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Seeking advantage: PNG’s new trend of political nepotism

Election billboard (USAID)DAVID KASEI WAPAR

An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism

EVERY five years, we hear of new trends in election manipulation. Whether it’s selling and buying votes, the use of ghost names, various forms of threats and bribery and other foul play.

A new trend now seems to be in the making and it has reached certain parts of Papua New Guinea already. This new tendency is not so much election-oriented but more in the ‘nepotism’ category.

I guess it all started when the Somare government was overthrown in 2012 by the O’Neill-Namah regime.

A good number of Sepiks, both the elite and those in the middle class, came out very vocally sympathising with the grand chief and condemning the actions of the new O’Neill government and even the judiciary.  

There may have been several reasons for their stand, however it appears they would not easily accept the fact that finally the so- called ‘great Sukundumi’ had been tipped out of Papua New Guinea’s top post.

The grand chief was then also governor of East Sepik, another post which he had clung onto for several years. Witnessing his downfall was a slap in the face for his fellow Sepiks.

Not long ago, when William Duma, another reputable leader, was stripped of his portfolio as Minister for Petroleum and Energy, we witnessed a similar scenario.

While a number of people from his Mt Hagen electorate applauded the government’s decision so he (Duma) could spend more time with them, others condemned the government for what they claimed to be an unfair distribution of portfolios.

The sacking of Attorney-General Kerenga Kua has now followed, and we again hear Simbus crying out. However, this time many other Papua New Guineans joined the chorus of disapproval because the sacking came soon after allegations of fraud involving the prime minister.

And most recently the prime minister himself was asked to step down. But The National (26 June) was able to carry the headline, ‘Hundreds march in support of O’Neill.’

The article reported that hundreds of people from the Nipa-Kutubu electorate marched to its headquarters pledging their support for O’Neill, the member of parliament for the neighbouring Ialibu-Pangia electorate.

Off course it’s not a crime to sympathise with leaders who lose a ministry or post. It is acceptable to be proud of ones’ wantoks holding top positions, achieving a higher degree in education or being accorded special recognition.

But one has to be mindful that it is the National Executive Council (NEC) who appoints individuals to posts like Attorney General, Minister for Petroleum and other high offices, and the NEC also has the power to do otherwise.

The people elect their leaders to represent them as o ‘members of parliament’ not directly as Ministers. That task is at the discretion of the NEC.

The fight for prime minister on the other hand is staged at a much higher level and involves political parties except on special circumstances where the judiciary steps in to decide.

Papua New Guineans time and again pray for leaders with high standards who can lead by example however nepotism is an obstacle if others want ministerial portfolios equally distributed throughout the regions and provinces, even if candidates are not capable of handling them.


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