US expat rebuked over ‘racist tirade’

National, Normal

AN American anthropologist and the Post-Courier have been accused of fanning anti-Asian sentiments in Papua New Guinea when they should be calling for calm.
Rimbunan Hijau (PNG) Group said Nancy Sullivan’s article in the Oct 24 issue of Weekender Post was nothing more than a “racist tirade” targeting both the Asian community in general and the group.
It said Sullivan and the newspaper appeared to indicate that they saw all Asians as “looking the same” and are in some way, “corrupt, exploitative, and involved in gambling, prostitution or gangs”.
RH said  Sullivan, who runs an anthropology consulting company based in Madang that also provides courses on operating guesthouses, trekking tours, bookkeeping and others, had deployed a tactic used by both Green NGOs and standover groups alike.
“They will isolate a group – in this case Rimbunan Hijau – and generalise it with a larger group –  in this case the Asian immigrants and companies throughout the country.
“And above all, do not let the facts get in the way.
“Greenpeace, the Australian Conservation Foundation and CELCOR (for whom Sullivan has previously worked) have all launched unsubstantiated attacks on Rimbunan Hijau that disproportionately focus upon the ethnic background of company owners and employees and generalise about the influence of Asian businesses on the Government.
“(Fact is), the forest industry employs close to 10,000 people.
“It makes up more than 6% of GDP and its exports are worth more than US$500 million (K1.3 trillion).
“Moreover, landowners receive royalties from forestry operations, which also provide infrastructure and transport developments, and education and health facilities.
“It is no wonder that the Government is happy to defend these interests in a country where formal employment and health and education indicators are low.”
RH also expressed surprise that Sullivan would criticise the group’s Vision City Waigani in Port Moresby when the project would provide employment and economic growth.
It said the criticisms were not only misleading but also dangerous.
“Both Sullivan and the Post-Courier should be reminded of the violence that took place in May of this year. And of the anti-Asian violence that affected the Solomon Islands in 2006.
“Neither Sullivan nor the Post-Courier called for calm. They should do so immediately and apologise for fanning the flames of racism in Papua New Guinea,” RH said.
The group’s executive director, Nathaniel Ho, who is also president of the Malaysian Association of PNG, called on Post-Courier to stop publishing materials that would inflame racial conflict or to single out the racial background of those featured in its reporting.
“In most countries, this is simply called irresponsible journalism,” he said.
He said Sullivan had tried to distinguish between the various generations of Asian migrants to PNG, from those that have been here legally for decades and those who have arrived illegally in the past few years.
“But what she nor the Post-Courier does not appreciate is that rioting mobs armed with machetes and firearms are not so discriminating.
“The mobs do not see the difference between people from Singapore, Malaysia, mainland China, the Philippines or Indonesia.
“We hope both Sullivan and the Post-Courier are prepared to take responsibility for their actions when the next bout of anti-Asian violence hits and more people are injured, businesses are destroyed and lives lost.”
Mr Ho said even Sullivan herself demonstrated a racist blindness on par with the mob when she attributed the only Port Moresby mosque to the Malaysian Chinese.
“The absurdity of this would not be lost on anyone who understands the differences between Asian communities,” he said.