We are poets: a dose for the poets
Victim of crime

Demise of democracy is a world trend, and PNG is at the forefront

Democracy a la ChurchillPHIL FITZPATRICK

ON 11 November 1947, in the British House of Commons, Winston Churchill famously observed that: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe.

“No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”

Researchers from Princeton University recently concluded that the USA is no longer a democracy.

They base this assertion on data which follows the decline of the political power of ordinary Americans since the 1980s and the rise of powerful wealthy elites.  These elites, they say, now control government policy and use it to benefit themselves.

I imagine that similar research in Australia would come up with the same result.

This became apparent during 2014, when it was obvious that the government is blatantly and blithely following a blueprint designed by powerful right-wing think tanks.

This is why the Australian prime minister can announce that “coal is good” and why he abolished the carbon tax, which has been shown to have begun reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the biggest threat the planet has ever known. 

It is why the less wealthy and low income people are expected to bear the brunt of fixing a fabricated budget emergency.

In Papua New Guinea, it is clear even to the most casual observer that big business, especially foreign big business, is influencing the government in a major way.

Based on these observations, it is possible to conclude that Papua New Guinea is no longer a democracy either. 

In fact, it is possible to argue, if you take the literal meaning of democracy to mean something akin to the Melanesian Way, that Papua New Guinea ceased to be a democracy in 1975.

It is an uncomfortable irony that Australia went out of its way to speed up the creation of an educated elite prior to independence.  This was seen as a necessary precursor to successful government.

That this elite, with some notable and heartening exceptions, is now fabulously wealthy and, as such, has contributed to the demise of democracy is at the heart of this irony. 

Australia’s good intentions were, in fact, antithetical because ultimately they set up the conditions for the destruction of the very thing they wanted to create in Papua New Guinea.

What the demise of democracy means in practical terms is that the electoral process is now obsolete, redundant and a farce.

Taken a step further it means that the system of governance in Papua New Guinea, as it is in the USA and Australia, is now largely dysfunctional for the majority of the population. 

At best the wealthy elite now only toss down a few crumbs to the general population to create the false impression of democracy and to prevent a popular revolution occurring.

Apart from revolution the only sane way to fix this situation is to legislate to rein in the influence of the wealthy elite and their lobbyists.

But this won’t happen because they are now in power and intend to stay there.  Added to this is the well-known fact that the motive of most candidates who stand for election in Papua New Guinea is to join the wealthy elite, not reform them.

It also won’t happen, In Papua New Guinea as well as Australia and the USA, because the average voter is willfully uninformed and politically ignorant.


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Arthur Williams

Albert your praise of the EU Parliamentary democracy seems misguided and you seems unfazed by some of the wealth statistics around our world.

During the last EU Elections I canvassed among several different social groups and almost 90% had no idea of the names of their existing MEP (Member of the European Parliament) The complex system of allocating MEP seats after each election beggars belief and I wonder why bother with actually voting. Albert your praise of the EU Parliamentary democracy seems misguided and you seems unfazed by some of the wealth statistics around our world.

During the last EU Elections I canvassed among several different social groups and almost 90% had no idea of the names of their existing MEP (Member of the European Parliament) The complex system of allocating MEP seats after each election beggars belief and I wonder why bother with actually voting. Turnout was increased 2% to a mere 36%
Elected Police Commissioners – a Tory plan – saw some of the lowest turnouts of any local level elections and one nearby polling booth had ZERO voters.
The turnout was up 2% from 2009 to a mere 36%.
First Past the Post elections in UK have seen the two major parties hold sway for nearly hundred years. In 2010 we had only our second real coalition in a similar time scale. Perhaps it will continue in May 2015 General Election. The Referendum to have a form of Proportional Voting was soundly beaten and so only Oz and PNG use it still.

The number of billionaires in 2014 with a combined wealth of $6.4 Trillion has increased to 1645 from 793 worth $2.4 Trillion in 2009. (Forbes)

The 85 richest people in the world own the same wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest people
Across the world, the growing gap between the rich and the rest threatens our vision of a world free from poverty. Winnie Byanyima, executive director at Oxfam, who will attend the Davos meetings, said: ‘It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world’s population – that’s three and a half billion people – own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus.

The top 1% of UK population's increase in wealth since 2008 alone is at least £150 billion, against a total public debt of £80 Billion.

The chief executive officers of the S&P 500 Index companies received, on average, $12.3 million in total compensation for 2012. In contrast, rank-and-file workers’ wages in the United States averaged just $34,645.
Overall, CEOs of S&P 500 Index companies made 354 times the average wages of rank-and-file workers in 2012.

Some Pension pots to some of wealthiest bankers:
Annual pension Pension pot
Larry Fish of RBS £1.4 million £16.8 million
Sir James Crosby, HBOS £ 572000 £10.4 million

Simon Peckham – Britain’s highest paid director in the financial year ending in April 2013 – received more than £31 million or £119,836 a day.
This is 2,238 times more than a worker on the living wage of £7.65 an hour who worked 35 hours a week.

