Beldan Namah: What was Ian Kemish doing at Government House?

The Leader of PNG Party, Hon Belden Namah said today that he was very surprised to hear that the Australian High Commissioner Ian Kemish and the Deputy High Commissioner Margaret Adamson were at Government House when the Governor General issued the invitation to Hon Peter O’Neill, Leader of PNC to form a government.

Mr Namah said that he was not aware that this was an occasion open to the general public.

“What were the Australians doing there?  Were other diplomats invited?   Who invited them?  Government House, or Peter O’Neill?”

“I cannot imagine the PNG High Commissioner to Australia being invited to Government House in Canberra to a meeting between Her Excellency Quentin Bryce and an Australian politician.”

“Kemish’s presence is a breach of protocol.  It also raises many questions about the relationship between him and his mate Peter O’Neill.”

“This Australian High Commissioner seems to have enormous power.  He acts as though he is O’Neill’s chief adviser, telling him when Papua New Guinea should or should not have elections, why PNG should not worry about introducing a bio-metric system of voter identification or electronic voting, even though the 2012 election, as predicted, has been marked by gross electoral fraud and disenfranchisement of thousands of people.

Is he now advising his mate on which parties to go into coalition with, or whom to give ministries to?”

“And even worse than that, if the report in today’s National is accurate, he has expressed an opinion on who PNG Members of Parliament should elect as the Prime Minister, and that he is “satisfied” with the conduct of the election.    That view is not the view of the majority of Papua New Guineans, especially those who were not able to vote due to their names not being on the roll or rogue conduct of electoral officials.

His view on the election is also contrary to the findings of the Commonwealth Observer Group.”

“Kemishwas quoted as saying at Government House, Peter O’Neill should be the Prime Minister for the next five years.  This is unbelievable, that a foreign head of mission should publicly say such a thing.”

“Kemish might be in love with O’Neill, but that should be kept private.  What Kemish says publicly becomes the public policy and position of the Australian Government.  I do not believe anyone in Canberra would approve of him stating publicly who should be the PNG Prime Minister.”

“If the PNG High Commissioner to Australia were to make a public statement saying he thought the ALP should elect Kevin Rudd as Leader instead of Julia Gillard, or that he hoped the Liberal Party formed the next Government, or that he preferred Malcolm Turnbull or Julie Bishop to Tony Abbott, he would be crucified.  He would never do that anyway, because he is a proper diplomat.”

“Power seems to have gone toKemish’s head.  He has forgotten that he is a diplomat and subject to conventions of diplomacy and protocol.”

“Whose interest is the Australian High Commissioner serving?  His own, so he can smugly claim to other Ambassadors in Port Moresby that he has more influence and inside knowledge about PNG and PNG politics than they do?  O’Neill’s personal political interest?”

“One thing is sure.  He is not acting in the interests of the majority of Papua New Guineans, or in the long-term interest of Australia.  What he is doing could harm the good relationship between our two countries, because he is meddling in matters that are not the concern of any foreigner.”

Mr Namahconcluded:  “Who is running Papua New Guinea today?  We are an independent sovereign nation, but we are behaving as though we are still a colony of Australia.”

“I call on the Australian Foreign Minister to apologise and to discipline the High Commissioner.  He should be recalled immediately, because he has interfered with PNG’s sovereignty, by deliberately trying to influence the Election and the process of Parliament electing the next Prime Minister.”

Authorised by Hon. Belden Norman Namah, Leader of PNG Party


4 thoughts on “Beldan Namah: What was Ian Kemish doing at Government House?

  1. Ta ta and ba ba black sheep! The loud mouth is still at it.Hasnt he learnt yet,that is why he is not in the Peter Oneil camp.Please clamp up.


    In Australia the Labour Party led by their PM Gillard are now making a 180 degree bout turn on their Refugee Policy. They appear to have abandoned the Malaysian solution and have now embraced the Pacific Solution, which they went to the elections opposing Liberal-National Coalition Parties on. How fickle and untrustworthy Politicians can be anywhere, let alone Australia!

    What this signifies is a shift for processing of boat people and Refugees in PNG ( Manus ) and Nauru.

