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Is Peter O'Neill a Machiavelli moving to some cabal-style rule?


THOSE of us who have watched events play out in Papua New Guinea over the last several months have, I suspect, believed that we were observing politics as usual in the land of the unexpected.

But what if something else is going on? Is it possible that Mr O'Neill's current problems with allegations of corruption are a mere sideshow and not the main game?

Consider, for a moment, how the situation is unfolding.

First, in what seems like politics as usual, Mr O'Neill has been able to ensure that the one body that can dislodge him more or less instantly has remained supine.

The members of parliament who ought, by any normal standards of behaviour, to have tossed him out of office have remained resolutely fixated on the contents of the trough in which their snouts are busily snuffling up public money.

At least one member has been honest enough to admit that as long as they can carry on in this way Mr O'Neill will remain essentially impregnable.

Just to double down on keeping his parliamentary base under firm control, formal sittings have been suspended and will not resume until it becomes constitutionally impossible to remove Mr O'Neill in the run up to the next scheduled election.

Second, the Royal PNG Constabulary has been effectively neutralised by the judicious appointment of a sympathetic Commissioner who, in turn, has been able to play on existing divisions within the force to disrupt and disable those honest officers who are still trying to pursue the corruption allegations against Mr O'Neill.

The recent shooting of university students is symptomatic of an ill disciplined force more intent on neutralising a perceived threat to public order than to preserving the democratic right of citizens to protest against political actions they dislike.

Third, if recent reports are to be believed, the PNG Defence Force is quietly being infiltrated by large numbers of recruits whose primary allegiance may not necessarily be to an abstract concept like the nation state of PNG but to a much more real and tangible entity, being their highland homeland and, of course, its leaders.

If this is actually happening, then it must be with the knowledge and consent of those doing the recruiting and this, one might reasonably infer, could not happen without the senior officers knowing about it.

Such a strategy in relation to the composition of the Defence Force could prove to be a master stroke in the long run. It is a tried and tested approach in Africa, where ensuring that the military has strong tribal links to the political leadership ensures that the army, at a minimum, remains neutral in any political conflict. At best, it gives an entrenched regime an armed group of enforcers to suppress dissent and keep social order.

Having the army composed primarily of wantoks overcomes one of the principal problems with trying to exert control over such a diverse country as PNG, because it allows the government to reliably project military power across the country.

Potential opponents remain divided along traditional lines while the army is a unified, disciplined force whose members have a vested interest in maintaining the political status quo.

Fourth, with effective control of the public service, police and army in its hands, the government is able to ignore or otherwise sideline the judiciary. Basically, a court can issue whatever orders it likes to no real effect if the coercive arms of government choose not to enforce them. 

There have already been allegations that some judicial officers may be compromised. If this is true, then the task of ensuring their acquiescence to the government's will becomes so much easier.

It is therefore possible that Mr O'Neill is actually pursuing a much more sophisticated strategy to entrench himself and his cronies in power than any of us may have previously imagined. If so, he is simply using the well proven African model for subverting critical state institutions and disempowering potential political opponents. There is the appearance of democracy where none actually exists.

Of course, critics might well say that I am quite delusional and seeing a Machiavellian conspiracy and plotting at a level of sophistication that simply cannot exist in PNG. Despite this, I think that the scenario I have outlined is at least plausible.

The veracity or otherwise of my speculations will become evident over the next 12 to 18 months. For what it is worth, my prediction is that Mr O'Neill and his closest parliamentary supporters will be easily returned at the next election and he will once again become prime minister, creating a government based upon mutual self interest and, perhaps, some judicious blackmail as well.

Far too many people in positions of power and influence are now far too compromised to be able to plausibly resist either inducements or threats. As the police say, once you are bought you stay bought.

If I am right, PNG will fall under the control of a cabal of mostly highlander MP's, whose primary allegiance will be to the pre-eminent "big man", whose judicious distribution of the perquisites of high office will ensure that they and others remain firmly under his influence if not outright control.  Of course, their wantoks will prosper, while the others languish, but this is truly the Melanesian Way.

I hope to be proved completely wrong, but fear that I will not be.


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Corney Korokan Alone

There are compelling reasons for consuming distilled information in an age of massive data dumping.

The original argument was premised on a presumptive assertion - and it's quite sad to see it going off tangent.

Papua New Guinea's military is small and diverse. The force maintained their neutrality during the Sandline crisis (never took over the government), fought for the brother Vanuatu government and instituted the mandated government in place in the 1980s, and the maligned one-day Yaura Sasa mutiny show of Jan 26th 2012.

The government remain intact during all these times. Where is the new pointer coming from?

That neutrality will remain under O'Neill or any other future prime minister.

The assertion, that just because some junior recruits from PM O'Neill and Dr Pok's provincial groupings have been enlisted in the rejuvenated military (which was reduced to cinders by the Morauta government of 1999-2002), there's suddenly a sinister plot at play. I don't buy such prophecies. Please don't export that.

