The Contemporary Pacific, vol. 11, no. 2 (1999)

tcp logoARTICLES

Militaristic Solutions in a Weak State: Internal Security, Private Contractors, and Political Leadership in Papua New Guinea, pp. 279-303
Sinclair Dinnen

Abstract: Papua New Guinea’s Sandline affair provides the most dramatic illustration of militarization among the Pacific Island states. Although this was the first resort to mercenaries, there have been other examples of PNG governments hiring private military contractors for assistance in internal security matters. Recent years have seen an increasing reliance on militaristic solutions to crime and other forms of conflict. This trend is partly a response to the well-documented weaknesses of the police and defense forces. Political leaders have shown a marked preference for “tough,” “quick-fix” solutions. Reliance on militaristic responses can, at one level, be viewed as a way of compensating for state weakness by relying on its ostensibly strongest aspect. At the same time, the militaristic orientation of government actions in this area cannot be separated from wider societal tolerance of violence as a strategy for resolving conflict. Militaristic solutions have not only failed to resolve problems of order but have often ended up aggravating them. They have also had a debilitating impact on many of the government agencies concerned. Ministerial autonomy allows senior political leaders to initiate and pursue militaristic schemes that have often been little more than vehicles for the advancement of the individual leader’s electoral and other interests. Such initiatives in the area of internal security illustrate the reinforcing nexus between political patronage and the weakness of the PNG state.
Keywords: leadership, militarization, Papua New Guinea, police, political patronage, Sandline affair, security

Social Segmentation, Voting, and Violence in Papua New Guinea, pp. 305-333
Alan Rumsey

Abstract: Over the past quarter century there has been a resurgence of warfare in the New Guinea Highlands. Much of this warfare and other violence has occurred at the interface between electoral politics and more “traditional” forms of segmentary social organization: tribes, clans, and the like. It has been seen by some scholars as a matter of “upward colonization,” whereby local political traditions have penetrated the state. Although this view is illuminating, it has its limits: in practice, state and local forms of politics cannot be articulated with each other without having a substantial impact on both. Here I illustrate this ethnographically, drawing on case materials from the Ku Waru region, Western Highlands Province. Tracing the history of marital and ceremonial exchange relations between two Ku Waru groups over the past two generations, I show how an emerging alliance between them was undermined by a conflict of interest over the 1992 national election. Although such conflicts could never be avoided altogether, I argue that they could be reduced by a change from the present first-past-the-post voting system to a preferential system.
Keywords: Papua New Guinea, politics, segmentary groups, violence, voting

Radio and the Redefinition of Kastom in Vanuatu, pp. 335-360
Lissant Bolton

Abstract: This paper traces the development of radio broadcasting in Vanuatu, arguing that radio was critical to the development of ideas of Vanuatu-as-nation among the residents of the archipelago. From its inception, radio broadcast kastom — material understood to derive from the place itself, such as local songs and stories-and in broadcasting it contributed to the development of a complex understanding of kastom itself. By this means kastom was defined as expressive of national unity as well as regional diversity, and as a basis of identity; the presentation of kastom on the radio has provided Islanders with a point of connection with the new context of the nation. In tracing the history and significance of the broadcast of kastom, the paper argues that radio developed a distinctive form in Vanuatu, not addressing a passive and private listener, but rather interacting with an audience that engaged with the radio through correspondence and other contributions, and through both sending and responding to service messages. In 1994 this was overturned by creation of the Vanuatu Television and Broadcasting Corporation, which was designed to conform with western commercial models of radio. The consequent cutting of kastom programs resulted in a significant and locally acknowledged disenfranchisement of rural Ni-Vanuatu.
Keywords: identity, kastom, nation, oral traditions, radio, Vanuatu

Subversion and Ambivalence: Pacific Islanders on New Zealand Prime Time, pp. 361-388
Sarina Pearson