Yesterday was FAT CAT TUESDAY in UK
The bosses of Britain’s biggest companies will already have made more money in 2015 by the end of today than most workers in the country will earn this year. It has been dubbed 'Fat Cat Tuesday' by campaign group the High Pay Centre.

The house-price boom means the average home has increased by £42 a day over the past year. Property prices across the country have risen by 6 per cent during 2014 making the average home worth £268,895 – £15,191 more than a year ago – according to research by property website Zoopla.

And don't forget the tax havens:
A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary £13 TRILLION ($21tn) of wealth offshore -perhaps up to £20Trillion – as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together – according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network. James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer.

It is common knowledge about the likes of Amazon , Starbucks and many multinationals and fat cat individuals using ill conceived tax legislated schemes aided and abetted by likes of the Wall St. or City of London bankers can sell billion in a year and pay minuscule tax.

We have been told that the elites of PNG are salting away their dubious ill gotten gains in Oz. Daily I read tales of rural people even alongside the LNG pipeline or under Yonki power lines remaining as they were pre 1975 while their politicians live almost permanently in posh Moresby or even in the capitals luxury hotels.
I was amazed at some recent pictures of the high rise buildings in the capital and can only wonder who is living in them while the health, welfare and basic transport of the nation's majority declines.
I arrived in Lavongai in 1970 it had four airstrips, approximately forty aidposts, a nurses training school, leprosy hospital...all now gone along with thousands of hectares of almost pristine forest with the elites' 3 SABLs illegally and unknown to its most of its people stealing almost 90% of the land for ninety nine years. The scenario is repeated across the nation!

The elite have already secured a glorious future for their descendants even if it means running away when the revolution comes. Sadly it was ever thus with the few owning so much of the land here in the UK often given them for shady dealings with the Barons, Lords and Kings of years gone by.

Happy New Year PNG and don't worry the PM and his ilk will give you your circuses on September 16th to celebrate the freedom to remain poor that you achieved 40 years ago.

Lindsay F Bond

(If only as a 'Fitz-ism')
Can we look for earlier completion of a Sumbiripa ring road, yet still awaiting the Awala to Afore traverse?

John Kaupa Kamasua

Yes Peter, but now the guys in the districts are getting more powerful with the increased funding, and becoming comfortable too so that those at the provincial levels are not going to have a cordial working relationships with the ones in the district...

District Authorities might work, and they can work if the local MP shows the way with good leadership and the admin staff can put in some honest and quality work!!

John Kaupa Kamasua

Thank George Orwell for sending us a warning in Animal Farm. democracy has been sugarcoated with so many palliatives to keep the masses at bay.

The places where real changes will come for the betterment of everyone in this country, and any country, must be from beyond the minds and the hearts of those who wield power for and on behalf of those who are governed.

Lets keep talking, but also acting on the important things that need to be acted upon because if we just throw in the towel, then the battle will be certainly lost!

Peter Turner

Yeah, yeah. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Moaning about it won't change it. All very idealistic and rational but not very realistic.

The 'elites' will continue to sandbag the ill - un - non - educated majority, here, there and everywhere.

Good news stories, Paul? Not very popular. Far better to whinge and criticize and listen to the 'ostriches' carry on with their muffled worries about whether or not PNG achieved Independence too early !

Or whether Gough 'gave away' or 'threw away' PNG in 1975 ? Of course the economy was not sufficiently developed, of course there were not sufficient 'elites' to properly commence pillage of their wantoks, but hey, remember the absolute joy right throughout the country at the time?

True you will hear many complaints about 'buggerup' but not one of them would welcome the foreigners back to 'put things straight'. Pointless discussion.

There are interesting things happening though. Apart from nonsense such as adopting draconian laws circa Alabama 1960 and increasing penalties for smoking dope etc.

For instance the new District Authorities Act. 'Anyone had a look at the latest attempt to 'spread the wealth'.

Provincial government turned out to be a disastrous waste of money, but rather than stir the carpal and get a lot of fat cats upset, pass a new law that puts the knife right through the heart of provincial governments, and maybe the Autonomous Bougainville pipe dream as well.

Direct the money to the districts. Bypass those greedy leeches at provincial headquarters.

Our MP's have very quietly and surreptitiously sounded the death knell of provincial government, which will now start to 'wither on the vine'. Hooray for 'District Power'.

Interesting stuff. Oh to be an ADC again.

Orovu Sepoe

Profit and the motivation to accumulate is the greatest evil of all time. Elites without principles and ethics drive and sustain the cycle of profit-making.

The common people are just as fallible as the elites who fall prey to the power of profit. Look at how voters behave in PNG elections. To gain from the electoral process, many voters in PNG sell their votes!

Reciprocity (a more humane/caring form) - the powerful glue in human relations - is fast disappearing; in its place, greed and self-centred attitude and behaviour has taken hold.

This impacts on politics, business and all other spheres of life. How can PNG break out of this cycle? This is the greatest challenge for PNG.

Chris Overland

While I can sympathise with Phil's pessimistic outlook, I do not think that democracy is dead just yet.

