Party switchers already on the move to Belden Namah
Development - or what do our people really want?

Reform & good management is the middle class role


IN HIS RECENT WRITINGS for PNG Attitude, Martyn Namorong displays views which are penetrating and noteworthy, and which he expresses to great effect.

Martyn has many friends and supporters but seems to have reached the end of the road of reading the entrails of Papua New Guinea’s past and pronouncing upon the failures of the present.

The malign influence of a vast raft of introduced practices, modes of belief, western materialism and reliance upon western-style charity as reasons for modern-day failures is an argument that can be readily made.

But this is a pointless argument. Pointless because recrimination, even where justified, brings little to forward-looking discussion; it offers nothing to the purposeful consideration and design of changes needed for the amelioration and ultimate elimination of the weaknesses we agree exist.

We who have PNG's future as a settled and prosperous society at heart, and there are many of us, understand well the modern-day problems which have arisen in the clash between a pristine, long-settled, multi-tribal agricultural society suddenly forced into functioning to the rules and observances of an industrialised, colonising world.

Britain was once very similar in nature, culture and practices as PNG society was a century and more ago. PNG has leapfrogged the development of large tribes ruled by hierarchies of powerful and murderous despots who took control of land and caused a departure from existing small-tribe common-ownership-based egalitarianism.

Egalitarian principles have remained almost universal in PNG until the recent rise of the present-day selfish, privileged and self-enriched political class.

In Britain a class-riven society grew where there were many levels of privilege and wealth and a sizeable sub-class of small landowners who leased out their land. Below these was a huge class of landless but free, farming “villeins” and large numbers of powerless, dependant slaves.

The phenomenon of kingdoms arose and slowly waned; kings  being the most boisterous, manipulative and vicious raskol-gang leaders in a given region. With the growth in trade of wheat and wool, the taxed percentage taken by the king was used to maintain an effective and brutal Royal Army to keep the lower classes down and to ensure the physical integrity of the kingdom.

In 1066 came William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, the biggest and most brutal raskol of all. William killed King Harold, deposed Harold’s bikmen and other minor rulers in the north of the country, and created his own barons and lords.

Then he stole all the land from more or less everybody south of what is now the border of Scotland. He allocated it to his Norman-French followers, setting up a new privileged class who ruled with an iron hand over many thousands of disgruntled and wary British ex-landowners and their retainers, villeins and slaves.

Then, slowly, slowly, from the time of the Plantagenets in the 14th.century via Henry VIII, came the early, limited and authoritarian version of a parliament. Henry with his habit of cutting the heads off his wives when they displeased him, disposed of the influence of the Pope in England and “re-distributed” the vast landholdings of the bishops and the monasteries.

Then came Cromwell’s rebellion against the king, the civil war and the rise of the Republic. The restoration of King Charles followed and much later the first semi-representative, landowner-only parliament sat in 1724.

Later the first steam-driven water-pumps, winches and weaving-machines gave rise to the Industrial Revolution, followed by the beginning of  evangelical Christianity under Wesley and the development of Methodism and Presbyterianism.

These changes led to the abolition of slavery in England and its colonies, the first stirring of unionism and cooperative societies, the shipment of convicts to Australia, and later the formation of the Labour Party to represent workers and the poor. The awarding of the vote to English women didn’t happen until 1927.

PNG has been forced through a century-long crash course like mincemeat through a sausage-machine. Almost as if the fabled time-machine is a reality.

And PNG has done immeasurably well to encompass and live with all this, to function and to produce as many professionals of high standard as it has.

It also has many big and seemingly intractable problems stemming from a disconnect between the parliament, the executive and the people, and a sad lack of responsibility seen every day in the performance of many in responsible management positions.

You, Martyn, are one infinitesimal part of the undoubtedly valuable result of all this social stress and travail over a scant 100 years.

And just like a speck of some potent chemical you are a reagent which may well cause some beneficial reaction to occur somewhere in the great laboratory of social change which is today’s PNG.

We old whites, no matter that some of us might like to, can’t very well come along and stand up in the market place or even in villages where we are well-known and accepted, and put out ideas for the reform of the management of the country.

This is the role of today’s educated middle-class of PNG; a class of people with a full understanding of the nature of the problem, and a firm view of the targets which society should aim for.

Picking the right road, picking the bridge which won’t break under stress, the car with the reliable, trustworthy driver, and going on the journey with a well-formed plan is the format.

A simple, culturally-acceptable plan which when explained in the settlements and villages will gain approval and create a momentum where change will be pushed into reality.

PNG may not be a precisely democratic state in some respects right now, but this is because of bad steering; the nature of the society is 100% supportive of a democratic system of social management and fair distribution of the common wealth, of which the nation has plenty.

