BY REGINALD RENAGI
A popular PNG
Attitude blogger recently raised some pertinent questions about corruption
It embarrasses many Papua New Guineans to explain why the
average politician in seems undeterred by public opinion. Unlike some
democracies, where politicians caught in misconduct cases resign or are made to
step aside step, not so in PNG.
In such cases, an implicated MP usually issues a public
denial, accuses the media of misrepresentation, and accuses local papers of
spreading false stories to discredit his reputation.
The MPs involved do not feel disgraced or compelled to
temporarily step down from office to await investigations (if any). Despite
public outrage, politicians unashamedly hold on to their jobs with the prime
minister failing to take tough action to ensure parliamentarians do the ‘right
thing’. Over the years, successive prime ministers have all failed in this
The citizenry today do not even bother about writing letters
of complaint. It is a complete waste of time. Except for a handful, most pollies
are big disappointments to their electorates. The so-called ‘big men’ simply
ignore the complainant as a trouble-maker.
As for the PNG Ombudsman Commission, it may soon be made
powerless if the government has its way. The Commission started off well. After
the 2007 elections, the new Chief Ombudsman discontinued master’s studies at a
prestigious Australian university to take up his political appointment.
He publicly reminded the pollies and senior bureaucrats
that the Commission would do its job without fear or favour and keep public
officeholders on their toes.
In recent times this earlier passion has waned somewhat as
a familiar trend repeats itself. As with most state institutions, the Commission
has limited resources with much to do to clear a huge backlog of outstanding
cases. With little capacity, the Commission has become impotent.
On the whole, the Commission has done a sterling job, but
it must do more to put away some bad politicians behind bars. To do this, it
will need the help of the Attorney-General’s office and law enforcement agencies.
If that is not bad enough, the government now plans to
pass a bill to further regulate the watchdog. This shows the government has
something to fear. If this bill is passed in parliament then PNG will
experience more gross political abuses of power.
The end state will be the Ombudsman Commission becoming a
mere paper tiger with no powers to stop crooks occupying public office.
PNG needs committed department secretaries, board
chairmen, civil society leaders and the general public to blankly tell MPs to behave.
Moreover, the country needs strong whistleblower legislation
to protect those intrepid individuals brave enough to expose graft and
corruption. Without this, PNG will
continue to suffer in future as people fear retribution from a corrupt and weak
It will take plenty of guts by good, honest people in all
walks of life. These people must declare that enough is enough and collectively
work towards improving and strengthening good governance in PNG's national
The change strategy must start from the Governor-General but
the buck stops with the PM.
too can play an important role in reforming PNG politics. Australia needs
to also get tough with PNG. Australia
is to be blamed to some degree as, over the years, it has spoilt PNG rotten
with too much aid money and no accountability.
It is time for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to diplomatically
tell PNG political leaders to be more accountable for the billions spent in
development aid. This is a good time for Australia to pave the way for a new
political order in the Pacific.
cannot rest on past laurels but be absolutely honest with the Somare government.
It is time to systematically reduce AUSAid funding so PNG is forced to plan
better and start living within its own means without being over-dependent on Australia.
This is one foreign policy strategy to ensure the PNG
government works towards improving the quality of life of all Papua New
Guineans and not just enrich a few political elites who are bleeding the
In recent times, AUSAid has become a quasi-PNG government,
freeing politicians to promote pork-barreling of local projects using resources
in a mostly unplanned and unbudgeted way.
There has been much lip-service paid over the years the
aid program as an effective development tool, but the outcome has always been
unsatisfactory. Today, PNG desperately needs more trade with Australia, not more aid.
Overall, though, the whole political mess needs to be
cleaned up by the Somare government. The Prime Minister must not shirk his leadership
responsibility. It is not impossible for him to clean up his act now before he
exits the political scene as he has the numbers in parliament to ensure his
government is highly responsive to meet the people’s needs.