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What to do with a recalcitrant councillor?

Co-founder of the Children’s University of Music and Art, LYDIA KAILAP, seeks advice from readers about a serious problem she’s encountered with a local official....

SINCE WE STARTED the Children’s University of Music and Art (CUMA) in Kaugere Settlement in 2009 we have had one problem after another with one of the ward councillors.

As an Australian, I was horrified when I first went there with my PNG husband and saw the way people lived and especially the hopelessness of the children.

So we decided to start a little school that was free to attend and give the kids at least some education. Then we added lunch for the students when we had enough money to buy food and prepare it for them.

We funded the school from our own pockets and donations in cash or kind that were given; but the majority was our own resources.

Before we started the school we tried to get community leaders involved, including a ward councillor.

His first demand was that the school only be available for children from families of the I’are Clan. We refused and opened it up for all children, regardless of their Province of origin or anything else. CUMA is for all children. This really upset him.

Then he wanted to be part of the financial management of the school and have access to any funding or donations we received. We courteously declined his offer, thus forever putting him offside.

Since then he has done all sorts of things to try to stop us.

He started and circulated malicious rumours that we had received massive funding from AusAID and had bought a house in Australia with it and all sorts of similar nonsense.

Sadly some of the youth believed his stories and went on a drunken rampage, attacking the school and our boys, destroying furniture and equipment, cutting one of our two water tanks, burning a school truck and bashing some of the smaller boys who were there at the time.

The latest tactic has been to threaten the children that he will belt them if they come to school. The same threats have been made to parents. Unfortunately the threats have worked in many cases because the community know how violent this fellow is.

The whole scenario is destructive and detrimental to the kids who desperately need to be educated.

I am calling for suggestions from PNG Attitude readers who have had experience in such matters in PNG communities.


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Lydia Kailap

Just a big thank you to everyone who put in ideas for dealing with our problem councillor.

One thing is for certain, he will not go away in the foreseeable future.

Peter is in the process of setting up a CUMA Committee. We as Directors have nominated two people (the school principal and the leader of our youth group) and they have been asked to organise three more members from the community to join.

We will see what transpires and certainly let you all know the outcome.

Meanwhile, I will quietly work away on other suggestions that are the most likely to see a permanent solution to the problem.

I promise not to start taking coppers out to lunch! Just have a meeting with them at the Police Station and keep trying to get NCDC involved.

This relatively minor issue does highlight the problems faced in all levels and areas of life in PNG. Things may appear to be simple and straight forward but they are very complex.

Reginald Renagi

Lydia - You started this discussion and no one is arguing here, just trying to explore different ways to help you as you requested.

Several ways have been suggested by readers. It is now up to you, Peter and CUMA to consider and adopt which ones you think will work in a practical sense, either immediately or in the longer term. But be prepared for the long haul.

It is not simple or appropriate to bribe police to rough up your nemesis up a little. There are many good professional policemen around who will not accept ‘lunch-money’ and could dob you in to superiors.

It is bad advice and not worth the trouble you will endure later from the law. Nor is it a permanent solution but one that will keep coming back to haunt you and CUMA time and time again.

Also it could pose a security threat for you, Peter and the children.

There are many ways to address this issue and the best way forward is keep talking and networking with your Kaugere community to try and collectively find a better way forward. The reality is that this humbug councillor is not going to go away from Kaugere community. He will have to be part of the long-term solution for CUMA.

There is no one right way to handle this. This choice is yours.

Trevor Jnr - The problems of resource constraints on the police will be there for some time, and not just in Kaugere. Every police station in PNG has limited resources (transport, fuel, etc).

This is a big challenge and will only improve over time when the government adequately resource state agencies.

The choice of trying to bribe the police to get them to do something is something to steer clear of. I advise against it as it will only promote more corruption in PNG, not reduce it.

Once you give lunch money to the police, be prepared to do it constantly. This is money CUMA cannot afford to throw away.

Fifty kina lunch money to solicit Police is not enough to protect school children.

No, Trevor Jnr, I am not really concerned about the councillor but about giving good credible suggestions to Lydia as she requested for help from PNG Attitude readers.

The recalcitrant councillor has recently been punished by his own community. Whether this will have some long-term effects remains to be seen.

Lydia asked PNG Attitude readers for some tips on how best to deal with a recalcitrant councillor through collective discussion and chipping in some good ideas for CUMA to adopt, or modify as appropriate.

The merits of a working committee to assist Lydia and Peter are many and can be adequately explained to the Kaugere community by those managing CUMA.

