To my avid readers (both of you), I must start with an apology for the lack of posting over the last month – I was having way too much fun enjoying the North American summer.
Vancouver in summer is an absolute delight and it was hard to say goodbye. But I’m back in dangerous places once again and so a new post is born.
Today we’re talking about a new public holiday that Papua New Guinea enjoyed this week – the National Prayer and Repentance Day, which occurred on the 26th of August 2014. It was approved by the National Executive Council on 4 July last year. Unfortunately for the poor Parliamentarians, no one mentioned the new public holiday to them, so they resumed Parliament on Tuesday while everyone else was having a day off. As a result, they were forced to do their praying and repenting right there in the Parliament Building. Seems as a good a place as any…
The next day, the papers were leading with the story of a nation in prayer. Top stories of the day, according to “The National”, were that the god of Israel is also the god of PNG and that students are praying for the reversal of curses.
The usually-frantic main street of Downtown Port Moresby was almost deserted. The churches seemed to be pretty quiet too. I guess most people were doing their repenting in the privacy of their own homes.
An Australian think-tank called the Lowy Institute for International Policy released a report this week entitled:
Violence against women in PNG: How men are getting away with murder
It details the absolutely horrific plight of women in PNG, with some particular disturbing cases highlighted in which the police are more part of the problem than the solution.
The opening paragraph of the report reads:
The women of Papua New Guinea (PNG) endure some of the most extreme levels of violence in the world. They continue to be attacked with impunity despite their government’s promises of justice. The situation has been described as a humanitarian disaster yet still does not receive the broader public attention it deserves, inside or outside PNG. It is also a significant obstacle to PNG’s development and prosperity.
The report goes on to say:
As an expert submission to an Australian parliamentary committee recently observed, family and sexual violence in PNG “is widespread, pervasive and highly damaging.” Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF), a long-time actor in PNG, argues that in some locations, the reality is akin to a war zone.
While legislation was finally passed in 2013 offering protection women protection from domestic and sexual violence, the reality is that the legislation has made very little difference. A huge part of the problem is prevailing cultural practices and attitudes. The report cites a study that revealed:
In Eastern Highlands 95 per cent of men said it was OK to beat your wife in certain circumstances, and 98 per cent of women agreed. But in New Ireland the number was 17 per cent for men, 7 per cent for women.
Another major component is ineffective policing, or even worse, where police are the offenders. The Police-to-citizens ratio recommended by the UN is 1 to 400. In PNG it is 1 to 1200 and that figure is expected to worsen in the coming year as the police force faces a major retirement bubble.
The report concludes with a sobering reality:
The inescapable conclusion is that in modern PNG the position of women has deteriorated rather than improved.
Frankly, I’m beginning to wonder whether prayer and repentance are going to be enough to turn this country around.
In other PNG news, the winner of this week’s, “I can still drive it to work” award, goes to this guy.
PNG Independence Day is just around the corner, so the stores are stocking up with yellow, black and red merchandise. I quite like the PNG trainers. I’m tempted to buy some just because it amused me that someone thought to put the PNG flag on a running shoe.
By far the best news since my return is that mango season is back. I currently have 60 of them ripening on my sideboard and kitchen table. Mmmm…mangoes.
I came back to PNG via the Philippines again this time as I prefer Manila to Hong Kong any day of the week. This area is called “Greenbelt”, and it is loaded with overpriced foreign luxury brand stores selling goods to tourists and rich Filipinos.
I made a point of dropping in on the last Starbucks that I’ll see for three months. If ever there was an indication that a country is underdeveloped, it is the absence of Starbucks.
The Philippines never fails to amuse me. They don’t do things by halves. I’m pretty sure if a cell phone has ever been manufactured, they have a case for it in this store.
Mr Quickie provides a range of services performed rapidly. Including “Rubber Stamp”.
I swore that I would never fall in line, but the prices at this supermarket were so good that I had to rethink my rebellious ways.
But the staff really need to band together and tell the boss, “We get paid minimum wage and there is no fucking way that we are wearing these stupid hats for that kind of money”.
This is novel – it’s the first time I’ve seen a vending machine that charges cell phones for 10 minutes. The cost is around a dollar.
Back in PNG, the big news this week is that Mt Tavurvur in New Britain is erupting again, forcing commercial flights to be re-routed.
The eruption is sending a cloud of ashes 20 kilometres up into the sky.
Rabaul was a huge Japanese naval base in World War II, so there are some fascinating historical sites in the are.
I visited Rabaul and Mt Tavurvur in 2010 on my first trip to PNG. It’s a beautiful area. Sure, it explodes every 20 years or so and kills everyone, but they keep coming back and rebuilding a couple of years later.
Until next postcard…