FROM NATION BUILDERS TO ‘THUGS AND DESTROYERS’
Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill’s decision to officially visit Wewak, East Sepik province, three days before Independence Day must be applauded and well accepted. Further to PM’s major project announcements and launchings in Wewak Thursday – Sep 13 – projects worth nearly K500 million, the visit itself goes to show the appreciation of the Prime Minister, his ruling Peoples National Congress (PNC) party and the coalition Government as well as the 8 million people of Papua New Guinea of East Sepik’s contributions to our nationhood 43 years on.
As a Sepik myself, I say thank you, Prime Minister and PNG…happy 43rd Anniversary celebrations! I am sure Prime Minister O’Neill and the Grand Chief would have shared some wonderful moments together in Wewak and reminisced from discussions.
It was East Sepik regional Member, then Michael Thomas Somare (now Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare - 1968-2017) on 16th September, 1975 that led this infant nation into Independence from colonial Australia as the country’s first Chief Minister. He took over from Frank Martin in 1968 and never left the seat for 49 years, cracking yet another Commonwealth history.
When Paul Bengo (from Keram in Angoram), one of Sepik’s best brains and advisors to Michael Thomas Somare then approached him to say …Sir, you want to get Independence, but you don’t have enough ‘save man’ to help you run this country”, Sir Michael replied quickly; “that’s why I want Kanakas like you to go to school”.
Other East Sepik leading brains the likes of Yauieb, Nindim, Narokobi (all from Wautogig village in Dagua), among others were Somare’s best band of ‘lieutenants’ then. Their ultimate loyalty and distinguished services to the Chief Minister cannot be overstated during these formative days. Bernard Narokobi, then a young law graduate from Sydney University, Australia was asked to assist the Constitutional Planning Committee (CPC) to put together the ‘home grown’ National Constitution. These are but East Sepik’s greatest contributions to nation building at a time we needed it. Thank you tru, yupela all bikpela! You had made East Sepik proud of our contributions.
The founding fathers and their band of dedicated and loyal lieutenants (public servants) at that time had worked so hard to put together a National Constitution and importantly the Institutions of State – the statecraft built - so we can fully operate as a country.
Today, everything was taken for granted. We have created a band of thugs and destroyers who are taking down State institutions one by one for greed and money. Corruption is rampant, it is systematic and systemic. One cannot walk out of Finance or Treasury today with a cheque without a string attached, 10 % of your hard earnings must first be paid to the crooks before the cheque is run. This practice includes DSIP cheques. It is a ‘comfort zone’ why should even the Department Secretary tok aut na tok stret!
No police man will show interest in attending to your complaint at any police station without you paying him first. Otherwise, ‘em kar nogat fuel’.
Chinese are everywhere nationwide trading their cheap low quality merchandises. They are found in Inauabui village in Mekeo and along the Hiritano highway to Kerema, they are at residential areas in metropolis Port Moresby trading 24/7, Myanmar’s Bismillah has bought off Gerehu business centre, all with ok from the City Hall.
The wrecking started 20 years after Independence. If the trend continues into the next 20 years, we will have no more country left only the Chinese, Myanmar, Indians and their favourite ‘band of thugs and destroyers’ will be left standing while the rest perish.
We have deviated completely from the National Goals and Directive Principles, like a ship cut from the line and afloat into the bleak vast ocean. The captain can see but cannot feel that this is happening.
Only Port Moresby is continuously getting facelifts – some K4 billion of our commonwealth would have been spent within a space of 24 months on a ‘service centre’ that has no direct link to poverty reduction at ‘production centres’ where our villages who house land and labour, two core ingredients of economic production, are located.
Israel is taking over all major commercial agro-businesses, logging clearance through Mossad’s SGS operation, National Intelligence Organization (NIO) through DIGNIA – Israel’s military business arm, we are now a country without intelligence, all our files are in Tel Aviv where killing of Palestinians by Israel military is ongoing without the world saying a thing.
Sarawak, just one province of Malaysia is continuously ‘stealing’ our logs and dominating almost all major business investments here in PNG including Stanley Hotel, Vision City and yet we just cannot stop going there to give more money to them.
Our children between the ages of 8 and 25 years are smoking, drinking home brew, forming cult groups and fighting each other at schools, watching pornography and making unplanned babies at will, as if nothing is wrong or happening. Just what kind of next generation are we nurturing here?
In the Government planning level, politicians continuously boast of new roads, new schools and new health centres being built. Billions of kina were invested in infrastructure development. But nothing is invested in Physical Quality of Life (PQL) development at rural level.
In the development context, a new road in itself is not necessarily a means to better life, so is a physical building earmarked for either health or educational services. These physical structures are good as dead if human value (people) is absent in the equation.