    In the past the NA led Somare government has opposed the processing of Refugees in PNG. There were very good legal and human rights reasons for this policy. This refusal was based on proper legal advice. That it is unconstitutional and unlawful to have an asylum processing centre in PNG, like the one in Manus.

    The Manus processing centre is a closed jail like centre where there is heavily armed security, and is out of bounds to the public and the media. It is a strictly controlled environment where the Refugees are not allowed to mingle with locals. They cannot leave the site. There is a very strong fence that cannot be assailed and armed guards are posted everywhere. No one, including lawyers, are allowed access to any Refugee under the Bi-lateral arrangements between Australia and PNG. Most of the contractors and suppliers of food and consumables are companies out of Australia, so there is very little tangible economic benefit back to PNG for this exercise.

    The UN Convention & Protocols Relating to the Status of Refugees Refugees (Refugee Convention)1951 & 1967 Protocol (“Refugee Convention”) clearly outlines that a signatory government like Australia cannot transport refugees to a third location like Manus or Nauru, unless there is a guarantee that these countries will not persecute them, they would not be oppressed, and that their human rights will be protected. Until PNG can give a guarantee that the human rights of the refugees will be guaranteed and protected, Australia is obliged by the Refugee Convention not to transport them at all, but to process them on Australian soil. Irrespective of whether a person’s status as a Refugee has been determined or not, the processing of boat people who entered Australia or apprehended by Australian authorities, must principally be done in Australia and on Australian soil, under the Convention. This is an implied international obligation of Australia under the Refugee Convention. The decision to transport them out of Australian legal jurisdiction can only be done if the Australian government can guarantee the physical safety, security, human rights, and speedy processing of their Applications to enter and remain in Australia as Refugees. Past experience shows clearly that Manus is an oppressive environment for the Refugees.

    For a long time the Australian government has been looking to curb or discourage boat people flooding its shores by deliberately employing cruel and inhuman treatment of asylum seekers, boat people or refugees. In some cases children and babies have been held in captivity and jail like conditions for years and years without any ounce of recognition or consideration for their humanity. Families have been rendered asunder, and in some cases lives have been destroyed. Many people held in captivity in jail like conditions in Australia have been left with permanent psychological scarring. Others have gone on hunger strike, committed suicide, or even sown up their lips to demonstrate that they are a people without a voice discarded as garbage by the Australian Federal Government and its leadership.

    Last Christmas, we watched in horror as the remains of a boat carrying over 300 men women and children smashed mercilessly against the rocks on Christmas Island, were gathered up piece by piece and limb by limb. The Australian Navy, Coast Guard and its surveillance system picked up the boat many hours before they struck tragedy. They knew the heavily laden boat was headed for the rocks in bad weather. Yet, they stood by and allowed these people to sail directly to their death. The Prime Minister of Australia and the Defence Minister of Australia at that time may have been made aware of the impending tragedy, and may have chosen to turn a blind eye. This is not the first time Australia has deliberately allowed boat people to drown. This policy of watching and waiting and turning a blind eye to people in peril at sea does not sit well with the Australian Navy, who has made it known to the politicians that they have sworn an oath as seamen and women to save lives of other seafarers. The manner in which the politicians in Canberra appear to expect the Navy to break a time honoured code of ethics of seafarers is not sitting well with the higher ranks of the Australian Navy. Some servicemen and women have suffered psychologically as a result, having watched and stood by while innocent men women and children whose only crime was to come to Australia, daring to dream of happiness and to seek a better life and a better future, being plunged to their certain deaths.

    The Refugee Convention is very clear that it is not a crime for human beings, people of one country to leave their country and go seek a better life in another country if they suffer persecution in the original country on grounds of race, religion or political belief. As a matter of fact it is a fundamental human right to live in peace in a safe and secure environment, and the Convention provides for and gives effect to this right and the sacred sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of every person.

    Australia has over the years done everything under the sun to persecute, desecrate and demonize asylum seekers, refugees and boat people. Yet when it comes down to it, Australia is a country of boat people. White Australia is a country of boat people and their descendants. What gives Julia Gillard and her Cabinet any more right to Australia than those latterly arrivals on Aborigines soil? It is only a matter of timing. That is all. White Australia has no more legal, ethical or moral high ground to claim Terra Australis than these boat people. This behoves Australia to adopt a position, a moral and legal position that is concomitant with a full understanding and appreciation of the full surrounding circumstances causing plight of people around the globe; and in this sense their own part in the invasion of other countries and causing demographic political religious and economic instability in certain parts.

