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PNG moving towards dictatorship says former prime minister


PEOPLE need to be aware of increasing threats by the current Papua New Guinea government to the right of free speech and to the freedom and independence of the media.

These precious rights and freedoms are under attack as never before by a Prime Minister demonstrably determined to silence legitimate criticism – including criticism of the official corruption that appears to exist at the heart of government.

The Prime Minister’s use of the National Information and Communications Technology Authority. (NICTA) Act to clamp down on freedom of speech and the media is an unparalleled abuse of power.  The nation would seem to be moving step by step towards becoming a dictatorship.

Freedom of speech and a fearless, independent media are the cornerstones of democracy, and must be defended by all sections of society.

It is frightening to think of a body such as NICTA being able to lay charges and conduct hearings under vague headings such as “negative impacts on society”, “lies” and “false information”.

The prime minister’s plans, enunciated and implemented by Communications Minister Jimmy Miringtoro, are not laws and powers appropriate for a free, independent democracy such as Papua New Guinea.

They are laws and powers more suited to command-and-control regimes of the former Soviet Bloc. They have no place in Papua New Guinea.

The prime minister’s plans are very dangerous and clearly open to abuse and to secret political manipulation.

It is also regulation of mainstream media by stealth. Every mainstream media outlet has social media content, usually a Facebook page or a blog.

The prime minister’s plans would capture all mainstream media content in social media and by default would render it subject to these repressive laws and powers and the secret policemen within NICTA and possibly elsewhere.

I am pleased that the Post-Courier newspaper has pointed this out in its strong editorial opposing the prime minister’s proposal, and I hope other mainstream media will join the Post-Courier and publicly oppose the changes.

The undoubted benefits of the communications revolution that have been sweeping through Papua New Guinea would be severely reduced by the Prime Minister’s plans.

The exchange of ideas, the discussion of new ways of looking at issues affecting the nation, the loss of previously unheard voices contributing to national development, the place of Papua New Guinea in the wider information economy – all would be lost or greatly impaired.

The nation simply cannot afford to allow these plans to be implemented – they are harmful socially, economically and politically.  They do not serve the national interest.  They are designed purely to serve political self-interest of the powers that be.

Rt Hon Sir Mekere Morauta is a former prime minister of Papua New Guinea


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Michael Dom

Bernard, I think you're right about changing mindsets because the titles we give some leaders, such as 'Grand Chief' is just that, a title.

What we should really be concerned about is the role a person with such a title plays.

As a nation we have embraced the idea of having a Queen as the Head of State and the Governor General as her representative, giving a ceremonial nod to the past.

I don’t think that PNG is far behind in terms of modernizing our traditional values of leadership, for example some people supported the illegal ousting of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare as Prime Minister in 2011.

PNG has a modern Westminister parliament that we elect politicians from our electorates to attend. But this position and role of Member of Parliament should not make them become automatically paramount chiefs and etc.

One particular aspect has gone too far is the throne carrying of elected MP’s when they visit local communities. This has no precedent in PNG methinks.

In tok pisin that behaviour is called ‘litimapim’ and is equivalent to adulatory behaviour almost akin idolatry and cult worship – I doubt if our Speaker has thoughts on addressing this in Parliament.

The title of chief and being a leader in PNG communities and the encompassing role 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) would speak the right words to solve disputes and create peace and maintain harmony, take the right action to make sure all parties were content and place themselves in the 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 wilfully take on the title of chief as our political leaders do.

‘The mind is the key to changing the nature of our reality’.

But to change mindsets people need to be brought to a decision point where they are prepared to make up their mind about what they believe is good, better or the best for themselves and their communities.

The more peaceful process of getting to the decision point also 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’s no holds barred.

It is because of this important role of social media that we should be prepared to clear the ‘garbage from the groceries’ whenever we read stuff on the web.

We are what we eat.

Bernard Singu Yegiora

But the socially constructed traditional mindset is evident. We now give politicians the name 'Grand chief'. How can we change the mindset of the majority? With the names 'Grand chief' and 'Leader' we look at leaders from a Melanesian political lens.

Michael Dom

"PNG is not at a stage where we can engage in meaningful discussions on cyber space."

So, Bernard, what you have to say is not a meaningful discussion?

