Turmoil in PNG as Somare deputy defects
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Moses tok pinis: Lo! The path of redemption

With another book in the offing and a full calendar, JOHN FOWKE says this is his last essay for the year. I hope our readers will write to us and persuade the great man otherwise.

THE BLITHELY-approved-and-imposed Westminster party system has been the nursery within which the political, administrative and social dysfunction which defines PNG has developed.

Far from an enfranchisement leading to the empowerment of the people, the party-system set up by – or, more accurately, countenanced by Australia - has led to the marginalisation of the people in this once most egalitarian of societies.

It has led to the growth of a small, unstable, unscrupulous but very tenacious governing elite; divided by greed but united in its concern to expand its hegemonic hold over the affairs of the nation.

The growth of the very conditions which the Westminster system slowly eradicated in Britain is the outcome of Australia’s foolish decision to allow this system where there was no requirement for it.

How could the Australian powers of the day have been so dense? The answer lies in the strong “them-and-us” outlook manifest in the ruling clique of senior Administration officials.

We (the administrators) know and you (the private enterprise, mission and indigenous members of the old colonial Legislative Council) don’t.

It is difficult today to find any record from the time of other than superficial discussion of alternative systems.

At least one was readily to hand, in the shape of a fully-democratised version of the former Legislative Council supported by the 19 existing District Advisory Councils, democratised and linked to the network of well-established and democratically-elected Local Government Councils then numbering more than 100.

This would have been governance anchored firmly in the roots of society; government answering the reality of  regional needs and interests as opposed to non-existent social, class-based or occupation-based needs.

There was however an aversion in Konedobu to the encouragement of "regionalism" - perhaps engendered by the violence of tribal politics in Kenya and other east African countries.

There is a hint of what may have been the unspoken fears of senior Administration men in the late Ian Downs's novel The Stolen Land.

What to do now, today? Today? In this present (and paradoxically potentially productive) period of turmoil prior to the 2012 election?

Follow the word of Moses, is my very strong recommendation.

1.    Create Provincial Management Committees of Local Level Governments and Governors. Their strength will be in the statutory powers of individual members derived from their appointments and the fact that this is the voice of the people. They will be sanctioned by the laws of the land and the principles of the constitution.

2.    These committees will be chaired by the Governor and comprise Provincial MPs and Chairmen of all LLGs. They will meet to plan action based on the minutes of the past three months' LLG meetings. Their meetings will be open and well publicised.

3.   Committee meetings will be held every three months to receive, deliberate upon and provide necessary action in response to the quarterly reports received from LLGs; such reports reflecting the needs of the people. [See my series of three articles in The National in November/December last year.]

4. The resolutions will be forcefully and openly despatched to both the Provincial Public Service and to National Departments within and outside the Province. Dates for implementation and completion will be publicised regularly.

Thus will democracy and fairness slowly arise amid the wreckage of the attempts and failures and disappointments of the past 35 years.

These steps are not in conflict with the principles of the Constitution. They need no great period of deliberation, no long and expensive series of conferences for consideration.

They are commonsense, pragmatic, simple and able to be adopted and implemented if the people want them to be.

Thus spake Moses!

John's most recent book is a new edition of 'Kundi Dan' (Southseas Press), available from Bill McGrath's Pacific Bookhouse for $29 plus p&p [credit cards accepted]. Email Bill at [email protected] or visit the website at http://www.pacificbookhouse.com.au


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Trevor Freestone

Australia did fail PNG in not giving enough thought to independence and the method of government that was to follow. More consultation with the people of PNG would have produced a better outcome.

PNG was and is unique and needs special considerations for a suitable form of government. Remember Prime Minister Whitlam was in a hurry to get his name in the history books before the Australians kicked him out.

Roy Marsden

I am not a scholar by any means but I see massive errors in the report of John Fowke. He thinks the House of Lords and the House of Commons are a party system. Not when I lived in England. Parties are only for us common folk.

A party system came to England slowly with the rise of socialism in the late 1800s. The Americans always had a party system with the Democrats and Republicans.

