaken me for a foreigner,” Ellery, whose father is a New Zealander, said at a brief press conference yesterday. “My mother is a Simbu woman from Gena and I was born in Simbu. Maybe they thought I would get scared and leave my country.
While Neil Ellery has not given details as to why the threats were issued, he says the work done by the authority to clamp down on illegal spending and wastage is understood to have triggered this latest death threat.
“If these threats are coming through, it means I am doing my job. It means I am affecting the corrupt ‘kaikai man’ right at the core now. We’ve closed off every possible avenue where they can steal money from the Lae City Council and we are making sure the services will be delivered back into the City.”
Neil Ellery, is no stranger to controversy and threats.
Since taking office, as Interim CEO of the newly established Lae City Authority, he and his staff have been physically threatened several times. Much of the dissatisfaction has been triggered by his efforts to transfer administrative, financial and municipal functions from the Lae City Council and to rid the organization of widespread corruption.
In 2018, when the Lae City Authority took control of the Lae Market, police were called in to remove several casual staff as well as the former management who never accounted for revenue generated over 20 years from the market.
This followed an investigation in 2017 which showed how millions of kina were being stolen by corrupt officials in the Lae City Council. The spending included hire cars, funeral costs and ghost names on the payroll.
The theft left the Lae City Council in a state of bankruptcy with the organization being propped up by grants from the Morobe Provincial Government and DSIP funds from the Lae District.
“Even though I know who you are, I need evidence. To threaten me is the work of the devil. To threaten my wife is the work of a coward.”
Lae Police Metropolitan Superintendent, Chris Kunyanban, has also issued a strong warning against cyber threats. He has since instructed officers to begin working on the investigation.
“I want to make a public statement here…making threats by SMS, Whatsapp or Facebook carries heavy penalties. We are now working to track the numbers and have that culprit arrested.”

We had systems that worked. Why did we abandon them?

houseWe have to get this right if we are to thrive in this country: The quality of transport infrastructure – especially roads and bridges – determines the price of food.  Apart from consumption, this single factor influences the rate of supply and demand to a large extent.

Economists can argue about the theory.  But if you ask any kaukau and broccoli  seller in Lae or Madang where produce from the highlands ends up, they will tell you why their prices are high in many instances.

If a road section is damaged (which does happen a lot),  the bags of food have to be shouldered to the other side of the road where another vehicle has to be found. The carriers have to be paid and the vegetable dealer pays twice for transport.

Where does he pass on the cost?  To the consumer in Madang or Lae.  The process is repeated if there is one damaged road section in the highlands and another along the Watarais – Madang section of the highway.

The cost doubles.

Papua New Guinea’s food security challenge has to be confronted on multiple fronts. At the top of the list of priorities should be local production and food security followed by the country’s food distribution network – Roads and bridges.

Food production and research hubs…If that’s what you want to call them… have to be reestablished.  I say reestablished because we had them in the 1970s and 1980s.  They were called DPI (Department of Primary Industry) stations.

Those stations were located in strategic locations around the country.  They were nuclei for research, agricultural support and seed distribution.  Government workers lived and worked in those stations.   Some still do. But without the support they used to get.

Those stations were connected by well-maintained road networks managed by the Works Department  who had a similar system of works camps along highways and feeder roads.

The DPI stations supported farmers by providing advice, managing disease outbreaks and impacts of natural disasters.    This was done by the Government of  Papua New Guinea.

We seem to be suffering from generational amnesia.  It is baffling that we keep trying to reinvent the wheel when we already had systems that worked for our people.  What can’t we bring it back?

At the turn of the century when the rest of the UN was discussed climate change and deforestation, very few remembered the forestry stations throughout the country where government officers actively encouraged village communities to plant trees.

Remnants of the those activities can still be found in the highlands.  We need to get our kids to love planting trees every day. Not only on one day of the year because foreign organizations say we should.

Today, we complain about the cost of curative health care.  We talk about the cost of cancer treatment overseas. We battle lifestyle diseases like obesity and diabetes.  Where is the preventative health care message?

Thirty years ago, it was mandatory for schools to teach preventative health.

