I want to personally thank all of you who have subscribed, follow, comment and like Academia Nomad blog posts. This is the time of the year when people make resolutions for the next 365 days. I wanted to share with you a TED Talk video that may help you with your goals for 2021. This video has 9 million views on YouTube. Enjoy.
Click on YouTube link below:
It was challenging but we made it through. Take care you all. God bless.
PNG’s tertiary institutions are becoming an exclusive club of the few, as the rest are pushed out of the system. However, with a dropping quality, the qualification will not mean much if there’s no investment. It’s the same as placing a limit (quota) on imported goods. Prices of products go up not because of the quality of the products, but because of the limited quantity or supply.
Limited supply of any product, be it apples or degrees drives up demand for the product. Even if the quality is poor. On the other hand, if supply increases, the only way a product stands out of the competition is for the producers to innovate to improve the quality of the product.
How is this relevant to higher education in PNG? Over the years, more and more students have been pushed out of the formal education system, especially the higher education sector. But the government fails to invest in higher education. If this trend continues, in the long run, the value of university degrees and certificates will be based on the fact that there are few degree holders in the market, and not because the degree holders possess superior skills than others. This is the path that selection to PNG universities and other tertiary institutions are taking.
For the 2021 academic year, only 9, 000 grade 12 students out of the 27, 000 were selected. Though Higher Education Secretary Jan Czuba blames those on COVID-19, this blame is clearly misplaced for two reasons: first, the high number of students missing out on selection is a recurring problem. Back in 2015, only 4, 700 students were selected out of the 23, 000. Things somewhat improved and in 2019 about 8, 597 students were selected whilst the rest missed out. Large number of students missing out on selection is a trend in PNG, so blaming COVID-19 diverts attention from the main problem in the tertiary institutions of PNG.
Second, many students didn’t get selected despite meeting the GPA this year. For instance, to study law at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), the only law school in PNG, students need a GPA of 3.0. But because the school has only 120 spaces available, hundreds of students miss out on selection with a GPA of 3.0. For Political Science at UPNG, students with GPA of 3.8 missed out even though the actual GPA is 2.7. There are only 30 spaces. Selection begins with students with GPA of 4.0, and the quota is usually full before the advertised GPA is reached. A substantial number of students missed out due to the quota system in universities and colleges. The students worked hard despite havoc caused by COVID-19 and still missed out. That’s a big let down.
Others on social media are blaming poor student attitudes towards studies as a result of poor performance and low selection. This is true to some extent. However, many students missed out on selection despite meeting the GPA because the tertiary institutions do not have the capacity to take them in. The poor performance by students should be a subject of debate only after every eligible student was selected, and extra space left. But if our tertiary institutions do not have the capacity to accommodate students who meet the required GPA, placing blame on students is also another misplaced blame.
Now that’s for those kids who missed out on selection. What about the 9, 000 who were selected?
With deteriorating infrastructure and lack of investment in higher education, the quality of education in PNG is not getting any better. In fact, the top three universities in PNG (UPNG, Unitech, and DWU) are ranked 5, 047; 5, 732; and 11, 194 respectively in world university ranking. University of South Pacific in Fiji is 5, 000 places higher than DWU on 1, 575, whilst Australian National University ranks 24th in the world, as the best in the region. Our universities rank very low, our infrastructure is poor, which adversely affects the quality of higher education in PNG.
In 2009, Professor Ross Garnaut and former PNG Prime Minister Rabbie Namilu were tasked by the PNG and Australian governments to carry out a study and report on the state of PNG higher education. This is a quote from the report:
“Papua New Guinea’s universities made a significant contribution to the nation in its early years. They can do so again but, right now, the quantity and quality of graduates is far short of what is needed – due to inadequate resources and a range of governance and general service quality issues.”
Nine years later, in 2018, the University of Papua New Guinea didn’t select any student from the Science Foundation Year to the Medical Faculty. The reason was: none of the students from the foundation year who applied for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) met the required GPA of 3.5. UPNG vice chancellor at the time, Vincent Malibe said:
“We could not lower the bar just to pass those 60 people. We said ‘no’. It’s unethical, we are dealing with lives.”