    Australian Leaders equally fail to see the full benefits of a healthy Immigration Policy that treats people with dignity. The policy is ridden by every political jockey as if to ensure the next load of boat people do not get in at all was a virtue worthy of the highest political goal score and inverse personal credibility, be it government or opposition. The fact that they don’t have an open quota system, prescribed open criteria, and aggressive selective migration policy, allows for some people to capitalize on it to set up money making operations to do boat runs with people who would otherwise be decent and skilled human beings in any society. The front page right hand column of The Australian last weekend says Australian Government internal studies reveal that it will need 800,000 new skilled workers in 5 years’ time! It expressed grave concerns for the Australian economy that it cannot be in a position to meet this demand. How poetically paradoxical was this page as it had right across the top in bold was the headline “Labor floats Nauru solution”. Now even if every able bodied Australian female, and every hot blooded beer swirling meat pie eating fly swatting footy crazy Aussie male, start fornicating non-stop for the next 6 months, they still will not produce the 800,000 skilled workers needed in 5 years’ time to meet the demand forecasted. That is one reason why, Australian Migration Policy as closed discriminatory and insular as it is, driven by a psyche of isolation and out-dated phobias, need to be sat on its head and overhauled to meet the challenges of the next century, or it will surely suffer being left behind as a land of red necks.

    Clearly the Manus solution in Papua New Guinea is illegal and unconstitutional under international law as well as under PNG law. Among other reasons it is illegal because:

    1. It deprives the liberty of people to be held in Jail like lock ups. Under the PNG Constitution we cannot deprive the liberty of persons unless they are convicted of a crime, or the Police charge them with a crime, and the courts cannot grant them bail. Where a person is suspected of a committing an offence, he can be held for a short time for interview. There is no other basis in law in PNG for us to hold a person captive. Any asylum seeker so held can sue the PNG Government for damages for false imprisonment and for breach of his rights under Section 37 of the Constitution. Yet, the Manus Refugee processing centre is exactly that. It is an establishment set up for an unlawful purpose.

    2. PNG is a signatory to the Refugee Convention, it is obliged to protect and process refugees speedily, and where necessary allow the Refugees access to Lawyers and the courts to have their claims heard and settled speedily. The manner in which the Manus Centre is set up with High Security perimeter is very clearly designed to deny the basic human rights of the Refugees guaranteed by the Refugee Convention. This happened the last time and there no guarantee that it will be any different. The denial of human rights entailing the Manus processing Centre, locking up of men, women and children who have not broken any law in PNG, is harsh, oppressive and inhuman, which is a breach of Section 41 of the Constitution of Papua New Guinea. This is so especially when these people do not know when they will be processed and they are held in abeyance for months and years at a time, sometimes separated from their families. It is also oppressive when they have no access to lawyers or courts, especially Australian courts applying Australian Law in respect of their Applications to remain in Australia. PNG Courts cannot apply Australian Law. An aggrieved refugee in Manus is automatically denied access to Australian lawyers and Australian Courts to have his case reviewed. Denial of proper Jurisdiction and facilities is a form of oppression that is Unconstitutional under PNG law.

    3. Australia will have breached its obligations under the Refugee Convention by transporting these Refugees to Manus. Australia has an obligation to receive refugees, grant asylum and resettle them. Australia has an obligation to facilitate safe travels of Refugees to safe destinations. Australia also has an obligation at law to process the Refugees speedily on Australian soil. The very fact that the Manus centre is like a maximum security jail, and the fact that the people do not have access to welfare services, lawyers, Journalists, access to Australian Lawyers and Courts, with their human rights unlikely to be protected, should oblige Australia not to send these people in the first place to Manus.

