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This ‘pasim maus na harim’ parliament is letting down PNG

The realities of voting in PNG: it’s lamb flap and beer time

Women-voting-PNG-Tarami-LegeiGRACE WAIDE

WE continue to ask whether a people educated in elections and voting rights is the way to go to change the tide come 2017?

And what exactly does educating the masses to be responsible voters entail?

All that most people in Papua New Guinea see in their lives in terms of services is on the eve of elections when the cargo comes to the village to supplement the kaukau.

Cartons of lamb flaps and beer arrive and, like starved vultures, we swoop down and tear as much off the carcass as we can get our hands on.

At the back of the minds of the simple villager, who has lived life solely on his subsistence lifestyle, basic service delivery and the policies that go with it are the business of "the big men in Parliament".

For the villager, the simple reality is: “As long as I can feast and be merry today, life will go on as usual when the candidate or big man leaves my village. So what difference does it make? Feast and be merry today. If he wants my vote, he can have it.”

Sometimes it’s the henchman technique that works. The candidate has the money, he buys the vote. Our people do not fully understand that the value of their vote has the potential to affect this entire country and not just their small hamlet.

Many who do have an inkling of this fact are still not able to vote freely and fairly because of fear. Our laws, and especially the systems that are supposed to be in place to mitigate voter intimidation, are not sufficiently monitored and enforced.

Enforcement is a mammoth task and there is no funding to make it happen. So a simple villager would rather vote along the lines dictated to by the candidates’ henchmen and go to sleep in peace at night than vote freely and run the risk of being attacked.

It is more than likely that, if a voter is killed in a remote village by henchmen for not voting as directed, no one will bat an eyelid.

It all begs the question of how do we educate our population to vote freely and fairly come 2017?

Perhaps in another 50 years, when we are all pushed into a corner and revolt, we’ll exercise our vote smartly. Or is PNG ripe and ready for a revolt sooner than we think.


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