It will always be a challenge for Lydia, Peter and CUMA to work out for themselves what will work best for them.

They are the ones who will in their own ways advise the Kaugere community that they should not expect to see any tangible results in the immediate future.

Well what’s your particular advice to Lydia and CUMA about what actions they should take that will deliver immediate results in as far as punishing this particular councillor is concerned?

No one is really talking about providing concepts learnt in the higher echelons of a Western based education system because I am not.

Let’s not get too over philosophical here as that’s not what Lydia is asking for or needs right now.

What Lydia needs now are simple basic practical methods without overly complicating matters that will help her and CUMA to effctively deal with a bully in her community.

Terry Shelley

Lydia - I am sorry for all the turmoil I have caused however I am pleased the Councillor got the flogging he deserved. I suggest you might contact David Conn at Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce. They may be able to help.

You may use my name or the Goroka Chamber Commerce or better still contact me direct on 532 1319 or email to [email protected] and I will organise some assistance.

You are absolutely correct we should stop squabbling on the internet. We are all on the same side to try and improve the conditions of grassroots people.

This will probably be deemed as a "Highland Solution", however I can guarantee immediate results.

May your Gods Bless you and all in Kaugere Settlement.

Phil Fitzpatrick

You're right, Lydia, no one seems to want to cut to the chase. We've had the same debate on PNG Attitude several times now.

Quite frankly I don't know what you can do next.

I guess its a matter of waiting to see what the ward councillor decides to do. I doubt whether he'll go away.

You could talk to the son and the rest of his family but they'll only make promises they can't or won't keep.

Best of luck.

Paul Oates

Lydia, we feel your pain but are unable to help directly. The problems you are facing are not fixable at the coal face. It must be fixed at the top.

Until PNG has a responsible and accountable government, there can be no real change in the current circumstances except perhaps to get worse.

PNG is decending into a spiral that will not stop unless enough good people stand up and make a difference.

'Evil triumphs when good men (and women) do nothing'.

Lydia Kailap

When I married a Papuan and went to live in the worst settlement in Port Moresby, it was an extreme culture shock.

I learnt more about humanity in a few short years than I had done in the previous 40 plus. Many ideals I had held flew out the window with the dust.

There is a vast difference between the reality of living in a poverty stricken PNG community and living in PNG as an expat or an elite Papua New Guinean.

I had to learn tolerance for, what was to me, a very primitive society and totally unacceptable behaviour. There were certain things I refused to accept or tolerate - including wife bashing, child abuse and bullying.

Trevor and his family have lived in a very hard environment in the Highlands of PNG and their advice cannot be dismissed with contempt: it is conducive to a PNG settlement.

Many of our children at CUMA come from the Highlands and all over PNG ... they actually embrace what we are doing far more than Papuans.

On the other hand, we aspire to a solution that is "politically correct".

At the end of the day, a solution is imperative to progress. One does not have the time nor the inclination to pursue a solution that fits the "criteria". You have to move forward with something that works. In that respect Trevor is totally correct.

Peter and I do not have the time or energy to do things in such a way as to please everyone. We are somewhat radical in our approach to CUMA because we have to be or it would have never evolved.

Reg has suggested some avenues of support: Police, Governor Parkop, Dame Carol Kidu, Yumi Lukautim Mosbi, and the Law and Justice Sector.

They are the correct places to ask for help. We have tried those avenues and had the door closed in our face by one and all.

If we sat back and spent all our time on pursuing these avenues we may come to something in the distant end but not now when we need the help.

If I were an expat married to a politician it would be all history; but that is not Peter and Lydia ... we are grassroots people.

I have met with Governor Powes Parkop, Dame Carol, Leslie Alu, Digicel, AusAID, Lukautim POM, and many others. We do not meet their criteria.

They have shown interest but expect us to chase them for it; we don't have the time for that. We have no transport, no communication, no funds, and no time to chase a rainbow.

Honestly, I don't know why we persist and keep going. We have neglected our children, our marriage, our LIFE.

Yet we keep going because we know that the future is in the children of PNG; especially the forgotten ones.

Please. Can you guys stop arguing over this and just help us?

Trevor Shelley (Jnr)

Reginald – Thank you for inviting me to respond. I believe your retort provides an excellent case in point to my argument: the persistent application of western concepts to issues organic to PNG.

My advice to Lydia, in short, would be to reiterate what was voiced by my father. Not because he is my father, but purely because it is a known and tried process that produces effective and lasting results. A process shaped exclusively from within our country and not conceived in the ivory halls of academia.