“Eat heathy foods.”  That was on a poster in my classroom.  Other posters discouraged drinking fizzy drinks and eating sweets.  These posters had Papua New Guinean faces and were produced by… wait for it… THE GOVERNMENT OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA!

On matchboxes, companies had messages of self-reliance and independence.

“Grow your own taro.”

“Grow your own sugarcane.”

Have we lost our sense of independence and the self-reliance we had for over 60,000 years?

Bottom line is, we already had systems in place.  Systems that worked. We listened to wrong advice in the 1990s and look where it got us.

My rant ends here.



Straight outta Menyamya: Adventures with bows and arrows

10669054_920415271308185_8360830716521188276_oThe primary weapon of choice for the tribes spread out over the Upper Watut to Aseki, Menyamya, Kaintiba in the Gulf Province and Marawaka in  Easter Highlands is the bow and arrow.

Theirs  was a culture into which I was immersed at an early age.

Every boy had to know how to make a bow. The men carried black palm bows which were incredibly difficult to draw.  The bows for play, were  made of bamboo.

I quickly learned that not all bamboo are equal.

The bamboo for bow making could not be harvested too young.

It had to reach a certain level of maturity so it was flexible and not brittle. It’s difficult to explain in written text, unfortunately. Those who made their own bows would understand.  The knife came in handy always. Every kid had a knife with which you use to cut  and shape the bamboo. Each end had to be pointed to allow for the bowstring to sit comfortably.

The length of the bow was shaved with a very sharp knife or a piece of  broken bottle. It was a skill we learned and perfected. Once the bow was done, the next step was to go into the  tall patches of kunai and find the clumps of pitpit that made perfect arrows.  The type of pitpit grew everywhere.

For the grownups, the bows were made of  black palm and   they were incredibly difficult to draw. The arrows were not fired  from eye level like in the movies. In most instances,  the archer would raise the bow up to the sky with the arm holding the bow, straight. The string would be pulled back and in one fluid motion, the archer would draw and  fire from the hip.

The archers, learned over generations that without  feathered arrows, the projectiles when fired, would travel in an upward curve. It was deadly at short distances.

We imagined our own battles when we gathered to “fight” out pitpit wars.

Our teachers at Menyamya Community School banned bows and arrows in the school premises because a few birds and boys got injured.  That didn’t stop the battles from continuing after school.

The adventures continued on the weekends when we convened along the river banks when the floods came.

This is another chapter from Menyamya. It is an adventure unfinished and will never be…at least in spirit…the memories live on in time.


How social media users helped us cover the 2018 earthquake disaster

Unicef image

For at least a week after the 26th of February 2018 when a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Papua New Guinea,   it was relatively difficult getting into the hard hit provinces like  Southern Highlands and Hela.


The security situation had worsened in some places and roads especially in the Nipa  District  had been cut off in some sections.  Without vehicle access, physical presence on the ground was a remote possibility for news crews.

However, most mobile communications towers remained largely unaffected.  This gave  an opportunity for people in affected villages to provide a steady stream of images, audio and  text updates of the damage that had occurred.  Much of the information came through SMS,  Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. Such information created and supplied by social media users is referred to as  User-Generated Content (UGC).

I have made references to UGC  several times and given lectures about its importance as a critical link in times of natural disasters.  In 2018, the  importance of UGC came to the fore during the earthquake.

The content  social media users supplied gave us an insight into the extent of the damages and eventually led us to begin collating statistics of  the death toll  in the initial 48 hours of the disaster.

The data is raw and the statistics need to be assembled.

When you are mapping out the locations, you need to have a visual understanding of what is happening and where.   As in many parts of  Papua New Guinea, some locations can’t be found on Google maps, most apps don’t work and you have to work from the closest reference points of major villages and district centers.

The  next step is to put aside any temptation for assumption and track down, INDIVIDUALLY, the sources of the content.  This usually starts with secondary sources and works backward to the primary sources of the content.

Sometimes, for some locations, we did it quickly. For others, it took several hours primarily because, people were traveling in between disaster sites to the line of site (LOS) locations of cellphone towers to send off messages.  ‘Crowdsourcing’ and verification combined,  is a slow process.