Bernard - are you all right?

Quit taking the easy way out.

The Prime Minister is not a Big Man for a specific clan, nor is his office a Chieftainship, a Kukurai, or a Maimai.

The PM's position is the CEO of Papua New Guinea - in the modern world that we live in when a CEO fucks up he gets fired. [Flashback: NPF saga]

Thank Allah, God, Mother Mary and all the Saints, Krishna, Vishnu, Brahma, Lord Buddha, Aslan, Illuvator, Elvis Presley and every other divinity for Western liberal thinking.

You should do that too Bernard - because it is Western liberal thinking that has allowed you the freedoms that you have today yet seem all too eager to hand back to your leaders under the misguided assumption that this is being respectful.

Social media is the new avenue for conversations which can be meaningful if the parties are responsible adults.

Taking responsibility of what we say is what citizens who are respectful of their leaders should do but are our leaders prepared to hear what we really think about them?

But anonymity also plays a key role - quit bitching and embrace it.

Bernard Singu Yegiora

The traditional Melanesian view is, we do not ridicule or defame our Big Man, Chief, Kukurai, Maimai or others with the leadership tag. You can only do so if you have the goods to back yourselves and the hard work to show. This socially constructed view is reflected in such a move.

Western liberal thought after the French revolution has opened the door for the current culture of openly criticizing leaders. But we are not in France or Australia. Also Democracy is practiced differently around the world. PNG is not at a stage where we can engage in meaningful discussions on cyber space.

Singapore practiced a guided form of democracy and look at where they are now, not forgetting Indonesia and China's democracy with Chinese characteristics. Let us not see the world from a Western lens, embrace our traditional values and system which worked well in the past by fusing it with modern ideas.

Michael Dom

Back to grade school then for our journalists and readers - refute or denial - Google it.

verb: refute; 3rd person present: refutes; past tense: refuted; past participle: refuted; gerund or present participle: refuting

prove (a statement or theory) to be wrong or false; disprove.
"these claims have not been convincingly refuted"

synonyms: disprove, prove wrong, prove false, debunk, discredit, invalidate;

verb: deny; 3rd person present: denies; past tense: denied; past participle: denied; gerund or present participle: denying

state that one refuses to admit the truth or existence of.
"they deny any responsibility for the tragedy"

synonyms: contradict, controvert, repudiate, challenge, counter, contest, oppose, rebut;

The key word is PROVE.

The PM has not refuted Sir Mekere's statement - he simply denied it.

The issue is not registering of SIM cards. The issue is the new NICTA legislation.

Bernard Singu Yegiora

PM's rebuttal, working with NICTA to register sim cards to combat cyber crime which includes defamation.

Registering sim cards is not some innocent bureaucratic practice, it is no less than an act of censorship that carries with it the threat of arbitrary action against those the State deems to have offended it - KJ

Bomai D Witne

PNG should change the phrase 'member of parliament' to 'people's representatives' for elected leaders so they are aware of their roles in the bigger world of democracy.

They are accountable to the people (not only voters in a constituency as is the perception of politicians and cronies in PNG) and a free and vibrant media provides for politically educated citizens to be critical of development issues, debate, educate, shape and reshape politicians parochial thoughts and attitudes.

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

The following is food for thought for our prime minister, Peter O’Neill, and our government.

Here is what some very powerful world leaders have said about freedom of the press. We can see why these countries are rich and powerful and their people so prosperous in a free democracy……

“The administration of government has become more complex, the opportunities for malfeasance and corruption have multiplied, crime has grown to most serious proportions, and the danger of its protection by unfaithful officials and of the impairment of the fundamental security of life and property by criminal alliances and official neglect, emphasizes the primary need of a vigilant and courageous press [...]. ~ Charles Evans Hughes

The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves, nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe. ~ Thomas Jefferson

The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted, when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure. ~ Thomas Jefferson

Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive.~ John F. Kennedy

Our press was protected by the First Amendment [...] to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion. ~ John F. Kennedy

A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. ~ James Madison

A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. ~ Nelson Mandela

The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments. ~ George Mason
A free press means a free people. ~ Meet John Doe

For all time to come, the freedom and purity of the press are the test of national virtue and independence. No writer for the press, however humble, is free from the burden of keeping his purpose high and his integrity white. ~ John Boyle O'Reilly

