Papua New Guinea needs a new national anthem
28 February 2014
An entry in The Crocodile Prize
Cleland Family Heritage Writing Award
COMRADES, brothers and sisters, and fellow travellers on the ship we all call Papua New Guinea!
I am putting forward to you the following proposal: It is about time our country had a new national anthem to launch itself into the voyage of the future.
There are fundamental reasons why the national anthem of the country should be taken as seriously as any other matter of national importance. Songs use words to express feelings, emotions and creativity. They can inspire. We need a song that is all relevant, and driving citizens into the future. We need a progressive song. We need to sing a new song for a new dawn.
This is not a controversial proposal. It is absolutely necessary, relevant and timely and is needed in these times. A national anthem can unite a country. It should beat in tandem with the heart-beat of the country.
Let me qualify myself by saying that I value our history, the significance of our independence and the importance of the national anthem.
For the current generation, the independence of PNG on 16 September 1975 is part of the country’s history. But it is only one of the country’s many significant historical events. Other of equal importance include the World War II and the arrival of the first white men and missionaries.
It appears the current national anthem was an independence gift. It needed to be sung as a unity song. The messages in the song had to be communicated to as many people as possible who remained oblivious to and understood very little of the significance of the independence.
It was important to feel what it meant to be independent and part of a bigger group – a country – and not small tribal groups living in isolation from each other. In many instances, the song needed to remind people that they were part of an independent nation.
Many people in rural and isolated communities were unaffected by the significance of the independence message. They lived in isolation from each other, from government services, and from the bases of power.
Leaders in the highlands feared that the people were not ready for independence. Many educated people also felt that the people needed to be educated and introduced to western ways of doing things. They needed to be familiar with the democratic institutions that were necessary to strengthen the country. Independence needed to be sold to the people and the song did a marvellous job at that.
However, with the changing times and the younger generation becoming assertive with new needs and aspirations, a new song or national anthem is needed. Today’s generation wants something more than just a sense of independence to be part of a growing nation.
We have the Vision 2050, an overarching document that transcends all other development documents that carves out a path for national development and progress. We need a song that encapsulates the will, dreams and heartbeats of our seven million people, their hearts beating as one.
Independence and unity need to be emphasised, given that the country is culturally diverse and that it is geographically difficult to connect the people. But we need to be emphasising and building more on our potential and the things that are going for us right now.
The current national anthem is sung by tens of thousands of people: by young children during school assemblies, on special occasions and when receiving important visitors to our country. For those who understand the words, it reminds them of a past event and takes them back to a particular point in the history of our country. We continue to live in the past. It is not current, relevant, progressive and forward-looking.
A nation’s anthem should stir, drive, move and propel the citizens of a nation towards something greater than themselves. It should help stir a national consciousness.
We are over-emphasising the need to unite when we should be looking for the things that already unite us within a country divided by so many differences.
My fervent argument is this: No country should be encouraged and allowed to sing about its independence forever. We need a new national anthem that captures history but also accommodates the present while giving us confidence about the future.
History is important, so are the present and the future. The song has become a cultural and historical icon. It is an important part of the country’s heritage. But my analysis is that this anthem lacks punch, kick, motivation, will and spirit. It is not too compelling.
There are some essential elements that can be retained, particularly the reference to God, the land, and freedom (that we already enjoy) which is a legacy from our ancestors. And an indication of our independence can be sprinkled into the new anthem for good measure.
We need to be decisive and determine what it is we need to sing as a national anthem into the future and beyond.
The new national anthem with the national pledge should be made compulsory and be part of a Primary School subject such as Community Living. It must be memorised and learned by members of teams of all sporting codes, associations and community members, and the young people in this country
A national song competition can be organised by the Prime Minister’s Department with the Chief Secretary as the Chairman. It should have the endorsement of the National Executive Council.
This is not a trivial matter. It must be pursued as a matter of urgency and national importance.
That a good evaluation of the national anthem, it really gives some points to consider when looking at its meaningful words.
I just want to make a suggestion. The PNG government and its people need to really live what the national anthem describes.
Posted by: Moses Kawli | 18 August 2021 at 06:05 PM
A dumb question perhaps but when I was sent to school in PNG in 1974-77, we sang another national anthem....