This is how it works: for any science field offered by UPNG, you apply as a Science Foundation Year (SFY) student. You then apply to get into different specialized fields, including School of Medicine. But to get into the School of Medicine you need a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher in the first year of study as a SFY student (first year). In 2018, no student met the required GPA for the first time in the university’s history. This was a red sign pointing to the diminishing quality of education in one of the main universities in PNG. We didn’t take notice. We still haven’t taken notice yet.
If the same requirement as those set by the School of Medicine was applied to all fields of study in PNG universities, substantial number of students would be dropped in the first year of study.
The lack of investment in ICT, library, infrastructure and essential equipment required of a modern university affects the quality of education in PNG universities. When quality is lost, the value of the degrees and certificates obtained in PNG universities will be determined by how many students we eliminate out of the system during selection. If you keep eliminating 18, 000 students in PNG, you will create a scarcity, and that drives up the value of the degree the 9, 000 students get upon graduation.
What should be done?
There are six performance indicators used to measure university rankings (QS World University Ranking). They are as follows:
Academic reputation (40%) – a global survey of more than 94,000 academics
Citations per faculty (20%) – a ‘citation’ means a piece of research being referred to (cited) within another piece of research.
Student-to-faculty ratio (20%) – the number of academic staff employed relative to the number of students enrolled
Employer reputation (10%) – a global survey of close to 45,000 graduate employers
International faculty ratio (5%)
International student ratio (5%)
Some of these indicators are beyond PNG’s immediate reach, but a varied form of three of the criteria can be achieved.
First, expand the capacity of PNG higher education so that every student who is eligible is selected, and improve conditions of academics to attract more (and better) academics and instructors. No student who meets the required GPA should miss out because of limited space (and the consequent quota system). Indicators 2, 5 and 6 can be attained by improving the employment conditions for the lecturers.
Second, invest in Infrastructure and ICT: invest into infrastructure and modern ICT for our universities and colleges. Criteria 6 can be achieved by investment in these areas.
Third, upgrade the courses/subjects offered. We need to benchmark the courses offered in our universities with the best in the region. Look at Singapore, Australia and New Zealand universities, and benchmark (upgrade) our courses. Again, criteria 6 can be achieved by improving curriculum.
Fourth, a lecturer that is employed must be required to conduct a specified minimum number of researches, publications and present papers at conferences. Contract renewals and promotions should strictly be based on these three requirements. Those who rely on outdated information, never published in the last three years should be shown the door at the end of their contract. Lecturers must be teaching current and relevant content, and that comes from research. Citations (criteria 2) is not possible unless academics start publishing.
Finally, there is a very flawed argument advanced by critics of mass education that we produce too many graduates who do not have jobs. Three reasons why there should be more students selected to universities:
1. We need an educated population. Our adult average education is four years, the lowest in the region and comparable to that of sub-Saharan Africa. We are among the least literate countries in the world, and we cannot be excluding more and more students. Being the least literate is not a record to be proud of, and yet we work hard at maintaining that record by excluding 18, 000 in 2020!
2. More students would create competition and make students work harder. Because the only way a graduate would stand out among masses of people with the same qualification is to be the best. It’s the same as flooding a market with three brands of phones: Samsung, Huawei, and iPhone. To have a competitive edge in the market, these brands must constantly engage in innovation. Competition among these three brands for market share will drive innovation, giving customers the choice to select among three great brands. If you only allow one brand into the market by restricting the other two, that brand will have no incentive to innovate because it is the only option available (monopoly). The same applies to the quota system used in selections in the long run.
3. Education is not always about getting employed. Education has other benefits: you will sell your land cheap to foreigners because you were not educated. That’s a real possibility. The quality of your health is intrinsically linked with the information you are exposed to, information you have greater exposure to if you were educated. The chances that your children may do well in life is improved if you’re educated. We need an education population regardless of whether there are enough jobs.
There is so much rhetoric about ‘Take Back PNG.’ You don’t do that at the expense of 18, 000 kids. And the 9, 000 we will rely on to make PNG the so-called richest black Christian nation need quality education.
