Monday, March 22, 2010

Waging War in the Pacific

All over the world, the indigenous struggle is about land. Whether it is Dalai Lama and the Tibetans, the Kanakis in New Caledonia, the Australian Aborigines or the West Papuans, all these struggle is around indigenous struggle against the capitalist world who control governments to facilitate policies that supports their greed.

The Melanesian struggle to maintain customary ownership and control  of land is very phenomenal. To the Melanesian, land is the center of life. It has a holistic value, and not just economics. The Western perspective of land is economical because they see everything centered around money. Unfortunately, money floats around in the hands of a few capitalists who see the world cycling around them. No wonder there are a lot of money out there but there is so much, starvation and hunger, shortage of medicines and poverty.  

This brings the question, is there an alternative to this failing system? Yes - the indigenous systems like the Melanesian system have been working for thousands of years and have proven over time to sustain indigenous communities. Indigenous systems see life in a complete circle and everything is attached and connected. The western model is a total failure, yet it is very popular and those who live off this system drive a propaganda globally as the only way forward. 

Land is central to the Melanesian as it sustains and produce life. People in Melanesian who do not have a constant income get all their livelihoods from their land. Land is the biggest employer because over 85% of the population in countries like Vanuatu and PNG dwell on their land.

The Australian Government through its funding agency, AusAid is financing land development programs in the Pacific - Making Land Work. The Australian Government claims to have no interest in land development in the Pacific, yet it is pumping millions of dollars of Australian tax payers money into the Pacific lands program. Australia is also in the engine room of the Pacific Trade Agreements such as PACER Plus, and it is an interesting coincidence that it is pumping millions into land development programs and claims to have no agenda.

The land development programs in the Pacific is to access more customary land for development purposes through customary land registration processes.This process supports policies of customary land conversion in the Pacific and therefore a dangerous process. It is dangerous process because it facilitates policies that will make people landless, lose their security and fragment the communal structure and clan system that is fundamental to Melanesian survival. It is dangerous because it will cause more problems than solutions and millions will be affected in the benefit of few corrupt elites and those on the top of the ranks of the capitalist strata.

The consequences of the Pacific land development program will be devastating. The governments and the financier of these Policies in the Pacific are waging war on indigenous people of the pacific. This must be seen as a war because it will result in escalation of poverty, destruction of social structures, cultural and traditional values.This must be seen as a war because it will affects millions of life at the expanse of a few corrupt elites and multi-national corporation. Policies like these that will create more problems than solutions should be regarded and categorized as weapons of war. 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Forest Criminals in Turubu

This is whats happening to the people in Turubu East Sepik province PNG.

The Malaysian logging company in pretence of Oil palm development are bulldozing through the local clans land without their consent.

There are serious abuses and threats involved as heard in the community.. Sadly the national and the provincial authorities aren't doing anything to control those invaders.

Shame on them.. How long is this going to continue, sense needs to be driven through those nut heads....

Comment and share with others, the local LO association wishes for more publicity on this issue and hold those crooks responsible.

Wina Kayonga

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Our Environment is Connected to our Life

As I watched the "Uprooted" a documentary about the communities affected by the Ramu Nickel Mine in the Madang Province of Papua New Guinea, Michael Kasuk's statement about the connection of the environment and people caught my attention.  This is a community leader from Ramu very articulate in making the connection the government and many educated Papua New Guineans cannot.

"We are concerned about our environment - our bush, land and river is connected to our life" says Mr. Kasuk. Unfortunately, the Government of PNG does not see these important connections when deliberating on major development projects like mining, logging and industrial agriculture. It's main focus is on economic development without much consideration on the social and ecological aspects.

The communities within major project development areas have little to show in terms of social improvements and ecological sustainability. The rate of environmental destruction is as if we are leaving tomorrow for another planet. There is no sense of responsibility.

There is a lot of experiences both in PNG and around the world for the Government to learn from and make wise decisions. However, the trend now is easy access for foreign multinational  companies to exploit our resources without any social and ecological responsibility or accountability.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Clan forced to live on Sacred Mountain

The developer of the Ramu Nickel -Cobalt Mine, Chinese Metallurgical Construction Company (CMCC, desperate to kick start full operation has been slowed down by resistance from the Mauri Clan whose village is located on the site for initial mining of the Nickel. The Vianivi village had 14 houses, which the CMCC with the assistance from the police forced the villagers to move out. 2 out of the 14 houses are still standing and the owners refused to leave pending issues surrounding compensation agreements.

