A Papua New Guinea MP has stirred up controversy after suggesting that the PNG national rugby league team would “hunt down, kill and eat” their Australian rivals at the Pacific Games! The incident was met with disapproval in Australia, where the national broadcaster amplified the MP’s comments.
PNG state enterprise minister, Ben Micah, was addressing parliament when he began to discuss the country’s performance at the Pacific Games, an event designed to foster regional cooperation and harmony.
“I think Australia and New Zealand can look level at us and not laugh at us anymore,” Mr. Micah mused. “[In future] 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.”
The comments came hot on the heels of a scandal involving New Zealand weightlifter Douglas Sekone-Fraser. Mr. Sekone-Fraser had made two posts on social media using the hashtag ‘#cannibals’. The resulting furore over the insensitive posts led to Mr. Sekone-Fraser’s withdrawal from competition. But were the minister’s parliamentary comments a response to clearly prejudicial stereotypes?
In a media statement, Mr. Micah sought to distance himself from that interpretation of events. “The comments 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,” he explained. “I am a vegetarian anyway, so the ABC can relax.”
Addressing claims that his comments were a thinly veiled response to regional racism, Mr. Micah dismissed the young competitor’s comments as having also been made ‘in jest’.
“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,” he said. “The Prime Minister’s Office contacted the New Zealand games team and said the prime minister accepts 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.”
It’s also worth noting that PNG’s renowned rugby team did indeed take out the top honours at the recently concluded event.
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