There is Worldenesian Ways (similar to Melanesian Ways) that exists around the world too; albeit in larger scales that serves the plutocratic interests of those cartels and seemingly do gooders. We're not oblivious to those facts.

And mind you, there's a certain mischievous oligarchy that build their businesses around that too. We just witnessed one of such oligarchy's world-gripping financial disasters (2007-08). This wasn't the manufacturing of some developing or third world countries' governments.

So I am at a loss to put a finger on what kind of stupidities we're talking about here.

Rashmii Bell

Excellent piece, Chris, including your subsequent and most recent comments. Your latest read sounds quite interesting too.

Daniel - I also appreciated that brief profile of the various African dictators.

Chris Overland

I have recently finished reading "A Short History of Stupid" by Helen Razer and Bernard Keane (published by Allen & Unwin), in which the authors decry the continuing prevalence of seriously stupid ideas.

They contend that, despite the astonishing achievements of science and the accompanying vast increase in human knowledge, as well as the huge increase in literacy and numeracy and, most recently, the easy access to information provided by the internet, many humans continue to tenaciously cling to seriously stupid ideas.

They point to obvious examples such as the anti-vaccination movement or those who continue to believe in the utility of communist ideology, those who believe that the Apollo 11 moon landings were faked, climate change deniers of all persuasion and, of course, the truly barking mad and immensely destructive religious beliefs that bedevil so much of the world. There is indeed a great deal of stupid about.

It seems that we humans have an almost infinite capacity to engage in wishful thinking and self delusion, being all too ready to believe in the proverbial fairies at the bottom of the garden despite all evidence to contrary.

Being both an historical empiricist and pragmatist, my personal philosophy is to subject ideas, especially of a political or economic nature, to cold eyed and sceptical analysis before deciding whether or not they deserve support.

This is sometimes a surprisingly painful process. Quite a number of my ideas and beliefs about the world have not stood the test of time and parting with them has not always been easy. I can therefore understand that fear of this type of existential pain may be what prevents many people from abandoning foolish or even self destructive ideas and habits.

That said, it strikes me as more important than ever that more of us be prepared to subject our own and others beliefs and ideas to forensic scrutiny, both by utilising the intellectual tools provided to us by science and technology and, more broadly, from areas like history and philosophy.

The principal aims of this ought to be, firstly, to avoid self delusion and, secondly, try to prevent the propagation of the many irrational and self destructive ideas that seem to all too readily grip the human imagination.

This brings me to contemporary PNG, where it seems that far too many people continue to cling to beliefs and ideas that, whatever utility they may once have had, no longer serve the people or the country well.

Thus, PNG has a social system based upon mutual support and reciprocity that still makes good sense for those living a traditional, subsistence based lifestyle. Paradoxically, it also helps produce perverse effects within the political system that are inherently destructive in nature.

The so-called Melanesian Way has been compromised and hijacked by PNG's political class and bureaucracy who have twisted and deformed it into a rationale for bribery and corruption, as well as a means of entrenching themselves in power. Basically, what was and is good idea in a particular social context, has now been made stupid.

A great danger for PNG is that, as it continues its transition from a highly diverse collection of Neolithic societies towards modernity, it will fall into the terrible trap that has brought such suffering in many post colonial countries.

The most conspicuous failures have been those countries that have adopted authoritarian ideologies of one type or another. The inevitable result is to entrench in power an unaccountable oligarchy and, eventually, economic ruin.

In Africa, Zimbabwe remains a stand out example of this while, in South America, the destruction of Venezuela as a viable state by the Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, is another.

This is why recent developments in PNG should be ringing alarm bells amongst its citizens.

This is why I say to Corney Korakan Alone, it is an amazingly stupid idea to imagine that Zimbabwe offers a sensible governance model for PNG. It is a model of a pathway to disaster.

Better to choose South Africa as an exemplar. The inspired leadership of Nelson Mandella should be what grips your imagination, not the self serving and disingenuous anti-colonial ranting of Robert Mugabe.

Corney Korokan Alone

The world no longer buys into a single story line about Zimbabwe.

Whilst some of its challenges are due to the dereliction of duty and service by her leaders, there is a credible line of thought that also says there is an economic sabotage and assault through undeserved sanctions which have had more effect in impoverishing the masses.

First they denied their existence. Then they claimed they were only targeted sanctions. Of course,targeted to choke the economy for the Zimbabweans to suffer, create instability and unrest, with the strategic goal to have the population rise against Mugabe - the aged old regime change agenda Nothing far-fetched but the world has gotten used to this dogma.

Marcus Mapen

Good post Mathias.

After reading all that, people who still think O’Neill is the best prime minister should be recommended to a psychiatrist.

Peter Kranz

Arthur - Tjandra now seems to have now secured a monopoly to be the only rice supplier in PNG. How can O'Neill consistently get away with saying one thing and doing the exact opposite? - look at SABLs.

