ON a dreary afternoon, three friends sat making small talk about matters that took their fancy.
Their conversation was based on issues they’d seen in traditional media, what they’d heard from others and what they’d read in the now popular social media.
Tau, a public servant, was reading a newspaper with great interest. Christopher, in his Sunday best, awaited the start of an afternoon prayer meeting. Pele, a villager, chewed betel nut with a newspaper-rolled brus (cigarette) hanging loosely from red-stained lips.
“You know, something’s not right with O’Neill, our prime minister,” Christopher said dryly. “First he took power illegally by disposing of Somare. Then he was linked to the Parakagate corruption scandal and is still to face the law and…”
“He’ll go down in national history as the prime minister who power by illegal means,” Tau interrupted, still scanning the newspaper.
“And thirdly,” Christopher continued, “I picked up from Facebook that almost all the police hierarchy at police headquarters in Moresby, including the Commissioner, were all appointed by O’Neill.”
Tau came in, “Most social media commentators say the police are O’Neill puppets. I agree. All of them seem to have some form of complaint or charges against their names.
“To suppress dissent and protest amongst the population of Port Moresby you must have your own boys manning the police stations. Look at what happened at Unagi,” Tau continued, shaking his head.
“Heavy tactics against a few protesters, very sad,” Pele added.
“Police state,” barked Tau, returning to his newspaper.
“I don’t trust his leadership,” said Pele, “He wanted to build a public university in his electorate.
“Just like Somare, putting your place above the interests of the country.”
“Use the office of prime minister to secure votes,” Tau butted in again.
“You build something in your electorate, play around with people’s emotions and guarantee you’ll be re-elected.”
“Talking about re-election,” Pele came in. “I heard early campaigning for 2017 has already begun. Not openly, discreetly. The usual haus krai contributions, local sports sponsorships, the SMS chain messaging.”
“There’s so many lies, so much deception,” said Christopher, gripping his Bible more firmly. “The Devil is very cunning. He’s the father of lies. Our current leaders preach one thing and do the opposite.
“I heard Lae MP Loujaya Kouza has been removed from the PNC Party. She’s been accused of religious rants and not being able to connect with her voters,” he said with a look of disapproval.
“Women are calling for more political empowerment but the current women MPs are not doing anything.”
“Dame Carol Kidu is still my heroine,” said Tau. “A champion of women’s causes and empowerment of simple people.”
The three paused. Tau flipped the newspaper to the sports section. Pele reached into his bilum for a second shot of betel, mustard, lime and brus. Christopher stood up to check if his fellow believers had gathered at the local church. Seeing no one there, he sat down again, putting his Bible beside him.
“Another thing is that the prime minister and his heavy weights are always preaching about free education and health care,” Christopher said. “Yet you ask any teacher and they will tell you there’s no such thing as free education.
“Recently,” Christopher continued, “I read that services at Boram Hospital are at a standstill.
“It’s in debt. Its facilities have deteriorated. It cannot operate as a regional hospital in its current state.”
“Come to think of it,” Tau said with a questioning look, “I wonder what’s happened with the alleged overspending and inflated costings to build the sports facilities for the Pacific Games.”
“Something fishy there,” Pele agreed. “Some people became millionaires overnight.”
“Some of the work on the stadiums is incomplete with scaffolding still there,” Christopher pointed out. “The government spent more than a billion kina on those projects.”
“The prime minister recently accused members of parliament of becoming millionaires overnight,” added Tau. “I wonder who he meant by that.”
“They’ve already dedicated parliament to the God of Israel,” Christopher declared.
“Anyway, my God is a powerful living God. And I believe in His promise to make things right for His people,” Christopher declared prayerfully, his right hand raised.
The three paused again in contemplation.
Tau continued to scan the sports news. Pele chewed his buai and quietly rolled his next brus. Christopher picking up his Bible and moved off towards his prayer meeting in the church grounds.