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For Anjo & the few who gathered at the Unagi Oval

Truth is not enough; there is a need for conviction


“THE truth will set you free.” Since the day I first saw those words some 20 years ago, I have often pondered them.

Lately I’ve come to the conclusion that the truth can only set us free through conviction. Knowing the truth may be just the first step to freeing oneself and not the end result.

From this perspective, truth is not the end but the means through which we are empowered to be free. Knowing something is wrong is not enough. If, by conviction, one is forced to go against wrongful actions then it can be said that we have freed ourselves from those wrongs.

In Papua New Guinea we have been a victim of this fallacy. There are times when we see violence played out before us or injustice visited upon the marginalised and poor of the society, yet we ignore these things opting instead to find comfort in the thought that it is none of my business. We tend to want to shove it off to someone else (most notably government) to deal with.

When we read in the papers about our leaders at all levels indulging in corrupt practices we remain content assuming that it’s all politics and it’s not our problem. We prefer to react when corruption directly affects us.

However, by the time one tries to react, the problem has multiplied to an extent where it requires collective action to remedy it. It is this kind of behaviour that causes some outsiders to ask if modern PNG society conforms to any kind of logic.

This is because, logically, whenever something is wrong, people tend to rise up and protest, yet in PNG we have rarely done that.

Historically, we do have a record of student-led nationwide strikes over various national issues but always marred by unruly behaviour of “opportunists”. These people do not care about the truth and they certainly lack any conviction to fight for a cause that is for the common good.

Worker-led demonstrations in PNG are a rarity and when they do occur they tend to be confined to a particular industry or subsector driven by agendas that aim to address conditions of workers. In general PNG workers do not step beyond the boundary to voice concerns that affects the nation as a whole.

It is a mystery that baffles the local educated elite and foreigners. How could Papua New Guineans accept corruption knowing full well its consequences on their wellbeing?

If Papua New Guineans in general were asked this question, almost everyone would express dissatisfaction about corruption. However, only a few would commit to take any concrete steps to address the issue.

The cultural aspects of life influence very much the way we perceive leaders and leadership in PNG. Our “bigman” mentality, where we revere and respect our clan leaders, has unfortunately created an atmosphere conducive to bigman-led corruption to flourish to a point where it is “systematic and systemic” as succinctly described by Sir Mekere Morauta.

Corruption in this case is a pyramid system with the bigmen at the helm maintaining their grip on power through wantokism and bribery. An so corruption in PNG has woven its way into and planted itself in the basic fibre of our nationhood making it almost impossible to root out.

In such an environment, most Papua New Guineans may know the truth but that does not necessarily mean they have the conviction to stand up and fight for a better and fairer outcome for all.

For those who decide to persevere, fighting corruption may come at a huge cost. Yet their constructive actions are the key to reining in corruption. Truth to them is a tool to set the oppressed free.

Knowing that something is corrupt does not rid a situation or an individual from corruption. What will generate change is a conviction to do something that leads to a series of actions to change the mindsets and attitudes of people to take a collective stand against corruption.

Truth without conviction is meaningless, like a genius with ideas but no inventions. 


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Michael Dom

Well said.

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