PNG Minister for Police and MP for Madang Open, Bryan Kramer
In August 2019, the Guardian Online News paper ran a story about the Police Commissioner of PNG and MP for Madang Bryan Kramer. The title read:
“…Meet Bryan Kramer, Papua New Guinea’s anti-corruption tsar…”
The subtitle called Kramer a “a rising star in Pacific islands politics…”
Such praise was not uncommon for Kramer. Kramer was a star, if a star is means having the largest followers on social media – Facebook. Tsars were the monarchs of Eastern Europe. It is not clear why the Guardian equated Kramer to the supreme rulers of Eastern Europe. The last Russian Tsar was from the House of Ramanovs, and he was killed: but not for fighting corruption. He was killed during the Russian Revolution of 1917, which ushered in the Communist party Bolsheviks, led by Lenin.
Perhaps the Guardian intended to say he was this epitome of anti-corruption. If there was an emperor of anti-corruption, it would be this no nonsense corruption fighter, who was willing to die fighting corruption.
They were correct to call Kramer a rising star though. Bryan Kramer is rockstar of online political movement in the Pacific. He arguably has more followers on his Facebook page the ‘Kramer Report’ than any other Papua New Guinean from any walk of life. That includes musicians, sports personalities, and wannabe celebrities in PNG. By 2019, his posts were reaching hundreds of shares, and thousands of reactions (likes, hearts, etc.) in less than 24 hours. Facebook care reaction was introduced later on, had it been introduced earlier, there would be thousands expressing their concern/care.
Also by his own admission, people from Solomon Islands follow him. So he is a Pacific star. But his stardom began at home: PNG.
Much of his popularity has to do with his opposition against the O’Neil Government between 2012 and 2019. His anti-corruption fight began before he entered parliament in 2017. The high point was probably when he was jailed at the Boroko Police Station in Port Moresby, following complaints laid by former Madang Open MP Nixon Duban’s father against Kramer. Duban was in Peter O’Neill’s government, and he also defeated Kramer in the 2012 elections for Madang Open.
That’s the past. Kramer has been in government for more than a year now. Is Kramer still popular after one year in the government? Below are two sets of 5 screenshots. First set of screen shots shows Bryan Kramer’s article about lawyer Greg Shepard, who filed a complaint against Bryan Kramer regarding social media publication by Kramer, who Shepard argued was amounted to defamation under the Cyber law of PNG. The first picture is a screen shot of the original article (showing only the first part of the article). The other 5 screen shots show replies/comments to the article. This is followed by another article posted this evening (December 2020), which is accompanied by 5 screenshots containing replies/comments on a short article by Kramer concerning the Supreme Court ruling against the Marape Government, of which Kramer is an integral member, and Minister. The ruling declared Government MPs’ parliament sitting on 17 November 2020 without opposition MPs as invalid, nullifying all decisions taken that day. Including the K19. 6 billion budget. Interestingly, the lawyer representing the case was Greg Shepard.
Both sets of screenshots (2019 article and 2020 article) are related to Kramer & Shepard. But they are one year apart.
Back to the question: Is Kramer still the anti-corruption Tsar? Or is the tide changing against the political star? How do Papua New Guinean view him today? Let’s see their comments.
Firs set of screenshots: This is a screenshot of the first article posted on 20 November 2019….
A snapshot of Comments from PNG Facebook community:
These comments gives you an idea of what the Gurdian was referring to. Kramer was a star, not only of the work he did, but also a star among Papua New Guineans. They loved him.
Now let’s see the second set of comments responding to his most recent post. The first screenshot is his original post on 10 December 2020:
A snapshot of Comments from Papua New Guinea Facebook community:
There you go. Five screenshots of comments from each post, one year apart. You will find this consistency:
An overwhelming majority in support of almost every single article Kramer wrote up till the pandemic (COVID-19) entered PNG in March 2019. After COVID-19, and especially after the November 2020 debacles on both sides on PNG parliament, you will find comments similar to the second set of screenshots.
Time will tell whether the rise of Kramer to stardom, driven by love form PNG Facebook community, will become the same means by which he will loose popularity.
Just one question to readers: why do you think Kramer (The Scientist) seems to be getting more negative reactions now than before?
