PNG Speaker removes images from Parliament as "ungodly" | Pacific Beat

PNG Speaker removes images from Parliament as "ungodly"

PNG Speaker removes images from Parliament as "ungodly"

Updated 6 December 2013, 20:37 AEDT

Carved heads on the lintel of Papua New Guinea;s National Parliament representing the country's different cultures have been removed and badly damaged by the Speaker, Theo Zurenoc.

He reportedly regards them as ungodly images and idols. Dr Andrew Motu, Director of the PNG National Museum says the Speaker is being influenced by a group of Christian pastors, and describes the act as vindictive, and possibly illegal.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Dr Andrew Motu, Director of the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery

MOTU: They wanted to remove certain cultural decorations, that adorn various parts of the parliament, including the linton and totem poles inside the State Hall. They believe that these things fitted with a pagan Asian and a mystic background, religious background and therefore are considered evil and ungodly and therefore they want to sort of purge and clean the House of Parliament. He has been under advice and in consultation with certain Christian pastors and has convened the Internal House Committee of the National Parliament and they have resolved to deinstall the totem pole as well as the Lenticul that adorns the facade of the National Parliament.

HILL: But they actually went a lot further than that didn't they. They've actually destroyed them?

MOTU: Yes, yes, yes. The Lenticul is severely damaged, it's cut in three pieces and badly, badly damaged, at least one piece is badly damaged and it cannot be sewn back the piece to its original state. Basically, it's a theologically inspired move, a certain Evangelical zeal if you like. They wanted to make moves to amend the Constitution, the section governing the freedom of conscience and religious belief. I think they want to ensure that no other kinds of religions in the world comes into PNG.

HILL: What are these images on the Lenticuls ?? and these totem poles. Are they as the Speaker says somehow connected with paganism and idol worship?

MOTU: Ah, no they are not connected in anyway, they are carved images, specifically carved to represent the whole of Papua New Guinea.

All the installations in there are never associated with any, any ritual belief. They're actually new ones carved in Moresby. The carvers were brought in Moresby in the period leading up to 1984 and they worked on them here and they got them quite a good number of artists were involved, British, mostly British and Papua New Guinean.

HILL: How do you as Director of the National Museum and Art Gallery feel about the action that the Speaker has taken in removing and partially destroying these artefacts?

MOTU: The Speaker's argument is faulty, and extremely weak. He relies on an extreme weak aspectology. The first problem is that he inputs a lot of causality, he attributes a lot of caussality to the power of Satan and his frontiers of spirits to influence the behaviour and basically they're attributing all these things to the fact that the economic decline, social discord and monies and so on are all an outcome of his spiritual cause and therefore they're trying to do this in order to try and purge the nation, as it were.

HILL: Are there still images there at the Parliament that are going to be removed in future?

MOTU: Three totem poles inside the State Hall. The totem poles and the lenticul are carved with images representing different faces, entomorphic faces, human faces representing people from different parts of Papua New Guinea, that's the lenticul.

The totem pole inside, three of them, they again capture different kinds of cultures in Papua New Guinea.

HILL: But if he removes the lenticul and the totem poles, might that cause a structural problem in the House of Parliament?

MOTU: There might be structural consequences. They have to find a good civil engineering firm to go and check out these things first before they do anything.

HILL: Is it legal for the Speaker of Parliament to do this?

MOTU: Ah, not to my knowledge. His reference to the House Committee's possibly an internal interpretation of how you manage domestic life of parliament.

HILL: With the images that have already been removed, what was actually done to them once they were removed?

MOTU: They were really, really desacralised. They were chopped in three pieces using a chainsaw cut and removed unceremonialiously and dumped in the garage of the parliament.

HILL: Is that where they are now?

MOTU: Initially, they wanted to give it to the Museum, but because we registered objection to it, they decided to just leave it out in the cold and someone salvaged it and took it away into his possession currently and we will get it back from him soon.

HILL: So they would rather just chop them up with chainsaws and leave them there, rather than donate them to the Museum?

MOTU: It's treating it with certain sense of approaching it with some circumstance of the vindictivness, if they are somehow responsible for, they like this images are like spiritual receptors that allow the flow of signals from Satan and to the people in the vicinity. It's quite funny, really gives you funny and it's the biggest joke we've had about Christianity so far in Papua New Guinea.

Contact the studio

Got something to say about what you're hearing on the radio right now?

Send your texts to +61 427 72 72 72

Add the hashtag #raonair to add your tweets to the conversation.

Email us your thoughts on an issue. Messages may be used on air.