And Chris is right, this is not about the Melanesian way but the use of power and corruption to cement a stranglehold on the country. It has a long history of course.

In Australia there was nearly a coup in the 1930's engineered by 'the new guard' who bailed up the NSW Parliament, forced the resignation of Lang and raised Nazi-style militias - a little-known part of Australian history. They even gate-crashed the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Maybe I'm getting a bit paranoid in my dotage, and I am reading Whispers of Betrayal by Michael Dobbs (author of House of Cards).

Mathias Kin

“The best ever PM the country has ever had since independence”? The majority of PNG thinks differently.

The father of the nation, Michael Thomas Somare had his cold days. Between 2002 and 2011 his government was engulfed with rumours of widespread corruption and nepotism.

The people were frustrated with Somare’s children and a few handpicked ministers called the ‘kitchen cabinet’ who were dominating all decisions of the executive.

Also many Papua New Guineans were unhappy with the Grand Chief’s prolonged absence when he was hospitalized in Singapore.

The 2011 political impasse of Waigani, Peter O’Neill’s ascended the top post supported ably by ex-defense force captain and Vanimo Green MP Belden Nema.

This was interpreted by many as unconstitutional and a coup. However due to the prolong issues with Somare government, the public generally supported the change.

After the 2012 election, O’Neil became Prime Minister in the coalition government. Moreover during his term in parliament between 2012 and 2016, rumors of corruption, scandals and deceits reached levels never seen in the history of the country.

The O’Neill government was accused of rendering irrelevant the institutions of parliamentary democracy and it seems his government might be immovable.

They even began tampering with the National Constitution to bolster their position by making it difficult to move a motion of no confidence. The opposition attempted the VoNC four times with no success.

O’Neil appointed the commander Defense Force who is from his district Ialibu Pangia and currently there are accusations that 70% of the new recruits into the army are from that part of the province.

He had appointed three Police Commissioners so far (he sacked those that did not listen to him) and other key agencies including the central bank. He even had the backing and prayed to by prominent Pentecostal Christian pastors.

He made irrelevant the Team Sweep, an anti-corruption unit he set to investigate corruption in government agencies. When the team begun investigating him (O’Neill), he quickly disbanded the unit.

When Team Sweep got a court order to remain, he cuts off their funding including cutting of its Chairman Sam Koim’s salary.

Among the issues that painted the O’Neil picture shadowy were the NPF issue, Paul Paraka K71.8 million saga, the K3 Billion UBS Loan, K144 Million LR Group Generators Deal, expropriation of OK Tedi, the K2 billion Pacific Games and the K160 million Kumul Fly-Over issues went unanswered.

These are far too many issues for any one politician and in any democracy across the world, the Prime Minister would have listened to the voices and stepped aside. Not PNG’s Peter O’Neill.

Many times O’Neil as Prime Minister had been accused of not telling the truth on important national issues. For example that he lied about a “Forward Fixed Sales Contract” for PNG LNG sales and told the Nation that revenue from the PNG LNG sales would not be affected by the oil price slump, and he told the nation that the PNG LNG revenues were kept safe in a trust account at the Central Bank of PNG.

It was revealed later that the money has been directed into an escrow account in Singapore to service the K3 billion UBS loan.

These deceits and accusations of corruption created a big public outcry in the country never seen before. Many PNGians are asking for O’Neil’s resignation.

Since 2012, Peter O’Neill came up with two policies; free education and free health care. There seem a consistent let down in strategic vision or plan among all stake holders at the implementation of these plans.

Much funding allocated through these two sectors in its annual budgets seems lost in the process and are not reaching the intended population. For example at the end of 2015 and in 2016, schools were complaining that their Tuition Free Fee components have not been received. Also budgeted funds for health programs in the provinces were also not fully received in 2015 and 2016.

On 8 June 2016, a highly trained unit of the PNG Police, the Special Services Unit fired on a peaceful protest march by students of the University of PNG. More than thirty casualties resulted and two are reportedly still fighting for their lives at the Port Moresby General Hospital.

The Prime Minister and his coalition using their numerical strength quickly adjourns parliament on the very same hour students were being fired on by police.

A few minutes prior to the move for adjournment, the PM accuses the students of inciting trouble and played down the issue as a law and order issue. Some MPs in parliament even yelled; “ol husat!?” (who are they?) referring to the students.

The Police Commissioner also blames the students as the instigators and that the police had the constitutional duty to protect people and property. So they can shoot live bullets into a crowd of peaceful and nonviolent students?

Condemnations of this shooting poured in from all over the world including the United Nations. O'Neil and Baki wouldn't barge.

A week later 49 people died in a shooting in Orlando, America and O’Neill is quick to send his condolences and condemns extremist Islam.

I would hardly call this Prime Minister Peter Charles Paire O’Neill a “best ever PM the country has ever had since independence”.