Comment below and let us know. We may probably write part two of the article based on what you think the reasons are…
A student from the University of Papua New Guinea is reported missing by friends and family. Its reported on every major media outlet, including Post Courier and EMTV. A week goes by and still the student is not found. Rumors emerge on social media that he has been murdered, though it is dispelled. The students conduct one of the biggest search parties in the city. Among all the stress, anxiety and fear, it also brings out the best in humanity. This article was written by one of the students, Mary Terriette Aseari, a third year student at the University and a colleague of the student who had gone missing. She shares her experience in the search, that led to finding Mac.
By Mary Terriette Aseari:
“Maclarence Akua, a 22 year old third-year student, a good friend and a course mate of mine at the University of Papua New Guinea had been missing for almost a week. Mac has a mixed parentage of East Sepik and Bougainville but grew up in Kimbe. A search party was organized by his family and friends and we were put into groups and stationed in different locations in the city to cover ground in search for him. All these groups that went out to search for Maclarence were groups that he is actively involved with in school. The different groups were: Peer mentor’s and Clean Generation who covered Gerehu and Rainbow suburbs; West New Britain students who covered the Boroko area; School of Humanities and Social Science students who covered Three Mile (3 Mile) and Manu; Madang and East Sepik students who covered Gordon and Erima; and Lae and Bougainville students, including his family and friends who covered the 9 Mile area. The groups consisted of about 25-50 people each, and the search begin around 9:30 am. Our search was successful and Maclarence was found in the afternoon at Sogeri. Sogeri is an hours drive outside of the capital. Someone from Sogeri saw the posters, approached one of the groups and said Macleren he’d seen Maclaren. The students followed him to the village and met up with him.
The successful location of Maclarence raised countless negative comments on social media. Amidst all the negativity I would like to share with you all, three positive things that I have witnessed/experienced in the search for Maclarence:
In all my 21 years of living in Port Moresby and calling myself a “pikinini POM” I have never been to the parts of Gerehu which I visited in our search for Maclarence. Walking from Gerehu stage 6 all the way to Gerehu stage 1, visiting every little street to put up posters and asking bystanders if they had seen Mac, had allowed me to see these parts of Gerehu and for that I am grateful.
I truly saw the kindness of humanity being displayed in our search for Maclarence. Mothers shed tears as we held up the posters to show them, some even said they would keep him in their prayers. Random boys on the street volunteered to escort us to help find our friend, bus drivers and boss crews willingly posted up the missing persons poster on their buses, tucker shop owners also posted up the missing persons poster in front of their shops. Even when we ran out of posters the people whom we approached took out their smart phones so that they could take a snap shot of the poster to show their families and friends in their efforts to help spread the word. Seeing this made me to appreciate humanity and really appreciate being a Papua New Guinean because I could see that displa passin blon helivim em e still stap strong yet.
The unity that I saw being displayed by the University of Papua New Guinea students and others that volunteered to search for Maclarence was heartwarming. People showed up in numbers and had with them personally printed posters of him. This search has made me to forge friendships with people I wasn’t even acquainted with in school. Through the sharing of water and snacks as we searched for our school mate some life long friendships were formed. And we have the search for Maclarence to thank for that.
Sometimes we have to look past the negativity that life throws at us to see and experience the beautiful things that life has to offer. In the words of marcandangel “Train your mind to see the good in everything. Positivity is a choice. The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts”. Thank God our friend Maclarence Akua has been found.”
After Mac was found, there were some who criticized the young man for going out of the public eye without notifying his family. But there were many more who have come out to support him, saying we do not know what he’s going through or what his reasons are, and that he must be given the privacy he needs. On the part of his friends and colleagues, they are happy that he is found, and in good health. Apart from finding Mac, the next great thing was the experience of comradeship, and the humanity the nation and city has shown by coming together. We are so strong together. And this experience has shown just how much people really care, even about others not of their own blood. And that is what we should take away from this whole experience.
Mary Terriette Aseari has originally written this piece as a ‘guest blogger’ for Academia Nomad. We thank her for sharing her experience.
Please share the blog, so we can spread the love and compassion our people have towards each other. God bless you all, and take care out there.
