'Cannibal Crusade': A bloody disgusting load of nonsense
In praise of those dedicated & skilled rural health workers

Democracy alive & well in PNG; but the times are dangerous

Powerful messageCHRIS OVERLAND

I WOULD contend that democracy is alive and well in Papua New Guinea despite the obvious abuses of power perpetrated by PNG's first genuine strongman in Peter O'Neill, who operates in the style epitomised by Robert Mugabe.

The problem is that the democratic processes keep producing politicians whose first and only priority is the acquisition of personal power, influence and, of course, money.

Electoral success translates into the means to both enrich themselves and fulfill obligations to their wantoks.

This is entirely consistent with both the traditions of the past and the much more modern phenomenon whereby successful politicians and parties across the world increasingly rely upon bribes in various forms to ensure electoral success.

Peter O'Neill has fully understood this central motivation amongst his parliamentary colleagues and, so far at least, has proved marvellously adept at entrenching himself in power as a consequence.

PNG's malaise, although having a distinctive Melanesian character, is merely part of the broader malady infecting the world's democracies.

Across the globe we see increasing evidence of how the voters who feel powerless and disenfranchised by today's "retail politics" are turning to populists offering sometimes quite extreme alternatives to the status quo.

It is no accident, I think, that that the emergence of a professional political class is being accompanied by growing resentment and anger amongst electors.

Increasingly, politicians are not seen as being of or even for "us", but as being of and for "them", whoever they may be.

This is the burden that Hillary Clinton carries in the USA, while her inconsistent, intemperate and sometimes irrational opponent, Donald Trump, is able to flaunt his "authenticity" by deliberately ignoring or demonstrating total contempt for the accepted political norms.

It is amazing to think that Trump, who is spectacularly lacking in all of the critical attributes necessary for presidential office, is leading Clinton in recent polls.

The alarm bells are ringing loudly for every political party in every democracy, yet our politicians seem unable or unwilling to respond with anything other than more of the same.

This greatly emboldens authoritarians everywhere, who see this of further evidence of the fundamental weakness of democracy as a system of governance.

We have, of course, seen this before. As the world's democracies flailed about during the Great Depression, the Italian, German and Japanese fascists constantly sought to contrast their strength and certainty with the doubt, equivocation and fearfulness of their opponents.

After Munich in 1938, when the Western powers shamefully ceded control over Czechoslovakia to Germany, Hitler was heard to say he had seen Germany's enemies close up and that they were "worms".

Might Mr Putin be thinking the same thing as he gazes upon the debacle that is Europe and the emerging political disaster in the USA.

The further cementing of Peter O'Neill's power in PNG is simply another manifestation of the apparent failure of democracy across the globe to effectively deal with a range in serious international crises and local socio-economic and political issues.

Make no mistake, we are living in increasingly dangerous times for the world and the inherent risks involved are being greatly exacerbated by the manifest weaknesses now apparent in the world's most important democracies.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Peter Sandery

A well articulated argument, Chris, encapsulating my sentiments precisely. I have been concerned that comments on this and other blogs on the PNG situation have not put the current PNG situation into a broader context - I think that manner of PNG politics graphically brings into high relief what is happening in far more subtle ways in other democracies.

Bernard Corden

Donald Trump is a clever and dangerous individual who knows what stupid people want. In the USA a lady once congratulated Adlai Stevenson after a resounding speech and said......"Every decent thinking American must vote for you."

Adlai Stevenson replied......"Unfortunately lady I need a majority."

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)