IN A PREVIOUS ARTICLE I proposed a pathway that might be established to the early restoration of citizen-equity in PNG's national resources.
It was based on each Local Level Government (LLG or local council) constituency, or group of constituencies within an electorate, selecting as their representative an individual who promised to be fully supportive of the councils, as differentiated from adhering to a personal and selfish agenda if elected, as is so often the case at present.
An intending candidate or sitting MP seeking re-election might be required to make a formal agreement with relevant LLGs, thus ensuring his devotion to the needs and objectives of the councils and their constituents.
In such a case, this would be history-in-the-making, being the first time a genuinely representative link between citizens and parliament had been established in PNG.
As I explained in previous contributions, the adoption of an opaque party-system manipulated by a small elite group, as opposed to a regional or as ples based representative system, has deprived PNG’s citizens of a voice in public affairs and of a level of control over the affairs of their home districts and nation.
An LLG-based political system fits naturally in PNG, whereas the social-class-based party concept does not. Social disparity which drove the establishment of party systems in Europe have not existed in egalitarian PNG. Parties are largely meaningless and exist for the benefit of their organisational hierarchies and MPs.
You might say that most MPs and candidates will not be keen to abandon the status quo and enter into commitments depriving them of much of their power base, which is derived largely from being able to spend large amounts of the nation’s resources with very little control or measurement of effect.
However it will become clear to politicians of more than modest intelligence that creating a base within the LLG system is a better path to political success: a path to a political career surviving for more than one election.
Here is a career, approbation of his people, lasting influence and position in the social hierarchy. And here is continuation of a generous parliamentary salary from one term to another.
The onset of such a change in national politics may be slow but it will grow national politics with a strong regional base, an embryonic situation may be seen in Bougainville.
There are people who will see this as a breakdown of a unified nation. However Papua New Guineans have had their eyes opened. Secessionist activists are seen as proposing a retrograde status that will leave a nation of no critical mass. A unified, stable and well-governed PNG is a settled and progressive PNG; a fully-paid-up, participating world citizen.
In recent years groups like the National Research Institute, the Institute of National Affairs, the Public Service Reform Advisory Group and the Reform Management Unit have spoken about aspects of reform which may have the effect of restoring an effective and cost-efficient national infrastructure.
The paths to reform are tortuous because PNG has allowed a dense, obtuse and convoluted Public Service to grow during the past 35 years. PNG has 77,000 public servants, a ratio of one to every 80 people. The Public Service is a huge ball of string without ends.
My suggestion set out above, could be adopted with a minimum of restructuring and rewriting of statutes. It in no way contravenes the Constitution. It is not a universal cure-all, but it is a people-friendly and productive solution to PNG’s most pressing problem - the failure of a democratic structure to empower the people who own it.
There are between two and 12 LLGs in each District, averaging close to four per District. If Parliament adopts the current recommendations of the Boundaries Commission, District boundaries will change and LLGs will have to be reproclaimed, a large task and one which will show no immediate benefit.
I believe the law as it stands requires there to be between 110 to 120 open electorates in 2012, a big increase from the 89 at the 2007 elections. There are two new provinces and an unknown number of new electorates and administrative districts to be established, each district with staff, buildings and its own treasury office before 2012.
Thus there is a situation looming that may force yet more compromise and more expediency in the face of fast-approaching national elections. Just what the outcome will be is impossible to guess. A battle between administrative convenience and standing decisions may drive conflict and disarray.
Now is the time when citizen-advocates like Reg Renagi should take a firm and outspoken stance, perhaps even considering being candidates themselves with a linkage to LLGs. The continual stating and restating of problems whilst doing little of a practical, active kind is an unfortunate characteristic of PNG's educated elite.
Regardless of the outcome in 2012, I hope the voters of PNG may find for themselves a system which realistically restores full equity in the national estate and thus a confident and prideful sense of nationhood, able to be held without reserve.