The obsession Morobe Province has with soccer goes back to the 1900s. Some 150 years ago, Lutheran Missionaries from Finchafen, Morobe, and Lutheran Missionaries from Madang met at village in Kerowagi, between Jiwaka and Chimbu. They were among a group of missionaries pushing into the frontiers of the Highlands of PNG, evangelizing the people. They called themselves Songangs, a term popular with Lutheran circles connoting a leader in the Lutheran Church, which is used to this day. At Kerowagi, the two Songang groups had a dispute over who should take over Kerowagi as their ‘wok miti’ area (or Wok Mission, or Mission Area). Once you claimed a village or tribe as your wok miti area, your group was responsible for teaching, converting, and baptizing the people. You also had to bring waring groups together to make peace, build schools, teach and train the people in your wok miti area. Miti means Gospel in Finchafen. Wok Miti means sharing the Gospel.
Both groups, the Finchafens and Madangs, wanted to claim Kerowagi as their wok miti area. Since they couldn’t compromise, they decided to settle it through a game of football. These two missionary groups were trained by Lutheran missionaries from Germany. Germany of course was, and still is a giant football nation in Europe. The German Missionaries brought the Gospel and football – soccer. The two Songang teams selected their best reps. In what is probably the first soccer tournament in that part of the Highlands, the two Songan teams played out their hearts in the cold muddy field of Kerowagi.
They played barefoot. They did not have uniforms. They wore targets and malo. Prayers were said on both sides of the camp. Their audience had probably never seen a game of soccer. And they watched two foreign tribes from the coast chasing around a ball like kids.
The Songangs from Finchafen won the evangelism soccer tournament. The Madang Songangs moved on, whilst the Finchafen Songans settled, set up camps, and began their wok miti.
I was told this story in December 2019, when I travelled up to Nondogul, Jiwaka.I was there taking photos and observing the 30 years anniversary of PNG Lutheran Renewal in Nondogul. The Lutheran Renewal is an offshoot of Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG (ELC PNG). ELC PNG itself has more than 150 years presence in PNG. The Renewal Lutherans as an offshoot started later. It was the ELC PNG missionaries who met at Kerowagi that day.
I returned to Lae after two days in Jiwaka, and one afternoon I was reading a book titled “Cloud of Witness” I bought bought the book at Ampo book store. It documents the life stories and work of Lutheran missionaries in PNG, as they pushed inland, converting “heathens” to Christianity, stopping cannibalism, pay back killings, tribal fights, polygamy and establishing schools. It’s a really great book I recommend to anyone interested in such history, but also on how to halt the same instances in our time. Most of the stories are about missionaries from Finchafen, understandably so, given that the German missionaries were largely based in Finch.
As I finished a chapter of the book, Lae City FC players drove into the Lutheran Church of Hope Parish ground at East Taraka, Lae. It was the team’s prayer time – they pray every Monday evening with their Club Chaplin Pastor Dulan Zairing. I was visiting the pastor. I shook hands with a few, went back to reading as they went into the hall. A minute later, I could hear them sing the worship song “Aba Father….” The entire team worshiped and prayed.
Lae City FC (formerly Toti FC) has dominated soccer in PNG in recent years. And after every win when Raymond Gunemba, the captain, or any of the players are interviewed, you always hear them thank “Anutu”, Kote word for the “Great Spirit” or “God.” Kote is main language spoken by people from Finchafen. It was the same language used to train early missionaries (Raymond and Nigel left Lae City FC and joined Hekari later in 2020).
10 months after I was told this story, Lae City FC won the NSL for the 2019-2020 session.
Well, I kind of saw that coming 🙂
Correction: Initially the blog said the two missionary groups met at Nondogul. However, one of the decedents of the Madang missionaries corrected me after reading it on LinkedIn: it was Kerowagi, not far from Nondogul. His grandfather was on the loosing team. The separation of Jiwaka and Chimbu as separate provinces has put Nondogul within Jiwaka, and Kerowagi within Chimbu. Initially both were within Chimbu.
On a visit to Australia in 1963, Kondom addressed an audience at Canberra with these famous words:
“….In my village I am a chief among my people but today I stand in front of you like a child and when I try to speak in your language you laugh at my words. But tomorrow my son will come to you and he will talk to you in your language, and this time you will not laugh at him….”
This 25 page pdf document contains all the necessary information, from entry requirements, how GPAs are calculated, how the quota systems affects selection etc. This is a helpful guide to Grade 12s and non-school leavers applying to PNG Universities.
