THE MALADINA BILL sought to amend the constitution and law on the duties and responsibilities of leaders.
At least for the moment, the issue will rest until it is resurrected in next month’s sitting of Parliament.
It seems the crux of the issue is really the integrity and credibility of our Members of Parliament.
I am sure there are merits to the proposed amendments, but because they come at a time when corruption is rife, the bulk of the people are very suspicious of the motives and intentions of the majority of our politicians when they touch the Ombudsman Commission.
In essence, the people have more faith and trust in the Commission than the combined wisdom of Members of Parliament.
There are two reasons why people have little faith in our politicians.
Firstly, PNG is perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
To add salt to many wounds, Papua New Guineans have watched the leaked police interview of bank robber William Kapris, naming members of Parliament who he says have aided him in his activities and with whom he claims to have shared the proceeds.
Most people probably believe the testimony of this convicted bank robber. It is another case of credibility.
As far as the public is concerned, the named Ministers should step aside and silence from the Prime Minister is deafening.
Secondly, the country has not seen any improvement in terms of law and order, infrastructure, poverty, unemployment, health and other indicators. In fact, the country has been literally falling apart. The majority view is in fact that we have gone backwards rather than progressing.
We may have experienced unprecedented economic growth these past few years, but this has not translated into improvement of peoples’ lives. We have heard MPs make announcements and peoples’ expectations have been raised, but promised projects have not materialised.
Politicians can make all kinds of flowery statements and give assurances, but what people tend to believe is what the politicians have done, not what they say they will do. Once again, it is a matter of integrity and credibility.
Given this background, we can understand why there has been nationwide outcry against the Maladina Bill. People view the Ombudsman Commission as the only protection against corruption and a defender of the peoples’ rights.
On the MPs’ side, I suspect that all the political parties resolved to vote for the amendments because they saw something good in it for them. Not one member who was present in the chamber voted against or abstained from voting. This is because as things stand at present, sitting MPs have the upper hand in the coming elections, because they will have access to public funds during the campaign.
The Opposition probably did not realise that the very act of voting for the Bill called into question their integrity. If they had not cared to read and understand a very important constitutional amendment before voting for it, it says a lot about their ability to think critically about legislative matters.
My reading of the issue is that the passage of the Bill actually relates to the 2012 General Elections. The amendments received unanimous supports because MPs saw that if the OC could be prevented from issuing directives restricting the use of the District Services Improvement Program funds during the months leading up to and including the elections, they would have the freedom to use these funds during the elections, thereby enhancing their chances of re-election.
The MPs have studied our people over the years. One thing they know is our people are very forgiving and forgetful. Members live in Moresby during the duration of their terms and return with a lot of cash once in a while or during the elections, and people readily forget their years of suffering and vote them in again. They know how money moves people to change loyalties, and how it impacts on voting at the very last minute.
Politicians also know that the peoples’ definition of a good leader is someone who goes around distributing cash. The more money someone hands out, the more respect and support he gains, and the better his chances of winning the elections. The majority of our people are not critical enough to delve into sitting MPs’ performances or candidates’ moral standards.
Mr Maladina’s explanation that people have been suffering because the OC has been preventing MPs having access to funds is a smokescreen.
When Maladina says the OC stops MPs from using money appropriated in the budget, he is essentially saying the OC is an obstacle to service delivery in the country. I don’t think educated Papua New Guineans are so naïve as to believe this.
The majority of our politicians have real problems with personal integrity and credibility. When it comes to proposing changes to the way anti-corruption agencies operate, they will always face stiff opposition, simply because the people have lost trust and confidence in them.
Too many false promises and countless instances of abuse and misappropriation have had the effect of obliterating any credibility most politicians may have had when they first entered Parliament.
* Tiri Kuimbakul is a PNG economist and columnist with the ‘Sunday Chronicle’. This is an edited version of an article first published on 16 May