The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Jan. 31) – The fact that Mrs Oksana Carroll and her husband Paul have lived in Papua New Guinea for nearly 50 years is in itself remarkable.

There are few couples or individuals from other countries who have clocked up so many years in this country, and their coming fiftieth anniversary in PNG should have been the occasion for a joyful celebration of the Carroll’s contribution to PNG.

Instead, they have suffered a horrific attack that could well have resulted in the deaths of one or both of them.

It makes not a whit of difference whether the Carrolls are black, white or of any other color.

An attack of this ferocity against two senior PNG residents is a disgraceful commentary on our country and a handful of our people.

Seniors in our community have earned the right to live in peace, and to enjoy whatever small pleasures they may have been able to amass over the years.

It would have been easy for the Carrolls to have left PNG long ago.

They did not.

They freely chose to stay in a country that had become their home, and for which they felt a deep affection.

There will be those who seek to excuse this cowardly attack on a defenseless elderly couple with the mumbo jumbo of deprivation, of lack of opportunity, and of the now-fashionable lethargy of the young.

Lack of employment, unavailability of funding, and social disruption regularly surface to justify outrageous attacks, murders, assaults and violent robberies.

We scarcely ever hear of lack of focus or of unwillingness to do a hard day’s work for minimal pay.

Nobody dares suggest that many youths have a marked aversion to work of any kind, and particularly to agriculture and the cultivation of traditional lands.

Our younger generation is riddled with an obsession for all the material glitz of our imitative society, to be gained without any of the sweat that others expend to access that material world.

And by default we now have a society that far too often condones laziness, drugs, alcohol abuse and many other debilitating social negatives.

Few care about PNG, except when other nations offer assistance and tread on the notoriously sensitive corns of a few PNG feet in the process.

Then national "sovereignty" suddenly becomes a pearl without price, and our "reputation" as a "Christian" country suddenly takes pride of place in the newspapers and other electronic media.

Mr Carroll told our reporter ". . . the problem in PNG is a lack of unity and national identity . . . law and order have to come from the people themselves as one people".

No statement could, in our opinion, have been more accurate.

The binding sense of direction, and of being one nation, apparent after independence, has long ago evaporated.

Today we see the old rivalries re-surfacing, and the re-kindling of the buried hatreds between tribes and clans.

There is an ill-disguised level of despair below the surface of our daily lives.

The far-seeing PNG minority, encompassing those with a view beyond their own extended families, has become cynical about the country’s ability to transcend the unbelievable pettiness that is now the determining feature of our lives.

At the slightest provocation, we turn to the law and the courts, like small children bawling for their parents or their teacher.

Real pride, that quality so evident in our grandparent’s generation, is rare and may soon be extinct.

That was the pride of community, the accumulated strength of our ancestors, the rich harvest of generations of traditions, and the carefully honed framework of laws and customs that informed and guided daily life.

The most widespread reaction to the appalling attack upon Mr and Mrs Carroll is sadly predictable.

It will take the form of "nationalists," blinkered by their twisted view of PNG "sovereignty," protesting at the newspaper coverage of the attack on the couple. They will shrill that it is a terrible crime to tell the world about this attack, because of the damage it could cause to PNG’s "reputation".

They ignore the sad fact that the damage to this country’s good name comes not from the reporting of that assault, but from the assault itself.

And that is a matter for us all to address.

February 1, 2005

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