‘That day I saw the power of media, and how it can be tragic’
PNG governance: Is Australia in a position to cast judgement?

Corruption is threat to growth, so how about the death penalty?


THE critical observations by some of our intellectuals, scholars, senior statesmen and former prime ministers on the level of corruption in Papua New Guinea must command the attention of all levels of government, stakeholders, development partners and society at large.

Let me establish that it takes generations to change a society. It is not easy to bring together the two ends of the spectrum: government policies at one end and expected results delivered at the other.

I was raised among rural people and I still live in my rural village in the Tambul-Nebilyer District of the Western Highlands Province. I have also travelled to very remote villages in my country. And I have lived and worked in Port Moresby – a rapidly growing city with mixed attitudes and cultures.

But regardless of every effort made by successive governments and workforces over the years, I am afraid I must say we have not built a steady, stable, vibrant and progressive society that can guarantee a prosperous future for every child born today.

This is the nightmare of today’s generation. And it will be visited upon the next generation soon enough

The seniors in our society today probably had the best part in the latter days of colonialism but they replaced little or nothing.

Health centres and aid posts in rural areas that provided an 80-100% chance of survival for a very sick person 30-40 years ago now provide less than a 60% chance. In worst case scenarios, no chance.

Many of these places have been closed; others downgraded; a few survive with the mercy of good Samaritans.

Primary, vocational and secondary schools that provided a good chance of successful completion for every child now provide 60% or less and the competition for entry into tertiary institutions is cut throat.

Vital road infrastructure that provided the impetus for steady economic growth and improved social services pre-independence era and in the early post-colonial stages have been reclaimed by Mother Nature.

There no longer good governance and effective management that in the past ensured every kina spent achieved the expected results.

Our parents and grandparents were not regular wage earners, but there was always a place to sell their copra, cocoa, coffee and garden foods so they could pay school fees from what they earned.

Today the trees are still there but we cannot do what they did because the facilities no longer exist.

We were privileged to complete primary and secondary education without having to worry about unpaid school fees. The same is not true for today; pushing more school aged kids on to the streets.

Airfares for a short 15-minute flight from the nearest town to a remote outstation has rocketed from K27 to K230 in 20 years.

The gap between rich and poor widens day by day. In a sense there is really no tomorrow for anyone born today. Productivity is down and we achieve little in tangible terms. We are living on borrowed time.

The country just experienced a controversial vote of no confidence to change an allegedly corrupt prime minister. It was unsuccessful.

Today we look forward to the 2017 general elections. Every candidate and current member of parliament will go out in force telling every eligible voter that they have the answers to poverty. The same words our parents were told in the previous generation.

But dreams, aspirations and expectations vary with generations. Young people today are better educated and more exposed to the demands of modern lifestyle and the socio-economic issues that come with it. They are more aware and hostile than their parents.

With our vast resources, we should have a long promising future. But corruption always threatens it. Corruption is eating our heart out. We do not want it to eat our children.

Corruption has turned many young people of high potential to crime. It has turned many to violence. Our development policies for the next three to five years must be targeted at the immediate well-being of today’s generation and their children.

We hear people say - and it is true - that Papua New Guinea is rich in natural resources. Yet it faces a very difficult future as corruption is rife, law and order broken down, violent crimes escalating and the government is struggling to maintain authority.

Living standards and annual per capita income have barely improved since independence. Mining revenues and generous foreign aid have not been invested in roads, schools and health.

Infant and maternal mortality rates are close to those of sub-Saharan African countries. Population growth is high and job creation is low.

The rising number of unemployed young people is feeding crime and civil unrest. The lawlessness scares off investors and tourists. Dependence on borrowed money sees PNG living beyond its means.

Should this downward trajectory continue, PNG could become a failed state.

Perhaps there should be provisions in our laws that prescribe that embezzlers, fraudsters and thieves of public money be sentenced to death.

Chinese corruption law is now an independent crime category separate from other property and economic offences. This reflected a growing recognition among Chinese lawmakers and political leaders of the corruption epidemic.

Graft and accepting bribes are capital offences under current law. In recent years, China has imposed death sentences on offenders.

A customs inspector chose to abuse his position by accepting millions of yuan to allow smuggled goods to enter China. The judge reasoned that the inspector’s criminal activities resulting in “countless losses in taxes” had an extremely negative influence on the organisation and seriously undermined the integrity of the government.

Despite that the officer voluntarily returned some money and showing remorse, the judge said the offence was so grave and its social effects so negative, the death penalty was the only appropriate punishment to deter and educate the public and to serve justice.

We have many similar cases in PNG. We have people who held responsible positions and embezzled millions of kina from the public coffers through dubious means including false claims, misappropriation and bribery.

They were given suspended sentences and set free. Even those convicted were not given life sentences. Should not that be a concern?

