Tragedy depicted in a new & hopeful light
Does democracy exist in Papua New Guinea?

Back to that old accustomed, familiar grind

After a sojourn abroad, PAUL OATES returns to his desk to look at the state of the PNG body politic a month after he last took its temperature

"I was once thrown out of an antique shop," British comedian Ronny Corbett claimed. "I walked in and asked "What's new?"

They say; 'travel broadens the mind', but in my experience it may also broaden the midriff. Just back from overseas and trying to cope with the jetlag, I downloaded my digipics and switched on the computer.

Opening PNG Attitude to see what's happening up north, I skimmed through the latest reports.

Somare suspends PNG Parliament (again), Opposition moves for a vote on no confidence is again thwarted. Somare threatens to kill Sam Basil outside the Parliament (PNG politics can be so very subtle).

Somare visits his old Fijian mate Bainimarama and maintains it's all in the interests of Melanesian brotherhood. Somare Jnr promoted and refuses to stand down when he is under investigation.

People on both sides of the Torres Strait are still railing against the lack of democracy and accountability.

"Ho hum," I thought. What's new!


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Andy McNabb

Paul, I agree. The pork barreling in Oz does produce a sports field here, a community centre there. At least a hard product is provided.

The punters in PNG has been disenfranchised from their government, and there seems to be little chance of getting it back at the moment.

But we must not give up hope.

Paul Oates

Too right, Andy. Unfortunately it's the PNG people who are actually paying the price for not being able to get rid of their corrupt government.

You're also right about the pork barrelling in Oz, but at least that may help some contractors and provide income to more than just the elite.

Government payments can and are audited and that's always a useful deterrent. We've had a few notable cases here in banana bending country where local pollies have been caught stepping over the line and ended up being charged and convicted.

This is not the case in PNG where millions of government kina just disappear into thin air, or is it overseas bank accounts and property?

Andy McNabb

I am sure everyone knows that the PNG government pays. It pays for loyalty, it pays for action, it pays for inaction, it pays for mind changing, it pays for not changing one's mind, it pays for everything.

It uses public funds to make the payments, in a similar fashion to political parties in Australia pork-barrelling support in marginal seats.

And if the payee is on poor pay and can salt away a few million here and there with impunity, there is little wonder that it happens.

Trevor Freestone.

I'm not suggesting for one moment that Somare use the military.

Rather that the military take action to remove him and his wealthy cronies and then conduct and supervise fair elections.

Still, if all the army has its generals handsomely paid by Somare, then this would never work.

Paul Oates

Hi Trevor - Given Somare's ability to effectively govern without Parliament, why should he worry about a military coup or employ the military, such as it is (top heavy in generals and no troops), to keep himself in power?

The PNG police have just been rewarded for doing nothing about innumerable complaints and clearly they have always been a bulwark against the PNG military anyway.

One wonders what Ted Diro is thinking these days?

Trevor Freestone.

Somare's recent visit to Fiji where he showed his support for Bainimarama makes me wonder if he would support a military coup in PNG. Maybe that's what has got to happen if the country has any future.

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