The Vianivi villagers were told to move to another clans land to relocate temporarily to another neighboring clans land boundary pending the construction of the actual relocation site. However, the neighboring clans opposed the Vianivi temporary relocation on their clan boundaries.

This in fact has forced the Vianivi villagers to enter into their once forbidden place where their ancestors worship their snake god on the snake mountain. The snake mountain has been cleared and built makeshift houses at this temporary location. The Vianivi villagers had to made a feast and offering to the snake god to seek permission. They had to kill pigs and offered food cooked in the traditional way called “mumu”.

The Vianivi villagers are sorry to disrupt their sacred mountain; however they have no other choice because they cannot move to other clans land. The old people are still mourning the tragedy of their sacred snake mountain.

Land is Precious

Land is the most important asset today. Land is worth more than any other mineral resources in the world, because, everything is centered on it. Melanesians got it right from the beginning! Papua New Guineans from the highlands to the coasts understood the value of Land long before western civilization, they fought battles to protect and gain control of land for hunting, making gardens, and spiritual cultivation. They had low population compared to today, however, despite their smaller population; they managed to maintain control over vast landmasses and forests.
When the white-men set foot on the island of New Guinea, they initially thought, that the huge masses of land areas and forests belonged to no one. But that was not the case; they had to encounter fierce warriors apart from the rugged terrains and tropical diseases. The whites were able to succeed on 3 factors;
  •   Skin Color and Race - When the natives saw the whites, they thought, they (White-men) were ghosts or spirits. Because of a culture deeply rooted in spiritual believes, the resistance subsided because of the white-men's color.
  • Use of Christian Religion - Western civilization's success can never be possible without the use of Christianity. Missionaries were agents of colonization in PNG, as they influenced  and converted the natives.
  • Use of modern weapons - Guns, bullets, swords, daggers etc put the white-men ahead of the natives' spears, bows and arrows.  
 The first traits of land grab in PNG were initiated by missionaries through the exchange of salt, tobacco and axes. That was how the Catholic and the Lutheran Churches took over native lands and started plantations. There were also signed agreements between the primitives and the whites for leases in the early colonial and missionary era that displaced the natives today. A Classic example is the lands belonging to the natives Kananam's taken over by the Catholic Church for the establishment of their Mission's headquarters (Alexishaffen) and plantations (Vidar). When the 99 year lease lapsed, the land went to the government and to the RD Tuna Ltd (a Filipino fishing company). Further transactions took place which  put  the land in  the hands of the project developers of the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ). The Kananams and Rempi's are displaced and thrown out of the best lands. There are many situations like this in the other parts of PNG.
The land grab is intensifying because of shortage arable land for food plantations and agric-industries thirsts for new lands for expansion.
In October 2008, GRAIN released a report on the new trend in landgrabbing spurred on by the food and financial crises. A large number of governments and corporations are out scouring the globe right now in search of productive farmland to buy or to lease for offshore food production. For governments, like those of the Gulf States or China, such "farming abroad" schemes are meant to provide for their own country's food security, over a longterm period. Corporations, on the other hand, are looking for shorter term payoffs after the recent meltdown of financial markets. In all cases, control over land is being handed over to foreign investors who will produce food for export. Most of this new landgrabbing is taking place in Africa and Asia, but also in fertile regions of Eastern Europe and Latin America. (
This is a dangerous trend – the ruthless capitalists are ruling the world in the name of economic development and profits. Capitalists see measure everything against the dollar, to them, money is their primary focus. The Melanesians view land as the centre of life – like a mother to her baby.
Melanesian saw the value of land even before formal land valuation was introduced in Papua New Guinea. In fact, the valuation of land in the Melanesian perspective is holistic – it touches into the essence of one’s life and existence, believes, traditions, wealth, security, identity and spiritual.  
It would have been a biggest liability for PNG, if the control and ownership of all the land in PNG was in the hands of the government because, we have almost 75% illiteracy and 85% survive on subsistence living. The Customary Land Tenure System in PNG is directly or indirectly minimizing problems such as starvation, food riots, coups, assassinations, terrorism, civil wars and extreme levels of poverty.