Lydia’s response supports my opinion. Both Lydia and Peter have involved the councillor on numerous occasions (as recommended by you) but to no avail. In the end, the issue was dealt with internally. The advice of my father proved to be prophetic. Even though it was administered through a different vehicle, the result was essentially the same.

Ironically, this action still achieves what you believe the working committee would achieve: community participation, ownership of the scheme, and community spirit. The mobilisation of the community against the councillor would further enhance the reputation of the CUMA and highlight its importance to the councillor.

You state, “This flippant assertion gives readers a very damaging perception of things in PNG, and it's not absolutely true.”

Guess what Reg, it is. Lydia herself states, “We have to either buy fuel for their vehicle or provide them with transport in order to get them to attend to Police matters within Kaugere. That is a fact of life here.” It is a fact of life in PNG, Reg.

I ask you, which are more disgusting: a fifty kina lunch to solicit Police intervention in order to protect school children, or a Prime Minister and government that allows four billion kina to be stolen annually? The very same government then has the audacity to enforce school fees upon struggling families.

With respect Reginald, you appear more concerned about the councillor than the school children. Our PM, in an address to Columbia University admitted to governance “through appeasement.”

If I may quote Winston Churchill, “An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodiles hoping that they will eat him last.”

By not directly punishing the councillor, you are setting a dangerous precedent that is observed by the children.

What we fail to realise is that those of us that subscribe to PNG Attitude are amongst the privileged of PNG, whether we like it or not.

We have access to a computer and the internet. We have the ability to articulate our thoughts in English, discuss notions of governance and understand the merits of various systematic processes that, if executed correctly, are able to advance our nation’s interest.

To the average resident of Kaugere, or PNG for that matter, the ability to do likewise does not exist.

Concepts discussed on this forum are beyond comprehension of the average resident, and yet we wonder why these same concepts fail to gain traction in the wider community.

Although your advice has some substance, I challenge you to explain the merits of a working committee to the average settler.

Perhaps even more difficult, I ask you then to advise the same settler that he/she should not expect to see any tangible results in the immediate future.

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.

Reginald Renagi

Trevor Jnr - This is the first time Lydia Kailap wrote about this issue of a recalcitrant councillor and asked for advice from PNG Attitude readers.

She got it from many people with varied backgrounds in good faith. I made several different suggestions to her as practical steps so they are not as you incorrectly stated ..."no more than an exercise in rhetoric".

I wonder whatever made you say that. It is as if you have not been chronologically following the discussion here on this issue.

It all comes back to Lydia and CUMA to use this advice or not. The choice is hers, Peter and CUMA's.

Keith Jackson has created a good discussion forum in the PNG Attitude. There is no other place like this online where like-minded people can frankly talk about common concerns and try to come up with practical solutions (if any).

The whole aim is to try and simply address issues that will inevitably impinge upon the future relationship between PNG and Australia.

I ask you to read the section by Keith Jackson on what PNG Attitude is all about. You will find many answers to some of what you just raised now.

There are many people who read this forum. They are in positions of power and influence in both Canberra and Waigani. Many of them are responsible for formulating public policy.

So from feedback on PNG Attitude, they will in whatever capacities they have, do something about it. Likewise, the blog readers here also contribute in a big way to make some difference in changing the way people from both PNG, and Australia view each other.

Keith Jackson's PNG Attitude has many benefits whether you see it or not. Basically, I see the discussion in this forum as about continuing a consistent dialogue between PNG and Australia.

The big picture here is where we talk about how we can collectively as a team change tomorrow's outcome, so it is better than today and yesterday.

In fact, some things you just cannot really measure now if you just read the PNG Attitude at only its face value. But in future we can hopefully do that.

With some degree of fair assumption we can say with some satisfaction that it is perhaps due to the ongoing discussions on PNG Attitude, that government policy on both sides of the Coral Sea has somewhat changed for the better.

Here are some future positive outcomes:

(1) When Australia improves the efficacy of its AusAID program;

(2) When PNG can synergistically factor its development budget framework in such a way to also factor in the AusAID program data, then we can expect agreed developmental milestones to be achieved cost-effectively than now.

(3) Improved foreign and security relations between PNG and Australia.

(4) Improved tourist visits to PNG and Australia by people from both countries.

(5) A good guest worker scheme for PNG workers to work in Australian farms and remit money to their families back home.