“If we all become atheists tomorrow, you will still have kanderes [relatives] raping their nieces, ol man kukim meri lo name blo sanguma [women will be burnt alive in the name of sorcery]. Christian-nation/non-Christain-nation argument is nonsense. Our problem is twofold: break down in law and order, and kids raised with total disregard for women. And that’s a problem that will not be solved by making porstitution legal. Fix the law and order, and teach your kids right. You also have to ask: if these women were educated, would they prefer another profession? If they had other employment opportunities that paid for their living, would they pursue porstitution? If the answers are yes, then what you need is provide better training/education for the womenfolk, and job opportunities. There’s nothing noble about prostitution. It takes away their human dignity, and reduces women to mere sex objects…” Facebook comment.
Would legalizing prostitution increase security for PNG women because it is better regulated?
Eight men raped a woman in Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, and left her on the street. This follows recent proposals to amend the constitution of PNG and make it a Christian country. Opinions are divided on whether prostitution should be legalized, with some sectors of the society arguing that PNG constitution should not be amended to make PNG a Christian country because it would make decriminalization of prostitution difficult. The other side thinks prostitution should remain illegal, and PNG constitution be amended to make it a Christian country. Though predominantly Christian, the constitution does not make explicit reference to PNG being a Christian country.
Here I argue that both groups are missing the point.
1. Legalizing prostitution increases security of women as it’s better regulated.
Would this argument work for PNG? The answer is a resounding NO. Burning women accused of sorcery is illegal in PNG. So is rape, especially by close relatives. But you read about it every month in newspapers and perhaps weekly on social media. It’s the most disgusting form of torment and murder when objects are inserted in their private parts and burnt to death. According to the police, most of these rapes are underaged aged girls, and they are raped by their own relatives: uncles, cousins, grandpas, and this week a young girl was raped by her step-dad. They are being raped at the safest place possible: their homes.
Safety for womenfolk is a real problem for PNG. And legalizing prostitution will not solve this problem. Not when women are being raped at their homes.
What then is our problem: Our problems are two fold:
A. A break down in law and order. Our police-to-citizen ratio is 1 : 1, 121. That is, one policeman/policeman responsible for 1, 121 citizens in PNG. This is about three times worse than what the UN recommends 1:450. Files of rape cases pile up at the police stations as officers respond to “more” serious cases of robbery, tribal fights etc. Furthermore our police are under-resourced and poorly equipped.
Shouldn’t the real debate be about increasing police personnel, equipping the police, increasing their budgets and giving professional trainings?
B. Kids raised with total disregard for the lives of womenfolk
We have to admit that some of our cultures (not all) and some households do not regard women with the same respect as their male counterparts. I’ve seen it in my own. When the husband commits adulatory, especially with a young women, it’s the young women’s fault. If the wife commits adulatory with a young men or a married men, she should be automatically divorced. This double standard sucks at all levels. Kids watch this as they grow. You have your own cultures, and experiences may vary, but you get the idea.
Teach your kid to respect everyone. Treat your wife with respect, so your kid can know first hand how to treat a woman.
2. Prostitution pays for the bills
There are those who argue that prostitution should be legalized because that is how women who practice it make their living.
Well ask yourself these questions;
A. If the women were better educated, would they prefer another profession? Is the problem because of a lack of education that limit women from job opportunities? If the answer is yes, then the debate should move towards improving access and quality of education for the womenfolk.
B. If the women engaged in prostitution had employment opportunity that paid the bills, would they pursue prostitution? If the answer is no, then the debate should move into improving trainings/education and providing employment opportunities.
Alternatively, ask a well educated women, employed in a job that pays for her bills, whether she thinks prostitution is an option for her. Sorry about that. Don’t dare ask her. If she doesn’t punch you in the face, you’ll be know as the most stupidest person in the community for even thinking about it.
Security: Everyone need protection. Pastors and Prostitutes. What they do for a living is a debate for another day. But as far as humanity goes, both need protection. Improve law and order for Papua New Guineans. All Papua New Guineans.
Prostitution debate: Raise your kids right. Give our womenfolk the best education we possibly can. Give them employment opportunities. If, after we’ve strived for these, and young girls still go into prostitution then start your debates on decriminalizing prostitution.
