G'day from Canberra, Australia,
Since leaving Bougainville on the 8th of May I've managed to spend my time running around NZ and Australia. Places I've managed to visit (in order of appearance): Port Moresby, Brisbane, Napier, Wellington, Auckland, Sydney, Woollongong, Canberra and Jindabyne. Have managed to see most of my friends and family which is fantastic, but all this travel and socialising left me exhausted! Am now temporarily settled in Canberra, where I've been relaxing and taking things in. I hope to work at Perisher Ski Field for the winter season so I hope the snowfall improves soon...
Enough about me though. Those who have worked in PNG, whether as a volunteer or on a salary, may take great interest in this article. Susan Merrell, a freelance journalist hits the common points on the debate around whether Australian aid can really help PNG. I encourage you to check the comments that follow, they run across the spectrum. For a local perspective check out this blog post on Tubuans and Dukduks.
Also have some news on Bougainville. Apparently there was a bit of drama in Arawa with a ship coming illegally into PNG waters (again) and handing out arms to a local faction that is competing for the last of the oil at Loloho. The faction was successful and managed to out do a dodgy Kiwi/local joint venture which had spent months working to salvage the oil (this had nothing to do with the NZ government or other Kiwis working in Bougainville).
The dodgy Kiwis apparently retaliated by complaining to the authorities on their way out of PNG. The PNG Customs and Immigration Department eventually intercepted the boat and seized the ship when it left Loloho on its way to Singapore. It is anyone's guess as to what is going to happen to all that valuable oil now...
The real issue here is the impact on New Zealand ex-patriots in Bougainville. I'm reliably told that a curfew was imposed on the weekend of the 19th of June because factions associated with the ship fought local police and threatened to seize assets associated with NZ. This just reinforces the importance of local relationships in ensuring any ex-patriots are safe. All it takes is one group with selfish interests to put everyone at risk.
On a less serious note, to those who offered support for Alvin I am pleased to say that my last act in Bougainville was to purchase an open ticket that will fly a dermatologist to Buka so that Alvin can finally get the treatment he needs. Bjorn has updated his website with the details here. My flatmate Victoria (still in Buka) is now pushing for confirmation of the travel dates. I will continue to post updates on this as they come through.
All right, plenty to chew on in this post! Lukim yu.