    Australia proudly sends its soldiers to other countries to fight and bring democracy to these countries, now it must stand up and show what a model democracy it is. Julia Gillard and her Cabinet must not make excuses for their generation of Australians and co-opt compliant leaders like Peter O’Neill to condone and carry on breach of International law and PNG law. Papua New Guinea must not become party to Australia’s inhuman, discriminatory, oppressive and illegal activities. The O’Neill government must not stoop to illegal and unlawful conduct.

    4. Australia is very backward in human rights laws and protection of lives of asylum seekers. They do not have a codified bill of rights as we in PNG do in our Constitution. However, even when we do have a Bill of Rights, our past experience of Manus has been that if we cannot meet or speak to Refugees or asylum seekers and know about their grievances, we cannot help them under our law. That is why Australia has designed Manus to ensure minimum outside access and maximum security. They have in the past even prevented Australian lawyers and journalists access to the refugees both in Manus and in Nauru. The Australian government wants to make Manus and Nauru as oppressive as possible to deter further asylum seekers, even if it is against the law.

    The Asylum seekers rights under our Constitution likely to be breached without any remedy include:
    a) Freedom from inhumane treatment,
    b) Right to protection of the law,
    c) Right not to be held in custody unless charged with an offence known at law,
    d) Right to be heard quickly, and by a fair and impartial tribunal,
    e) Right to respect for the inherent dignity of a person,
    f) Freedom from harsh, oppressive and unwarranted treatment.

    Peter ONeill may feel obliged to keep doing favours for Julia Gillard for the political recognition granted to his illegitimate regime last August, but this is not a matter of politics and political favors. The Independent State of Papua New Guinea and indeed the office of Prime Minister is not Peter ONeill’s personal business enterprise. The Office is set up under the Constitution as a public office and it must be run in accordance with the laws of this country. Infact it is not a decision for pliable Peter O’Neill to make personally by directing the Foreign Minister Pato to facilitate Peter and Julia’s wishes and most ardent desires. etc. This is a matter of law, and NEC should be the appropriate body to look at and debate the full ramifications of this decision. Thereafter, Parliament should sit and consider this whole issue, thereby allowing clarity and common sense and the wishes of the nation to be carried in a public and informed atmosphere. What Peter ONeill has done so far is clearly illegal, and is a gross abuse of public office.

    Any aggrieved party can as a matter of public interest challenge this by way of a Supreme Court Reference for the Courts to give their opinion on the Constitutional ramifications of this decision. We will now sit back and see the true colours of some of these national Leaders as to whether they will fall for this trick or not. The Opposition should knock this on the head, and call on Australian Leaders to respect human lives and treat their inherent person with dignity, not like some piece of garbage to be transported all over the Pacific ocean and discarded in some disused former military facility. If they want to be a model democracy and a great nation one day, Australian leaders must first show the world that they have joined the rest of humanity, and have become a people of dignity and decency in their Refugee and Immigration policies. That would be a good starting point.

  3. John Howard’s Values in Melanesia

    The Australian newspaper on Australia Day weekend (26th January 2007) had an insightful cartoon of the unmistakably short, be speckled and bushy browed John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, head slightly tilted to the left, looking up to a fluttering American flag, counting its many a spangled stars and singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, How I wonder who we are…”. It was a telling caricature of not only the times we lived in from a post-Nine Eleven context, but in just a few wiggly lines, the cartoonist cleverly opened our eyes to take a rare glimpse of the heart and soul of a nation, its people and its destiny as perceived by its leaders.

    It was a weekend that saw flags raised in almost every town in Australia extolling the virtues of Australian society and its values. Equally in just about every pub, many schooners and stubbies of beer were raised. In city halls and malls politicians and local government aldermen handed out Australia Day Awards and Medals in elevation of certain individuals in society as model citizens of that year. Some even became new citizens that day swearing to abide by the Australian values.

    A curious Melanesian visitor passing through Australia that weekend would have been excused for pondering about what exactly were Australian values. What exactly were the national values was Howard talking about; as opposed to private or individual values?

    There is a prevailing view today that a nation has no values of its own; it merely reflects the common values shared and practiced by its citizens; some shaped by history with ancient origins while others by modern contemporary culture or religion.

    Writers like Steven Covey of the school of effective leadership, take a more incremental approach and argue that values are more like mission statements, each deliberately laid out by leaders or chief executives of entities, to guide policy or shape organizational behaviour.

