I’ve once been bitten by something on my knee in Madang, and it became infected and swollen. The expedition doctor gave me some antibiotics though he could not say what was it that bit me, so I’d rather seek an opinion from the locals. I asked Mason who had been working on the campus, then he guessed what was going on and provideds me some herbs for my knee (after which I recovered within 5 days). While he was preparing the herbal mix, I struck up a conversation with him to inquire about his local perspectives.
I was planning to hike around, but everybody warned me about the risk of travelling alone. I’d like to understand why this fear exists?
As you know PNG is not a safe country. The reasons are many but still linked with each other. You have to understand that this violence is not exclusively directed towards foreigners but it can affect anybody. We had a deviant Prime Minister who brought in his entire family to manage the business of the country. That government then received many warnings from the western countries for a democracy reform, but unfortunately always denied cooperation. Thus they spread the news that foreign enemies wanteds to return to the country to steal the resources again. They had especially been aggressively promoting the movement against white people. That Prime Minister eventually left the government, but still his heritage is present.
Do you think that the current government is doing a better job at eradicatinge violence?
Actually the current government is better than the former. Unfortunately this one doesn’t care much about the population; his priority is to make money, either by selling the resources of the country or by spreading corruption. Ignorance and chaos are good distractions to money making.
What are the priorities you think the government should have?
First of all, this country is running too fast. It is trying to propel to the economic standards of the western world. With all due respect, some regions of my country could be more or less 2,000 years behind the rest of the developed world. That’s just the reality of today. While it’s normal for the economy to quicken its pace of growth in a developing country, this government needs to learn to include the rest of the country in its development plans.
Do your people need a western model of development? Wouldn’t you think that they just want to live day-to-day as they are living now?
I think it’s already too late for the so-called western model of development. In early 20’s money and goods were exchanged for a piece of land when the whites came, along with the church. The “Massalay” (spiritual godfathers) agreed to that. After the independence, issues arose when the locals wanted to claim their lands back, but it was impossible because of a newly implemented regulation of the property document. Without this document and their lands, they left their village and migrated to live in the cities. The migrants then adopted a materialistic way of life through the influence of the new religion. They just wanted money, thinking that the same comfort they’d seen on TV could be bought with the money gained. I think that education is the key for these people to understand how rich their country really is, both in history and resources.
Do you have any recommendations that you think will help to improve the situation?
The government should implement mandatory education for all. They have to invest and trust their own people in order to build a strong and peaceful country.
I’d also like to ask the tourists for a bit of research about this country beforehand. It’s not your typical holiday destination, and the behaviours of people are different here. To be able to learn, ask questions and be humble will help them to have a truly interesting experience.