Democracy demands that we have a party system to cater for the range of ideologies and interest groups in the nation. Liberalism and socialism hit the political scene in England in the late 19th century with JS Mill and Karl Marx respectively.

Party systems are not limited only to Westminster countries. All democracies have parties. John Cleese had a Party of Silly Walks. But that was meant to be funny. There are all kinds of foolish parties in democracies. That is democracy.

Parties are not a weakness of PNG. This is a democracy. I will always remember the speech made by someone in the Pangu Party. He said that they were a party. It is not a party where we sing and dance and drink beer. No it is a….

John Fowke

Rod Everett talks lots of nonsense. The Westminster system is a party-based system which evolved to solve the disparity between the powerful English "haves" and the English landless, the English slaves, and English small farmers bound to the local squire or landowner.

That's the whole point, Rod of the mightily dismissive tone.

Whereas a system which evolved to represent the interest of different "parties" - i.e., different social classes - in mediaeval Britain did relieve these manifest injustices, albeit over a formative period of more than 500 years (pommy sheilas didn't get the vote until 1927) - where, O mighty thinker Rod, was the disadvantaged list of landless and forelock-tugging lower classes in PNG in the fifties?

PNG is, as is commonly observed, a land of paradox - many of the paradoxes being strengths, in effect, as well as weaknesses.

One of these "plus/minus" paradoxical areas is the fact that this was, until the rise of the present-day political class - dating from the "bully-beef club" and the Pangu and National parties in the late sixties, possibly the most egalitarian society in the modern world.

That's why a party-based system is entirely inappropriate in PNG - and demonstrably so. Just think about it.

This system has allowed the political parties to become exclusive, selfish, manipulative little clubs where ordinary men may - if allowed entry - become rich and influential beyond dreaming.

This is the whole bloody problem, Rod, and any other bright sparks who have also strayed from the path of logic in this area.

This is why the LLGs and the Ward Councillors must, as the representatives of the great ordinary proletariat, seize the chance they have in 2012 for taking back their right to having a say in running the country as representatives of the long-suffering grassroots.

They should do this by co-opting the MPs - as I have suggested several times over the past twelve months - and by acting as a single political group dominating, if not completely blanketing, each electorate.

This may persuade the MPs that the only way they will be re-elected is if they sign up to a program such as Moses, in his stumbling, silly old dimdim way, has spent the past year trying to get across.

God, I really, really hate PNG Attitude - it's like some sort of drug. This really is the last posting from Moses - otherwise it'll be the Last Post, when those to whom I owe several months of work lose their cool and shoot me.



George - Thank you for your contribution. You raise some interesting and valid issues.

I do agree that too many Australian commentators focus on negative stories about PNG. I am heartened by some of the positive news that comes from PNG, not about big international development projects, but about local people taking the initiative to improve their lives.

There are three stories in today's papers that are like this. One is about Kokoda women starting a project to sell fruit and vegetables in POM markets. The second is about UPNG Arts School given opportunities for unemployed but talented youth from Gerehu to take part in Arts and Crafts education. The third is about Rabaul women developing a project to grow and sell flowers nationally and internationally.

From such stuff comes the future betterment of PNG. Empowerment for local people, the encouragement of initiative and talent and the recognition that society grows from the ground up, not from the top down.

Sally Jones

Reg - Love your comments and please do not try to leave us like Moses is trying to do. 'Keep em coming' sailor. I love PNG forever!

Reginald Renagi

Good practical suggestions by John Fowke. The system in place will work well if the Governor is tough and committed to see things done at the community levels without too much BS on his part.

Hey, KJ, this is indeed sad news. We really need 'Moses' in this forum as soon there may be no one around to challenge some of the good ideas for here for discussion.

The Admiral also has a full plate this year and may slow down somewhat as Moses fades away from the scene.

My wantok, Paul Oates, is still on his Mediterranean holidays so the place is very quiet, except for that Mosbi dimdim, the General, who has a million anecdotal street stories to entertain us all year around so we don't have to worry about boredom setting in over time.

Keith, why don't you give the bloggers a challenge on certain key issues that will work towards new foreign policy strategies to improve PNG-Australian relations; come what may. Just a thought.

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