A lonely uninhabited new district office in remote Tapini, Goilala, in Central province is a classic example. More in the news have been reports of new classrooms and health centres set alight by acts of arson or new bridges destroyed in tribal fights.
This is happening and will continue to happen as consideration for human value remains undermined and suppressed in the name of development.
Despite a K4 billion investment in municipal road development in Port Moresby, thousands of settlers in metropolis June Valley along the new Chinese built 4-lane Koura Way highway connecting Waigani-Tokarara-Hohola-Konedobu-Downtown suffer silently from ‘no water supply’. When government forgets about people, people help themselves in such situation with illegal water connections. Anti-social activities are sometimes induced by the system itself upon its subjects.
Imagine an investment of the said amount is placed in improving PQL of every household in every villages in PNG. Imagine if we had started this scheme 43 years ago. Imagine a country we would have become today.
Why such an investment ask for PQL development is impossible? We are currently spending billions and billions of kina in infrastructure development but has life changed in our rural communities? We must change the development model, it didn’t work.
What a village child eats before attending class every day matters, not the luxury classroom built at inflated cost. Ensuring that the child’s household is self-reliant (National Goals and Directive Principles) in providing a daily balance dietary, lives under a suitable shelter, has access to clean running water, access to electricity, access to public transport, means of income, mental, social and spiritual harmony, supply of NARI sanctioned animals to raise for protein and drought and disease tolerant crops to grow for both domestic consumption and sale at fresh food markets is the envy of the Basic Need Approach and PQL growth pathway.
PQL growth involves a natural process usually in stages, nourished with application of correct and timely inputs. There could be impediments but once these constraints were removed, the process would continue and ultimately reap the aspired benefits. PQL growth is a slow process, not a fast lane to please UN, APEC, Australia, USA or anybody.
PNG’s approach to Development on the other hand is typical of Western developmental thinking. It is approached essentially as a question of increasing gross levels of savings and investment both internal and external, private and State, until the economy reaches a take-off point into self-sustaining development. It is a ‘rush’ approach. No wonder it didn’t work. Poverty has risen two fold in the last 20 years. Around AUD $250 million or more in ‘stolen’ money find its way out to foreign destinations. PNG’s private property market in neighbouring Australia has doubled in the last 10 years.
This fast lane approach did not work. Facts speak for themselves; United Nation’s rating of PNG in the past 37 years in terms of delivery of basic goods and services in areas of infrastructure, health and education services among other world nations:
• 1975 PNG ranked 77th;
• 2004 PNG dropped to 139th place;
• 2008 PNG plummeted to 149th placing; and in
• 2012 PNG further plummeted to 156th placing in the world.
This is stunning. In 37 years we were passed by 79 countries. From 2012 – 2018, past six years, our performance made little difference on the development index. We failed in all facets in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. We failed in meeting the envisaged targets in the Vision 2050 while our Medium Term Development Strategy stands only as a resemblance of our discursive nature of ‘many policies, little results’ nation. We have become a nation where ‘people ain’t breaking the law, it’s the law breaking them’.
Away from the conventional practice of measuring development and economic growth based on GNP and GDP indexes, we should consider the Basic Need Approach where we measure presence or absence of minimum basic human requirements for life as well as services; food, safe drinking water, suitable shelter, clothing, basic household equipment and essential services such as sanitation, public transport, health and education facilities.
GNP is an aggregate number based on an average wealth of a nation comprising total value of the nation’s annual output of goods and services usually presented in Per Capital numbers which are often misleading.
During the 43 years journey, we have written many laws, repealed and amended many, designed many more new ones but hell little was achieved at the end. We spent millions in hosting many workshops, meetings and forums in high places and attended thousands of international conferences, talk shows and road shows but failed to convert these experiences into tangible PQL results in our people. The pendulum is swinging between Absolute Poverty and Relative Poverty 43 years on.
We are liberal in our political design pronouncing our allegiance to individual liberty, free trade and moderate reform but liberalism has created more self-style millionaires out of our commonwealth over 20 years. Annually, around AUD $250 million in ‘stolen’ money find its way out to foreign destinations. It is inevitable that the gap between the ‘have’ and the ‘have not’ is widening and yet nothing is said or seen to be done to address it. Dangerous!
All of us who inhabit the land share in the common fact that our very existence depends on the shared availability of our commonwealth. But this ought not to be as the economy has been engineered only to create an illusion that it is creating wealth and sharing the wealth. In fact, it is not but concentrating on the declining pool of wealth into fewer and fewer hands who control power, money and the elite class.
Liberalism has created a polycentric oligarchic system in the guise of democracy. The existing majoritarian regime engenders the top 5% who control power, money and decision making to further harness their course with little regard to fellow citizens.