In real most Papua New Guinea would call him the worst prime minister since 1975.

Chris Overland

Corney Korokan Alone makes the mildly astonishing claim that "the West" has a grudge against Zimbabwe for expelling the white landholders and resuming control of the land they had cultivated.

The criticism of Mugabe is not so much that he allowed the frequently unlawful seizure of the land, not to mention the murder of its occupants, but that he has presided over a catastrophic decline in the wealth and living standards of Zimbabweans.

Colonial Zimbabwe, for all its faults, was easily able to feed the entire population and have grain and other foodstuffs available for export to other parts of Africa. Not for nothing was it called the bread basket of Africa.

Now, Zimbabwe is routinely in food crisis and reliant upon international aid agencies to feed a substantial proportion of its population.

Under Mugabe, Zimbabwe's economy has shrunk by over 50% and its currency is effectively worthless. It is, in practice, a mendicant state with little prospect of recovery anytime soon.

The sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe apply to only 98 individuals (just guess who they might be!) and their businesses, plus there is an embargo on arms sales from the USA, the European Union and many other countries.

Meanwhile, humanitarian aid in the form of food, agricultural assistance and equipment, health supplies and so forth continues to pour into Zimbabwe at a cost of anywhere between US$800 million to US$1.1 Billion per year.

Zimbabwe is a basket case and will remain so as long as Mugabe and his cronies remain in power.

I suggest that Corney looks elsewhere for models of good governance in Africa.

Arthur Williams

It is Father's Day in UK. So I look out at the drizzling rain of a typical British summer and as I eat my Kellog's thought I'd cheer myself up a bit by reading a witty yarn on the ex-kiap website by its excellent tale teller Gary Luhrs.

That was my first mistake – he too was worried about what had gone on with the students protests. So I thought better check out Attitude.

Wow, Papas Dei! Surely it can only get better after the sad prophetic posts about the PNG PM's project in this blog by Chris.

In 1975 I believed PNG could become a proud independent and successful nation. Perhaps because at that time I had lived only among the coastal people of the nation who seemed quite able to run their own lives. How wrong I was.

A nation blessed with such an abundance of natural wealth surely should have become a beacon for the ACP nations in the United Nations. But no! greedy MPs subverted by the carpetbaggers which Gary spoke of in his article have run amok for many years.

I would place the start of rampant corruption when the Look North policy really kicked in. perhaps it was too early or too pre-digital for any grass roots rebellion against some of the scams that the Big Men of Waigani were starting to inflict on their people.

It would grow progressively worse until we now have a fugitive from Indonesian justice Mr Joe Chan aka Tjandra in bed with the slime of Waigani and so able to secure the gift of citizenship even though failing to have a residential qualification; secure huge building contracts; be allowed a multi-million rice project - oli kolim Clear Felling Logging; just like the Konoagil Oil Palm Project of NIP.

And in also timber not forgetting the terrible unjust & overwhelmingly illegal SABLs mainly given out to shady companies which could prove to be shadows of the giant caterpillar of them all RH.

Citizens ignored by the mafioso, tongs or just multinational spivs who leech onto the bigmen of the nation to suck out the wealth from the nation. Paris and Total are mentioned in various posts here.

The company is being allowed to proceed with the second LNG project in the desperately impoverished Gulf Province as if it was terra-nullius. The PM and his ministers along with Total make grandiose speeches in many forums as if there were no people living in Baimuru, Kikori, Ihu who have clearly expressed their voices that the refinery must be in the host province so that there can be tangible improvements in their muddy creeks and swamps...not another pipeline to foster yet more 5-Star hotel high rises and development for Moresby.

Perhaps people do not read about the rip-offs of the oil companies, the 7-Sisters as they once were known. So nations across the world can bear witness to the failure of the extravagant political promises that oil would bring.

Total's record around the world augurs badly for PNG and especially the vulnerable ecosystems of the Gulf province. Among cases heard or pending are:

Bribery and corruption of Iranian officials during their sanctions times.

Likewise with the Oil-For Food corruption in Iraq.

Bribery of Italian officials to obtain a contract.

Use of civilian slavery in Burma.

In Malta it demanded, a now pardoned, corrupt official be part of a deal.

Huge 400km oil spill at La Rochelle.

In 2000 with French government connivance Total got Elf Oil out of France's biggest ever fraud case by being allowed to merge with embattled Elf. The fraud case disappeared.

Our esteemed leaders know all this yet are happy to get their snouts into the trough with such multinationals even offering tax holidays, exempt land taxes and import duties with now Joe Chan Tjandra getting rice import quotas to protect his project in Papua.

The solution to the defeating the PNG PM's project.....Oh how I wished I had the answer. Sadly there seems to not much hope of a change at the ballot box, assuming the impoverished and underfunded election actually happens.

