East New Britain, Papua New Guinea – refugees and the readiness/reality gap …., July 2013

General musings

The expats here are philosophical about the disfunctionality of PNG society. It is just how things are.

I am conflicted. It seemed to run at least as well, if not better, when I was here 40 years ago.

But I am seeing this Melanesian world through the prism of the sophisticated organisational expectations of a mostly efficient, developed society. This is not my world.

When I am here the Australian PM Rudd announces his new refugee policy – all boat people are to be housed on Manus Island and their care and processing to become PNG’s issue paid for by Australia.

I am gob smacked about the country’s readiness to implement such a complex policy in the light of some of the anecdotes I hear and I stress all this is anecdotal:

  • I admire a smart new fire truck and am told last week a house burnt down because people don’t know the number of the fire station.
  • The paper has a little story of the disappeared consignment of crabs expected on the Kavieng flight. Did they make it on board or were they eaten on the short flight?
  • In true PNG manyana time the only performance at the annual mask festival one night starts 2 hours after the programmed time.
  • The inaugural Cairns-Kokopo flight started up while I was there. One visitor was assured in Cairns that she could get her visa on arrival at Kokopo. She couldn’t and had to return to Cairns and then catch the next flight via Port Moresby.
  • The second day my friend received a text saying: “Flight crew drunk n didn’t show up in pom (Port Moresby). Still waiting in Tokua (Kokopo airport)”.
  • In January two men with homemade guns  robbed the beachside bar where I was staying. Two Australian men had stumbled into it and also been robbed. When they ran to tell the security man at the gate, his radio wasn’t working and he didn’t know the phone number of his company. The next day, the police still hadn’t been notified.
  • We asked the hotel staff to ring a taxi; this was a problem as the mobile phone had run out of credit.
  • The previous week a newborn baby at a hospital about an hour away had died because the doctor had to be picked up to attend and the ambulance was in for repair. No one had had a back up plan.
  • I asked the manager of the hotel to print something. While he was away someone had borrowed the ink cartridge.
  • No one ever expects anything to arrive by post or to be delivered. It apparently sits in Port Moresby long time.
  • This year, for the first time, school attendance is free. The central government gave schools money to prepare. I am told many teachers now had new cars and computers. Other resources seem to be missing in action as the children are now crowded into the same rooms with many classes having up to 80 students to a teacher.
  • Leaving, I have an internet ticket; I pass through the gate to the security lounge. Why does no one join me until after the allocated boarding time? Am I in the wrong place? No. The ticketing machine hadn’t been working so no one could be given a boarding pass.

And then there is the wonderful sign in the airport: PLEASE DO NOT FORGET TO DECLARE YOUR INFANT.

This area is said to be the safest and presumably therefore one of the better organised in the country. Last week army staff shot up the medical students’ quarters in Port Moresby in some payback. NGOs will not let their staff travel in Lae and Moresby except in armoured and armed cars.

Given its own issues, can PNG exercise a duty of care and speedy processing of refugees? Given that only 3% of the PNG land is not in customary ownership  with a total of approximately 12% on 99year leases to foreign companies and there are already shanty towns of refugees from Irian Jaya, just how could those granted citizenship there under the Rudd scheme, settle there?

It is enough to make me weep.

1 Comment

Filed under Travel

One response to “East New Britain, Papua New Guinea – refugees and the readiness/reality gap …., July 2013

  1. Kaminiel Irima

    I love my country PNG, and especially my home ENB.
    I am living in a place where life is carefree and safe, with no fear of terrorism, would not want to live in a country where you are monitored and spied on every where you go. Would not want to live in a place where mad gunman can go into a school, or shopping centre or night club and shoot people like hell….or bombs can explode on you anywhere and anytime..
    No one country in the world is free of problems…every nation on this earth has its share of problems..lets all work together to fix it

    PNG still the best and safe place in the world to live. God bless PNG

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