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Lazy & naïve young men sweep away fine traditional leaders


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

IN THOSE OLDER NOSTALGIC DAYS, leadership in Simbu was reserved for those who stood the test of time and had infinite civic virtue that protected social cohesion.  These leaders earned their place in society by working their land to make ends meet and stood tall during the troughs as well as the peaks of Simbu life.

Their values and discipline as leaders of their households won the admiration of the community and, when a vacancy was created due to a passing leader, the community knew who would be the replacement.

These leaders built their own houses, cultivated bananas, sugarcane and domestic animals in their yard. They looked after their wife and children and send their kids to school, contributed in cash and kind to feasts and compensation, and were an asset to the community.

The disciplined, mature, hardworking family man would be elected as a councillor or leader because he had a life résumé that impressed. Many true leaders in Simbu won consecutive council elections and served 20-30 years as councillors.

Then things change for the worse. There was talk that more money would be pumped into provincial treasury offices and the third tier of government would handle a lot of cash. Suddenly, in the 2008 and 2013 provincial and local government elections, interest in council ward seats soared.

Drug addicts, conmen, lazy buggers and young men aged 20 to 34 that fed on other people’s crumbs vied for ward council seats. They threatened and shooed away dignified community elders.

Some of these lazy buggers went to ask their sisters and relatives to give them money or a pig to sell and pay their election nomination fees. They told their sister or brother-in-law that there is a lot of cash coming down for councillors. ‘We will dine off this. I have to contest and win.’

Others demand that the community paid their nomination. The wit of these young men’s behaviour is that they don’t build a house for themselves, don’t have a wife, don’t have a garden and, to sum up, don’t know how to make ends meet in life.

Will a miracle happen and transform them if they are elected ward councillors? What good and bad experiences in life do they accumulate to give them the wisdom to be accountable, responsible and make them toil the land for life and sustenance to prop up the community?

Ward councillors are at the level where the wheels meet the turf and they must have the diplomacy to collaborate with the street bureaucrats like police, nurses and teachers to produce peace, health, food, education and so forth.  

But the signs on the ground are different and scary. For example, one bachelor who was elected mayor of Kerowagi this year got drunk as soon as he was declared and tried to rape a hospital sister who was on duty at night attending the sick.

Reports published later revealed he was a bachelor and had been a marijuana addict for many years and, furthermore, was a well-known thief. He stood for the town council seat and won by threats of more thieveries if not elected. But the opposite is true too; more theft if elected!

Another council president married three more women upon taking office.  When asked what formula he used to get more women he proclaimed, ‘Yaltom married Maria,’ referring to his first wife. ‘The other three married the President.

Yaltom concentrated on the welfare of his new wives and Maria’s kids. The community perished. If he loses the next election, will the three women hang on with Yaltom? No, they will flee and Yaltom will shrink to bones and walk home to Maria and the kids for nourishment.

Another ward councillor was on a borrowing spree saying he would repay the debts with interest as soon as he gets the Local Level Government services improvement funds. He was later locked up in Barawagi jail.

Some men who built a feeder road gathered on a mountain top from dawn to dusk waiting for the councillor to turn up with their payment. After keeping a vigil for a couple of days, they heard he had fled to Madang after finishing the K10,000 on poker machines in Kundiawa.

He later sent word from Madang that he would pay them with the next trench of disbursement from the Treasury office.  Simbu people are used to these lies so they don’t care and move on with day to day life as if nothing was wrong.

There are many factors that turn people to pursue individual greed and lust other than communal good but the one factor that catalyses such moral breakdown is the demise of the men’s house.

Informal education and mentoring in the men’s house is lost to relativity and the outcome is this hand-to-pocket leadership.

Well, our democracy is cut, sewn and reshaped to suit these lazy buggers’ needs and to the despair of the community.

One wonders how much more tailoring will be done to democracy as time wears on.

It makes me recall Plato and Churchill’s views on democracy. The former said democracy is irrational; the latter added that ‘it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’


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Jeff Febi

Do away with the LLG Presidential Elections. It has brought more harm than good.

And let the Ward councillors elect a president during their first session like in the old days.

Daniel Doyle

"Simbu people are used to these lies so they don’t care and move on with day to day life as if nothing was wrong."

Therein lies a big part of the problem, along with the demise of the men's house.

If the intended beneficiaries are prepared to accept being robbed by their own elected representative, what hope is there in breaking out of the systemic and systematic corruption that has overtaken PNG.

Sam Koim cannot do it alone!

Marjorie Andrew

I enjoyed reading your story Sil Bolkin. It is sad indeed that the younger generation no longer respects their traditional leaders, and that greed is overtaking politics and the way people relate to each other at the community level. Time to do something about it, I say.

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