‘Litimapim’ is not our chiefly tradition; it is akin to idolatry
31 October 2015
THE titles we give some of our Papua New Guinean leaders, such as 'Grand Chief', is just that, a title. What we should really be concerned about is the role played by the person with such a title.
As a nation, PNG has embraced the idea of having the Queen as head of state and the Governor-General as her representative, giving a ceremonial nod to the past.
I don’t believe that PNG is lagging much in modernising its traditional values of leadership. For example, the illegal ousting of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare as prime minister in 2011.
PNG has a modern Westminster parliament comprised of elected politicians from across the nation. But the position and role of member of parliament does not automatically make them paramount chiefs or holders of other high traditional office.
One aspect that has gone too far is the throne-carrying of elected MP’s when they visit local communities. This has no precedent in PNG culture.
In Tok Pisin that behaviour is called ‘litimapim’ and is equivalent to adulatory behaviour almost akin to idolatry and cult worship. I doubt if our Speaker has thought of addressing this in Parliament.
The title of chief and the encompassing role of a leader in PNG communities have a more fundamental basis in society than simply the person who got the most votes.
Leaders and chiefs were people we trusted, men and women who were known from close, lifetime experience to speak the right words, to solve disputes, to create peace and maintain harmony, to take the right action so all parties are content and to place themselves in a position to take responsibility for the outcomes of whatever fate befell the community as a result of their words and deeds.
I am sure we all know of men and women who play such significant roles in our own communities but who do not take on the title of chief as our political leaders do.
The mind is the key to changing the nature of our reality.
To change mindsets, people need to be brought to a point where they are prepared to decide about what they believe is good for themselves and their communities.
The more peaceful process of getting to the decision point involves open discussion, proper dialogue between parties and frank and honest speech.
The less peaceful means of arriving at the decision point involves lies, dishonesty and deceit, false posturing, secretive whispers and behind the scenes scheming and manipulation.
Social media has a role to play in changing mindsets in a positive manner because it is, despite much anonymity and barbarity, quite forthright and frank – there are no holds barred.
It is because of this important role of social media that we should be prepared to separate the garbage from the groceries whenever we read stuff on the web.
We are what we eat!
Where good governance and the rule of law (common sense and decency) are no longer respected, political leaders tend to give themselves glorious titles.
I thought Sir Michael already had the title of Sana?
So now we have Grand Chief, Sir, Sana, and Sukundumi?
What do leaders want with more and more titles?
Isn't it enough that everyone in PNG will know them?
Isn't it enough that names such as Michael Thomas Somare will be remembered forever?
Isn't it enough that even God will know about them?
My oh my, we really have come a long way in a 40 year circle.
What was the question yesterday is the same today - which way Big Man?
Posted by: Michael Dom | 01 November 2015 at 11:39 AM
Truly, what is, is
And so it was, but
History shows that what is, was
And that often what was, is
E.g. ISIS, which was and now is
Or WASWAS, is soap in PNG
To clean what is from what was
So, what is, is
And what was, was
What is may be what is;
What is may be what was;
What was may be what was;
What was may be what is;
What is what? What was what?
There it is, as it was, what?
Posted by: Michael Dom | 01 November 2015 at 11:18 AM
My article "The Arapesh leader-diplomacy, peace & mediation" speaks of the Melanesian leaders of old. These leaders earn their titles and work to improve (and protect) the lives or their people. Their authority, legitimacy and word is respected by their people.
Their leadership is a lifetime obligation. They do not come to the people and beg for leadership or title after every five years, so I agree with you Michael in your ideas concerning the differences of Melanesian leadership and titles both past and present and what they mean us.
Posted by: Raymond Sigimet | 01 November 2015 at 05:55 AM
What is, is! And wishful thinking will not change it.
Like it or not, every jumped up 'Lidaman', so called 'elite' (which the newspapers love to promote) calls himself 'Chief' or 'Paramount Chief', or Chief of Chiefs, and one dirtbag even calls himself 'King' of Meekamui.
Whilst there existed formal Chiefdoms in the Mekeo and Trobriands, the title Chief is given (instead of 'Sir', to those awarded the Grand Companion of the Order of Logohu (GCL). The title 'Grand Chief' is conferred on the PNG Governor General and is the equivalent of a Knight Grand Cross' but still equal to the honorific 'Sir' in the Imperial Honours. Grand Chief Sir Micheal Somare is the only 'Grand Chief' outside our present and former GG's.
These self promoting idiots with no right to the title 'Chief' will continue to promote their self awarded standing as long as the Scribblers continue to misuse the title in their newspaper maunderings.
Untersturmbannchief Peter T. (LOL)
Posted by: Peter Turner | 01 November 2015 at 03:52 AM
I was initially somewhat bemused by the word "litimapim" until I carefully pronounced it out loud. Then, suddenly, a globe lit up over my head (so to speak) and I understood its meaning.
As is usual with Pidgin, it is a marvellously evocative term: I congratulate its inventor and can only hope that it finds its way into English.
I agree with Michael that the notion of carrying the local Member of Parliament on high, seated upon a throne, is definitely not a traditional custom in PNG.
Even at the very height of the colonial era, absolutely no-one in their right mind would have sanctioned such behaviour: it was and is far too reminiscent of Hollywood's deliberately disparaging depictions of British Colonial officers riding on elephants in pre-independence India or Burma.
As for according this dubious honour to the local MP, I cannot imagine why Papua New Guineans would think that any one of them was worthy of such treatment.
The act of physically lifting one individual above everyone else is something that might have been seen in Imperial China or Japan and, in those countries, was explicitly understood to symbolise the superior social position of the person being carried above everyone else.
I am sure that neither the Queen nor the President of the United States, let alone the President of China, would be willing to suffer such an indignity.
As for it happening here, I would not wish to be one of the bearers for Australia's Governor General, the Honourable (but very sturdy) General Sir Peter Cosgrove!
Similarly, awarding people the honorific "Chief" or "Grand Chief" strikes me as bizarre for a country like PNG which, to the best of my knowledge, has absolutely no history of conferring such a title on anyone.
Certainly, there were and presumably still are "Big Men", but this title was earned over a long period of service to a clan or tribe, not through an electoral process.
By adopting such practices, Papua New Guinea is betraying its traditions, where the needs and wants of the group always took precedence over those of the individual.
Treat your MPs as they deserve: let them come humbly to PNG villages, not as conquering heroes but as the servants of the people, on their own two feet and humility in their hearts.
Posted by: Chris Overland | 31 October 2015 at 08:52 PM
Michael, what you have written here does not only apply to PNG. It applies to all human societies. That is because we are all human and have the same attributes and frailties.
The fabric of PNG's governmental system is torn between many traditional Melanesian values and a system that evolved over many hundreds of years of trial and error in circumstances that are similar to every human community. Whenever you patch a torn garment together the stitching must be good or it will tear again in the same place and make a bigger tear. In other words, the stitching can either be strong or weak depending on whose doing the sewing, what method of stitching is being used and what material is used in the patching.
PNG's system of government was sewn together by those from elsewhere imbued with self interest who had little time or understanding of what stitching would work best to hold this unique fabric together. They didn't listen to those who wove the fabric or those with experience who understood how the fabric had woven together.
Is it therefore any wonder that the eventual fabric was weak and vulnerable wherever any of the natural strength of the thread and yarn has been constantly 'cobbled' together ineffectually with poor material?
We need a master weaver to review the process and start again. The old material and premise that used to make the fabric of today has well passed its use by date.
Posted by: Paul Oates | 31 October 2015 at 07:51 AM