(6) An increase educational and cultural exchanges between PNG and Australia where more PNG students will be attending Australian learning institutions, and more PNG sportsmen/women will train at the ASI; and competitively engage in Australian sports competition such as: rugby league/union, soccer, cricket, etc.

I could further add another 100 bullet points here, but I am sure you already got my drift ...

So Trevor (Jnr) you are not guilty of nepotism. You just made a very valuable contribution to the discussion on the PNG Attitude, and I do not see you as an armchair critic.

Your comments have prompted me to justify why it is important to keep talking more of common issues of concern affecting our two countries.

You have made some valid comments so do not feel that you do not want to say something for the sake of saying something here.

Finally, I would be interested to know what tips you can offer Lydia on how best to deal with this recalcitrant councillor in her Kaugere community in Port Moresby, PNG?

Douveri Henao

Dear Trevor - Like any relationship, it is only effective if both parties genuinely work towards solutions in resolving issues.

There is a plethora of aid effectiveness modalities that aspire to make aid change the lives of these that need it.

The usual “synonyms” canvass the landscape: poverty alleviation, economic empowerment, gender mainstreaming. etc… and they are operationalised through a jungle of matrices that eventually has a figure for Treasuries to throw money at it.

Whether its inspired through multilateral benchmarks (such as the MDGs ), regional pacts (Blue Green EU Pacific Strategy or the recent formulated Cairns Compact Aid Effectiveness system) or bilateral arrangements (Aust – PNG DCT), all have incredible infrastructures to deliver them.

In all, these initiatives are driven from catalytic studies and, like any viewpoint, inherent bias exists. We all know the ratio of experts lean towards non PNGns and even if PNGns are engaged, they at times, lack the independence to provide a “PNG” perspective to challenge these inherent biases.

However, in recent times there appears to be a critical mass of PNG experts in providing this perspective. National architects of the 2050 Vision and other sectoral polices demonstrate a bias towards PNG values.

These views are providing the right climate to mold, synchronize aid systems proposed by partners so that they are practical.

Lets face it; our friendship, camaraderie and love will not escape my distaste for practices you have and vis a vis what I have. Therefore lets forge a genuine relationship where we evolve together.

I guess the message I am trying to convey is that unless there is active debate and more so from a PNG perspective, there will continue to be a vacuum on the practicality of our relationship.

Yes, comments from the website maybe largely taubada and sinabadas but to assume this is a microcosm of dreamers and escapists is myopic.

Your tribe will note we love our hebou, kibung stori and so, my dear friend, never underestimate the impact these discussions have.

As a former public servant, my colleagues, from the echelons of power to the junior officer, plough through sites like this and are inspired to think outside the box. Keith Jackson is providing options and this is critical in policy fermentation.

Don’t take me wrong, Trevor, we need comments like yours as they invoke reactions but throw a kaukau and taro seed, so the invisible policy maker can take it to the arid policy lands of Waigani to plant it.

Trevor Shelley Snr

Lydia - I came to PNG in 1965 with the RAE but only stayed a few months. I returned in 1974 with a wife - had children in Kundiawa and have lived and operated in every province in PNG including Manus.

Only spent a couple of years behind a fence and have driven even recently up most roads on the mainland, mainly alone.

Never lived in POM or the larger cities except a short time in Madang. Lots of friends and family in PNG and I enjoy most of my time there; but I am a realist.

Of course my brother Terry has a lot more experience than me especially at grassroots level

Lydia Kailap

Trevor Jnr, you are correct in saying that unique issues often require unique solutions. Often what appears to be corruption is in fact the only method to mobilise the Police to carry out their duties.

We have to either buy fuel for their vehicle or provide them with transport in order to get them to attend to Police matters within Kaugere. That is a fact of life here.

I feel that all of the suggestions given on this issue had merit and by combining them we came up with a workable plan to address the problem with the Ward Councilor.

However, all our plans were rendered useless when 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 things; it's just a matter of getting them motivated to actually do it.

Now the hardest part will be to bring him back into the community and encourage him to cooperate and win back face, whilst ensuring that he doesn't get too big for his boots again.

The last thing we need is a rampaging wounded bull that is hell bent on undermining the school.

All suggestions from PNG Attitude readers were welcome as they came from people who have had vast experience with the complexities of PNG society.

In this case Phil and Reg have a greater understanding of Papuan culture; your Dad and Uncle have vast experience with Highlands culture. We all know that the two are worlds apart.

I appreciate what you have written and thank you for your perspective; that's what it's all about.