Christianity debate: We can all become atheists tomorrow, and you will still have relatives burning their wives, sisters, grandmas in the highlands down to city suburbs. This Christian-nation/non-Christian-nation diverts attention from the real issue.
The problem with trying to addressing symptoms rather than the cause of the problems, is that you spend so much, and end up with the same problem.
This is the first of a series of reviews I intend to write about my reading of the classic book ‘The Gulag Archipelago (1918-1956)’. The book is an abridged version of three volumes of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s work, translated from Russian to English. During my visit to St Petersburg and Moscow in November of 2018, I bought as many books as I could about Russia, written by Russians. A Russian journalist, who works for one of the major newspapers with over 100 million readership advised that I should read books by Russian authors to get the ‘other perspective’. I think he was right as the literature about Russia available to Papua New Guineans are those written by Western scholars, unfairly biased towards the West’s views, but I do not think he was hoping I read the Gulag Archipelago. Or Maybe he was.
The Gulag Archipelago was made a mandatory reading for Russian students in 2009. This is interesting because the book reveals the evil practices of the Soviet Regime under Lenin and Stalin, and despite that, Russian students are required to face the evil past of their country. If you find a people willing to do that, you are amongst a people more afraid of repeating the past than facing it. Even President Putin expressed his support for the decision to make the Gulag Archipelago a mandatory reading ( Boudreaux, Richard (28 October 2010). “‘Gulag Archipelago’ Re-Issued for Russian Students”. The Wall Street Journal). For someone who still though of Russians as ‘communists’ this was an interesting revelation to me. Since then I read several books about Russian history, politics, crime etc., but none comes close to the Gulag Archipelago. So I decided to do reviews of each chapter as I read.
The Gulag Archipelago, written by a Russian, has sold more than 30 million copies world wide, and has been translated to several languages. In 2009, with the current Russian President Putin’s support, the book was made a mandatory reading for Russian students. Solzhenitsyn won a Noble Prize for literature. I’m reading the fiftieth anniversary edition released on 1 November 2018, forwarded by another prolific scholar of our time, Dr Jordan Peterson. For lack of a better term I call this series “review” but what I intend to do its provide brief summary of parts of the book that made me stop and think “how was this even possible?”
Solzhenitsyn was arrested from the front lines fighting the Germans in the second world war, for making derogatory statements against Stalin. He was a captain in the arterially division. On page 29 Solzhenitsyn talks about the ‘quota system’ for arrests. He writes:
“Every city, every district, every military unit were assigned a specific quota of arrests to be carried out by a stipulated time (Solzhenitsyn, 1973:29)”.
The political prisoners were to be sent to the islands in the Gulag Archipelago. “Political crimes” were defined vaguely under Article 58 of the Criminal Code. Article 58 made “propaganda or agitation….” to overthrow, subvert or weaken the Soviet power a very serious crime. The problem was, anyone could be arrested, and labelled as political prisoner even if he or she did not commit any political crime. They officers needed to meet the ‘quota’.
The lower jail limit was 10 years for anyone guilty of Article 58. The maximum penalty was not set, only the minimum. Beyond 10 years, the state decided when you were released from prison. The article was amended and increased to 25 years minimum, whilst the maximum remained infinite. The prisoners were used as slaves for building state infrastructure.
A former Checkist Aleksandr Kalganov retold one of his his experiences to Solzhenitsyn on how they strived to meet the quota system. Kalganov and his friends received a telegram that read “Send 200”. They were asked to send 200 political prisoners. Kalganov and his friends had a problem: they already cleaned out the area of anyone with political crimes under section 58 of the Criminal Code. Without an alternative, they reclassified people they arrested earlier for non-political crimes as political prisoners under Article 58 of the Criminal Code. Even then they fell short of the quota. One of Kalganov’s friends had an idea – there was a gypsy band playing not far from where they were – the entire band was arrested, labeled political prisoners, and sent to Gulag. The band had members ranged from 16 to 67 years old.
Sometimes if the officers were lucky, their quota problem was solved without the officers going out to do arrests. One day a women went to the police station to ask the officers what to do with her neighbor’s baby who had been crying non-stop since her mother was arrested. She went at a time when the officers were contemplating how to meet their quota. The woman was arrested, branded as political prisoner, and added to the list. She did not commit any crime, but she was needed to meet the quota.