    Be that it may, we cannot deny the critical role values play in defining a nation and its people. It sets a people apart from the rest and gives them meaning, purpose and direction. It is the sacred place of noble design, the deepest well, from which a people’s hopes aspirations and their loftiest dreams are drawn from, and crafted into attainable goals for the kind of future and society they envisage for themselves and their children. It shapes, drives and guides policy and lawmakers alike. As such, those who hold this view argue that the contrary is true of a nation without values; it is bared of substance and soul and not quite unlike a rudder-less ship, cast upon the vagaries of internal politics, social expediency and economic self-interest. That, without values a nation can have neither soul nor the substance of a vision for the future.

    As a body of intelligent humanity we know that vision cannot exist without values, and values cannot exist without a greater moral fecundity to give it its necessary substance and suasion. Almost certainly we can hear the audible echo of that ancient biblical proverb that pronounces the sobering clarion call that, without a vision, the people shall surely perish.

    Equally sobering is the realization that a nation acting purely from imperatives of political or economic expediency, whether in internal policy translation or in reaction to external forces, may sometimes act in isolation of and or in diametrical contrast to the will and the sum of the collective values of its citizens. When governments act against the moral and value choices of the masses, it is invariably characterized as ‘Big Government’. Big Government may yield in more social and economic disharmony, loss of confidence in government and loss of social cohesion in communities. Most importantly it may result in loss of trust and confidence in an institution like democracy in ways more subtle than society can progressively measure. In contrast to the idea of Big Government, democracy as an ideology as initially designed, evolved and handed down from the Greeks and Romans, by essential character and definition, is supposedly for and by the people; reflecting the will, intent and values of the people. Governments who continue to ignore the values of the people tend to lose the heart and mind battle at the polls.

    That January weekend many speeches, both evocative and sentimental were given by civic and political leaders of Australia. John Howard was no exception, when he spoke imploringly of the values of giving someone a “fair go”, and “mate-ship”, as being the two important national values of Australia.

    Now, if you were to stand back and examine Howard’s speech and his two national ‘values’ from a strictly Melanesian perspective, you would have to admit that a leader in Melanesia would be scoffed at for seemingly scrapping the bottom of the barrel of virtue, for daring to exemplify and extol these as national values in such a public gathering. For the observant Huli man from the Highlands of Papua New Guinea or a Matu from Morobe, for instance, Howard was attempting to squeeze the sublime out of the mediocrity of what is common and banal. Such exultation would be highly offensive to Huli and Morobe minds who are used to unraveling rich oratory mysteries that encompass and betray a serious study in literacy, history, life, and relationships that are complex in earthiness and yet critical to the fecundity of life and survival of both man and his spirit. Indeed the Huli and Morobe stride with such richness of elegance and eloquence that would make both Longfellow and his Hiawatha weep with joy unbridled.

    A Huli man who opens his mouth like an owl in vanity is quickly reminded of his place. The elders shake their heads or roll their eyes in distress and look up to the skies as if to blame God for the paucity and triteness of thought in utterances that are devoid of history, idealism and practical pragmatism, either to give or take life. They would gather up slowly, and deliberately, in mid-stream, each clasping their straggling aprons of bilum or vigorously shake the earth off their dried tanget leaves covering their neither worlds in the face of the speaker and slowly retreat. Then someone, invariably, as if to embellish the magnitude of the moment, cries out, and challenges the speaker as to where and how he derived the authority to defile the privilege of the podium of such a place as this with his adolescent mutterings! What shame! If only he could melt into the earth, but the earth refuses to open up and swallow him. He looks up, but the heavens merely rain a thousand beads of sweat upon him. In his heart the silent hand of truth moves, coalescing all manner of form, shape and substance of things to reveal to him a new and painful understanding of his own world. Things are not always what they seem.

    It is likened to a little bird in the cusp of a man’s hand. It may be chirping away, but the Huli know that the little bird is neither dead nor alive. The hand that holds it carries with it both life and death, and so it is the man who stands in the midst of multitudes and opens his mouth. With timeless metaphors and multilayered paradoxical and parabolic discourses of truth, like an onion or a babushka doll with its real core found in the next layer, or a maze in mosaic manner laid, each word he carefully spins by masterful hands into a loom of beauty that tantalizes the ears and intoxicates the mind.