Realistically; dealing with the problems in a settlement is an extremely difficult task because they are dark places without conventional laws.

Unless you have personally lived in one for an extended period of time; there is no way you would believe what goes on. Even I sometimes question my own sanity!

What we do at Kaugere is not easy and most people wouldn't bother and I don't blame them. But it is very comforting that we do have outside support and that is welcome from any quarter; even from armchair critics.

The soup is always better when the ingredients are many and varied!

Trevor Shelley (Jnr)

And herein lies the issue .....

As an avid disciple of Keith Jackson’s PNG Attitude, I read with interest, Lydia Kailap’s latest contribution - What to do with a recalcitrant councillor?

Having followed the noble exploits of both Lydia and her husband for some time, I was somewhat dismayed to hear of the unwarranted demands solicited to her by a certain ward councillor; unfortunately not uncommon in PNG. I was therefore not surprised by the numerous words of advice conveyed to Lydia by genuinely concerned friends.

After having read all the comments (including that of my father Terry and uncle Trevor), I was struck by the irony of the responses and that of the flawed strategy adopted by AusAID in PNG.

The fundamental impasse constantly voiced via PNG Attitude is AusAID’s lack of understanding of the indelible complexities faced by PNG.

This void often results in ineffective, ill-advised and wasteful programs conceived by armchair critics who attempt to solve simple issues with multifarious theoretical frameworks and vice versa.

Although not condoning my father’s advice, one cannot ignore the fact that the advice is derived from more than 50 years experience living in the often unforgiving highlands of PNG.

One also cannot ignore the immediacy, effectiveness and permanency this action would achieve. Metaphorically speaking, unique issues call for unique solutions.

Attracting criticism from contributors long detached from PNG or by those who, on occasion, visit the nation, can be forgiven due to their lack of comprehension regarding the ever evolving dynamics of life in PNG.

However the advice given by local contributors such as Reginald Renagi, although quite eloquent, is no more than an exercise in rhetoric.

Whilst I sincerely applaud Keith for his actions in instigating and maintaining this fantastic contribution to the advancement of PNG related issues, I believe PNG Attitude is starting to be oversaturated by dreamers, romantics and escapist who choose to exercise their right to admire their verbal composition and pat each other on the back whilst essentially achieving very little.

Yes, I am guilty of nepotism and acutely aware of my lack of contribution to the site but, as an armchair critic myself, I believe I am automatically disqualified from offering anything of real substance and genuinely refrain from speaking for the sake of speaking.

Lydia Kailap

Trevor - Are you saying that I am a soft target?

Have you lived in a PNG settlement without money, vehicle, and paid security?

Most expats live in PNG with all of the benefits: but not me.

I'm not a missionary or a paid employee of a multinational company..

If you have faced what I have faced; then you will be qualified to call me a soft target or not.

Trevor Shelley

Welcome to PNG. Soft targets always suffer. Does not matter where you are!

Reginald Renagi

Lydia - I like that approach and good luck to you and Peter. I think all will be right for CUMA in the end.

As the Kaugere community, with the help of the CUMA trained youths, rally to protect their school and straighten out the wayward councillor, a positive outcome may be realised soon.

Touch wood there, Lydia, and I pray that you and Peter will successfully replicate the CUMA school model this year in remote Maipenairu Village, and on to other localities in future.

Reginald Renagi

Phil - I'd say it's also a good idea. Other countries have had their former armed forces commanders or very senior military officers with distinguished records to be appointed as either Governor-Generals, or even Provincial Governors.

Yes, it would be nice for the PNG Government to make a law or a future protocol to have the job of the Vice-Regal reserved for former senior military officers (in some cases also be given to the Police/CIS).

The security forces command hierarchy passes through the whole apolitical indoctrination throughout their careers so, in effect, they would make good GG material as they have no political links to politics or the government.

This is not the case now in PNG. Only this week, the Speaker, Jeffrey Nape, has recalled Parliament next week.

For only one day, Parliament will go through the motions to formalise the GG designate's official appointment to reside in Government House.

I wonder what the British High Commissioner in Port Moresby has told PNG's Queen, Her Royal Highness, about PNG's new GG and the manner he was recently brought into this job by the government.

How do you diplomatically pull the wool over her Majesty's royal eyes that her Head of State representative in PNG is not the best ideal candidate after all.

It is a real national scandal and disgrace that the PNG government has again brought the position of the Vice-Regal into ill repute in recent times.

But then PNG has been known before in the Commonwealth to do this sorts of funny games before, much to the chagrin of Buckingham Palace.

