Hausmari’s Haus

Our hausmari (this is Pidgin English for “maid”) is asking for cash so she doesn’t end up homeless. She has five kids that all live in the house too. She wants about 500 kina. This is about 240 dollars, and several weeks advance of her wages.

Basically the story is that her “bad boy” (loser) brother has sold her house out from under her, to a rather scary gang of Highlanders, for 5000 kina. This is about 2400 dollars, right?

It is the family home and is jointly owned by herself, her brother and her sister. So, her brother had no legal right to sell the house without approval from all three people, but the people he sold it to did not know this, and probably didn’t care.They gave the brother his 5000 kina and then they came around telling the rest of the family to clear out.

Our hausmari and her sister have now been able to prove that the sale was illegal, but in the meantime the “bad boy” (loser) brother has spent 2000 kina on alcohol in the last two weeks, and is claiming that this was his share of the house. The Highlander is owed 2000 kina (he got back the other 3000) and our housemari is expected to pay this, effectively buying her brother out of his share of the property.

I am just about to go and give her the cash, but we really had to talk it over. We were concerned that if we gave her any money, the brother will just wait a month or so and then try the same trick again, “selling” the house to another person and relying on his sister’s white employees to front up the cash to rebuy the house, again. Effectively he could be trying to milk us through her, without ever coming anwyhere near us.

There doesn’t seem to be any real system of title deeds here at all. People can just go around saying they own stuff and selling it to other people. The only thing our housemari can do is go and get a statutory declaration saying she owns the house – but then, the brother can do this too. In fact I think you can pretty much buy statutory declarations saying whatever you like, if you cough up a decent bribe.

Louise is in the middle of a rather nasty trial and leaves for POM tomorrow. I am staying here for the kids’ independence day celebrations at the school (Wed) and then flying to POM on Thur. It’s going to be good to be on “holiday” but strange as well because things have only just started to settle down to a pattern of normal life here in Lae. For example, we finally have the internet on properly. I arced up over phone and e-mail to quite a few people, and all of a sudden it all happened very quickly.

Steve.

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