I invite Minister to drink from polluted river
'Chief Warrior' Hargesheimer dead at 94

The perils of a democracy gone off the boil


THE PRACTICAL DILEMMA of how to achieve a responsible and responsive government has puzzled societies since human populations first evolved. What's the answer?

'Pay peanuts and you get monkeys' is often trotted out as an excuse why politicians need huge pay packets. Apparently today's politicians usually expect to be members for only a limited time and then need huge superannuation payouts and ongoing perks in case they can't find highly paid employment when they leave office.

Ancient Rome held elections based on each of the original tribes who formed the Roman population.

Until recent times, the British view was that if you owned land you could be a voter, as you had a stake in the country and would be prepared to defend your property. This concept excluded the landless.

Over time, the growth of a merchant and middle class proved you didn't need to own land to be rich and therefore eligible to vote or to be elected.

In the late 19th Century, the Labour movement grew from dissatisfaction with the available political alternatives.

The US often refers to itself as the leading world democracy yet its system seems to be based on how much contenders can promise those who are prepared to contribute millions of dollars to run political campaigns.

In the case of PNG, the problems of regionalism, ineffective communications and a recent history of disruption and delayed justice at the highest levels appear to further complicate electoral integrity.

The PNG Constitution, unlike that of Australia, had to be cobbled together in a rush and seemed until recently to be ineffective in preventing fraud and corruption in high places.

In pre Independence times the PNG electoral role was based on the continually updated annual census books but this process has lapsed. The PNG Electoral Commissioner says it will requires K250 million to update the roll.

Previous elections have revealed irregularities with the roll and have led to contested results. Battles and fights have erupted over candidates either not happy with losing or whose supporters tried to alter results by making off with ballot boxes.

Constant claims have been made about how the incumbent government can manipulate a power base using government money and facilities. It has been claimed that funding from foreign sources has been used to buy support for the current regime.

Sometimes it seems like the responsible but responsive bureaucratic dictatorship that existed prior to independence may have not been so bad after all.


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