I am saddened at the lack of comments not only by the NIP Governor and founding father of the nation but with the almost complete silence from non-ministerial MPs who appear gagged and blinded by their allegiance to O'Neill.

I only hope it won't take PNG over 36 years as is case with Zimbabwe for the nation to regain its rightful place as an example of how government can be conducted for the benefit of its people.

I do not want my daughters and grandchildren to become beggars in their homeland until they are in their 70s or 50s before being able to enjoy life as free people not merely existing but living fulfilling lives.

God bless not only the fathers of PNG but all of its people as they hope for a brighter future free from the evil corruptors of the nation.

John K Kamasua

This scenario took some form of shape some time back. Now it is being consolidated...bold but not so unrealistic to be expected in the near future.

Corney Korokan Alone

We may not find the "supposed paragon of virtues from the continent of Africa" (made of 54 different nation states) but some of them are innovating and making enormous progress - especially this decade.

Look at countries like Rawanda after the 100-day, bloody genocide of April 7 to mid-July 1994. Today, that country is within reach of her target to be a middle income earning country by 2020. There is solid leadership demonstrated by leaders like Paul Kagame despite of the dissenting factions within his country and her exiled citizens abroad.

Most of the countries in the African continent are making strides with innovation in myriad ways and is home to many of the fastest developing countries in the world today.

The world is witnessing an economic shift, with developed countries taking a backseat in respect to economic growth in recent years. Developing countries, especially those in resource-rich Africa, are coming into their own, and shaping up to be amazing investment possibilities - of course made possible by stable (not perfect) leadership.

Let us also not discount the high literacy rates in some of these African countries compared with other developing countries/continents.

Some Papua New Guineans, know that, the West has a grudge against countries like Zimbabwe for dislodging most of their free-holding landlords from its beautiful country adorned with diamonds. The grudges are obvious to the global citizens on manifold dodgy sanctions against the country.

The PNG politicians are not held by fear of O'Neill's military men.That's the ground truth.They are busy developing their electorates these days unlike the long NA regime period in which 8 plus years of budget surpluses were stashed away in rusty trust accounts - ultimately disappearing into thin air without any major infrastructure developments to show for.

Just this week Tuesday; one of the daily papers recorded Sir Peter Ipatas as labeling Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill as the best ever PM the country has ever had since independence.

There are substantive reasons why such leaders recognize him to be so. It isn't mere political gamesmanship.

Chris Overland

In response to Marcus Mapen's point, I entirely agree with him that PNG is not Africa.

However, the issue here is not ethnicity or social structure so much as it is the use of tried and proven political techniques to subvert democracy. These have transnational application and are not particular to Africa or anywhere else for that matter.

Thus, current exponents of these techniques include President Vladimir Putin in Russia, President Erdogan in Turkey plus there are innumerable other practitioners in Africa, led by the seemingly deathless Robert Mugabe.

Personally, I'd put Frank Bainimarama's take over in Fiji in a slightly different category. It seems that his basic aim was not to entrench indigenous Fijian power or, I think, even the military's, but to create a fairer and more democratic political structure.

His objection to the regime he supplanted was that it was neither fair nor genuinely representative. So far as I can tell he was quite correct in his assessment of the situation at the time.

Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries objected to the take over not because of the motivation but because of the method used, being military force.

Anyway, that is now history and Bainimarama has been elected as Prime Minister in what was clearly a free and fair election.

I do not think that Mr O'Neill shares Mr Bainimarama's altruistic ideals. His actions speak louder and more truthfully than his words.

Marcus Mapen

Fiji under Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama since his 2006 coup has been (and still is) the happiest nation in the world. Fijians are Melanesians like Papua New Guineans (not Africans).

Wilson Thompson

Just like in African experience Western powers supported or allowed dictators to prosper and were complicit in restoring order even when dictators held onto power by abrogating powers

Paul Oates

Ed, there is no doubt that O'Neill would have discussed his alternatives with Bainimarama and Mugabe, etc. Let's face it, Fiji has weathered the storm (from the Commonwealth and Australia and New Zealand in particular), and no one has deposed Mugabe (who is supported by his 'African solidarity' even in the face of destroying his nation from the inside).

The scenarios in Fiji and Zimbabwe are different to PNG however in the Mugabe is supported by the Mashona majority and the Fiji situation is the juxtaposition between the native Fijians and the Fijian Indian population.

Perhaps that's why O'Neill is reportedly now recruiting a majority of home grown highlanders into the Defence Force? If I was Gari Baki I'd be very concerned about my ability to maintain control once I was threatened by a highlands controlled Defence Force, given the historical animosity between the police and the defence personnel.

Maybe O'Neill's long term plan is to create such a violent and disruptive situation that he can simply justify declaring a state of emergency and so defer any election until a date to be fixed (i.e. never). Or am I guilty of suggesting a too highly orchestrated plan for controlling PNG?

I'm going to read my old copies of Montserrat's Books "The tribe that lost it's head", and "Richer than all his tribe'.

