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Cannibalism comments ‘just banter’

Friday 24 July 2015 | Published in Regional


PORT MORESBY – A Papua New Guinea government minister who told parliament its national rugby league squad was ready to “hunt down, kill and eat” Australian players has released a statement saying it was all just light humoured “banter about sport”.

He has also hit back at the ABC’s “sensational” coverage of his comments, saying there should be no suggestion of hypocrisy in regards to a New Zealand weightlifter who was unable to compete at the Pacific Games after making “Cannibal” comments on Twitter.

“My comments in parliament were in jest – light humour about sport – and anyone listening would have heard the context in which I spoke which is common in sporting banter,” said State Enterprise Minister Ben Micah in a statement.

The statement also said coverage of Micah’s parliamentary comments by the ABC failed to take the sporting context into consideration, and was sensationalising his comment regarding the Australian Kangaroos rugby league team.

Micah’s statement ended with more humorous banter: “I am a vegetarian anyway, so the ABC can relax,” it said.

Reports by the ABC quoted Micah in parliament saying the Pacific Games – held in Port Moresby this month – proved the country could compete on the world stage after the PNG rugby nines squad took the gold medal at the Pacific Games in fine style.

“I think Australia and New Zealand can look level at us and not laugh at us anymore,” Micah told parliament. “I predict, Mr Speaker, our Kumuls are going to beat the Kangaroos.

“We are going to hunt them down, we’ll kill them and we’ll eat them.”

Micah’s comments to parliament came weeks after New Zealand weightlifter Douglas Sekone-Fraser withdrew from the Pacific Games after posting two photos on Instagram referring to locals as “cannibals”.

In his statement, Micah said any suggestions of hypocrisy on behalf of the PNG government would not hold.

“What the ABC does not know, because they don’t check facts or seek for balance, is that there is more to that story.

“When that young New Zealander made comments in jest, and was being removed by his team from the country, Prime Minister O’Neill intervened and tried to prevent him from being kicked out.

“The Prime Minister’s Office contacted the New Zealand games team and said the prime minister has accepted his apology. The prime minister’s view was that he did not think a flippant comment, that was out of context and unfortunate, should end the young fellow’s Pacific Games dream.”

“So to the ABC I ask you to stop taking cheap shots and suggesting hypocrisy if you are serious about covering news in Papua New Guinea,” Micah said.

Micah further quipped “I am a vegetarian anyway so the ABC can relax!”

New Zealand Olympic Committee spokeswoman Ashley Abbott said they took Sekone-Fraser’s “inappropriate comments” seriously.

“We took it very seriously. We’ve formally and unreservedly apologised to the host nation and other competitors at the Pacific Games,” she said.

The weightlifter returned home and did not compete in his 85kg division event.

Rugby league is PNG’s national sport. They enter a team in the Queensland Cup while NRL players feature in an annual match between Australia’s Prime Minister’s XIII and the PNG national team each year in Port Moresby in front of a packed house.

Such is the passion rugby league generates, police have called for live coverage of State of Origin matches to cease at it leads to increased violence and even killings.

The Kumuls failed to make it out of their pool at the 2013 World Cup in England but are expected to host at least one pool game during the 2016 World Cup.

PNG have lost all 10 Tests against Australia and have defeated New Zealand only once – a 24-22 victory in 1986 in Port Moresby – in 17 attempts.