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Taking a different look at corruption: bribery or luksave

Corruption control in PNGTIMOTHY PIRINDUO

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

“The optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity”  -  Winston Churchill

LUKSAVE - a Tok Pisin word that means to acknowledge those people that you know.

Luksave is commonly expressed in Papua New Guinea to mean that one is obliged to recognise those who have helped the process of making a claim by paying certain tips or commission.

This concept puts things in another perspective and takes a swipe at the everyday language of corruption. Let me put forward a model to help in the fight against corruption.

Edward de Bono, acclaimed as the father of lateral thinking, tells us that inventions and innovation comes from thinking sideways or outside the box rather than thinking vertically or logically.

We can go further by saying that logic is the use of the five senses and lateral is the use of the sixth sense, better known as intuition.

I’ve been keeping an earnest and vigilant observation on events relating to corruption and feel obliged to contribute these thoughts.

Hopefully they land in good ears to see the fight against corruption break new ground in PNG, not to mention to improve PNG’s very poor ranking in the World Corruption Index.

Let me first define corruption as the use of public office for personal gain and misuse of trust. It is mostly associated with those in positions of trust or leadership.

As the issue is addressed at present, all traffic seems to be heading one way on an unending highway against the onslaught of corruption.

No one seems to head back in the opposite direction to find the opportunity in this contagious disease rather than taking it head-on and being overrun by it.

It is too late to take it head on once you are under its crunch.

Fighting corruption the way it happened now is to fight a losing battle.

What we fail to understand is corruption is here to stay. It has always been around since sin fell upon mankind in the Garden of Eden and Eve was bribed to fall to the whims of the evil one.

The Bible tells us that this was the origin of sin, the cardinal sin, genetically implanted in each human from conception until cleansed by the Spirit in baptism.

Judas Iscariot, betrayer of Jesus, was bribed. In our villages and hamlets prior to the dawn of modern civilisation, corruption was around. Corruption is in our blood. All of us are corrupt until our characters and attitudes are changed.

Corruption in its modern day context is a side-effect of urbanisation or modernisation. Wherever humans dwell, corruption goes with them with different shapes, sizes and names like luksave, save-pes, wantokism, nepotism, forgery, trickery, conning, fraud, debauchery, and seduction.

We are too feverish about it because the first world want this to be a characteristic of the third world. They are even more corrupt than we are, but they don’t dramatise it. They are more concerned about millions worth investment rather than in-house politics and adverse publicity.

Take networking. It is a business practice that you establish some form of knowledge and understanding with business partners or potential clients to smooth business transactions.

Because this person is someone with whom you already have a connection, business is hassle free. For someone without such a relationship, some waiting may be required.

The white men call it networking and we call it ‘luksave’ or ‘save-pes’. So, where does corruption fall in such cases?

Speaking from a Melanesian perspective, where blood is thicker than water, you’re only sentencing yourself if you turn a blind eye on a clansman or woman. For this is where your identity lies. Fighting corruption in such a culture takes a lot of courage.

I have a theory about when corruption will be lessened in PNG.

You see, corruption - apart from the cardinal sin - is an issue of attitude. And from where we are now, where majority of us are connected to our land, our thinking is still of obligation to another clansman or woman.

A clansman would have all the attention in the world. Today, before we visit an office, we try to find out who is employed there to raise our chances of being considered or at least have easy access to the approving authority.

The only time corruption can lessen in PNG is when we have a majority of the population being quarter-castes, eighth-castes and so forth as a result of inter-marriage. This is a breed with lost identity that can now live as true Papua New Guineans. A culture that encompasses more than one ethnicity will minimise the save-pes identity.

The modern day corruption of using public office or capitalising on position is the inner man’s desire for fame, power and glory. It is also the urge to be on a par with other fellow citizens.

We come from a chieftaincy and rivalry society, hence continuous striving for fame and recognition is an inbuilt trait.

And the little, almost depleted, pay packet to meet everyday demands exerts enough pressure to innovate in the wrong way. The perpetrators know this and, with a bit of inducement, they will surely get the desired answer.

So, what are we saying here?

Corruption misspelled is really looking at corruption from a totally different angle. Instead of taking it head on, which does not seem to be having great impact, let us befriend it, like sleeping with the enemy.

Recall the saying, “Your greatest enemy is your best friend?” The common French saying, “To know someone is to live two moons in a moccasin”, tells us not to make judgement until you have understood well the subject at hand.

