16/05/2014 02:32

LETTER FROM THE JUNGLE 1 “I want to be a journalist”

By Fr Leo Kartiko

16 May 2014. Dear Fr Giorgio, thank you very much for your quick response and for the news you regularly send me. Here in Kamusi we have no information; no Post Courier, no National, no Wantok or Catholic Reporter. I have been here since August 2013 after spending three years in Boset along the Middle Fly River. We take care of the Small Christian Communities in twenty-three villages. We try to assure basic education and health services. The logging company has an internet connection, which works when there is good weather. Otherwise is off. It is for internal use only. They will allow me to connect when they don’t need it. So, don’t expect me to answer your emails fast. Kamusi is a remote logging camp in Western Province at the boundary with the Gulf province. It’s managed by Wawoi Guavi Timber Co Ltd, a subsidiary of the giant timber company Rimbunan Hijau, RH in short.

Fr. Yohanes Werang is still in Europe for meetings. He will be back in June, but not for long. He is going back to work in Indonesia at least for some time.  He often tells me to take up his job of writing news from these remotest corners of the Western province. I am telling him that I don’t know how to do it. He says, “Don’t’ worry! Fr Giorgio will do the editing. He will put an Italian flavor on top of any broken English!” You know Father, every news that is being posted makes our simple people so proud! Even our government officials are so happy; because nobody talks and writes of the people of Western province and their hard life. For this simple reason I would like to become a reporter and a journalist!

Las month the Superior General of our Montfort Congregation, Fr Santino Brambilla, an Italian like you, came to visit us from Rome. He spent a couple of days in my parish. He was deeply touched by the poverty of our people especially those on the coast of the Gulf province. No schools, no medicines, no proper drinking water. Children just grow up without attending even the elementary level, totally illiterate. TB is a common sickness. People don’t realize the reason of their early death, so they blame sorcery.

Fr Santino fell on the mud in Bamio village. We were all scared since he is not that young anymore. But we were able to reach Kamusi on the night. We travelled five hours with the dinghy on the Fly River to Panakawa, the site of the RH timber processing plant and five hours on the muddy an slippery road to the interior: “Leo, is there any way for us to tell Kiunga or Port Moresby that we are in Kamusi?”, Fr Santino asked before taking rest. “I am sorry, padre. We are in the middle of the jungle, we have generator but no network coverage, no newspaper, no television, no internet”. He shook his head and went to bed. His presence meant a lot to me. He was the first General Superior of the Monfort Congregation to reach the most neglected place in the Western province.

You are right, Father. In Western province we have huge social issues related to mining and environment, health and education. How can I bring them to the national attention? And what can I do when workers are not properly paid? Please, advise me on reporting and accurate information.

Fr. Leo Kartika and local people pray around the new dinghy donated by the Catholic Health Services in Kamusi, Western province on 7 May 2014