"Papua New Guinea, our motherland, let us join our hands as we walk together, united we shall stand..."
What was that? Or am I totally confused?
You are correct, Marielle. This national song was replaced by the current anthem for some reason best known to the authorities of the time. In my view, the song you used to sing was far superior - KJ
Posted by: Marielle Sander | 06 September 2014 at 07:40 PM
Hi Governor - Thanks for that perspective.
Even if we cannot change our national anthem, we should continue to question, probe, be critical and sometimes give credit to where it is due.
Keep up the good work.
Posted by: John Kaupa Kamasua | 04 March 2014 at 11:51 AM
Hi Emma - Thank you for your very passionate response. I agree with you entirely, and more.
I think I have said what I needed to say in this short article. I am not going to put anything new on the table. Besides, I am just one person.
I think we are both not proposing any thing different…just degree of difference.
If we read between the lines with a pinch of salt, we find the very same frustrations, emotions, fear, and uncertainty that I am grappling with as a result of what it means to be part of a free, independent nation.
Of course we need to question whether we are really free or independent in a very promising and blessed country. Yet, I do not question my allegiance to my country, nor do I want to count my contribution to nation building. That would be selfish.
I want to remain upbeat and positive about the future. It is important.
Each of us can see only a part of the whole picture: If we all can find something to contribute to building that whole picture, even without the need to change our national anthem or anything else that identifies us as a collective, then it may be worth the effort.
Posted by: John Kaupa Kamasua | 04 March 2014 at 11:46 AM
I like the idea Michael proposes...we should learn from the past...and plot our future.
The sad fact is, our future is being sold every day by inconsiderate so called leaders in their wheeling and dealing political survivalist efforts.
Packaging and selling PNG as fast as they can....
Posted by: Gary Juffa | 02 March 2014 at 08:03 AM
Well said Emma.
Posted by: Michael Dom | 02 March 2014 at 07:25 AM
Hi John, I love our national anthem and have since I was first introduced to it as a child. It inspires my national pride and gives rise to how I can meaningfully contribute to the development of my country.
I feel it is seeking to draw out of its citizens a response of allegiance to our country; this then gives it an essence of timelessness making it relevant to all generations. It raises questions in my heart and mind that I must ponder and answer…
O arise all you sons of this land;
You who slumber and dream of former days
You who shrug your shoulders and just pray
You who talk but don’t walk what you say
Let us sing of our joy to be free;
Are we truly free from all the bad ways?
Are we free to say yes and allow ourselves to
Assimilate the new into our traditional
Praising God and rejoicing to be;
Are we praising God by conserving
His creation; are we praising God
By respecting every person from this
Papua New Guinea!
What do you mean to me?
Shout again from the mountains to sea;
Bellow forth the proclamation of justice,
Peace and unity, from the mountains to
The seas, until every girl and every boy
Can love unconditionally
Papua New Guinea!
What does it mean to be me?
Let us raise our voices and proclaim;
To what cause will our voices be raised,
What edicts will we excitedly lay claim?
With what zeal am I protecting the
Papua New Guinea!
What can I do for you (not me)?
Now give thanks to the good Lord above;
Do we really know the Lord above?
Do we really want to know his word?
We say yes, we will do the good…
Then shamelessly flaunt the bad
For His kindness His wisdom and Love;
Kindness for all no matter what
Love to all despite the past
Wisdom to choose the right path
Commitment to see it through no matter what…
For this land of our Fathers so free;
Our fathers were never slaves upon their land
Our fathers preserved with respect their land
Our freedom depends upon the decisions at hand
What legacy of freedom will we bestow our land?
Papua New Guinea!
I will arise to defend thee!
Shout again for the whole world to hear;
With one intention we will arise
To defend our nation to all eyes
Passion and ardent adoration of our
Ancient glorious land our prize
Papua New Guinea!
I will give my very best to thee!
We are independent, we are free
Our independence a heritage
Our freedom a privilege
We will do our utmost best to preserve it
For future generations
Papua New Guinea!
I am proud to be!
Posted by: Emma Wakpi | 01 March 2014 at 07:59 PM