Three tanka
Determined attack on crime delivering results in Oro Province

Today’s PNG politicians are letting down the founders of this country


Members of the 1st House of AssemblyABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS absolutely, so I read somewhere. This adage is very relevant to Papua New Guinea post-1995.

In this year, to control the Chan-Okuk government ‘slush funds’ introduced in 1980 and the hundreds of millions of kina in provincial budgets, the national politicians enacted a self-serving law, the Organic Law on Provincial Government and Local Level Government (OLPGLLG).

During the colonial era and until 19 July 1995, service delivery at the local government and provincial levels were much better than today. Why?

This question can best be answered with two further questions: how involved is Local Level Government in decision making, planning and implementation of projects? And who or what constitutes the Provincial Government?

Since the coming into effect of OLPGLLG, all powers have been centralised in Waigani because the elected MPs decided they were not only going to be the highest decision making body in the land but, due to their warped judgement, it was better that they were also in control of the second provincial tier (by abolishing the Office of Premier and creating the Provincial Governors’ posts) and the third level (by creating the Joint District Planning and Budget Priorities Committee to be headed by the open electorate members of parliament).

Since July 1995, therefore, by a stroke of the pen, the politicians have the benefit of a law that serves their personal interests by giving them control over two constitutionally established levels of government.

To avoid a backlash, the LLG presidents were co-opted as provincial assembly members (or rubber stamps). At the whim of the incumbent governor, some of the LLG Presidents were made provincial executive committee members (equivalent to Ministers).

It is a joke when politicians talk about ‘bottom-up planning’, ‘inclusive government’ ‘transparency’, ‘rule-of-law’, and ‘service delivery in rural areas’.

Taking the concept of ‘bottom-up planning’ for example, the MPs are faced with a conflict of duties.

They are either concentrating their efforts to the neglect of legislation and setting the policy direction on the national scene; or they are involved in holding the chequebook and becoming a ‘project-manager’ in the villages.

The latter has been the case since 1995. It would be interesting to compare the number of laws enacted in Parliament pre and post OLPGLLG. And to evaluate the condition of roads and bridges.

And to calculate how many hours are spent debating important issues on the floor of Parliament. In the 1970s, in the Old House of Assembly, MHAs were still in the chambers meeting and debating at 12 midnight.

I know first-hand because I used to sleep in the back of a Ministerial car waiting for my dad, who was busily engaged in the affairs of Parliament until all hours of the night. The leaders of that era worked for their money, I tell you.

During the tenure of Somare as prime minister (he had cut his political teeth in that same era), a direction was given for a review of the OLPGLLG and I believe that finally, after eight years, it is being carried out.

It is now time for all Papua New Guineans and all concerned citizens and friends to come out in numbers wherever these consultations are held, and demand the separation of powers of the three levels of government, and let MPs be what they are supposed to be - legislators.


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Darren Talyaga

I always envied statesmanship rather than hard talking firebrand politicians - they find immunity to to rule and invite the media on projects they are doing - which is all they sought for - to be in the limelight.

Celebrity seeking leaders seeking favouritism, playing nepotism, Opposition vs Government, criticisms of each other....

Untasteful leaders in their time who when their time as MPs suddenly expire don't mind about their political propaganda of development and policies - they forget all that when people choose another - who is that 'once a statesman, always a statesman' - one reason why I always respect MPs and leaders of old - Michael Somare, Julias Chan, Paias Wingti, Rabbie Namaliu and others including former GGs like Sir Paulias Matane - stable man for the country who respect each other no matter which side they are on for they know they are for one cause - to lead the country forward and not to row backwards while others are rowing forward.

I always remember the last of that 'Great Papua New Guinea Era' that came to its final leg in 2002 when Julius Chan lost to Michael Somare the PM (for the last time) and he Julius Chan, himself became the Opposition Leader. Julius Chan's speech in congratulating Somare was showed the last of the 'act of statesmanhip', not only his words but his tone of voice, his tenure, his stance, his reaction, his words, I always respected you as a leader even when in the opposite side, although I've back from a 5 year boat ride around New Ireland while you continued on undefeated on the ESP seat ever since, I know that all you and I said was thinking back of all those millions of people.

PNG today is a lot different from when we first created. And I hope you and I both finish this final leg with a good note. I envy the respect of each other and their statesmanship always.

Rob Parer

"New Guinea Journeys" by Jack McCarthy. Published 1970

Jack McCarthy who was a Post Courier journalist who broke to the world papers in 1964 that there were West Irian refugee camps on the PNG side of the Indonesian border.

He travelled by canoe at night from Vanimo to meet up with the OPM just near the boarder at Wutung & walked from the beach 5 km into the jungle to their hide out.

He was Public Enemy No 1 and hounded by the Australian government forever after. But he did get the Walkley Award in 1969 for this bit of investigative journalism.

Re McCarthy's assessment & admiration of the progressive Siau Council Aitape & how much it helped each village.

Chapter 2 "Journey into Hope " Page 70 -

"The Council is a crucible wherein the expressions of the ordinary people,meet with equal importance-the policies of the Central Government & the village people.

"I would like to give an example & quote the work & development of a small,rather isolated council whose birth in 1961 demonstrates it's ability to govern by the people & for the people,and to pursue this course with a minimum of outside aid.

"When I first went to Aitape i had been captured by the innate spirit of comradeship & hospitality in all sections of the community & by the old-time air of contentment which radiated through the settlement.The council concerned the Siau Local Government Council in which I have been interested in for years.

"I have watched it's steady development from a small insignificent unit into an organisationof considerable economic substance."

Rob Parer's comment -

When a third tier of government that is Provincial Government was introduced, Councils were considered a threat & the Provincial Government denied them any funds & they all withered away & ended up a joke.

So sad for the ones that were going well like the Siau Council of Aitape led by the amazing Brere Awol MBE from Malol Village.

Mrs Barbara Short

Interesting article. As a teacher 1971-1983 I experienced a well-run PNG. Today, I see all the problems.

If hope the review of the OLPGLLG will be carried out and that the provinces and the LLGs will be once again be given more power to have a say in how they are run so they can be run well.

I hear of how people like Sir Julius Chan and Garry Juffa are running their areas and improving them, but there are obviously many MPs who stick with the bright lights of Moresby and spend their time making their fortune so they can buy a property in Cairns and move their family there.

Nancy Rapan

The reason why service delivery was so much better in the past than today is most basically due to one factor: population.

Our population is going out of control. Anyone who thinks that increased population does not in most instances create increased poverty is crazy.

Those who point to Singapore as an example of dense overpopulation and wealth not only ignore the poor people of Singapore but most importantly, ignore the fact that Singapore's culture has evolved in an environment of no natural resources.

That kind of stress produces competitive, tough people of the kind that our resource rich land will never create. We'll only become like Singaporeans when we have lost our resources and even our land. Should we consider that a measure of progress?

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