WHAT KIND OF LEADERSHIP DOES PNG WANT?

By Awayang Namorong
Many Allan Bird and Brian Kramer fans have been downplaying recent comparisons between the two MPs over their interaction with the PM.
But the reality is that the comparison is relevant to current and future political discourse. It is not about who is right or wrong but the kind of leadership PNG should have.
Papua New Guinea has taken Western Liberal Democracy and bastardized into a Western-Melanesian hybrid model. Our institutions are not truly western but function with a bit of Melanesian flavour.
Allan Bird's actions reflect this reality. Indeed in he's response to public comments, he talked about meeting his enemies like his ancestors and then figuratively standing in Parliament with a spear.
Bird's actions can be understood by every Tom, Dick and Harry in every village in Papua New Guinea. Leaders in most communities hold an almost god-like status such that most often communities rarely hold them accountable. Most Papua New Guineans tend to give undue respect to their "lida man". For Bird to show hospitality to the highest "lida man" in PNG is to reflect this traditional view of treating a leader that is held by most citizens.
Connected to this is our people's perception of development. We've never traditionally built Cathedrals that last 300 years nor permanent settlements that last 2000 years. We have practised what Bird has previously described as "slash and burn" development where we tend to let our houses rot and we build new ones. And so our people have a tendency to look forward to openings of new roads and buildings while the existing ones deteriorate.
Every politician knows this that is why they prefer groundbreaking and opening ceremonies that attract crowds. No crowd will ever turn up to witness delivery of medicines or school materials.
Kramer's politics on the hand is how western liberal democracy works.
Kramer is not afraid of offending the "lida man". This happens alot in the west where freedom of speech and expression are valued and protected. This ensures greater accountability of leadership.
This is something most Papua New Guineans wouldnt do. In fact, part of the reason we are known for beating around the bush is because we cannot directly attack an individual.
Kramer has been also very transparent about the dealings in the "hausman" (Parliament). This sort of openness reflects western democratic values of an open society.
Papua New Guinean hausman however have tended to be more discrete about their discussions and activities.
Kramer is concerned about building democratic institutions. Weak public institutions create a haven for corruption and wastage of national resources. Most Papua New Guineans on the other hand are dreaming of building "rot i go lo ples".
Kramer's leadership style is the ideal western democratic version which most Papua New Guineans still need to fully understand.
Bird's leadership style is the pragmatic Western-Melanesian hybrid that most Papua New Guineans understand - we respect our leaders for better or for worse.
Understanding the perceptions our people have about leadership and development is very important. One has to be very Machiavellian when dealing with PNG's electors and the elected.
O'Neill has perfected this and that is reflected in his actions and his use of words. That is why he is in power and everyone else isn't.
The question for all Papua New Guineans then is, do we progress with an ideal democracy value that Kramer shows is possible or do we stay in our comfort zone with the political hybrid?
The challenge for Kramer also is for him to articulate his political philosophy to the masses. Something he is starting to do with public forums. Kramer also needs to strike a balance between pursuing purely western liberal democratic values and reflecting the Melanesian hybrid if he wants to be running this country.
His colleague Allan Bird on the other hand may be on to something. If I were O'Neill I'd consider Bird a greater threat than Kramer.

No comments

Please free to leave comments.