I am aware that there was a public debate in our country on the death penalty. Papua New Guinea may wish to go down that path. It is a matter for the legislature to consider.

Otherwise we may consider the Islamic justice: hand amputation for theft.

Today in Papua New Guinea, corruption is killing our country and theft is injuring it. What do you think? Should the death penalty be used as a measure to wipe out corruption and theft in Papua New Guinea?


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Arthur Williams

Bernard, Is Theodore Dalrymple readable for laymen?
I have two in my family who are in mental health; despite that psychology always seems to be a lot about perception by educated persons. And a bit like economics which tries so hard to be a science.

Only today were talking at coffee break about my dad's experience in WW2 bombing in Cardiff. He saw some horrible things yet got no 'counselling'; nil time off; suffered no post traumatic stress and came home to enjoy whalemeat sausages and mash.

Lived to 90 without killing anyone; married to mum for 45 years. Brought up two normal kids,- well at least my sister was.

In PNG the women of my extended family seemed to have no time for PMS, thank God!!; Hot Flushes; mid-life crisis or other modern trivia of the developed word, as they had far more urgent basic needs to consider such as feeding their family.

Death was a basic fact of life and little children accepted it as such and were not to be hidden away from seeing dead uncle Joe.

So am a bit jaundiced of the 'dark arts' loved by celebrities etc.

Bernard Corden

Many apologies Arthur,
Theodore Dalrymple (aka Anthony Daniels) was a prison psychiatrist, not a psychologist.

Bernard Corden

Dear Arthur

I don't know whether you have read Life at the Bottom-A world view of the underclass by Theodore Dalrymple.
He used to have a regular column in The Spectator and was a prison psychologist at Winson Green correctional centre in Birmingham UK.
It is worth reading and evaluates the breakdown of society in the UK. He recently toured Australia and I went to one of his presentations at the Brisbane state library some months ago.
He also has a new book out entitled Admirable Evasions, which focuses on how psychology undermines morality.
Irrespective of political persuasions, both books are very thought provoking and extremely well written.

Bernard Corden

A perceptive comment Phil.
A Federal ICAC will never be supported because they saw what happened to Nick Groaner.

Philip Fitzpatrick

No matter how much moralising and education are applied there will always be greedy people who will rort the system for their own benefit. The trick is to limit their opportunities.

Strong sanctions are the way to go but I disagree with the death penalty on principle. If applied sooner or later an innocent person, possibly set up by someone else, will be executed.

Rather, the present system in PNG is crying out for an independent commission against corruption with strong teeth.

If some sensible people get into government in 2017 that should be their first order of business.

I'm not holding my breath though.

We urgently need a federal ICAC in Australia but neither Liberal or Labor support it. You are only left to wonder why.

Bernard Corden

Brian Masters is well worth reading, especially his views on capital punishment. He appeared on SBS television around 2003 in a discussion panel, which featured the notorious Moors Murderers case involving Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. It was a fascinating program.
Another good book is the classic by Truman Capote, In Cold Blood.

`Robin Lillicrapp

I guess by the time an offender is charged with murder and is confined for life or executed the whole notion of rehabilitation is a moot question.

The formative years are more important in the preparation for life and experience.
Those years should comprise the shaping of understanding for maturity sake, and the capability of amiable coexistence with ones peers.

If there is no subsequent respect for law and order, ordinarily, society will prosecute and punish the offender with visible results accruing to the benefit of social cohesion.

If, as is apparent, worldwide societies are progressively dysfunctional, with law and order issues bedeviling their serenity, it is hardly likely that an already problematic PNG social order will attain to "normality" by the imposition of capital punishment.

Especially so will it be a thorn in the side of civic balance when juxtaposed with the already blighted state of public respect for governance and its institutions.

Perhaps the present impasse in societal dysfunction could be remedied by a better understanding of the roots and links to the past. At least such a chronicle of events as PNG Attitude records does leave a discernible trail for observers and critics to examine while pondering the pathways of tomorrow.

 Arthur Williams

"2013-09-23 Jail killing in UK allowed by 'no hanging' its law.

'Two prisoners who bound and strangled to death a fellow inmate in a high-security prison have been told they will serve the rest of their lives behind bars. Gary Smith, 48, and Lee Newell, 44, who were already serving life for killings, were both given whole-life sentences by a judge for the "chilling" murder of Subhan Anwar.

Here are records of killers and victim as reported by Guardian newspaper:

1 Newell has been in prison since the late 1980s after tricking his way into the house of 56-year-old Mary Neal, a neighbour in Norwich, and strangling her. He hid her body in a cupboard of her home before getting away with just £60.

2 Smith, from Leicester, was jailed in 1999 for murdering 22-year-old Ali Hassan, whose naked body was thrown into a quarry. Smith believed Hassan was a police informer.