Exactly. We go with the flow and harness it. Changes cannot happen until we know the psychology of it. The behaviour patterns. The essence.  Only then can we start removing the stimulus and replacing it with the conditioned response of positive behaviour.

One of the seven qualities of the eagle is it loves a storm. It seeks the eye of the storm to rest its wings, and soars and glides while other birds hide. Likewise, an achiever relish challenges and use them profitably. Challenges are platforms to soar higher to the next level.

Innovation is all about seeing things differently. Great inventions are the end results of problems breaking away from the sea of complacency and the status quo. Innovation is bred out of turmoil and crisis.

Corruption in PNG in its many forms takes a hammering mostly through the media.

We cry over it from high places right down to the root level. The police and the Ombudsman, so as to advocate against corruption, investigate and speak out through the media.

Nobody knows whether this has some impact on changing behaviour. There are no hard facts or data to substantiate changes in the proportion of the population that is corrupt. We need data to work against so the issue is addressed as a whole rather than piecemeal.

Advocates against corruption now should work with institutions like the National Intelligence Organisation (NIO). In clandestine operations, information and data must be collected, collated and analysed.

Rather than pressing charges, the agents work to deny the deal from eventuating all the time being careful not to blow their cover. This will require a unit specially trained with smart operators. These people must be trained to think in the fourth dimension.

Another opportunity presented to us by widespread corruption is to research new management techniques that embrace our customs and traditional belief systems.

We adopt too much western style of management that conflicts heavily with our way of doing things; one of these being traditional obligations.

You may have only 10 days of compassionate leave in a year. Once utilised you must take leave without pay or even put your job on the line. Imagine a close relative has passed away and the organisation cannot release you.

The kandere (close relative) practice is good for investment. Helping one another in time of need: not done just for you now but for the children who carry on the obligation as years go by.

Meticulous studies will identify ways in which to integrate and synchronise our customary practices into global practice. Thinking globally but acting locally if you like.

This is how we can call it our own and it will surely help in defeating systemic diseases like corruption. Living in places like Japan, you have to learn to eat with chopsticks whether you like or not.

Problems like corruption arise because the system it rides on has lot of loopholes. There is an opportunity to overhaul the system starting from the political ideology. Liberal democracy must be done away with and guided democracy introduced.

The public service should be dismantled into business units rather than having ineffective centralised control that is too bureaucratic and heavily burdened with red-tape. It is a haven for corruption and ill practice.

To eradicate corruption is to think outside the box and see the opportunity presented by widespread corruption.

Other nations will learn from us instead of this ‘we should use the example of so and so’.

Our ancestors were never taught how to put meaning in life by any person outside their confines and that is why we have 800 plus languages. Use that to our benefit.


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John Kaupa Kamasua

Timothy - I feel like we have gone down this road before.
What you are sharing is actually nothing new. We have heard it before.

You have not touched on the many “foreign interests” that perpetuate and nurture corruption to thrive. You and I and many Papua New Guineans are educated to a level to understand the negatives of corruption.

Yet there are so many people in this country who are not so educated and literate to a level to understand the level and seriousness of corruption.

They and we are victims and unwilling spawns of the corruption game. The end losers are the masses, us included, while the players are off with their spoils.
Many people are simply ignorant and trying to educate them will be a challenge in itself.

The worst forms of corruption are the ones that are institutionalised and systemised - they happen within the contexts of institutions or government departments.

The 10% culture and awarding contracts to cronies regardless of whether they meet the fit and proper test or not.

When you hear or read in the newspapers and see on television that a sizeable amount of funding was made available to an entity or government agency or to the district, you may be sure that a good chunk of that will be siphoned off through kickbacks or bad deals - corruption.

This culture affects service delivery, rural development, education and health for children and women, and employment for able-bodied and those seeking active employment or just want to genuinely participate meaningfully.

No wonder our social development indicators deteriorated, and economic progress have been stalled while we have some of the most atrocious maternal and child health statistics in the Pacific and the world.

There have been many instances of official corruption before even this one, where millions of kina have been squandered amounting to billions by now.

I do not agree that we should be putting efforts and money into complicated research when the problems should be addressed head on. There is enough known about corruption in this country.

There should be no two ways about addressing the corruption problem. A wrong is a wrong, and if a law has been broken, the same law must be applied to correct that problem.

Yet the problem is that people who are involved in corruption will use their squandered wealth and influence to use the same law to try and prevent the course of justice. That is why we see that lawyers are having a field day!

