Some reflections of an expat returned to PNG after 8 years
Funding cuts to Bougainville stir secession fears

Living in peace and harmony in Papua New Guinea


An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony

LIVING in peace and harmony in society is life in fullness for a human because it enables individuals to achieve their full potential.

People have the basic right to live in peace. It is utterly important that every member of the community, church and government ensure that peace and harmony prevail.

The significance of this is emphasised clearly in the national goals which form the basis of the Papua New Guinea Constitution.

In the traditional era, my people had strict laws which guided them. They had the ‘hausman’ and ‘hausmeri’ system where boys and girls were drilled on how to conduct themselves as men and women because the future of society depended on them.

In the ‘hausman’, the dignified elder men gathered the boys and introduced them to the traditional laws. The reputable elder women did the same for the girls in the ‘hausmeri’. These systems were a traditional learning institution which helped to maintain peace and harmony.

My people had basic laws that were similar to the Ten Commandments from Christian teachings. They also had laws for other activities like food exchange, compensation and even for tribal fighting, which may seem contradictory.

We remember that in past times, Papua New Guinea highlanders always lived within their tribal boundaries for security purposes.

In contemporary society, there is a general breakdown of law and order. The traditional laws no longer are important as the wave of modernisation takes precedence.

There are numerous law and order problems encircling society. Since traditional law lost its power, the onus is now on the Christian churches and the State.

These institutions, consciously or not, have taken over the previous ‘hausman’and ‘hausmeri’ system. Both should realise that they must shoulder this central responsibility to bring peace and harmony to citizens.

The churches must be acknowledged by government as important cohorts to maintain law and order.

From pre-colonial times until now, missionaries have contributed greatly to the development of the country. The government budget must cater for the churches which are changing the people with the word of God.

This is part of integral human development that is embedded in one of the nationals goals. When people change integrally, it reflects in their attitudes. This leads to a prosperous society where people enjoy peace and harmony.

The government must now be serious in battling law and order problems to achieve its 2050 vision of a ‘healthy, wealthy, safer and just community’.

The recent economic boom must expand existing law enforcement bodies. Every local level government should have 20 police officers with all required logistics. Every district should have a corrective institution on top of the existing one. On top that, the government must recruit more reserve police units. They can provide extra manpower to be deployed during special events. This will all cater for the increased law and order dilemma facing our society.

The government must also expand the existing village courts system with at least 20 peace officers attached to the proposed local level government police stations. Offenders can then be arrested straight away.

At the moment, village court officials are paid fortnightly unlike before, which is a good sign. Their duties should be prudently adjusted for more effective court administration. This will enable the common people to feel the presence of the state and respect its laws, creating a peaceful and harmonious environment in our rural societies.

Moreover, the government must encourage the educated elites with allowance during vacation periods to undertake awareness campaigns on the importance of keeping law and order.

The government must install important infrastructure in rural villages. This will discourage rural-urban drift. This will reduce squatter settlements which are a breeding place for law and order problems in urban settings.

Law and order in the traditional society was strong which enabled the people to live in peace and harmony. Due to the influence of modernisation, traditional laws have lost their authority as people adopted modern ways as more important. This led to a major breakdown of law and order.

The challenge is now on the government and the churches to take the dilemma seriously before it is too late.

The suggestions provided here offer alternatives for government, church and stakeholders to link with the government’s 2050 Vision Statement. We must not forget that the people have a right to live in peaceful and harmony.


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