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HOW PNG TURNED INTO A DICTATORSHIP IN 4 SHORT YEARS


by NIUGINI OUTLOOK


THE MOST SOPHISTICATED LEADERS INTENT ON GRABBING ABSOLUTE POWER IN A COUNTRY AREN'T SO STUPID AS TO TRY IT IN ONE STEP OR A SUDDEN COUPE.


 


That strategy is very risky and it only gives one chance to get things right More likely to succeed is a slow step by step process on multiple fronts that slowly closes off normal democratic checks and balances. Thats the whole framework of what makes a democracy work - the legal mechanisms that keep a leader from grabbing too much power while promoting the spread of power across different sections of government and across many individuals. 

Peter O'Neill is a brilliant tactician who has virtually completed pulling the wool over the eyes of most people of PNG. The only challenge remaining is to secure the 2017 election in PNC's overwhelming favour, whether honestly or dishonestly, so that he can proclaim that he has a mandate from the people to rule with absolute power. Following that, he can declare a state of emergency or simply rule like Robert Mugabe has done for more than 30 years in Zimbabwe. That is, keep the check and balance framwork of a democracy intact so that he can continue to proclaim that PNG is a vibrant democracy, while keeping the mechanisms within that framework paralysed and thus imposing no threat on the Prime Minister's absolute power. 

The accompanying poster covers the variety of different areas in which our Prime Minister and his cronies have slowly dismantled the PNG democracy, step by step. It is impossible to call anyplace a "vibrant democracy" where people are afraid to post cut-throating commentary against the government on the social media, as you'll find in all the industrialised democracies of the world. You can't call it a "vibrant democracy" when the government will not issue a single permit to allow a nonviolent march against the government to take place. The great democracies in the world allow those kinds of marches, sometimes even without a permit, and use police presence not to stop the marchers but to prevent opportunists from turning the protest into a violent one. Sometimes the police succeed, sometimes they don't, but certainly they don't use "it might get violent" as an excuse to prevent marches against the government. 

Peter O'Neill cannot call PNG a "vibrant democracy" when our judicial and investigative parts of government show themselves starved of money to investigate, hopelessly paralysed by lack of judges, overwhelming court case lines, and other obstructions of investigating alleged crimes and prosecuting them to completion within a reasonable amount of time. Judicial paralysis does not a democracy make, and our Prime Minister has shown briliance throughout his professional years in tying up multiple cases against him in court to the point they nearly die of asphyxiation.

It is impossible to have a "vibrant democracy" where not only the people, but also the media are so quiet and so ineffective in organising and effectively pressuring for change in government policy. Our PNG newspapers are identical to what you would see in a dictatorship today. Any criticism they give of the government is designed to stay away from pointing fingers at the top. The criticism is mild and not at all threatening to the power of the government. 

Dictatorships, not democracies, are characterised by a legislative branch that is so totally controlled by the government in power that there is no meaningful debate over legislation introduced for passage, and in a parliamentary system, no threat at all that a Vote of No Confidence would succeed. Only people who have never lived in a democracy could look at the way PNG's parliament functions under Peter O'Neill and think it is symbolic of a working democracy. PNG's Parliament is moving towards a 1 party system where any remaining opposition is too small to mount and effective voice of opposition. The successful attempts at parliamentary maneuvering that occurred in 2015 and 2016 to stop a Vote of No Confidence from being even entertained for voting would never be attempted in a "vibrant democracy". 

For a government to lay out a plan in 2013 of about 10 areas of focus for government action and not include fighting corruption as one of those priorities is extraordinary in a country that is now know for more than a decade as being one of the most corrupt nations in the world. It indicates a purposeful attempt of the government to close it's eyes to corruption. How a nation that ranks in the top 15% of the most corrupt countries of the world could possibly get through nearly 5 years without prosecuting or convicting a single high level member in government is ample indication that something is not right. 

Finally, vibrant democracies are characterised by openness and transparency. Peter O'Neill's government became the first PNG government ever to suppress the contents of the most recent annual International Monetary Fund assessment of the PNG economy. That adds to the mountain of secrets that this government has created, all caused by a system where there are no true press conferences, where interviewers of the PM such as John Eggins and Scott Waide dare not ask sensitive questions of the Prime Minister, where government departments either don't have paid up on-line web sites full of information or the web sites contain very little in terms of their documentation. It is close to impossible to find out information on just about anything within government and these days, what should be free information has a bribery demand attached by whoever within a government department holds the information. 

PNG is no longer a functioning democracy. The Prime Minister's robotic labeling of our country as a "very vibrant democracy" is ludicrous and laughable. It shows that even though he is a world traveler, he's not a very observant one. If PNG were actually a very vibrant democracy, he would long ago have been swept from power. 

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