Archive for June, 2009

More farewells.

The attrition continues!

Ev and Joanna – one adventure down, another to embark on. Good luck with the kid, I’m sure you’ll thrive in the role even if kids are a total pain as a rule. Yours no doubt won’t be as much of a headache as Newman and Clinton (or whatever the screaming terrors’ names are), although I sincerely hope that it has the chance to run around uninhibited with willy flying freely – if there’s anything PNG has taught me it’s that kids should be starkers for as much of their childhood as possible. Then again, New Zealand is cold. Good luck with the big questions in life, heck knows – there may even be answers! Meanwhile the compound is minus two good folk. Don’t miss Waigani Heights too much, ha!

As for the erstwhile Country Manager… I know a few country managers thanks to my line of work, they tend to wear ties and sit in offices and control small fiefdoms in the worlds of insurance brokerage, development contracts, and deep-sea mineral exploration. So what the hell makes you think you can get away with traipsing around Port Moresby (indeed also the rest of PNG) with one of a dozen multicoloured bilums slung over a shoulder, tropical shirt untucked, wearing shorts and sandals? There are many country managers who are probably pleased at your departure, relieved that they can get to work restoring their collective image as serious pastel shirts, pressed trousers covered-shoe types. Meanwhile while they restore their tattered prestige denigrated by your contempt for the uniform of high office a few hardbitten volunteers look forward to seeing you in a few months as one of their own – again. Good one Rick, thanks for the lot.


People – the situation is really dire over here now.

It’s not the kind of situation you’ll read about in the papers but nonetheless it’s a predicament that’s deeply worrying. One pivotal moment and suddenly one’s very existence in this place goes from quaint and odd to outlandish, frightening, and terrible. One small event, and life is awful. I’m not sure how to say it otherwise – except to say I don’t know how to express the grip of fear that is squeezing me as I type.

WE’VE RUN OUT OF GIN. The last drop has been squeezed, and trust me when you try you CAN squeeze a glass bottle. If ever there was a time when we needed a friend (and their two litre duty free booze allowance) now is the time.

And lo!

And lo! the Good Prophet came down from the mountain.

And the people rejoiced and greeted the Good Prophet with upraised arms.

Actually that’s just the GeeGee busting a move during the warm-up session at the Sir Anthony Siaguru Walk Against Corruption, which a silly dimdim familiar to some of you was heavily (too heavily) involved in organising.

The picture and link are on Ilya’s blog. Ilya is the AAP man in PNG and probably responsible for many of the ghastly stories you read about PNG in the Australian media, but the Walk Against Corruption DID make it into the Sydney Morning Herald so in true communications hack style I must hail him as a gentleman and true professional for getting my issue in press. Also, seeing as he did me the courtesy of announcing the presence of my blog on his own I felt I must return the favour – even though he DID out my secret identity and place of employment. Oh well. Bruce Wayne I aint…

Foreigners and their baggage

… and just in case anyone has been paying attention to the news from over here – no I am not burning and looting any shops owned by Asians!!!

For those who came in late – a bunch of self-styled Port Moresby grassroots defenders (known to the organisation I work for, incidentally, although definitely not approved of) recently organised a few protests against the exploitation of local workers by Asian employers, and also the general corruption and mismanagement of labour and immigration in PNG that allows these situations to continue. These grassroots defenders can often be caught at markets with megaphones, haranguing attentive crowds with megaphones in a fashions quite similar to the many Godly zealots tramping the street.

The grievances are justified if obviously racist at times, however the situation is also beset by plenty of misunderstanding. An example of the former situation would be the Chinese ‘engineers’ brought to PNG on special visas, photographed receiving special treatment at airports from immigration officials and who were subsequently witnessed mopping floors – a job supposedly reserved for local unskilled workers. An example of the latter would be the incident at a Ramu Nickel mine site recently, when a recently injured local worker was evacuated by boat after sustaining a bad injury. His PNGean colleagues insisted he be airlifted out but to no avail, and word soon filtered back to the mine that the man had died en route to hospital. A riot ensued, expensive equipment was destroyed and a few Chinese workers were bashed. The last I heard the injured man whose ‘death’ sparked the incident is still alive and kicking.

The protest organisers say they wanted a peaceful protest and initially I had no reason to disbelieve them. Yet I eventually found this claim hard to stomach having spoken to one of them and gleaned his enthusiasm for an email going around demanding that all Asian ‘cottage’ businesses be torched on December 31 by way of welcoming 2010. The guy was happy enough to be quoted on Radio NZ describing these Asians as ‘animals’ and ‘robbers’ as well. I’m personally happy that I had the chance to inform him that he had just sprung an old Australian/NZ media trap – the depiction of PNG as a country full of savagery and barbarism. Congratulations friend, the world thinks so highly of you and your country as a result of your ‘robbers and animals’ call, while plenty of decent folk continue to get lumped with the travestial flesh-eating spear-chucking stereotype.

In any case the protests were never going to stay peaceful – and it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that if they ever thought would stay peaceful then they are really, really, REALLY dumb. The fallout: Asian-owned shops in Moresby closed after a day of random destruction and looting. People were shot by the cops in the Highlands as they attempted to pillage abandoned Asian trade stores. A lot of small-time, hard working shop owners are probably thinking of a career in another country (that would include third-fourth-fifth generation Papua New Guineans of Asian descent as well!). The people who they probably didn’t pay enough are now probably going to get paid nothing at all. Meanwhile a certain Malaysian logging and trading company responsible for the worst illegal logging in the country still happily plies its trade, a certain Malaysian tuna cannery still has plans to expand its operations, and a certain Chinese owned mine probably still has ‘engineers’ mopping floors. Asian gambling and illegal visa rings will still operate, the seedy criminal underworld I can only speculate on still makes a nice buck of two, and the dodgy officials in immigration and labour departments (not to mention fatcat department heads and members of parliament) get even fatter and happier. But never mind, a blow has been struck against the vendors of cheap imported button-up shirts and bain-marie stews. Viva le lynch mob!