    He takes you on a journey with a lilt in his voice, a little hop and a skip in his stride, eyes darting first to the left then to the right; he lifts his spear, like the mast of a galleon’s flag, and plants it firmly on the ground in front of him. There you are, astride with him, on one leg teetering gingerly on the cusp of one word and the thread of a single thought. Only the learned know where in a few lines and a singular breath he has taken you. Only those who have eyes can now see, even fleetingly, the hand that holds the past and plays the future.

    When you, with thousands alike are held enthralled, transfixed and mesmerized by the agonizing beauty of eloquence, there is neither want for food nor drink, for you know your soul is feasting on the very narrow of life itself and every word uttered is like a solitary rock on the great stream of life. Every man, woman and man-child who live to face another day shall take away their fill to ruminate over on their journey back, across the rivers, ravines and misty ridges that fade to cloudy ranges, to talk about around the fires for days and years to come.

    As Melanesians, and as Pacific people, we almost take all forms of common human interaction (even giving someone a fair go or showing kindness and consideration of thought through difficult times) that Howard talked about for granted, as part of our cultural heritage and tradition. Our very existence as a people depends on hospitality, sharing, caring and dealing with an even hand. These virtues are part of the essential nature and fabric of our societies and there is nothing unusual or extraordinary about them. They are as old as the mountains that grant us perspective by day, and the stars that chart our courses by night. They are like the constant ebb and flow of the waves, and the rise and fall of the tides. They are likened to breathing in and breathing out, and are as common as coconut palms swaying in the evening breeze on some lonely sun-bleached island in our Pacific Paradise.

    In all seriousness, we would not for one moment even consider making them our national values or celebrate them as our very own unique virtues, nor would we even dream of distinguishing ourselves as a people by our hospitality or common gestures of social kindness and fairness that have sustained our societies for centuries, and shall continue to do so for generations to come.

    It is therefore understandably difficult and in a sense offensive to the sensibilities of Melanesians and Pacific minds to comprehend why what we consider common place and universal would be sanctified and extolled as a nation’s core values or some special virtues that deem a people worthy of peculiar distinction.

    In an era of rapid globalization and massive demographic shifts, many may not find the cause to pause, to realize that Melanesians are an ancient and deeply spiritual people, steeped in a higher consciousness of their own history and place. When modern man goes to extrinsic sources to understand his own existence and his own past, we Melanesians reach deep within to find and know ourselves.

    Modern archaeologists and anthropologists are only now beginning to understand and validate extrinsically what each of us from our various Islands, language groups, villages and tribes already know intrinsically of ourselves. We are whole vibrant societies, complete with own culture, identity, government, laws and spirituality. We possess extraordinary prowess to assess and self-assess, to morph into or around calamity and change alike and thrive in modernism without completely losing ourselves.

    We know that we did not just sail in yesterday from somewhere nor is our existence a matter of social or historical aberration. We are not an accident, nor are we a scar or some non-descript pimple upon the face of planet earth. We did not emanate as a synthesis of the big bang theory.

    We are a deliberate people with societies under-pinned by very strong value systems, passed down through generations for thousands of years that make us who we are. We are defined and our every conduct is measured by these timeless values, and how we live with our land and surrounding environment. We derive our validity and life force by our very existence since time immemorial as Melanesians and as Pacific people. We are earth people. We are the keepers of the earth.

    In the highlands of Papua New Guinea, for example, our proud agrarian culture of over 7000 years rivals the agrarian sophistication of Mesopotamia and its Fertile Crescent, popularly deemed by modern scholars as the cradle of modern civilization. Our ancient methods of crop rotation, irrigation, mulching, composting, fallowing, shading, silviculture and other methods of soil enrichment and preservation are world renown. The multi billion dollar Australian sugar and banana industries, for example, owe their prolific varieties and hardly genetics to Melanesian people of Papua New Guinea who cultivated them for several thousand years before European settlement in Australia. The west have adopted some of our agrarian methods and written text books about them, while we still quietly practice and subsist by them to this very day.