Abstract: Representations of Pacific Islanders in film and mainstream media have often been negative and marginalizing. Opportunities for Pacific Island communities to present counter images, express resistance, or enter into dialogue with these stereotypes have been limited. However, some instances of resistance have emerged recently, not on film but on broadcast television in New Zealand. Because the “small screen” is less capital-intensive than film, and because public service broadcasting provides some support for minority programming in New Zealand, television is a significant instrument through which Pacific Islanders counteract hegemony. The sketch Milburn Place was one instance in which television comedy could be potentially subversive insofar as it made Samoans “visible” on the New Zealand mediascape. It provided a forum in which to critique social inequality and racial intolerance as well as celebrate an emerging New Zealand Samoan identity. This paper discusses and documents how Milburn Place used carnivalesque strategies to disempower stereotypes and to raise serious sociopolitical issues in a “safe” arena. However, the nature of comedy, and parody in particular, ensures that multiple and contradictory interpretations occur. Ultimately, Milburn Place negotiated an ambivalent path between subversive and reactionary readings, under the exigencies imposed by commercial television and New Zealand’s majority culture.
Keywords: Aotearoa New Zealand, comedy, Milburn Place, Pacific Islands, Samoans, television


The Vibrant Shimmer, pp. 390-413
Barry Barclay

Abstract: Interweaving strands from Gauguin’s paintings created in Brittany (before he went to Tahiti), A E Housman’s poems, Maori playwright Hone Kouka, Maori ancestors, and several decades of filmmaking experience, this paper looks at the making and unmaking of Maori documentary films. Tensions and misunderstanding between Maori filmmakers and Pakeha critics and funding agencies are examined. It is suggested that Maori projects and approaches are frequently undervalued because of different “gradients” in aesthetic sensibility and worldview.
Keywords: documentary films, film critics, Gauguin, image-making, Maori filmmaking, New Zealand, television documentaries


The Region in Review: International Issues and Events, 1998, pp. 416-426
Stewart Firth

Melanesia in Review: Issues and Events, 1998, pp. 427-449
David A Chappell, Alumita Durutalo, Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka, Terence Wesley-Smith


Islands on the Internet, pp. 452-465
Michael R Ogden


The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, volume 9: Australia and the Pacific Islands, edited by Adrienne L Kaeppler and J W Love, pp. 468-473
Reviewed by Mervyn McLean

Songs of Spirits: An Ethnography of Sounds in a Papua New Guinea Society, by Yoichi Yamada, pp. 473-475
Reviewed by Denis Crowdy

Voyages: From Tongan Villages to American Suburbs, by Cathy A Small, pp. 475-477
Reviewed by Susan U Philips

Remaking Micronesia: Discourses over Development in a Pacific Territory, 1944–1982, by David Hanlon, pp. 478-480
Reviewed by Mac Marshall

Japan’s Aid Diplomacy and the Pacific Islands, by Sandra Tarte, pp. 480-481
Reviewed by Gerard A Finin

The Ok Tedi Settlement: Issues, Outcomes and Implications, edited by Glenn Banks and Chris Ballard, pp. 482-484
Reviewed by David Hyndman

A Vision for Change: A D Patel and the Politics of Fiji, by Brij V Lal, pp. 484-487
Reviewed by Robert Norton

With Heart and Nerve and Sinew: Post-Coup Writing from Fiji, edited by Arlene Griffen, pp. 487-490
Reviewed by Sandra Tawake

Mangrove Man: Dialogics of Culture in the Sepik Estuary, by David Lipset, pp. 491-493
Reviewed by William E Mitchell

Cultural Dynamics of Religious Change in Oceania, edited by Ton Otto and Ad Boorsboom, pp. 493-495
Reviewed by Joel Robbins

Maternities and Modernities: Colonial and Postcolonial Experiences in Asia and the Pacific, edited by Kalpana Ram and Margaret Jolly, pp. 495-498
Reviewed by Nancy C Lutkehaus

Times Enmeshed: Gender, Space, and History among the Duna of Papua New Guinea, by Gabriele Stürzenhofecker, pp. 498-500
Reviewed by Rena Lederman


Spirits of the Voyage and Sacred Vessels: Navigating Tradition and Identity in Micronesia, pp. 501-505
Reviewed by James Mellon

Flight of the Albatross, pp. 505-508
Reviewed by Reina Whaitiri