While social media users want ‘breaking’ news,  accuracy in news delivery is critical to decision making and disaster response planning. 

Also, in times of disaster, good relationships and trust with social media users are  the backbone of good reliable content.

Eventually, we got Facebook users to provide videos of themselves giving updates  from the disaster stricken areas.  They were able to report from the ground providing credible, verifiable evidence of the destruction and also give us leads that helped us collate statistics.

Using the WhatsApp voice function, we were able to give them short instructions on how to record good, useable video footage that eventually ended up being used by news organizations overseas.

The point of writing about UGC, is that we underestimate its value.  Government decision makers also underestimate its value in disaster management planning. This was evident in the 2018 earthquake. With UGC, you can map out a disaster area and plan responses better.

Update for home builders: Using tongue and groove flooring for your building

This is a follow up post for those who have been tracking our building project.  Since the last few posts, many people have inboxed asking about costs and how to get started.  As an update, we’ve started working on the  floors.

I won’t lie to you. It’s  slow  and frustrating as you work to get the resources to make things happen.

I chose to use tongue and groove flooring (T & G as hardware people like to call it.)  There are different kinds of T & G flooring.  The newer types have grooves on all sides that allow the boards to snap into place. They look great but are more expensive.   I chose to go old school, primarily because of cost.

If you need some direction, please feel free to  message me. I can give you rough estimates of how much it will cost and where you might be able to get them.


I don’t like plywood floors.  Plywood is  convenient. But  it doesn’t look as pretty as T & G.




Straight outta Menyamya: Clay pistols, pine needle slides and real people

dsc00216Inspired by artist,  Leban Sakale John’s posts, here is my piece.

Menyama is etched in my mind.

I loved every bit of the place and as a boy growing up in arguably one of the best places in the country, I lapped up every minute of it. My brain soaked up the sweet experiences like a sponge.

It was the best place a kid could grow up.

I love pine trees.  In Menyamya, pine trees were everywhere. Every afternoon I ventured into the patches of pine and walked on the beds of slippery needles. I was a soldier, a warrior, armed with a bamboo bow and a handful of pitpit arrows.   Sometimes when the season was right, the pine needles became excellent slippery slopes down which we spent hours sliding down again and again until the earth became bare.

Just before midday, when the wind would pick up, the pines would whisper as the wind caressed the leaves.  The experience was as real as it was poetic.

Near the German  Bingsu’s house in the primary school,  the sweet smell of ground coffee used to waft through the air when we  passed by to go home in the afternoons.  Almost always, we took detours to where good clay deposits could be found.

Grey clay was everywhere.  Clean. Sticky. Malleable.  You could turn that chunk of clay into anything. You were limited only by your imagination.  Every day, I came home dirty. Sometimes with a clay pistol.  I made a bunch of those too.

The current, Menyama MP, Benjamin Phillip, worked at the Anga Development Company…agency… I can’t remember.

Menyamya is where I met Uncle Moses and Aunty Ronda. They were  a couple from the Hetwara, who eventually ended up staying a while at the Haus Boi at the back of the Haus Kiap where we lived. My dad was the district administrator.  Once when I got annoyed with my baby sister,  Uncle Moses, gave me stern advice in his heavy Hetwara accent about the importance of sisters.  It stuck forever. We still have a picture of them somewhere.

Menyama taught me the importance of agriculture and self-reliance.

We ate duck and chicken eggs every day. Duck eggs were larger.  I think a dozen cost K2-K3 We had honey and chickens.   The government DPI station produced it.  They also grew sheep and a few cows.  Those guys were experts.

I eventually bred Muscovy ducks myself. The ducklings were pretty.  Occasionally, a drake would drop by at the pond a bulldozer had dug in the middle stretch of grass were houses have now been built.

Gewe’s dad was a DPI officer, highly skilled in coffee, cardamom and other cash crops.   Talk about food security and commodities, we had right there.

There is so much to tell. I’m getting a bit nostalgic.  Maybe there will be a part 2. I don’t know.