Lydia Kailap

Today our wayward councillor belted a small child on his way to school. When the mother ran to the child's rescue, she too was bashed severely.

The councillor's son, who has been a CUMA youth for the last three years, then belted the father and the community chased him out. He is yet to return.

The community led by the youth have called a meeting to work out a plan to protect the school children and their parents as well as CUMA property.

They have assured us that they will not use violence and will seek to discipline the councillor through the Community Court and ensure safety for everyone.

Peter (my husband) feels that it is best to let the boys deal with it initially and then we will attempt to talk with the councillor when he has seen community reaction to his actions.

When he has nowhere to go we will extend the olive branch and hope that he will cooperate.

Wish us luck and the wisdom of Solomon!

Phil Fitzpatrick

You're right Reg - it's a mug's game. Your answer is the one I expected.

A lot of people don't realise that there are MPs out there running themselves into the ground and damaging their health trying to help people. I know of a couple who would be aghast if I mentioned their names.

No, you've got your head screwed on properly.

Now, what about the Governor-Generalship? You're a military man after all ....

Reginald Renagi

Lydia - Phil's suggestion of directly asking this recalcitrant councillor for some money and help is actually quite good. This direct request for assistance by CUMA will off-balance him for a while.

But it will also make him think that he is now being rightly valued as a councillor to help the school, and that might be a good thing for CUMA.

Phil - You are the tenth person who has asked me the question in the past 12 months about possibly running for public office. I value my freedom too much to go for this mug's game.

Many PNG pollies are working under great stress and duress at times. The poor fellows have all but lost their personal freedom as they get constantly hounded by sections of their constituency to provide every solution under the sun.

Many are forced into doing silly things they would not do under normal circumstances.

The pressures facing PNG pollies are many and varied. They have considerably increased so much in the last few years.

As a result some MPs in certain highly populated provinces have against their will reluctantly played many roles as village chiefs, business advisors, financial loans officer, projects manager, school board members, budgets priority committee chairman, unofficial spokesperson for landowner groups, undertaker and general "sugar daddy" for the whole electorate.

With this type of constant daily pressures you can see how some MP's easily succumb to their people's problems to engage in many pork-barrelling projects.

No, the life of an MP is not really a good life as you will have little or no time for your own family. It's a numbers' game and you still need to have a lot of money to go into politics in the first place.

It is an open secret that some MPs came into the Haus Tambaran by hook and crook. These bad apples are the ones you keep reading about in the media for some questionable actions.

I don't have the big money and or the inclination for politics now, but that could change if the right conditions were present in future.

I would rather do some good civic work with civil society and other community advocacy stuff like that.

I am also already doing free consultancy advisory work behind the scenes (covertly) to both sides to certain selected players in the People's House. This is purely voluntary and done on a non-attributable basis in the national interest.

Many MPs do not have the required staff with any real expertise in strategic matters of national importance.

No, I would prefer to be on the outside doing many things I would rather enjoy doing for my country, but ...

Lydia Kailap

Thank you all for the feedback and for your action plan, Reg; you have stated some obvious things we should have thought of.

This is the beauty of sharing a problem with others; as sometimes we are too close and too emotionally involved to make objective decisions.

Personally, I am like a roaring lioness when anyone threatens my little school and my little children. It doesn't make for good decisions.

I really appreciate all suggestions and we will now sit down and work on a plan to "win him over" without giving him what he wants!

The right solution is rarely the easy one, as Paul points out.

I would certainly like you to share your experiences with village programs, Douveri, as we are setting up our second school in remote Maipenairu Village this year.

It's been a huge stroke of luck for us to have found PNG Attitude and the wisdom of it's contributors. You are all awesome!

I loved Phil's suggestion: ask him for money. That would really put him on the back foot. LOL!

Phil Fitzpatrick

Are you sure you don't want to run for election in 2012, Reg?

Reginald Renagi

Lydia - It's a big ask but you, Peter and other community leaders in Kaugere must keep trying to work at finding a common solution to this community challenge.

There must be some way around this without going for the unsuitable option of trying to destroy his so-called power-base.

Destroying his power-base is easier said than done. You just might end up with a bush knife in the neck.

When the time comes to get tough, the Kaugere community may not lift a finger to help you in a crisis because of fear and intimidation from this man and his thugs.

Also, in the process, you and CUMA might lose everything you have worked hard for to date.

This recalcitrant councillor obviously has a network of thugs backing his play, now and then.

Here's a brief action plan.

