Not Destructive Development

Source: "Red Soil"

Jimmy is from the Junk-Aral District of the Jiwaka Province, and he walks from Jiwaka out to the Madang Province to sell his bags of coffee beans and peanuts once or twice every month. From where Jimmy’s village is located, one has to climb very rugged steep mountains, brave the thick jungles and cross some of the fastest flowing rivers to get to town and back home.

Jimmy chose to cross over to the Madang Province because compared to the Jiwaka Province way, there are more steeper, much more rugged mountains to climb and it may take him weeks to just get his coffee and peanut bags to the market to sell to get enough money to pay for and get the basic necessities his family needs.

This has been Jimmy’s routine for a good six to seven years now and he still hasn’t seen any changes, improvement or development in or around his village. He had watched his fathers and their fathers touch the earth with their bare hands and turn it into the road that he now walks on, and that has been that, that he still walks on today.

“We’re in the Government’s ‘forget about them’ records, or maybe they don’t even have a record of us. They (MPs, Political Candidates) only come by helicopters and manage to find us living where we are during elections and get us to vote, after that its back to square one,”said Jimmy.

I travel to town and I hear about development coming to the country, at first it got my attention when I heard the radio news in a supermarket. Ever since then I bought myself a radio and I’ve been sharing it with the clan to listen to the news, just to hear if there’s anything good coming our way, but still nothing,” he said.

He said his clan members always pause to hear the news (usually heard on the mountain tops) about too many mines, too many logging, too many fisheries developments, and they also hear about the people who are directly affected by these very ‘developments’. ‘How can those be ‘development’?’ is their question.

What really stirred them from hearing bits and pieces of news from the radio, newspapers and overheard when in town was the land theft that’s sweeping the country, currently known as the ‘Special Agriculture Business Lease (SABL). Another thing that really shocked them was why the people of Madang are not doing anything to stop the dumping of millions of toxic waste by the MCC Chinese Nickel Mine into their sea.

Are they (Madang people) agreeing to die? Jimmy asks. “We may not be from the sea but we do know that if these foreigners succeed there, they will move up into the mountains and into wherever they want to. As for me and my people, we will stand by our grandfathers graves and we will stop these foreigners even if it costs our lives,” he said.

He said they do not support, what he termed as ‘Destructive Developments’, which basically refers to ‘the uncontrolled Mining, Logging and Fishing’.

What are these much talked about developments? These people, and others like them in the remotest parts of the country don’t know. They do not know because life for them has not changed a bit as far as their oldest remaining grandparents could recall.

They are human beings going through a much tougher time to get what they NEED, but couldn’t because they can not or do not have access to them. They have the right to benefit, or at least see a bit of change in their livelihoods from time to time because after all, they were thought of, found and told to vote for someone, every year.