3 Anwar was jailed for life in 2009 for murdering his partner's child. She was found with fractures to all four limbs and died after fatty deposits from her broken thigh bones entered her bloodstream. The sentencing judge told Anwar: "Your cruelty is beyond belief." He had previously been attacked by two prisoners while being held in Doncaster.

2013-09-16 The Daily Mail newspaper reported:

1 Convicted murderer Andrew Dawson branded himself the 'Angel of Mercy' after a series of murders. He was given a life sentence in 1982 after admitting the murder of a 91-year-old Henry Walsh in his flat at Ormskirk, Lancashire, stabbing him a dozen times with bread knife.
Within weeks of his release in 2010, he stabbed defenceless John Matthews and Paul Hancock to death in separate attacks, before leaving their bodies in their bathtubs in Derby.

The 51-year-old told police he felt an 'urge to kill' before knocking on the men's doors in the block of flats, where he also lived, and hacked them to death.

2 George Johnson murdered Gerald Homer in 1986 for just £3, forcing him to strip naked before hacking him to death, inflicting 35 wounds using knives and scissors in Wolverhampton.

He was freed in 2006 and five years later he battered to death 89-year-old widow Florence Habesch for £25 as she made a cup of tea. His attack was delivered with such force he caved in her skull.

3 Pensioner David Cook, 65, of Rhymney, South Wales, beat neighbour Leonard Hill, 64, senseless before throttling him with a TV flex in 2011.

Cook carried out the violent killing when next-door neighbour Mr Hill paid him a visit.

Afterwards Cook ransacked his neighbour’s bungalow, stealing his wallet before going to a nearby pub for a drink with locals. The murder was chillingly similar to the strangulation of Sunday school teacher Beryl Maynard, which he did in 1987. Cook then used a dressing gown cord and 'strangled her and killed her', his trial heard

4 'Evil and dangerous' Desmond Lee killed his lover Christopher Pratt, before dumping his body in 2009. Lee killed his lover by breaking his voice box and a bone in his neck. The body was still in his flat when he stole Mr Pratt’s credit and debit cards, paid off a phone bill, bought booze for a party with neighbours, ordered more than £200-worth of food from Asda and attempted to buy £1,181-worth of goods from Argos.

Lee killed him while out on licence, having spent nearly 14 years in jail for the murder of Bradford woman Shirley Carr in 1989. He suffocated Mrs Carr, who was his landlady, in November 1989 after she taunted him over the breakdown of a relationship. Lee was jailed for life in 1990 but released on licence in 2004.

5 In 2010 pensioner Ernest Wright was told he would spend the rest of his life behind bars after carrying out a shotgun execution 38 years after murdering another man The 70-year-old had served 26 years in prison for a 1971 killing when he was freed on life licence in 1999. Despite his release he continued to mix in criminal circles and carried out several night-time burglaries, police said.

Then, in March three years ago, he gunned down Neville Corby, 42, after bursting into his home in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Wearing a balaclava he twice reloaded his shotgun as he fired six shots at Mr Corby and his intended target, Craig Freear, 31, whom he had a long-standing feud with. He was jailed in 1973 after beating Trevor Hale to death with an iron bar in Aylesbury, then trying to burn his body in a shallow grave.

PM David Cameron is known to back 'whole life' terms for murderers, but Eurocrats fight them in Strasbourg because they believe they breach the offenders' human rights and are 'inhumane'

It came as it was revealed that one in seven murders in Britain is committed by suspects freed on bail while awaiting trial for other crimes. Last year 56 murders – more than one a week and a shocking 37 per cent rise on 2011 – were carried out by people bailed by the courts.
If they had been remanded in custody, the victims’ lives may have been saved..."

In the 60s when the UK abolished the death penalty the promoters promised that instead the murderers would be in jail for the whole of life. But gradually the sentences have got smaller and indeed the judge will pass a 12 year sentence knowing that in fact the criminal will only serve half of that. If the learned Judge feels the person should be in jail for twelve then sentence him or her to 24 years.

From reading the two national newspapers of PNG I would guess the total of murders is greater from the small 7 million population than the UK which has an average of 600 murders per annum for a population of 60 million.

It will continue to a major problem for society parliament; but especially the police and corrective services who have to deal with horrific results of murders.

Bernard Corden

It is quite barbaric but most of the PNG people I have met have an enormous amount of dignity and I do like the comment by Gore Vidal about the USA..........it is the only country to go from barbarism to decadence and bypass civilization.

Michael Dom

Take a look at our leaders, Bernard, we are a barbaric country.

Bernard Corden

Capital punishment regimes put you on the slippery slope to barbarism and you can tell how civilised a nation is by the way it treats its prisoners.

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