For me thinking outside the box implies a growing strong and independent middle class – if we have a growing strong willed middle class, who do not subscribe to the pressures of luksave but conduct themselves by the laws of the land.

We need to work very hard to ensure that ethnocentric views must be replaced with nationalistic sentiments and actions. Institutions, programs and practices that promote that needs to be encouraged and nurtured.

Virgil Narakobi wrote in a recent article that we need to call a spade a spade. A wrong is a wrong, an act that breaks a law must be proven as such and the perpetrators punished.

No Melanesian perspective or interpretations must be allowed to enter the picture and dilute the gravity of an official act of corruption. Otherwise we will forever compromise.

We must still have hope and faith in the justice system, the judiciary in particular and the courts. Failing that then we can say goodbye to any hope of salvaging the country from certain destruction!

Chris Overland

There is an old joke in Australia that goes like this:

Question: When did corruption first appear in New South Wales?

Answer: 1788!

Corruption is, as Timothy asserts, endemic in this world. Wherever there are humans, there will be corruption.

The lure of wealth, power and influence is simply irresistible to many people. Some will abandon scruples and ethics in pursuit of these things. Fortunately, most will not.

PNG is exceptional only in so far as the corruption is so blatant, with its practitioners being completely shameless both in their criminality and their misuse and abuse of political power to avoid justice.

The current prime minister has left no stone unturned in his attempts to circumvent or overturn the judicial process initiated by Operation Sweep.

The question rightly asked has been: Is this the conduct of an innocent man who has confidence in his country's judicial process?

I am quite sure that no politician in Australia could survive in political office if he or she so openly and determinedly tried to avoid complying with the law.

Recently, the former Premier of NSW was obliged to resign when it was revealed that testimony he gave before the Independent Commission Against Corruption, in which he denied receiving an expensive gift, was subsequently found to be incorrect.

In this case there was and is no suggestion of actual corruption on his part, merely that there was the appearance of the potential for corruption. Yet he had to go and go he did.

The contrast with Mr O'Neill's behaviour is striking.

The solution is not "guided democracy". This is always code for a small, self appointed elite ruling the many.

There are perilously few examples of such regimes proving to be benign in the long term.

Perhaps only Singapore has managed the trick of combining a fairly robust democracy with a very authoritarian government and then only because of a very special individual, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

It makes more sense to radically strengthen PNG's anti-corruption bodies to make them effectively immune to the whims of parliament.

Paradoxically, it may take a PNG version of Singapore's revered leader to actually do this, but it must be done before there is any hope of exerting serious control over the corrupt politicians and officials who are so relentlessly strangling PNG's present and future hopes of emerging from poverty.

So, Timothy, you and other like minded Papua New Guineans need to find a way to change the rules whereby the corrupt are relentlessly hunted down and severely punished.

Take a leaf out of Lee Kuan Yew's book where, in the face of inevitable human frailty, harsh justice was seen as an unpleasant necessity for the greater good.

The evidence from all over the world is that while corruption will always occur, a very severe regulatory regime will stop it from being a country killing systemic failure of the type evident in PNG.

Peter Kranz

"Liberal democracy must be done away with and guided democracy introduced."

Are you serious, Timothy? 'Liberal democracy' is about giving all people a say in the election of their leaders and being able to call them to account, via elections or institutions of state.

'Guided democracy' is about giving one person or an elite group autocratic control over the state.

Guided Democracy (Indonesian: Demokrasi Terpimpin) was the political system in place in Indonesia from 1957 until the New Order began in 1966.

It was the brainchild of President Sukarno, and was an attempt to bring about political stability. Sukarno believed that Western-style democracy was inappropriate for Indonesia's situation.

Instead, he sought a system based on the traditional village system of discussion and consensus, which occurred under the guidance of village elders.

All well and good

But remember. in the case of guided democracy in Indonesia between 500,000 and one million were killed.

A CIA report described the massacre as "one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century, along with the Soviet purges of the 1930s, the Nazi mass murders during the Second World War, and the Maoist bloodbath of the early 1950s."

And the Americans willingly helped. The American Embassy provided a list of over 5,000 'Communist' sympathisers who were subsequently killed.

-- David A Blumenthal and Timothy L H McCormack (2007) The Legacy of Nuremberg: Civilising Influence or Institutionalised Vengeance? (International Humanitarian Law). Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. ISBN 9004156917)

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