Marcus Mapen

Read this. PNG is not Africa.

Different continent, different countries, different geography, different cultures, different religions, and the most importantly, different people. Physically looking like Africans doesn’t make us the same as Africans.

Doom and gloom predictions about PNG are not a new thing. Right now, we just need to remove this corrupt and reckless prime minister. That is all that needs to happen and it will be done (one way or another).

Ed Brumby

The evidence, verifiable and circumstantial, that you present Chris suggests, sadly, that you are dead right.

Interesting that no-one has yet made any reference to the Fiji military government scenario. Different circumstances, sure, but not necessarily out of the question? Or is it?

Martin Tonny

A few PNG Prime Ministers in the past attempted to take control over PNGDF but always failed because PNG is geographically challenging and the multiplicity of different cultural heritages and languages makes it impossible.

Even, if as Chris says, the bigman attitude creeps in, we the Highlanders will go back to our man's house (hausman) and say "mi lida tu na mi gat haus man blo mi yet".

We require respect from another bigman to be treated like a bigman and ruled by one, especially from another Highlands province.

The PM is currently using his power as PM. Let's wait until 2017. PM political party will not get majority and PM will be hunted by the very same coalition he beds with.

Peter Kranz

Speaking of Idi Amin Dada, have you seen The Last King of Scotland? Frighteningly realistic.

Daniel Kumbon

Everybody fears PNG is headed in the direction of failed African states. Here is a brief profile of the five most corrupt dictators of Africa. Starting with Robert Mugabe who recently came to PNG for the APEC meeting continues to reign over in Zimbabwe.

ROBERT MUGABE - Good things came to Mugabe late in life, but he seems to taking full advantage despite his advanced age – he became Prime Minister of Zimbabwe at 56, President at 63 and is still going strong in office in 2016, having been re-elected six times, at the age of 89! His political career first came to the world’s notice when he became Secretary General of the Zimbabwe African National Union during its conflict with Ian Smith’s white minority conservative government in the 1960s; and he became a political prisoner in Rhodesia 1964-1974. Once released he, with Edgar Tekere, fought in the Rhodesian Bush War until it ended in 1979, becoming a hero to many Africans – and stood in the 1980 general elections, to become the first Prime Minister of the newly independent Zimbabwe.

He has generally been a force for peace, intervening in various local wars to help settle them (although some have called this a tactic to control the areas’ natural resources and thereby bolster Zimbabwe’s economy), but since the turn of the 21st century his government has been forcefully correcting the inequitable distribution of land between the white minority and black majority that was a legacy of the years of colonial rule. This program was enforced more and more firmly, including economic sanctions, and the policies have (predictably) been condemned both nationally and internationally by those on the losing side, whilst being praised by other African nations with similar inequities …

2. Hastings Kamuzu Banda - Banda became prime minister of then Nyasaland, a British colony, in 1963 and took it to independence as Malawi a year later. Two years after that he declared himself president of the new Republic of Malawi and then made it a one-party state under the Malawi Congress Party. He was made President for Life of the MCP in 1970 and President for Life of Malawi itself in 1971. He was something of a split personality, however – some hailed him as a hero for improving his state’s education system and infrastructure dramatically and supporting women’s rights, while others called him a corrupt tyrant for the 6,000 (at least) people that were jailed without trial, tortured and even killed during his regime (some put the figure nearer 18,000) and for supporting apartheid in South Africa. In 1993 his one-party state was ended when international protest prompted a referendum, and he was stripped of all positions and most powers by a special assembly immediately afterwards. To give him his due, he did run for president in the following democratic elections – aged ~96 years! – but did not win. He died in South Africa three years later, in 1997.

3. Jean-Bedel Bokassa - Bokassa was born in French Equatorial Africa and served in the French colonial army for 21 years, but when David Dacko, a distant cousin, became president of the country as the newly independent Central African Republic (CAR) in 1960 he was invited to head their armed forces – and six years later ousted his cousin and declared himself president, then President for Life in 1972, and finally emperor (of the “Central African Empire”) from 1976 to 1979. His ceremony investing himself as emperor cost $20 million and nearly bankrupted the country! His rule was a reign of terror, with him taking all important government posts for himself and instituting judicial beatings and punishments such as the loss of body parts for minor convictions.
He had hundreds of school children arrested for refusing to wear uniforms he had made, and is reported to have had 100 of them massacred – while he watched. He was deposed by French paratroopers in 1979, reinstating his cousin as president and the country as the CAR again, and he went into exile in France with a fortune he had embezzled. He was tried for treason and murder, convicted and sentenced to death in absentia and when he returned in 1986 this was put into effect, although the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment – then in 1993 he was freed, to live as a private citizen in the CAR until he died.