Not all arrests driven by the need to meet the assigned quota. There were those, like Solzhenitsyn, a war hero decorated twice, arrested for expressing a negative view of Stalin. Solzhenitsyn tells the story of an independent journalist who was arrested for being the first to ‘stop clapping’. A district Party conference (the Communist Party) was underway in Moscow, and at the end of the conference, as was the custom in those days, the members stood up to applaud Stalin when his name was mentioned. Stalin was not even in the room! The small hall erupted in a stormy applause.
They clapped with hands raised, and cheered. It went on for one minute, five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes. Everyone was afraid to be the first to applauding for Stalin. So it went on and on. Tired, hungry, weak, but who would dare to be the first to stop cheering? Suddenly the journalist stopped clapping and slumped into his chair. The tired party members stopped almost abruptly and collapsed on their chairs. They had someone who they would blame for being the first to stop applauding Comrade Stalin. The journalist had saved them from collapsing from exhaustion, but he had to pay the price! The journalist was charged for some crime he probably did not commit and sentenced to 10 years. He was later released, but the the interrogator warned him “don’t every be the first one to stop clapping” (Solzhenitsyn, 1973: 28).
All kinds of people were arrested including people of all faith. Husbands would renounce their faith to remain with the children whilst wives kept the faith and went to prison. Spounses were arrested for not breaking up with partners arrested for their faith. The rich were arrested for being wealthy. The poor were arrested.
One lecturer was arrested for talking about Marxism and Lenin, but forgetting to mention Comrade Stalin. The reasons were many, the quota was endless. Those who conducted the arrests were also vey creative in their techniques. You would be arrested by a hiker, who did not dress up as a military or police officer, but carried an ID nevertheless. A young woman was arrested by her date. Every train station had some kind of cell.
This book makes a very interesting reading. Solzhenitsyn writes it was incredibly painful detail. I am excited to read the next chapter: “Interrogation”. I will review it once I am done with the next chapter, so be sure to subscribe to the blog and follow the the succeeding reviews.
At completing the book, I will write about what we can learn from the Soviet experiment of communism and socialist policies. Appeal for varied versions of socialist-like policies are rising on every continent. Will we be better at implementing socialist policies that Communist Russia?
Also, there are those who say “communism began as a good idea, but was corrupted along the way.” I will use provide insights from this book on whether that is true. Others say “I would have done things differently if I was Lenin or Stalin.” I will also provide my views on that. And finally, I will conclude with what impact communism had in places it was practiced: USSR, China, Cambodia, Cuba etc.
What is more serious: Michael Somare’s sandals setting off an alarm at the Brisbane International Airport in Australia, or an alleged cocaine pilot crashing into PNG sovereign boarders illegally?
Were anyone of you pissed off, when in 2005, Michael Somare was asked to take off his sandals at the Brisbane airport when the sandals set off an alarm? After a long protest, Somare was given the choice of taking off his sandals, or get on the plane and return to PNG. Somare did take off his sandals – sandal that could hardly hide any illegal substance.
PNG wanted an apology, or an expression of regret, over the Somare incident, Australian the Prime Minister, John Howard declined to apologise. He said the airport security were doing their job.
It was disrespectful of one of the founding fathers of PNG, and the incumbent prime minister of the time. But that is how serious Australia is with their security.
Fast forward to 2020, an Australian pilot enters PNG airspace illegally using a plane registered under a dead man’s name, violating of sovereignty of PNG, and crashes his plane. He allegeded to transported cocaine (reports from journalists of traces of cocaine found at the crash site). He is charged K3000 for illegal entry, which is equivalent of AUD 1, 200.
If you were a PNG man who illegally flew into Australia on a plane registered under a dead man’s name, crashed it whilst on a suspected cocaine smuggling run, the least you be subject under is: you’d still de detained, and investigations conductedt on substance found at the crash site. If it was cocained, where did it originate from, who are your suppliers, who are your buyers, how long as it been going on, and so on.
In PNG, you commit the same crime, you are charged K3000.
One nation takes mere sandals as security threat. Another nation disregards a potential cocaine business. Which is of a greater threat, sandals or cocaine?