AN OPEN LETTER TO PNG & AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTERS

AN OPEN LETTER 

To         PNG Prime Minister, The Honourable Peter O’Neill and

            Australian Prime Minister, The Honourable Julia Gillard

Please reinstate the PNG-Australia Policing Initiative and create a police academy in PNG. 

Last week’s murder of student Rex John at Laloki on the outskirts of Port Moresby is a wake-up call for PNG and Australian leaders.

It highlights the urgent need for the reinstatement of the PNG-Australia policing initiative (under which Australian police helped their PNG counterparts with training, mentoring and the creation of structures for governance).

Rex was travelling to Moresby last Monday to collect his academic gown for his graduation the following weekend as a Community Health Worker. A gang of cowardly thugs attacked his bus, bashing and stabbing the passengers with bush knives and machetes. Rex died of his wounds that evening.

Rex John’s needless death robbed his father and nine brothers and sisters of a loving son and brother. It deprived his village of Naduri of Rex’s hard-won skills as their first-ever Community Health Worker. And it denied PNG the benefits of a fine young man who hoped to serve his nation in the same timeless, selfless tradition of the revered Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

Rex had showed the way to a better future for his nation. He was one of those quiet achievers who are the essential foundations of a healthy and sustainable society. Rex was one of the 1 out of 100 kids who start school in PNG and who make it through to Year 10. He was one of the even smaller group who make it through to tertiary studies. Rather than being motivated by making money or becoming a Big Man in politics, Rex was determined to help his family, his community and his country by serving them as a qualified Community Health Worker.

Rex had done all the hard work. He had won a scholarship with the Kokoda Track Foundation, studied diligently and had passed his exams. He was looking forward to his graduation last weekend and to being posted back to his village of Naduri, bringing, for the first time, desperately-need medical skills to the community he loved. 

PNG’s ‘Vision 2050’ Plan targets seven ‘key outcomes’. One of them is improved law and order: “Improving the law and order situation is essential to laying the foundations for socioeconomic growth and establishing investor confidence. Adequate budgetary allocations to the RPNGC [Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary] and the broader law and justice sector is necessary to combat law and order problems.

Last year’s Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum recognised that … “Deterioration of law and order hinders development and disrupts delivery of government services and business. It inhibits the effectiveness of development assistance; it has a serious negative impact on investor confidence and on the quality of life of individuals.”

Prime Ministers, it is time for decisive leadership. It is time for a positive response to the growing levels of violence.

PNG’s leaders must act immediately to bring Rex John’s killers to justice and they must redouble their efforts to fight against the violence that dishonours their capital city. For, until Papuan New Guineans can walk the streets of their capital without fear, PNG’s leaders cannot hold their heads high.

Australia’s leaders must also act to help our nearest neighbour to combat the deleterious effects of the violence plaguing Moresby and other PNG cities. For it is to our lasting shame that no two neighbouring nations in the world have a greater disparity in poverty and wealth (as measured by the U.N. Human Development Index) than Australia and PNG. 

Please join together to reinstate the PNG-Australia Police Initiative as a matter of urgency to prevent the loss of any more precious lives like Rex John.

Patrick Lindsay, Chairman, Kokoda Track Foundation

REX'S DEATH IS A CRY FOR HELP

Last week’s murder of student Rex John at Laloki on the outskirts of Port Moresby is a wake-up call for PNG and Australian leaders.

It highlights the urgent need for the reinstatement of the PNG-Australia policing initiative (under which Australian police helped their PNG counterparts with training, mentoring and the creation of structures for governance).

Rex was travelling to Moresby last Monday to collect his academic gown for his graduation the following weekend as a Community Health Worker. A gang of cowardly thugs attacked his bus, bashing and stabbing the passengers with bush knives and machetes. Rex died of his wounds that evening.

PNG’s National 'Vision 2050' targets seven ‘key outcomes’. One of them is improved law and order: “Improving the law and order situation is essential to laying the foundations for socioeconomic growth and establishing investor confidence. Adequate budgetary allocations to the RPNGC [Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary] and the broader law and justice sector is necessary to combat law and order problems.”

Last year’s Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum recognised that … “Deterioration of law and order hinders development and disrupts delivery of government services and business. It inhibits the effectiveness of development assistance; it has a serious negative impact on investor confidence and on the quality of life of individuals.”

It is time for decisive leadership. It is time for a positive response to the violence. PNG’s leaders must act immediately to bring Rex John’s killers to justice and they must redouble their efforts to fight against the violence that shames their capital city.

One immediate response should be for the PNG and Australian Governments to join together to resinstate their joint policing initiative. It will provide PNG police with practical training and mentoring to better equip them to handle the growing violence and corruption. This should be followed by talks to establish a national police academy to provide a system under which overall police skills and standards can be lifted. 

For, until Papuan New Guineans can walk the streets of their capital without fear, PNG’s leaders cannot hold their heads high. 


 

LET US HONOUR AN UNSUNG HERO

In the early hours of last Monday morning in Port Moresby the terrible price of the random violence that plagues PNG’s capital was laid bare for all to see and a nation lost a precious piece of its future.