To achieve a result which will be both valuable and personally satisfying, Martyn, and the many others like him in PNG, must look to the future and ponder upon it. You must link with each other across physical, tribal and occupational barriers on the basis of your common interest and your common level of education and understanding of the principles of change.

You must carefully construct a plan for the structure which will robustly support needed change, and which will reject the criminal and the lazy and the non-performing no matter whose cousin they are or which political string they attempt to pull.

You must breathe life into a system which is rooted in the villages and settlements; not in the international hotels and the prestige clubs and discos of Port Moresby and other major centres.

A system which is compatible with those of other lands and other governments with which PNG must maintain strong relationships, but one which is demonstrably in the hands of the people of the land; ol asples lain; iseda hanua noho taunimanima.

The knowledge of the malign influences as well as what has been positive in the legacy of the dimdim , must be a resource and not a crutch featuring in a picture of victimhood.

While I’m not a godly person, I’m sure the Lord will help those who help themselves and think little of those who reject active, forward-looking positivism because its all too difficult.

John Fowke hopes to have a draft paper on a culturally-aligned system of parliamentary government for PNG ready for publication late this week


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Michael Lorenz

According to this recent BBC report, developing countries have other problems besides the perceived inequity of foreign capital investment and the consequent repatriation of the profit (after tax and expenses) from the investment.

At least the foreign capital does invest in the local economy, does create jobs, generally pays tax, sometimes creates infrastructure and increases overall economic activity.

In contrast, the trillions allegedly skimmed by the richest citizens of these 139 developing countries just disappear from the local economic milieu into some murky labyrinthine tax haven with minimal local economic or developmental benefit.

Obviously foreign capital investment, when poorly implemented can create more problems than it solves, but local corruption can impede or distort development in the wider community with no discernible upside.

If these numbers are accurate, foreign investment, even if not one's preferred or ideal development strategy, is not the main problem, if indeed it is an actual problem at all.

22 July 2012
... A global super-rich elite had at least $21 trillion (£13tn) hidden in secret tax havens by the end of 2010, according to a major study. The figure is equivalent to the size of the US and Japanese economies combined. ...

... Mr Henry said his $21tn is actually a conservative figure and the true scale could be $32tn. A trillion is 1,000 billion. Mr Henry used data from the Bank of International Settlements, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and national governments. ...

... The report highlights the impact on the balance sheets of 139 developing countries ... Mr Henry estimates that since the 1970s, the richest citizens of these 139 countries had amassed $7.3tn to $9.3tn of "unrecorded offshore wealth" by 2010. ...

This total translates into more than $1 billion per country per year every year for the last 40 years. Of course this still leaves $10 or $20 trillion to leak from developed countries so it's not a problem unique to the developing economies.

Martyn Namorong

John writes: "You must breathe life into a system which is rooted in the villages and settlements; not in the international hotels and the prestige clubs and discos of Port Moresby and other major centres."

I agree 110%... And yes I am looking to the future. The series of articles that I've been writing set the historical context of how we PNGeans got into the mess. That is what I call the story of Development.

For me, the way forward is as John puts it, a system rooted in the villages. Villagers are landowners. Land contains resources. And the Landlords must be empowered to improve their lives without foreign intervention.

At the moment foreigners take the lions share of PNGs natural wealth. How can PNG realize its peoples aspirations if the resources needed to realize those dreams are in the hands of foreigners.

What this has meant for the nation is that it is no longer in control of its development agenda,...and so the folks like AusAID come in to fill the gap and they will continue to try to fill the gap as long as Papua New Guineans don't control national wealth.

That has to Change and so the way forward is by realizing PNG's National Goals and Directive Principles. They set the development template that is relevant for the PNG context.

Mrs Barbara Short

An interesting article, John. You have a wealth of insight and understanding of the current state of PNG.

I've nearly completed compiling another large Family History book. It includes a section on one of my ancestors, Robert Harris (1796-1882), who tried to help solve the problems of London during the period 1830-50.

The recent changes in land ownership in PNG remind me of this period in England when country-bred folk were forced to move to the cities and raised their children in slum circumstances probably similar in many ways to the PNG squatter settlement of today.

A few years back I enjoyed compiling a book on the history of Keravat National High School and was thrilled to get back in contact with many of my old students. I know many have held, and are still holding, very responsible positions in the running of PNG.

It saddens me when I hear some of the PNG thinkers, who write for PNG Attitude, saying that it is the educated who have become corrupt and have done the wrong thing by the masses.

I guess the hope must lie in the younger generations of educated PNG people who can undo the damage done over the past 35 years.

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