First, get a court injunction order out to keep him away at arm’s length from CUMA premises.

Second, discuss/report the matter to the Badili Police Station commander to get him involved.

Third, maybe get the local police commander or the Governor NCD appointed as Patron of CUMA.

Fourth, request a routine surveillance eye on CUMA during daily police patrols in the Kaugere patrol sector.

Fifth, make an appointment to pay city hall a visit to give Governor Parkop a letter requesting his support to have CUMA in his 2011 YLM (Yu Mi Lukautim Moresby) Community Program.

Sixth, raise this issue with your local member (Dame Crol Kidu).

Ask the Dame how she would personally approach this particular situational challenge if it was her being threatened by a recalcitrant councillor.

The Dame has some tricks up her sleeve on how best to deal with community/village bullies like this.

Lydia, try to make this recalcitrant councillor a necessary part of your overall solution for CUMA, but not the problem for obvious reasons.

Last but not the least, don't ever give up Lydia. There's more ways to skin a cat than one...

Phil Fitzpatrick

I agree with Reg. Getting the cops to lean on him will make matters ten times worse; whatever you do, don't do that. Even getting his immediate superior, the LLG President, involved will alienate him. Getting the cops to bounce him around is a highland tactic - this is Papua, things are a lot more subtle.

Somewhere in his clan there will be a rival, someone who plans to run against him in the next election. Have a word to him/her. Also talk to the bloke's wife and daughters - they are the power behind the throne.

As the others have said, he needs to be involved. I know it's too late now but you should have kept him in the loop from the beginning, hard as that seemed.

It's the old wantok/clan thing and he thinks he's doing best by his clan. I find that if you convince someone that what you want to do is actually their idea things work better.

At this stage what I would do is go talk to him. Say to him that you're having problems and need his help. Then ask him for some money.

Mari Ellingson

I'm sorry Lydia that you are going through this problem. There is unfortunately still alot of 'cargo cult' mentality around - a real pity.

I do support what Dou and Reg are suggesting. The stakeholder approach is the way to go. Too many great initiatives are destroyed because there is very little stakeholder support - that means the parents of the CUMA children, community leaders and education professionals.

Finally, I wish to register my disgust at Terry's suggestion even if it were well-intentioned. There is still dignity and integrity in the Police Force. This is a development issue so tackle it with a development approach. Don't juggle passionfruit and lemons.

Lydia Kailap

Thank you one and all for your suggestions; it is always helpful to brainstorm and get a wide variety of ideas.

We have made many attempts to involve him in the project; and at times made great progress. He was a participant at the Family Violence Community Recovery Workshop and he and his family benefited enormously from this workshop, solving some family problems they had.

I think that Paul's comments about his loss of face as a "bigman" and his viewing us as a threat politically has a lot to do with it.

I have drafted a letter to the Governor (his boss) but have not yet sent it. It could inflame the situation even further if he feels really threatened. I would like to use this as a last resort if his power base needs to be destroyed as Paul suggested.

The other community leaders have been working very hard to convince him to back off and allow us to do what we have to; they appreciate the school and are very happy that there is something for the children. However he has stubbornly refused to cooperate.

I have a lawyer drafting a letter to him advising him of the legal ramifications of his actions in the hope that it may convince him to cease this trouble making.

The majority of the community have lost faith in this councillor and would like him replaced with a younger and more pro-active member of the community. We have kept clear of the politics involved with this and left it to the community to sort that out.

Basically everyone is afraid of him because of his extremely violent nature. He has physically attacked many members of the community in the past and given them a flogging if they don't follow his demands.

I would like to think there is a peaceful solution that would enable him to maintain his standing (albeit slight) within the community but the options are running out.

Basically, he doesn't want to be involved in the hard work of running such a project but wants control and a piece of the action where money is involved.

Dealing with this attitude is extremely difficult. I am reluctant to work with him now as his motives are all wrong and if given a part within the organisation he could well sabotage it from the inside.

Its looking more and more like crushing his power base will be the only option left. Tragic for him personally, but his rights don't really stack up to the rights of hundreds of children to an education.

Heres hoping we don't end up with a bushknife in the neck for our trouble!

Reginald Renagi

Joe - There is always a solution in any given situation. Lydia cannot afford to be complacent or give up here.

Knowing Lydia and Peter's own determination to make CUMA a success model in Kaugere, I feel that giving up because there happens to be no perceived solution to this issue is not an option for them.

Joe Wasia

Lydia - First of all, I'm sorry for that interference.

