Trawling through the Papua New Guinea media in search of local reaction to the asylum seeker deal with Australia, Grubsheet stumbled upon an article written a few months back by one of the country’s best journalists, Frank Sege Kolma, that pretty neatly sums up the difference between the two countries. It has particular resonance as the Fijian leadership engages in a collective shaking of heads over what possessed the PNG Government to do a deal with Australia to resettle thousands of non-Melanesian people in PNG, many of them permanently, who could eventually decide that Fiji is an infinitely preferable destination. Read on…
7.30 a.m PNG time. Deuba Beach, Pacific Harbour 45 minutes out of Suva, Fiji.
I must have walked a full 45 minutes in one direction before turning back, stopping now and then to take photos of different items scattered by the waves or the waves themselves as the fancy took me.
Beautiful day. Clear blue sky above and the sun reflecting off the Pacific ocean below. To my left (my right as I return) the coconut fronds strive bravely against the breeze. Here and there are homes which have been turned into guest houses to cater for Fiji’s seemingly insatiable tourism market.
In front of me the beach stretches out into the distance and then bends in a nice curve around a distant point.
The waves do their ceaseless dance up and down the beach. There is plenty of wind to keep at bay the heat which is already evident this early in the morning.
As I retraced my steps, I passed those items I had photographed on my way out – the log in the sand, the very green fruit against the grey of the sand, the wet brown pebble, the sun glistening off the waves, a fruit, the coconuts striving against the breeze, the discarded plastic water bottle, the white of the wash and the blue of the Pacific Harbour.
Here is a stretch of beach touched by people from far more nationalities than Ela Beach in Port Moresby. Yet it appeared as if no feet had passed here before mine. There must have been two discarded white plastic cups of the sort we make ice blocks in PNG, two plastic water containers and the same number of the potato chip packets along the entire stretch of beach I have covered. Otherwise, it appeared as natural as an abandoned island where no human’s unholy presence had corrupted. Yet at every turn there were guest houses, villas and a major resort along this beach catering for tourists.
And the words came to me stark as if they were written in the sand before me: “Attitude, character, care, respect, manners…..” All human values which expose the world of difference between that Melanesian neighbour and PNG, why it is sustained by tourism even through the difficult period of three coups while a only a sprinkling of them pass by PNG. They are the reason why a world beauty pageant was held last week at the Pearl of the Pacific and not the Grand Papua or the Madang Resort. They spell the difference why more visitors flock to Fiji where there is a military regime in place and not to a democratic PNG.
Melanesian Fijian and Melanesian Papua New Guinean eat taro, banana, sweet potato and garden vegetables and live in village com¬munities still but the similarities end there. Where the noble characteristics that distinguish humans from animals are concerned, PNG seems to fall far behind their Fijian brethren. There one is greeted by a “bula” and smiles to melt the heart whilst here one is treated to a glare and a stare. Fijians are generally hospitable, respectful, humble and friendly while we are generally violent, insolent, disrespectful and inhospitable.
These are human traits which drive Fijian prosperity and become the leashes that restrain far richer PNG from prospering. Fijians do not work any harder than do PNGians. They are no more intelligent, no more confident, no more capable than are Papua New Guineans. Fiji is no more beautiful than PNG. Both are tropical paradises.
The difference is that the 800,000 or so Fijians have a different set of manners, attitudes and character than do our 7.2 million people.
Genuine friendship, humility, charity, good manners, strong up¬right and honest character, respect for self, others and property – those character traits dictate the path to success or failure of modern nations.
In the end these words which I wrote in the sand, photographed and now present on this page must be transferred into the hearts and minds of our people to germinate and grow and to permeate the character of individuals and of the nation.
Otherwise, like the waves of Pacific Harbour quickly erased my scribbling in the sand, my musings will quickly be erased from your mind as well and forgotten.
It will not be billions of kina but a change of heart that will prosper this nation. Of that I am certain.
It is now 10.30am, Pearl Pacific pool side bar. Two Fiji gold later I am invited to a Fijian raw fish preparation and tasting experience. Vinaka vakalevu.