Sunday, 11 February 2018

KUKURAI's CALL - Did the Government Had Dialogue With "The Chief"?



There are few societies within Papua New Guinea that still submits to the traditional leadership structure. Island communities from the North-Western end of New Guinea have the "Kukurai" system. Most of them (men in particular) must posses wealth, traditional knowledge and must have the ability to look after their people.

Kukurais also have the power to bless and curse people, they are able to defend their people and direct and make decisions in the best interest of their people.

In the Schouten Islands in East Sepik province, Kukurais still rule over the people. Missionaries, politicians, public servants etc can come and go, but the Kukurai remains the "highly respected" person in their society. People see the Kukurai as the superior over the ward councillor.

Now there are few questions from my personal observation which I think the government would have benefited from the Manam Island volcano experience. Did the government and authorities talked to the Kukurais? Were the Kukurais happy with the resettlement idea? Were they happy with the temporary care centre where they will be resettled on?

Following the Kadawar Island volcano eruption, displaced islanders were brought on boat loads to nearby Ruprup island and later to Dandan on the mainland. The village councillor (who happens to be another Kukurai facilitated for everyone on the island to be evacuated safely resulting in no casualties being reported.

Ruprup and Biem islanders however stayed on despite attempts to evacuate them.

Relief supplies containing food rations, tents, clothing and others have to be given to the Kukurai to distribute. That is how the system works in their society. They only listen and adhere to the Kukurai, they can die along with the Kukurai.

The government can make plans for evacuation, resettlement and other disaster approach plans, but the people will still obey and respect the decisions of the Kukurai. If the Kukurai says they leave the island, they will leave and if he says they stay on, they will stay.

I wouldn't know much of the benefits of the Manam Experience, but I would say this is one of the many missing links of communication which is vital to address the plight of people affected by the volcano disaster at Kadawar.

The government authorities have to go back to the drawing board and identify and hold dialogue with the Kukurais to get a positive feedback on evacuating the affected islanders.

There are many government officers, relief and donor agencies on ground at Ruprup and the care centre at Dandan, but only if the Kukurais are consulted in an orderly fashion then I guess it would be easy to get the resettlement idea implemented.

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