4. Ahmed Sekou Touré - Touré, born in the French colony of French Guinea, started in politics where he was working when in 1945 he joined the Postal Workers Union (PTT), and he worked his way up to become the leader of the Guinean Democratic Party in 1952. He was instrumental in Guinea becoming the first of the African colonies to gain its independence from France in 1958 (the rest joined it in 1960), but the French were quite nasty about it when they left Guinea. In 1961 Touré was elected president for a seven-year term; having declared his party the only legal one and as its leader, he was of course unopposed; he then repeated this at the next three elections. His policy was based on Marxism and maintained by arresting and jailing or exiling any opposition – somehow this won him the Lenin Peace Prize in 1961! His tyranny developed slowly; by the end of the 1960’s people in opposition were taken by secret police to detention camps.
His relations with France were sour from the start, but gradually those with the Soviet Union, United States and most other countries began to follow; he even blamed Washington and the CIA when a Guinean delegation was imprisoned in Ghana. Eventually his paranoia made life so unbearable for the Guineans (around 50,000 are believed to have been executed) that they began leaving the country in tens of thousands. Despite this, he was re-elected unopposed for a fourth term in 1982 and then things began to improve, probably because Guinea needed Western investment to develop its resources! Touré collapsed in Saudi Arabia in 1984 and was rushed to America for cardiac treatment, but died there anyway, on 26 March.

5. Idi Amin Dada - Another notorious but famous African dictator was Idi Amin Dada.Amin served in the British Colonial army in Kenya and Somalia from 1946, rising to be a Major General in Uganda’s army, and then its Commander, after Uganda gained its independence. In January 1971 he deposed then President Milton Obote and seized power in a military coup (promoting himself to Field Marshal a while later). Amin was very much a tyrant, with estimates of people killed during his regime ranging between 100,000 and 500,000, and nepotism, corruption, economic mismanagement, ethnic persecution and human rights abuse being rife throughout. He finally ‘shot himself in the foot’ when he tried to annex a province of Tanzania in 1978 and this, along with growing dissent within Uganda, led to the Uganda-Tanzania War and caused the downfall of his regime the following year. He was forced to go into exile, first to Libya, then to Saudi Arabia where he died.

Students and activists across PNG are calling on Peter O’Neill to step aside and respect the rule of law. But how many of our other MPs also have the tendencies they would be notorious dictators if they themselves were the Prime Minister? Pick them out for good in 2017.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Forgot about Total Keith. Good point.

But why would O'Neill be dishing out this horse shit to the French government and business when a company like Total would know exactly what the situation is in PNG.

Unless they are complicit in the charade. Unless they think that as a big multinational they are immune to minor interruptions like a nation crashing around them.

As Peter Kranz would say, "the plot thickens".

Doing what politicians always do when in deep shit. Lie - KJ

Lindsay F Bond

Rule in places pacific and troubled, though supposed operationally democratic, tests ties with governance celebrated as a flowering of Western civilisation. That loyal link is at stretch, and tending upon regalia of royal. As well as marketing in France, will the hold on precedence erstwhile west of Dover, find truck with a travelling Doyen of PNG?

Philip Fitzpatrick

As far as I can work out from the speeches that Peter O'Neill gave in Paris and other media reports is he has been essentially lying about the state of his country. Either that or he is completely deluded.

The French know what is going on and they are unlikely to fall for it.

And why France? Will O'Neill be putting in an order for half a dozen submarines soon?

I imagine this is also happening with the desperate sorties now heading off to try and sell PNG bonds. No one in their right mind would buy PNG bonds. This is the third or fourth attempt and all the previous efforts were failures.

Total, the outfit funding a large chunk of Oil Search's acquisition of InterOil, is a French corporation. Seems like O'Neill is on a 'thanks Pete' tour - KJ

Mathias Kin

"Olsem wanem ol wantok? Mi bin tok stret oa mi bin tok giaman?" Phil, Paul na Chris; olgeta toktok blong yupla, em stret olgeta olgeta taim. Some of us Papua New Guineans privileged enough to be on PNG Attitude to listen and read your contributions truly appreciate you.

I only wish another one million PNGians of the eight million could have access to PNG Attitude and be able to read the three other sides of all issues confronting PNG today instead of what is portrayed by our leaders and in our media (mostly biased and one sided).

Since I joined you in 2010, I am truly grateful that I am a part of you great savvy people here.

After saying the above, I have this bold suggestion: can we make a drive to sell PNG Attitude to other readers in PNG? Most PNGians do not know of this blog. The more enlightened and informed our people are of issues affecting their country (as published in PNG Attitude), the better our country would be in the long run.

The immediate issues of the 2017 election discussed by Ramoi can be handled by a well informed community if the majority of the educated population in PNG can access real true stories and be in better positions to make decisions. My thoughts.

Chris Overland

I want to take up the points raised by Gabriel Ramoi.

First, to the extent that Australia's government has any interest in PNG, it revolves around the question of Manus.

Second, even if that irritant were miraculously removed, Australia's capacity to influence events in PNG is now markedly diminished.