We have to uphold a free press and freedom of speech -- because, in the end, lies and misinformation are no match for the truth. ~ Barack Obama

If you want a society that is free and vibrant and successful, part of that formula is the free flow of information, of ideas, and that requires a free press. A free press is a foundation for any democracy. ~ Barack Obama

Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary. ~ George Orwell

A free press stands as one of the great interpreters between the government and the people. To allow it to be fettered is to fetter ourselves. ~ George Sutherland

Michael Dom

Bernard - political leaders with true integrity don't fear the social media because they are secure in themselves and with the knowledge that slander and libel are already indictable offenses under PNG law.

Also, when political leaders are really in tune with their people at the grass roots (and not just the business class and those who grace the swimming pool at Airways), getting involved in social media as part of their own public relations and maintaining an active rapport with stakeholders and leaders in their electorate communities, then any virtual graffiti put up by keyboard-vandals will be quickly wiped off the general public's perception because it is the disgusting sputum that everyone knows it is.

Hon. Gary Juffa - your associate through this network Bernard - could offer more insights.

More importantly, there are limits to which parliament should dictate our freedoms and responsibilities - whether someone has broken the law is determined by the judiciary arm of government NOT the executive arm: otherwise we're in a dictatorship or anything but a democracy.

The executive arm of government is supposed to be busy dealing with the running of the national policies, finances, security, health and welfare of it's people. Not trying to play policeman by changing laws to suit government members own purposes.

Let our political leaders refund the UBS loan and physically, not by parliamentary prophesying, but by an actual cash money transaction, establish the sovereign wealth fund.

Let our MP's quit the free education policy farce and start to provide quality education from teachers who are already there in class rooms that have real desks and chairs, books and biros, blackboard and chalk, PC's and printers and etc.

Let us hear instead from the PNG medical profession that they are satisfied with the national health system and the free health care service, not from politicians who can afford overseas and international medical fees.

Why don't our good MP's chainsaw down the SABL's instead of the iconic cultural symbols in our house.

Stop the hypocrisy of putting outdated and unintelligible versions of the Holy Bible in church and start offering tithes from their own fat salaries.

Quick math, say 100 MP's give K100 per fortnight to the council of churches, that's K260,000 per year or K1.3 million from every 5 year term in Parliament. Think what the church run services could do with all that money...

Is that too big a miracle to ask of God? Do we have too little faith? Or is that just a stupid request not worth asking?

Oh never mind! We already have a K780,000 bible.

Bernard - you say our leaders 'good names' deserve more respect - I say it's time they earned it!

Misek Komiloko

This is very interesting to hear about the current PM on the intervention of the communication saga.

Let us be mindful that God created humankind a social being and free to communicate and interact with each other to accomplish God's will, vertically with God and horizontally with humankind.

If this aspect is not accomplished then we are not fulfilling the purpose that we suppose as moral human beings. Thanks and God bless.

Bernard Singu Yegiora

I disagree there are some who are abusing this freedom by saying things that are not really good against mandated leaders. In most cases, their comments are baseless or rumours with no evidence aimed at tarnishing the good name of leaders.

Jack Klomes

Wasn't Mekere Morauta part of the team that installed Peter O'Neill in power?

Peter must have stepped on his foot somehow,

Francis Nii

The Judiciary has demonstratively been PNG's only beacon of hope upholding the constitution and ensurig that its democracy is vibrantly functioning.

When Judiciary faulters or compromises with the legislative or the executive arm of the government then we all can say our last prayers.

There is still hope that things will turn out for the better. It's a matter of time.

Willie Mell

Very true.....something needs to be done

Mathias Kin

Sir Mekere is the best prime minister PNG has had in the last 40 years. Close behind him would be another shining Knight Sir Rabbie Namaliu.

Sir Mekere's comments here confirms the ugly trend in PNG today. We have a government hell bent on holding onto power and will go to any length to do that.

We would have thought somebody like Miringtoro would have some brains and some responsibility to say no to O'Neill.

It seem every minister and MPs in government are O'Neill "Yes Sir" men and will carry his brief case any time he is ordered to. PNG, we are truly heading into trouble waters.

Michael Dom


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