Rex John web.jpg

Near Laloki on the city’s outskirts, a gang of cowardly thugs in a mini-van forced a PMV off the road and bashed and stabbed its passengers with bush knives and machetes, killing one and leaving another in a critical condition.

The murdered young man, Rex John from Naduri village about halfway along the Kokoda Track, was travelling to Moresby from his teaching college at Veifa’a to pick up the academic gown he hoped to wear to his graduation as a Community Health Worker this coming Saturday.

Rex was travelling on the bus with his friend and fellow Community Health Worker student, Jackson Fred from Efogi village on the Track, who was also to graduate this weekend. Jackson was also stabbed in the attack but is recovering in hospital.

Both Rex and Jackson were studying on scholarships from the Australian-based not-for-profit organization, the Kokoda Track Foundation (KTF). After graduation, Rex was to be posted back to his home village where he would serve as Naduri’s resident Community Health Worker, giving his community access to basic health care for the first time.

Rex John’s needless death was a tragedy in many ways. His father and nine brothers and sisters were robbed of a loving son and brother. His village of Naduri lost Rex’s hard-won skills as their first-ever Community Health Worker. PNG lost a fine young man who hoped to serve his nation in the same timeless, selfless tradition of the revered Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

Why was Rex John a hero? Because he showed the way to a better future for his nation. He was one of those quiet achievers who are the essential foundations of a healthy and sustainable society. Rex was one of the 1 out of 100 kids who start school in PNG and who make it through to Year 10. He was one of the even smaller minority who make it through to tertiary studies. Rather than being motivated by making money or becoming a Big Man in politics, Rex was determined to help his family, his community and his country by serving them as a qualified Community Health Worker.

Rex had done all the hard work. He had studied diligently and had passed his exams. He was looking forward to his graduation this weekend and to being posted back to his village of Naduri, bringing, for the first time, desperately-need medical skills to the community he loved.

The Kokoda Track Foundation will honour Rex John by creating a Community Health Worker’s Scholarship in his name and by seeking permission to name the Naduri Aid Post after him.

Rex’s death must not be in vain. He must not become another nameless casualty of the guerilla war waged by the thugs against honest citizens.  

All Papua New Guineans must condemn the cowards who snatched Rex John’s life away.

And PNG’s leaders must act immediately to bring Rex’s killers to justice and they must redouble their efforts to fight against the violence that shames their capital city.

For, until Papuan New Guineans can walk the streets of their capital without fear, PNG’s leaders cannot hold their heads high. 

HOW RANDOM VIOLENCE SHATTERED A VILLAGE'S DREAMS

Early yesterday morning in Port Moresby the terrible price of the mindless violence that plagues PNG’s capital was laid bare.

Near Laloki on the city’s outskirts, a gang of thugs in a mini-van forced a public bus off the road and bashed and stabbed its passengers with bush knives and machetes, killing one and leaving another in a critical condition.

The murdered young man, Rex John from Naduri village about halfway along the Kokoda Track, was travelling to Moresby from his teaching college at Veifa’a about four hours away to pick up the academic gown he hoped to wear to his graduation as a Community Health Worker this coming Saturday.

Both Rex and Jackson were studying on scholarships from the Australian-based not-for-profit organization, the Kokoda Track Foundation (KTF). After graduation, Rex was to be posted back to his home village where he would serve as Naduri’s resident Community Health Worker, giving his community access to basic health care for the first time.

Rex John web.jpg

“The Kokoda Track Foundation is deeply saddened and distressed by Rex’s death,” KTF Chairman, Patrick Lindsay said today. “Rex and Jackson were outstanding students – unsung local heroes  - who had spent years studying to acquire desperately-needed medical skills which they hoped to bring back to their remote villages,” Lindsay said.

“It’s a tragedy that some cowardly thugs can snatch Rex’s life away and deprive his family and community of a wonderful young man and the health care he hoped to give them.”

Rex was travelling on the bus with his friend and fellow Community Health Worker student, Jackson Fred from Efogi village on the Track, who was also to graduate this weekend. Jackson was also stabbed in the attack but is recovering in hospital.

Local police were called to the scene after the attack and helped to transport Rex and Jackson to Port Moresby General Hospital. Sadly, Rex’s injuries were too severe and he did not survive the night. Jackson is currently receiving medical treatment for his injuries.

“We strongly condemn the attacks and we call for a detailed investigation into the murder,” Lindsay said. “We send our sincere condolences to Rex’s family and to the Naduri community and we pass on our deep sympathies to their fellow students at St Gerard’s School of Nursing who are all saddened and shocked by the tragedy. We also pass on our best wishes to Jackson for a speedy recovery.”

Over the past two and a half years, the KTF has supporting Rex and Jackson to complete their Diplomas in Community Health Work at St Gerard’s School of Nursing, Veifa’a. Along with two other KTF scholarship trainees, Rex and Jackson were to start work with the Foundation in July, where they were to be posted into aid posts along the Kokoda Track.

“It would have been the first time that all villages along the Kokoda Track had access to qualified community health workers. We will continue to work toward that aim,” Lindsay said.

“The Foundation hopes to honour Rex John by creating a Community Health Worker’s Scholarship in his name and by seeking permission to name the Naduri Aid Post after him.”