THERE is an urgent need to re-order our value system in upholding the democracy and the rule of law in Papua New Guinea.
We have a constitution that applies to every single citizen in this country. But unfortunately it is now divided: one interpretation for the no-profile populace and another for the high-profile.
It is sad for democracy to witness how individuals try to influence the State institutions to corrupt and manipulate the system.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s refusal to go for questioning over allegations against him has now brought a new twist. Police Commissioner Garry Baki over the last few weeks has suppressed our independent State institutions primarily established to uphold democracy and the rule of law.
The Police Force has now been manipulated to lose the values and integrity it once had.
Peter O’Neill plays ‘bigmanism’ with Garry Baki and their associates using their status and money power to choke the survival and independence of State institutions.
Police, Ombudsman Commission and other government authorities must wake up to their sworn duties to their citizens. But it seems they cannot.
The big man syndrome has become government. Supposedly, the State institutions were established to be independent and uphold democratic values and apply the rule of law. But O’Neill ‘bigmanism’ sees no value in State institutions and the rule of law.
The big man triumphs because he can afford mansions, an affront in a country like ours where countless people are homeless, sick and naked and where there is no form of social security to cater for unemployment, old age or ill health.
A caring prime minister could do so much by creating an enabling environment and, in doing so, begin to melt away the gap between the uncaring rich and the fettered poor.
Instead O’Neill has done the opposite – bringing the country to a point where it faces constitutional and economic downfall.
The rule of law is a powerful antidote to the extremes of the conscienceless rich. If we can strengthen the legal and judicial system and solve the problem of judicial corruption, we will do a lot of good for PNG's development.
We need to show that one's wealth or poverty means nothing to the law. Why should fraud police have a superior vetting committee looking over their shoulders for high-profile cases and no such thing for no-profile people?
In PNG today the rich display confidence that, somehow, the law will be silenced in their favour. But most people have real doubt about whether mother justice is not faking blindness. There is a demand for justice reform. If this is sustained and the commitment to it is sustained, it will be good remedy to the evils of ‘bigmanism’.
In most societies, everyone is a big man in his own house. Once you respect the law, you are a big man. Here in PNG, the reverse is painfully the case.
We should promote the western model of ‘bigmanism’. If you are a big man, let us know by your commitment, your sacrifices, your contribution, your work ethic and by your integrity; selflessness and demonstrated love of country.
In absence of these values, your ‘bigmanism’ means you are nothing but a fool.
‘Bigmanism’ and political power are in a hot romance. But curiously, the big man does not believe in the institution of government. Neither does he believe in the force of law. For him, the wealthy individual is a government unto himself. He builds empires around himself and compels the poor to owe loyalty to him as they would to the government.
The PNG bigman is a living example of human rights abuse, constitutional crisis and corruption at the highest level.
The bigman culture promotes crime, especially violent crime. Because of the wall erected between the rich and the poor, many poor people want to propel themselves across the divide to become rich and attempt to do so through violent crime.
The rich, in order to maintain their status, engage in unthinkable white-collar crime.
The rich and liberated who, more often than not, find themselves in positions of trust which they can abuse, have made a feast of the commonwealth in order to maintain their status. Politics for them is a do-or-die affair. This is the main reason for violence and election malpractice.
The ballot box, which should be used to elect people to occupy positions of trust, has been hijacked by the rich. The votes of the fettered poor no longer matter. That is, if they are allowed to vote at all. The bigman has come up with new ballot system that prevents voting; yet results emerge. This distorted bigman's notion of electoral democracy was sufficiently demonstrated at the last election where "the devil came to the polls".
Another evil effect of this culture is that it confuses the greatness in all of us. We devalue people, just because they look poor or because they are not rich. By doing this we deplete the development energy in our country and raise serious question about our understanding of citizenship.
This uncalled-for divide between the liberated rich and the fettered poor has made some people believe that we do not have equal stake in the country – not even elections. This is a dangerous.
"All human beings are born equal and instilled by the creator with unchallengeable rights." Our Constitution reaffirms this equality. We should be seen to be acting this out.
The writer is a former newspaper columnist and investigative journalist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org