The Original Corruption Fighters
Corruption entered this country and became systematic when those in power chose to abuse their positions for their personal gain. In so doing, they also perverted the laws of the land which had been designed, perhaps at a time when corruption was not endemic. Over time, it appears to have become entrenched in society.
Pacific and Asian countries are particularly vulnerable to it because of many reasons, in my view. The first is our traditional systems of reciprocity. The second is because of the traditional trust we placed in our leaders and big men. In Melanesia, there were no Chiefs, particularly in the highlands of PNG. Chiefs were found among the Polynesian and Micronesian descendants living mainly along the coastlines. Certain cultures had them of course, like the Maimai’s in New Ireland.
Irrespective of that, we as a people lived within and under the rule of law, both before and after the white man came. These laws were strict and set. Infringement carried various penalties which nowadays may seem barbaric but back then, served effectively to maintain peace and order.
The greatest test of our nation came, in my view, in 2011. That was when a legitimately elected government of this country was overthrown through a coup by rogue politicians hell-bent of seizing power on the back of public disaffection with the legitimate government. It was made easier when the head of that government was out of the country. In reality, it was a bloodless coup.
You will all recall that at the time of O’Neil and Namah seizing power from Grand Chief Somare, people throughout the nation rejoiced at the apparent change in government. There were some of us who questioned the legality of this but we were in the minority and effectively shut out.
There followed a brief and intense period when the Supreme Court declared that the change of government and ouster of GC Sir Michael Somare was unconstitutional and therefore illegal which resulted in the country being thrown into chaos. Unfortunately for the nation, that was when corruption truly came to the fore.
Huge sums of government money were thrown around to secure loyalty. And for the first time in the history of this nation, the police force became politically compromised. The illegal government realised that to stay in power they had to use physical force to impose and enforce their will. Foolishly, the people did not see this. many hailed the government for this step. Little realising the damage it was doing to the very fabric of the nation.
This was the time when it became allowable to use the police force to do anything that the politicians wanted. A police officer in key command positions was compromised and made to choose between money in their pockets or their oaths.
One of these officers is the person currently in the position of Commissioner for Police. I have always said he was the wrong person and maintain this position regardless of the fact that his appointment is now the subject of a judicial review. Without Manning, the Special Services Division of the RPNGC would most probably have maintained neutrality and this would have sunk O’Neil/Namah. But with Manning’s support, they took control of all arms of State and maintained the illegal government through to the 2012 Elections when, as many observers have stated, the elections were widely rigged to return them to parliament where they assumed legitimacy.
Of the senior police officers victimized, two of them were the then Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations Mr Fred Yakasa and Metropolitan Superintendent of NCD MR Joseph Tondop. Both have paid a heavy price for their steadfast belief in the rule of law.
They openly chose to stand up against corruption and the perversion of the law and with a small band of loyal policemen, they supported the Somare Government. Unfortunately, they did not have the numbers nor the money, only their Oaths of Office and belief in the system. Sadly that system was compromised and it turned out that many other police officers then chose money over their Oaths of Office.
In my view, these two and the men with them were the first true corruption fighters in PNG. Both have steadfastly maintained their positions to this date.
Perhaps justice will have her way in the end and the continuous perversion of the law by corrupt people in high places will one day end. Nevertheless, this period serves as an important lesson in history for this country.
We must always be ready to stand up for what is right if the actions of our leaders threaten the very fabric of what is right, fair, just and lawful. We must not take anything at face value just because a politician says it is okay. No matter how popular he or she is, they are politicians and will play the popularity card to blind us to what is actually happening. Be prepared to look beyond the words and see if they actions reflect the words. And if not, always stand up and say so.
If we are to be honest, we must say that we, the citizens of this country, allowed our nation to be brought to its knees by a group of money-grubbing, power-hungry politicians because we chose to look the other way and pretend that all was okay until we were down to eating dust while they continued to live the high life, diverting our attention with trivia while robbing us blind on the other side.
If this country is to reverse the downward spiral of destruction we are in, this government must do more than preach rhetoric. It must start to give teeth to the enforcement arms of the State. It must look back to the example of people like Yakasa and Tondop and their men who sacrificed their careers for this nation and start turning to them and other like-minded people and put them into positions where they can do the most good for this nation. Give these original corruption fighters the platforms they require to clean up the mess within the institutions of State and we will go miles.
One of the best examples of men like these is Mr Sam Koim. He is doing an outstanding job at the IRC but I suspect the government would be well and truly doing this country a great service if he was placed in charge of joint enforcement team like Task Force Sweep and given carte blanche.
To conclude, I am proud to have been a member of that original team. And now, I urge the Marape government to enact its Take Back PNG, not from some nameless and faceless foreign entities but from the brink of destruction as we are so perilously close to it. Our need for those strong and upright but silent workhorses, the original corruption fighters, to pull us back from the brink has never been greater than it is now.
Long Live PNG.