IS HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF UNDER PNC LED GOVERNMENT?

by BRYAN KRAMER

I came across an article and research paper by Dr Bill Standish Consultant, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group published back 1999. I've pasted a number of extracts from the article that interestingly enough are very much relevant today.

CRISIS OF GOVERNMENT: THE SKATE ERA

The Skate Government attracted international attention after its most senior ministers were videotaped discussing bribery and thuggery; and other personal scandals shocked the PNG community.

Catholic bishops warned of popular revolt against declining levels of government services and increasing social misery and crime.

It appeared that the independence of the Central Bank and the Judiciary had been seriously compromised.

Having pushed through his harsh yet partly unfunded 1999 Budget, on 4 December 1998 Mr Skate used his numbers to adjourn PNG's National Parliament for over seven months. The effect of this was to delay by five months a motion of no-confidence which the Opposition had predicted for early 1999.

The Parliament had lost its capacity to effectively check the Executive, and was adjourned for seven months until July 1999. By June the Government was close to bankruptcy, with international banks unwilling to lend to Papua New Guinea because of its loss of fiscal control.

The Skate Government started imploding in June, with key supporters abandoning Mr Skate and exposing the dysfunctional operations of the Cabinet. The Speaker, John Pundari, complained of politicians interfering with administrative processes and police investigations; of the lack of ethics in the manipulation of political parties and the hiring and firing of ministers and public officials; of the total disregard for democratic conventions; and the serious deterioration in PNG's international image adversely affecting investor confidence. Like other national leaders, PNG academics and writers of letters to the editor.

Mr Skate resigned, apparently hoping to control the next government to emerge, and the country's MPs engaged in a prolonged round of political 'horse-trading' as rival leaders sought to create majority coalitions. After 'yo-yo-ing' from Government to Opposition, and back, twice, Mr Pundari and his group helped to create a solid majority in the Parliament for Sir Mekere Morauta. The Constitution held, the soldiers stayed in their barracks, and PNG's people are proud of the peaceful and democratic transition.

The Morauta Government was welcomed by the Australian Government and greeted with relief by the international business community. It removed several tainted officials, reaffirmed ties with China and introduced a mini-budget which cuts 'development' spending. Yet PNG still faces balance of payments difficulties and a fiscal crisis. After a small initial grant from Australia to help tide it over, PNG will need considerable loan funding from the international financial community to stabilise its economy. However, underlying PNG's economic management problems there are major challenges of uneven development and underdevelopment, with limited employment creation for a rapidly rising population.

Papua New Guinean politicians and commentators have generalised their country's problems over the last several years as problems of governance. The country's political system has evolved in quite dysfunctional ways including the wide spread of 'money politics', which reduces governmental capacity and undermines the power of parliament and the stability of cabinets to the extent that constitutional reform is again an issue.

For most of the last two decades Papua New Guineans have expressed concern at the state of their nation. This starts with the occasional habit of governments to make unappropriated large-scale expenditure. Corruption by politicians has been demonstrated often in Leadership Tribunals, causing twenty parliamentarians to lose their seats. Imprisonment has not prevented MPs returning to the ministry. For years, there has been public outcry at the steady and now rapid decline in government capacity and services throughout much of the country. In rural areas, public anger and frustration have gone beyond local disputes and inter-clan or tribal fighting to vandalism against government buildings. One aspect of the state's response has been violence against citizens by police attempting to gain 'respect'. Perceived and actual levels of crime and violence are rising, especially armed robberies and rape, which over many years have provoked huge public demonstrations usually led by women and church people.

In the 1990s public despair about politics has prompted many ordinary people and leaders to join Christian revivalist movements. Anguished rhetoric about corruption has dominated elections since 1987. In late 1996 the then Governor-General, Sir Wiwa Korowi, led several prominent political figures in the Brukim Skru (kneel down for forgiveness) campaign which prayed that a clean government would emerge in the 1997 election. Near Parliament House a huge billboard proclaims the Proverb 'When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule the people suffer. Nowadays that sign is rather weather-beaten, and public discourse more mundane with its concentration on governance.

After considering the issues raised in the article written in 1999 perhaps history is repeating itself under PNC Government. To highlight the issues back then that are very much reoccurring today;

-Corruption scandals shocking PNG community. (Paraka Scandal)
- Corruption by politicians has been demonstrated often in Leadership Tribunals
- Politicians interfering with administrative processes and police investigations
- Unappropriated large-scale expenditure
- Underfunded Budget
- Government close to Bankruptcy
- International banks unwilling to lend to PNG because of its loss of fiscal control.
-PNG Government still faces balance of payments difficulties and a fiscal crisis
- Manipulation of political parties and the hiring and firing of ministers and public officials;
- Total disregard for democratic conventions
- Deliberate delay in motion of no-confidence
- Deterioration in PNG's international image adversely affecting investor confidence
- Increasing social misery and crime
- Violence against citizens by police
- Public despair about politics has prompted many ordinary people and leaders to join Christian revivalist movements (King James Bible)