I think, if you do have a committee in place, make him ('the councillor) part of the group by allocating him a responsibility.

If there is a reaction then there will be no solution to the issue.

Reginald Renagi

Terry - That's real bad advice for Lydia to take as it leaves her with no defence for her personal safety if things backfire on her.

I would advise against that course of action although it may seem an easy thing to do now. I also disagree in that corruption is not "the only way things work in PNG".

This flippant assertion gives readers a very damaging perception of things in PNG, and it's not absolutely true.

Many things also work in PNG without corruption like in Australia, NZ, US,UK and many other countries.

These things just don't get reported more frequently in the media there as in PNG in recent times.

First of all, I would not recommend for Lydia to do that.

There are always certain layabouts/informers lurking in police stations any day of the week. And it would not be long before word gets back to the troublemaker councillor of Lydia's actions.

His rascal henchmen will in no time take retributive action against her and CUMA.

A collaborative approach is needed here. Thus, I agree with suggestions by the others.

Several different ways as suggested by them can be employed in varying degrees, but not necessarily at the same time for obvious reasons.

Lydia, set up a CUMA working committee if you do not already have one. Include members from some of the different key groups that make up the Kaugere community who sends their children and grandchildren to CUMA.

Get them all involved in some form or another including this recalcitrant councillor as he obviously feels marginalised.

This councillor may later be your staunchest supporter and ally once he sees his formal status is not being undermined, but invariably enhanced by CUMA's success over time.

Involve the councillor in CUMA activities this year but without any monetary duties for obvious reasons.

Douveri Henao's suggestions are good.

It will give the councillor some sense of civic duty, participation and ownership of CUMA's community family spirit, as well as enhance his social profile as councillor within the Kaugere community.

Appoint a respected Kaugere community leader as CUMA Patron.

It could be the Member for Moresby South, or the Badili Police Station Commander.

This might work towards discouraging the recalcitrant councillor from his anti-social intentions.

Douveri Henao

My village was a recipient of a pilot project several years back in water management. We too had a recalcitrant councillor who actively undermined the project if he wasn’t accessing gifts and the like.

One strategy a few of us deployed was to limit his power and influence by marginalising his voice in the project committee, which was populated by members from different groups in the village: youth, women, professionals and, more importantly, different family members and ethnic groups.

Empowering these groups gave them a sense and purpose of the project and when the dear old councillor was playing his politics, the committee members reacted swiftly in taming his criticisms.

Sure, conflict did come about but what did prevail was greater participation and a sense of ownership that provided an alternative view to the councillor.

If you have a board or committee in place for the school, it might be worth strategically approaching different stakeholders to be part of it. He too should be a member.

When they start appreciating the challenges of the school they will provide that alternative views. I’d be delighted to share other schemes we put in place as well.

Terry Shelley

Lydia - Go to the nearest Police Mobile Squad and pay them a little "lunch money" to harass the councillor. I know this is corruption', however that's the way it works in PNG.

Paul Oates

The problem is not unique to PNG, only the circumstances. Protection rackets exist everywhere for example. Your circumstances involve the clash of cultures between genuine concern and unselfish giving on one hand and the perceived power and prestige of a wanabee 'bigman' on the other.

Kiaps had to deal with this culture clash many times over. We were lucky however that we had some power to usually sort the problem out in the short term. Often the problem still might've lingered in the long term and erupted again if we were not there to enforce the law.

What's the answer? Well that depends on your agenda. Clearly this councillor has priorities that don't include genuine concern for your agendas. Clearly there are the underlying ethnic tensions that can very quickly be inflamed for personal gain.

Squatters on local land are an almost impossible problem to sort out. There is an old adage however that, 'If it was easy, everyone would be doing it'.

What about the children's parents? Are they prepared to stand up for their children's education opportunities? What about local service clubs, (Rotary, Lions, etc)? Are they prepared to provide influence from their high profile members to tell him to lay off? Are any of the local churches prepared to offer assistance from both in and out of the pulpit?

Either you are able to make this councillor part of the solution, in which case he will gain face and support you, or you must crush his power base. There is no alternative. He will be a constant distraction.

If you cannot include him in a school project that he could bask in the glory of success, then he will try to destroy you because you are a threat to his perceived power. He may also see you two as a potential political rival.

Keith Jackson

Lydia - My principle has always been to start at the top. Who is it that you can trust who is in a position superior to the councillor? That's the go-to person.

If no such person exists, it looks like a case for the Ombudsman Commission.

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