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!

2 Responses to “Foreigners and their baggage”

  1. 1 Larry June 9, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Thanks for this post george.
    Love your work,

  2. 2 Richard M Basa July 6, 2009 at 3:47 pm


    I am coming to you from Newcastle, NSW Australia.

    You may have read some articles in the PNG Local Media about my son’s plight and my family’s plight here in Australia.

    Any chance you can follow the story and get some of those news into the Oz media, so everyone can see the effect of systematic discrimination and injustice, done to my son and my family, citizens of PNG here for studies. My studies were interupted, had to ‘miraculasouly’ survive without any form of assistance from anyone for three years (barely on nothing), before securing a job this last past year.

    R M B

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