Over the past 20 years, we have created a selfish and greedy country where every man is for himself. As if a person would say ‘if I had an opportunity to steal a million, I will for me, my wife and kids, forget about the rest’. PNG has become a fat milking cow, an ATM machine where anyone – national or foreigner – with a debit card can swipe to withdraw cash at will.
We depend on the elite ‘think tank’ to intervene but only to find them encumbered in their ‘comfort zones’ leaving no one to blow the whistle and action to save PNG.
Individual liberty has created self-style mannerists who can at will; smoke at public places and in PMVs, chew and spittle betelnut anywhere everywhere, drink alcohol and play music to late night, carry one metre bush knives and using it on others, throw rubbish anywhere everywhere, using and abusing law to encroach on other persons property and land, with little regard to health and individual liberty of others around them. What blend of generation are we having in stock to lead in the next 40?
Free trade has cost us big time in 43 years yet we failed to notice. Even if we noticed it and trying to un-tag, global capitalism has already taken its prowess and grip on us and on every emerging economy like devil’s own ramification on earth.
Capitalism, in the form of all transnational corporations, has monopolized the production of manufactured goods using high tech machinery and equipment, commerce and marketing, banking, information and mass media. It is maintained that they use not only their enormous economic but also corruption and unfair or immoral practices to eliminate competition and preserve their dominance.
Third world countries like Papua New Guinea are therefore forcefully made dependent on developed countries for capital, technology and markets. These rich countries using WTO as shield set interest rates, terms of trade, the tariffs and import barriers generally, through their economic power and drain off surpluses in the poor countries. In the making, the world is polarized into the rich and powerful ‘haves’ and the poor and dependent ‘have-nots’.
They have defined the New World Order as a vehicle for multinational consolidation of commercial and banking interest by ceasing interests of the political governments. It represents a skilful coordinated effort to seize control and consolidate the four (4) centres of power; political, monetary, intellect, and ecclesiastical.
Opponents of the WTO say that negotiations conducted without public scrutiny end up benefiting wealthy nations. They say the organization infringes on the sovereignty of member states and trade deals don't consider the impact on the environment. Developing countries, which often have uncompetitive industries that rely on government support, can be hurt by opening up to global trade as their companies struggle against more efficient foreign rivals. Many economists view this dislocation as a temporary setback that reverses developing countries like PNG into global control using tough competition.
Our export commodities are organic and among the best. Despite this, we do not price it, they price it. Prices are subject to world market trend which is controlled by international banking elites who control WTO.
APEC is no different. Except that it houses trade and development interests of member countries in the Asia Pacific region of which PNG is a member. In the coming APEC Leaders’ Summit in November, it is an opportune time for PNG to voice its concerns.
Trade meetings like the APEC and WTO are avenues where emerging trade-dependent economies must take advantage. On priority, agenda must be unfair pricing, high tariffs, among others.
When our gold, copper, oil, gas, timber, fishery, and other such resources are traded and not getting real value for the money, it results in lack of capital to service its debts and fund operations of the budget. Due to increasing population pressure every year, demand for goods and services increase also every year so the Government is forced to borrow to meet the deficit gap. Each time money is borrowed, a second borrowing follows to service the first, the third to service the second, the fourth to service the third, and so on so forth until PNG enters a “debt trap”.
Remember, loans are acquired on the basis of collaterals or security meaning the Government commits our mines, gas fields, and other investments as collaterals when picking loans. Basing on the Singaporean Government’s Temasek model, State silo companies were consolidated into Kumul Petroleum Ltd, Kumul Mineral Ltd, and the Kumul Consolidated Holdings Ltd which comprises some 10 other State enterprises including Air Niugini, Water PNG, PNG Ports, Post PNG, Telikom PNG, and others and together amass around a K50 billion balance sheet, such assets are used against loans.
With too much confusion caused by a continuous deluge of ‘foreign advice and influences’, our national performance output has been mediocre.
What is needed now is to admit, accept and sacrifice for changes in the entire statecraft or our children will curse us for our inaction today. Our political model is wrong in that liberal democracy be replaced with social democracy with strong view to adopting a tribal base appointment system rather than an election system, our court system is cumbersome and jolted with much unnecessary law of the white man, our development model and foreign investment policy is a deceit, our land tenure system is a thievery designed to steal land from customary landowners, our education system is a joke, our censorship laws are puppets to foreign influences (too much NRL for example), and other such aversive systems in the statecraft.
Think big, do not just celebrate Independence. Celebrate for what?
Photo 1: An abandoned tea factory in Garaina, Wau Bulolo district, Morobe province as seen on 16th Sep, 2018. Pic by CYRIL GARE.
Photo 2. Author taking a smoke break at Garaina primary school grounds. This school was built in 1952 and had since produced some of the Waria Valley's elites but had been neglected over time. Pic by Gideon Kore Koito.