Australia's aid budget, while large, is capable of being more than matched by other interested parties whose concern about the state of PNG's democracy is negligible.

Third, the O'Neill government is clearly willing to flout democratic conventions to suppress dissent wherever it arises. A government that sanctions shooting its brightest and best will not scruple to use other means to suppress criticism.

Fourth, in the absence of any coherent political party system based upon a shared set of ideas about how to govern in the wider public interest, PNG has a government built upon individual self interest.

As such, it is deeply susceptible to political bribery and this is exactly how Mr O'Neill and his supporters have secured and retained power. Remember how both the constitution and parliamentary conventions were ignored when Sir Michael Somare was replaced.

PNG's electorate currently lacks the sophistication and, much more importantly, the necessary leadership, to do other than conform to the existing pattern of voting for he or she who promises the most benefit for the electorate, as distinct from the country.

For this reason, even well conducted elections seem unlikely to make much difference to the overall situation.

As an aside, this criticism might just as easily be leveled at countries like Australia, where "pork barrelling" is still regarded as a viable means of wooing voters. Notionally at least, Australian voters are reputed to be less susceptible to this tactic these days, although many of us suspect otherwise.

Fifth, so far as I can tell, none of O'Neill's critics are talking down the country. What we are pointing to is very obvious legal and political developments that are taking PNG down the road to rule by an oligarchy composed of political, bureaucratic, police and military elites.

Gabriel, PNG is already in very big trouble, both politically and economically. You and other well educated, articulate and respected people need to act urgently to prevent it becoming the Pacific version of Zimbabwe before the situation becomes irretrievable.

William Dunlop


Paul Oates

It saddens me to say so Chris, but I too have come to the same conclusions.

The only influencers who could have had some bearing on preventing this from happening are either too timid to speak out against it or too distracted with their own dilemmas or who have been intentionally dismissed.

Recent Australian governments and their advisors have been asleep on the watch or totally deluded by short term distractions like Manus detention centre and fixations of political correctness and social engineering to really understand what they are actually dealing with.

Matters like deploying high priced help to encourage enhanced gender equity are all very well when there is a stable and responsible regime at the helm. Having expensive deployed help to pay for and build new accommodation and police messes is about as much use as the proverbial in effecting any resistance to what is actually going on behind the scenes in the political arena.

Both sides of the Australian political spectrum are deluded to think that the African political alternatives can't and won't be being instituted in PNG even as we speak.

The obvious next step will be the problems associated with rampant tribal fights and the possibility of wholesale enforced migration of those who are either displaced by ethnic cleansing or who can't feed themselves.

At that point, the Canberra doyens will run around with their hands in the air and suggest Australian needs more funds and useless deployments to help PNG.

This will be aided and abetted by the PNG government that can and has seen where the 'cargo' is and will come from. Those supporting the current PNG PM must be laughing hysterically behind Australia's back.

All along, those who could have helped have been intentionally sidelined and dismissed as out of date old fogies.

Olsem wanem ol wantok? Mi bin tok stret oa mi bin tok giaman?

Philip Fitzpatrick

I guess you've stated what a lot of us have in the back of our minds, Chris.

Gary Luhrs has posited a similar scenario on the ex-kiap website. He is a bit more explicit and thinks O'Neill is following the classic African model.

It also makes the recent visit of Robert Mugabe take on a whole new significance.

Which is a bit ironic. In pre-independent PNG a lot of expatriates had Robert Ruarke's novel, 'Uhuru', on their bookshelves and the expectation was that an independent PNG would eventually deteriorate into a similar situation.

It's been a long time coming but it is looking more and more like that prediction will come true.

We can only hope the people of PNG see the danger before it is too late and do something about it.

Gabriel Ramoi

Australian contributers to this blog can help PNG improve its image on good governance by writting directly to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and importantly to leading Australian newspapers to ensure that its $558.3 million aid to PNG for fiscal 2016-2017 is directed towards ensuring elections 2017 in PNG are conducted electronically in real time.

Indonesia has been able to conduct a one day election and PNG needs the same as the first line of defence against abuse of political office.

In the meantime talking down the country and its leaders does little to help the cause of PNG. As I write this the PNG team led by the PM have recently ended a successful investment drive in Paris to encourage European houses to invest in PNG which will be followed by a third attempt by PNG to secure funding for its first International Sovereign Bond offering.

Failure to secure bond funding will reflect on the country not the government.

Using the students to achieve political agendas is in the long run counterproductive. Civil society must now shift focus toward ensuring the integrity of our election processes.

Robin Lillicrapp

Hmm. Hopefully, Chris, the students will be awake to what you are saying and will exert an even more comprehensive program of "wake-up-calls" to an otherwise "silent majority."

As to the Highland recruits, one might think that despite their numbers, their provincial wantoks will read between the lines also when they see soldiers paid well but themselves in penury due to skewed economics.

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