    Our Lapita and Obsidian civilizations dating back over 6000 years are in the process of being discovered and talked about by other people. There has not been any sustained or systematic study carried out across Melanesia for the purpose of establishing the Melanesian agrarian civilizations in terms of other comparable civilizations existing at that same period of time and in terms of our own legitimate ancient way of life and civilization that existed like others in the Middle East, Asia and Southern Americas. We intuitively know this of ourselves and yet in true Melanesian nature opt not to parade ourselves as objects of zoology or relics of laboratory anthropology, but rather live our lives, as we did for thousands of years, just chewing our beetle nut humbly and looking on as the world fusses by.

    As science for the time being has it, we have been living in Papua New Guinea for at least 70,000 years, about the same time certain Aborigine people are thought to have migrated to the continent of Australia where these two land masses were still supposedly joined. The Aborigine came through what is now Papua New Guinea to go on to Australia to evolve largely as an inhabitant of a dry and arid contingent. Those who remained or arrived in latter waves, in time became known as fuzzy haired people of darker pigmentation- Melanesia. Thus the connection between the Melanesian and the Aborigine, particularly the northern sub-tropical and savannah dweller is closer and stronger than one probably realizes. Our ancestors probably saved each other from drowning, shared one raft, and possibly fished or even hunted together for survival.

    Our traditional societies have been held together with complex value systems interwoven over time into a culture of sharing and caring, barter, trading and fair exchange of goods, which ensured to this day that our societies stood the test of time and endured the rigors of modernism and its almost sub-human and capriciously utilitarian mode of existence called individualism.

    We are an ancient and yet transient people embodying the past and living the future. We are time travelers who like birds have flown from the past since the beginning of time and space and have never ceased flying. We live the essence of this every day of our lives, a people of history living today in yesterday’s future.

    In the Trobriand Islands of Eastern Papua, better known by some as Malinowsky’s Island of Love, being served a meal of yam and fish cooked in coconut juices in a Lapita pot is a daily ritual for some. Yet this relic of pottery has travelled hundreds of nautical miles, and literally fed toddlers and tribes along the way for thousands of years. The hands that felt the loamy texture of the clay from which it was molded have long gone to join the ancestral spirits in some far away land where the birds sing a different tune. The fires that lit its kiln have long gone cold. Still generations of our people have traded this pot and have eaten from its depths, as we do today. The taste and fragrance of foods cooked in the boughs of mother earth itself is like feasting from the hand of God himself. A cast of thousand iron, copper or aluminum pots cannot match the earth’s own yield, reflecting our own fragrance back to us, feed us while we live and ever so ready to take us and hold us in the depths of its womb, when we die.

    More recently, in the last 500 years, it was our forefathers who found many a European explorer hungry and lost in our waters with their strange looking tall ships. We either sequestrated them, or in most cases happily provisioned them and sent them on their way. The Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish had prolific charts of our waters well before Captain Cook’s great grand mother was conceived. The Chinese trade in our birds of paradise plumes and trepang, caused them to sail our waterways with their Macassan intermediaries in the early 1400s, well before most Europeans had any idea the world was indeed round. In the first century after the death of Christ, the Arabs invaded northern India with Islam and took it across Siam just shy of our door steps. Whilst Indonesia remains the largest Islamic country in the world today, had the constant Hindu and Muslim frictions not occurred within India to distract the Muslims, a greater part of Melanesia may well have been Muslim, at least the Islands and coastal parts of today’s Papua New Guinea.

    We are not less nor are we more. Rather, we are we, an ancient people of families, tribes, villages and islands, who bound together, are nations, and we have taken our rightful place among the great fraternity of nations. We are Papua New Guinea, we are Solomon Islands, we are Vanuatu, we are Fiji, we are Melanesia, and we the Pacific people. At the same time custom dictates that we acknowledge our brothers and sisters living under sufferance in Torres Strait, in West Papua and New Caledonia, and our Polynesian cousins to the East and our Micronesian neighbors to the North. As inclusive people by nature, we are also embracing of others who have come to live and love our islands and have made them their home.

    The Pacific is our home, our heritage, and our inheritance. It is our past, our present and our future.

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