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Turning the screw brings the crisis closer


IN TRIPOLI THIS MORNING people are being shot like dogs in the streets as they struggle for their freedoms and for fair governance.

In Kaugere recently, and I quote Lydia Kailap:

The people of the community took over and in their own unique way took on the responsibility of dealing with him. Whilst I would not encourage his son to belt the father, it was done and the community got up and chased him out of Kaugere. Now he is hiding in his house, afraid to come out.

At the end of the day, solutions need to fix the problem that exists. It is impossible to push a Western style of conflict resolution onto some PNG communities because it is simply foreign to them and ineffective. They have their own ‘ways’ to deal with thing.

This was part of a debate on PNG Attitude about means: in this case, the means of bringing under control a brutish ward councillor.

We should not lose the essence of Trevor Shelley Jr’s comments in this debate:

To the vast number of uneducated settlers, actions that deliver immediate results are a far more familiar paradigm they can relate to. The majority of our uneducated people are simple - not intellectually but through the comprehension of cause and effect. An effect that is tangible is rapidly absorbed.

I admit it is an extremely difficult task. Aspects of our ‘Melanesian Way’ are destroying us, yet Western philosophy does not entirely suit. I believe we must move away from the trend of applying Western templates to all issues organic to PNG. We must move away from solely providing concepts both you and I have learnt in the higher echelons of a Western based education system.

We must look internally and start to conceive and develop our own theoretical frameworks based upon a philosophy derived from our own culture and methods. These frameworks must then be applied and enforced to all and sundry, including those in settlements and perhaps more so to those that ply their trade in Waigani.

In New South Wales next month an incompetent and corrupt government will be put to the sword (metaphorically) by a truculent and disaffected electorate.

And this morning I learn from a contact in Port Moresby that “there's a whole lot of ‘mobilising’ going on [in PNG]; it may erupt anytime in the next couple of months”.

There is a connecting influence in these statements – and that is that a people denied and neglected have a breaking point. In a democracy, the crisis is resolved at the polls. In a dictatorship, it is resolved in the streets. Or in the officers’ mess.

It may take time, but it is resolved.

In PNG, there are two big questions that are relevant.

How soon will the breaking point be reached?

By what means will the resolution be enacted?

As the screw is turned on PNG democracy, so that breaking point draws closer. How it is enacted seems likely to define for a long time what will be the form of Trevor’s “philosophy derived from [PNG’s] own culture and methods”.


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Norm Richardson

The maxim that a ruler can only rule with the consent of those being ruled is being remembered in a lot of places.

It is a shame that the rulers of PNG have forgotten this.

I feel sorry for the people of PNG who will suffer, but the coming revolt could redefine what it means to be a citizen of PNG, as it redefined the meaning for the French and the USA in the late 1700's.

Lydia Kailap

Maybe Arthur needs to belt his father Michael and everyone chase him out of the Haus Tambaran! Lol.

Paul Oates

Icarus raises a good point about doing what is right and just. The dilemma is to establish what is right and what is just and in whose eyes?

Phil's suggestion that outsiders should stay out of the way has some merit, considering that whatever process is finally resolved must be achieved by PNG people in order to be regarded with any reverence.

Yet it should be possible for friends to discuss alternatives without having imposed parameters being set.

Past Melanesian practices were predicated on an existing paradigm that has now irrevocably changed. Education and modern communications have enabled an expanded view of the world and of human nature.

It should be possible to plan a peaceful transition of power without resorting to violence. The nub of the problem is that the longer it takes to effect a change in direction, the harder the steering wheel has to be turned.

Sure, there has never been true national cohesion in PNG due to existing, diverse traditional ethnicities and cultures.

Yet there should be no reason why ‘People Power’ could not be mobilised. All it takes is the will power and leadership to do so.

Us oldies who were brought up with the horrors of warfare still fresh in our parents' minds well remember what happens when the talking stops and the fighting begins.

War does not decide who is right but only who is left!


We (PNG) are still defining ourselves as a nation. While we should make the time and effort to do this there are some very obvious things that are going wrong right now and we should stop these right away. And punish those in the wrong.

My question is, in the Melanesian Way how do we deal first with leaders who have abused power, privilege, trust and respect for far too long?

What will PNG as the bigest Melanesian nation show the rest of the world? Our track record does not impress.

These are defining times in the history of our nationhood. These times call for true leadership.

Bloodshed must not be feared. We must simply do what is right and just for our society.

I believe all peoples of the world who have survived to this day and age have done so and there is at least that same intention regardless of our colour or creed.

Ron Malcolm

I spent 18 years in PNG from 1966-84. Apart from two years teaching at Elcom Training Centre most of my PNG time was spent setting up and running city councils in Lae and Moresby.

My last PNG position was GM at the NCDC - since then I have been managing city councils in Australia until I retired two years ago.

I am now an AusAID volunteer assisting the town councils in Madang and Kokopo . I would like to submit my views on the current state of urban administration in PNG.

Phil Fitzpatrick

If you think about it, Paul, Michael Somare is using clan politics to run the country. As we know, outside the clan, such politics are divisive.

We outsiders perceive it as the Westminster system breaking down and not being relevant.

As Trevor says, the best political system is probably a hybrid one.

I think Keith might be right in saying that a crisis of the sort we are seeing in the Middle East might be the necessary catalyst for that to evolve.

That is a real worry because violence in PNG tends to be ultra-savage and all encompassing. If it happens many innocents will be harmed.

For that reason I think anything and everything possible to avoid it must be done. If it happens it will occur in Moresby and a few of the other large towns. Places like the Kaugere Settlement will be right in the firing line.

I don't pretend to know the Melanesian mind. Have you ever tried to tell a joke in PNG; it invariably falls flat. On the few occasions when I'm silly enough to try the reminder of the cultural chasm always comes back.

I think the only useful thing we can do now is stay out of the way and wish them well.

Paul Oates

My understanding of many of PNG's traditional cultures is that decisions affecting the clan or tribe normally emanated from a council of elders after much discussion.

Individual leaders were only chosen for specific tasks, based on their recognised expertise (e.g. fight leaders).

When the fight or battle was over, the responsibility for leadership decisions then devolved back to the council of elders.

Perhaps the time has come for a collective transfer of power away from certain individuals and back to the country's Council of Elders or Parliament?

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