IT seems to be standard practise in most western countries for retired or ousted politicians to write books and ‘memoirs’. Many of them see it as an opportunity to ‘set the record straight’.
In reality it is more likely to be an attempt to blame other people for the mistakes or misdemeanours the politicians themselves made while in office. Either that or it is an attempt to secure a tiny spot in their country’s history.
Two of the most recent cases in Australia have been books by ex-prime ministers John Howard and Julia Gillard. Howard was interested in glory but Gillard was interested in putting the boot into the hapless Kevin Rudd, in the nicest possible way of course.
Other politicians write books on their way up the ladder. These manifestos are often much more interesting after the fact when the politicians have peaked, crashed and burned. The standout is Tony Abbott’s Battlelines.
Up and coming politicians as well as the has-beens also write articles for newspapers and journals. Some of them maintain blogs, including most sitting members. The latter are a kind of altar at which they and their friends lay prolific tribute. A few of they even author this confetti themselves.
Some of Papua New Guinea’s early politicians cottoned on to the usefulness of this kind of propaganda. Michael Somare published his book Sana in 1975 as a kind of manifesto and before this, in 1968, Albert Maori Kiki published Kiki: Ten Thousand Years in a Lifetime for the same purpose.
Some retired politicians who continue to take an interest in public affairs and politics write books and articles and author blogs pushing their ideas with the express purpose of influencing public opinion. Malcolm Fraser’s Dangerous Allies, which advocated ending the Australia-USA military alliance, was a great but ultimately futile example.
These days Papua New Guinea’s politicians write nothing. A few of them have websites but they usually contain one original screed by some half literate hack on their behalf and then nothing. Perhaps they don’t want the public to know what they are thinking or, more likely, what they are up to.
Perhaps they don’t know how to write – that’s a disturbing thought!
Someone has recently written a book extolling Peter O’Neill and publishing his speeches (which he probably didn’t write) but it is far from enlightening and certainly doesn’t give away what he thinks. If he paid for this spin he didn’t get a very good deal but we all know about Peter O’Neill’s deals.
The only Papua New Guinean politician actively writing is the Governor of Oro Province, Gary Juffa. He is also an assiduous user of social media. PNG Attitude has been privileged to publish much of what he has written over the years.
The governor displays both wit and intelligence in his pieces. It is a very interesting and powerful combination of literature and politics, a juxtaposition that seems to escape Papua New Guinea’s other politicians.
It is clear that Juffa is a thinker and a writer with a clear idea of his mission. He has written: “Leaders are elected to serve, promote and protect the interests of their people, those who elected them into parliament for that purpose”.
He clearly sees literature (he writes across most genres) as a useful political tool, not only for getting his ideas across and receiving feedback but also in reporting what he has been doing.
In this sense he is a politician for the 21st century whereas most of his contemporaries in the Haus Tambaran are throwbacks to the last century.
So backward are they that they seek to repress literature and the media rather than nurture it. The old adage that ‘any publicity is good publicity’ clearly doesn’t resonate with them. But, then again, nothing much except money seems to resonate with them.
I don’t know how you can drag these literary Neanderthals into the 21st Century but I do know that, if it can’t be done, the future after 2017 is looking pretty bleak.