True, it is indisputably having a rough trot, with the current democratic political elites across the globe being uniformly uninspiring.

The height of political aspiration for many voters is the fervent hope that whoever they elect will at least be administratively competent and thus not make things worse.

Also, what I would characterise as the overwhelming white, Anglo- Saxon reactionary right has emerged from under a rock in many places, witness the Tea Party element in the US Republican Party.

Abraham Lincoln would be appalled by their callous disregard for the poor, the sick and, especially, the coloured.

The left is arguably in a worse state, incapable of stringing together a coherent philosophical position. Instead, its former adherents have adopted various fashionable causes such the climate, land rights, equal opportunity, feminism, racism, republicanism, the right to a decent latte and so forth.

Absolutely no-one appears able to think of let alone articulate a coherent "narrative" that suits the uncertain times we live in.

All this makes the authoritarian regimes in places like China and Russia look a half way rational way to approach national governance, although close scrutiny of these regimes tells another, much more disturbing story.

Despite all this, I think that there is some hope.

There is, in fact, a "sensible centre" amongst the citizenry across the globe. These people are the silent minority: it is a big minority, maybe as much as 20% of the population, but a minority none the less.

It has always been so. The "rusted on" adherents to our major parties have always cancelled each other out, leaving the sensible centre ultimately calling the shots.

This is fortunate for democracy because when the ideologues from either side of politics get to be in charge, you can be sure that bad things will happen.

In a PNG context, it is hard to see where the sensible centre is at the moment. Perhaps Gary Juffa is a representative?

Hopefully there are a lot more going to emerge on to the national stage very soon, both here and in PNG.

God knows, we all certainly need them.

Raymond Komis Girana

Democracy is the government of the people by the people and for the people as Abraham Lincoln puts it. In other words, democracy is the form of government by the people in which supreme power is vested in the people.

If this is so, then why is it that we allow the 10% minority who are just representatives to rule, make public decisions and grow millions overnight for their own pockets? Why is it that we allow them to serve their own interests?

If democracy is the people’s government, then the people should fully participate in making public decisions. Maybe it is time we wake the sleeping giant (90% people majority) and re-direct the trend to the right direction through direct democracy by allowing fuller participation and decision making by the people.

With developments in travel and communication technology, I am sure the barriers that have long kept the practice of direct democracy restricted to smaller populations have already been broken through development of social networks such as this PNG Attitude site and so on.

If the giant continues to sleep, the dwarfs will run away into hiding in their small caves with the remaining rations for the giant’s community.

Today one need only walk the streets of our cities all around the world to see the contrast between the wealthy, low income earners and the poor.

Our world is suffering from many forms of exclusion, poverty and marginalisation as a result of wrong motives in all aspects of development. In making a difference and bring change, we only need a simple and courageous ‘yes’ from every concerned and responsible citizens and netizens (members of the global internet community) for it is through empowerment and participation that change will come about.

Lindsay F Bond

Of 'proper biometric voting registration', is such system(s) to come from India, China, USA or elsewhere, and is any 'elite' involved in the procurement and management?

Michael Dom

"Wilfully uninformed and politically ignorant"...while others are socio-economically disenfranchised and intentionally disregarding.

Paul Oates

Phil, there seems to be an a hitherto unrecognized, axiomatic human trait that 'the older we get, the more we tend to think alike'.

Once those who have been lucky enough to crack the code of how to create a money tree seem to then be unprepared to share their good fortune.

That is, unless it is done in a flamboyant philanthropic manner at no real cost to their wealth or time and effort. It does look good in the news media though doesn't it and gives that warm inner glow and a wonderful illusion of having done something positive when in actual fact there's no long lasting benefit to look at.

Can someone please share some more grass roots, good news stories and information on 'The Attitude' about how those who have been lucky enough to gain an education and a regular income are now cohesively banding together and taking their knowledge back to the villages?

Service clubs and churches are all very well and do provide excellent work but there seems to be a need for some combined leadership and planned organisation on a national scale. Clearly the national government needs some assistance here and not from high priced consultants.

In many parts of the world, the University of the Third Age (U3A) is providing a conduit from those who have left the work force but still have valuable skills that they can volunteer to pass on to others in their area who have not had the same opportunities in life.

If a concerted effort was made to collectively band together everyone who wanted to volunteer their time to run a 'field day' in each Provence say every month on a weekend day, where literacy and other skills could be taught at no cost, maybe it might start a positive trend.

In times gone past, the only education available to the working class and the poor was often what they could learn at 'Sunday School' which where the name originated.

All it takes is a bit of imagination.

Albert Schram

Points taken. The claim that this is a worldwide trend or that it is irreversible is arguable.

In Europe, for example, the European Parliament has grown more powerful over the past decades, and elections have become more meaningful.

Human rights and democracy are firmly enshrined in legislation, and there are mechanisms to enforce them.

Regarding elites, the number of billionaires is negligible and not growing. The progressive tax system in most countries, makes it impossible to grow so rich. Put the proper policies in place, and you will get matching results.

For PNG, I suggest we start with the election process and get proper biometric voting registration in place, as in India.

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