TOK IT ON PNG ONLINE AND PNG NET SEARCH

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By Lena Liew

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 4, 2000 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---"Did Bill Skate do a good job as the prime minister of PNG? Yes; No; I don't know ...Vote."

Now who wouldn't click on that button? I certainly did. It was on the website PNG Online (http://www.niugini.com).

On July 12 -- a week before the vote was supposed to close on July 18 – three people had voted. Two said yes, one said no. I concluded that the vote might have just started. 

The next day, I checked again. There had been 81 voters already! Thirteen said "yes," 63 said "no" and four chose "I don't know."

Browsing through the messages posted on the website's "Wantok's Forum" two days later, I found a posting that made me laugh out loud.

"I have a confession ... I voted 'no' three times!" said the person. Right under his posting, someone else had replied: "I have a confession too ... I voted 'no' 19 times!" I shan't elaborate on the reasons they presented.

The day after the vote was supposed to have closed, the tally had reached 126 votes - 34 "yes," 86 "no," and six "I don't know."

People were still voting a few days after the vote was to have closed.

The vote sparked vigorous debate in the Wantok Forum itself on the accuracy of the vote and the merits or demerits of Bill Skate's leadership.

Other hot topics over the past month have been the existence of non-Christian religions in PNG, the assault on the two UPNG female hostelites, passport scams, West Papuan independence, the Bougainville issue, the coups in Fiji and Solomons Islands and the ever-present campaign by "Bill White" against Divine Word University.

I actually enjoy going through the various postings and the replies to them. Maybe not every day, but at least once during the week. Although the contributors each remain anonymous because they use nicknames in their postings, some regulars really have a lot to say about so many things! And it is obvious that some people have become virtual friends through the message boards.

Dates are given next to each posting, indicating when each message was posted. And reply-postings follow.

These messages certainly provide an idea of what so many of the country's ordinary people (although not quite the grassroots from the bush) think and feel about various social, economic and political issues in PNG. Leaders in both government and opposition should indeed harness this source of feedback.

PNG Online's Wantok Forum contains more serious stuff. It also provides interesting information on PNG, which could be very helpful for potential travelers and expatriates coming to live and work here. Archives for the message board date as far back as April 2000.

PNG Online appears more sophisticated since it offers also the "Garamut Forum" for finding friends/family and for exchanging fun and jokes; the "Wantok Lotu Forum'" for discussing religious issues (very interesting board, I say!) and the "Wantok Sports Forum" for sports.

There were nevertheless people who did not follow instructions and simply posted whatever wherever they liked.

PNG Online also has a "Wantok Chat" which is, unfortunately, quite lifeless. The same goes for the chat site of PNG Net Search (http://www.pngnetsearch.com) - "Hauswin Chat."

PNG Net Search's "Tok Save Board'" announces itself as a "teen zone" -- so no wonder the messages are more frivolous and immature in nature. The language sometimes gets rude, though, although those messages are deleted once the administrator discovers them.

One day, I posted a query on censorship of vulgarities on the Board and the very next day I got a reply from the Board's administrator and saw a warning on bad language posted on the Board itself.

Postings that extended into a discussion included the assault of the two UPNG female hostelites, non-Christian religions in PNG, smart Keremas, Morobeans producing like rabbits, and the "Bill White" campaign again.

And archives go as far back as 1998 - when the website and message board was founded. It was heartening to note 12 items on archive so far this year, when there were only three items last year and the year before.

PNG Net Search also presents directories under the categories of business, education and career, news and media, art, environment, religion, travel and personal homepages. The latter was the most interesting indeed.

These two message boards are no doubt invaluable for Papua New Guineans overseas to keep abreast of developments at "home," as well as to find support and community spirit among wantoks. Wanem hao yu stap.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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