Dear Papua New Guineans,
For most of us who have always relied upon the consistency of our everyday existence as the norm in our lives, it don’t matter the impending virus, our lives are already distorted by the threat of that very virus.
Schools are let out, there’s no work and as if that’s not enough, we are driven to poverty by the exorbitant prices of consumables in our stores and for services rendered like electricity, water, health and sanitation that it exceeds the bounds of custom, propriety and reason to such an extent that it threatens our very existence.
We’ve heard families calling home to express their overwhelming desires to return. But where is home? And why would we want to go home?
For some, villages is the most desirable place to be right now mainly because it is a refuge or ‘seif haus’. It is in a village where within we are isolated from the outside world’s virus and the clutches of poverty. The amazing fact about our instantaneous reaction of wanting to go home is that we are custodians of land passed down from generation to generation and having land means having access to free, uncontaminated food on our plates every night whether it came from our sweat or from a wantok’s, it don’t matter. The thing that matters is that land ensures that we have that right.
We also have access to free, clean, fresh and uncontaminated drinking, cooking and washing water that is unaccompanied by the tall prices of Water PNG and Eda Ranu nor the overarching price of electricity fostered on us by PNG Power, it is truly a priceless jewel where money cannot buy and within the grasp of our families, we feel insulated! In fact there are stories now going viral of people returning home for these very reasons.
For others like me who have been displaced from home by our careers whether it be the teibol papa’s on the corner of our streets or the mama maket or cleaners right up to managers, we are all dependent upon the relationships that we have forged with others within whichever communities (whether we live or we work together) that we are part of. Upon this tried and true relationships, grows trust. We trust these people for we are dependent upon them for our survival. And we trust them more than we would our own tribesmen and women!
All over Papua New Guinea today, we have diaspora communities within our communities. Look no further than the schools, aid posts and health centres that we have within our communities. These are places where with the threat of a virus seems unideal to us but we have to talk about because these are common places where we frequent within our communities.
As this impending threat overwhelms us with fear, we have to pause for a while and consider that the diaspora communities within our communities are feeling the brunt of the pandemic more than we are mainly because the land that they have settled on is not customary land meaning they would not have access to uncontaminated food nor the clean and fresh water that we have. We are starting to hear stories of people in Papua New Guinea like the Baining in East New Britain Province banding together to help communities affected. There are stories also of the amazing ways that Papua New Guineans are supporting themselves by using sustainable agricultural practices like in Morobe Province that does not require money and people are getting more healthier by the spreading garden (uncontaminated) food through local food markets that are mushrooming all over Papua New Guinea and if buyers and sellers cannot meet face to face, Papua New Guineans are now doing online marketing like our friends in West New Britain province.
It seriously takes guts for these people to stand up for themselves. More and more people everyday are starting to share their stories on reliving and recommitting and basically finding themselves in these harrowing times. In a time like this we realize that without healthy land and environment, we have no access to food and water and without food and water we would have a poor immune system and a poor immune system leaves us vulnerable to diseases like Covid-19.
In a time like this what do our people want Our Government (A government for the people, by the people . . . . ) to be doing minus all the politics that is involved? The PNG government seeing the rich trading of uncontaminated (Chemical free) food and water should be stepping in to formalize and embrace these old but given a facelift (social media) pathways as the people’s narrative . . . as the ‘new norm’ and should be encouraging these as Our Way of Reclaiming . . . . Of Taking Back PNG!
This is now a call out to Authorities – the policy makers and the decision makers to ignite the shimmering hope in it’s people mind by providing for them not only during this SoE but maybe move towards rewriting Our whole development narrative.
So to the custodians of land please maintain whatever it is you are doing that ensures this land remains healthy. Don’t forget that we are Melanesians and what we do best is take care of our own. That means please show some love by sharing with the diaspora and urban communities who are not in a position to support themselves.