Eyeglass Assist

Solomon Islands Project


Title: Chinese whispers on a small island

Location : Gigila Island, Papua New Guinea

Year : 2010

This story goes to show that in small communities, no matter where they are, things are not as simple as they seem. To the casual observer it would seem everybody is living a simple life and getting on with things as they must and are happy doing so, but underneath there is an undercurrent of factions, animosities, jealousies and a myriad of other feelings that are an unavoidable element of living in a village or in fact any community anywhere and villages such as these in PNG are no different.

 We were at Gigila Island helping to build a permanent 2 room, primary school building which was privately funded. With the building of the school all but complete we made arrangements with one of our friends, the local government representative, and his extended family (as well as a couple of other hanger-oners) to come on board Monkey Fist and head out to one of the small islands nearby to spend a weekend hunting and gathering PNG style, all together I think there was 14 people on board Monkey Fist, including a few children.

 So out everyone came to our yacht, extra clothes, bedding and odds and ends, and we headed off into the distance and had a fantastic time with them showing us all sorts of bush skills.

 The day following our return to Gigila, we ran into one of the other Australian yachties who was building the school and he obviously had something important on his mind that he needed to discuss with me. So we sat down and he explained to me what was bothering him. As way of background information, there had been a previous project here to also help the local community which involved the construction of a sailing boat capable of carrying stores and people under cover to the main town Misima 30 miles outside the fringing reef, should the weather be adverse.

The boat was built out of two 18 ft (5.5m) fibreglass dories that were not being used by their owners due to deterioration in the hulls. Unfortunately while the sailing boat worked out very well indeed, the underlying politics made the use of it and the maintenance of it an absolute nightmare and had caused some divisions within the community. The local government guy had been involved in that project as well. Anyway, our yachtie friend told me that the story had got back to him from someone in the community that the local government guy was going to be arrested by the police for the stealing of the boat (even though the boat was till anchored on the island). The rumour was that as soon as the police arrived with the warrant they were going to arrest the guy and take him to court in Misima. Something else some people in the village had told our friend was that they believed that we were helping the guy and his family to escape the island before the police arrived with the warrant! I'm not sure where they thought he was going?

I assured our friend that it was not the case and that we had planned this excursion some weeks previously and besides that, as we had just brought the family back to the island, that further supported my version of the facts. It all makes sense when you know that truth!



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