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Neither unique nor alone on a journey towards national disaster


KESSY Sawang has provided a clear and concise summary of the O'Neill government's appalling record of economic and fiscal incompetence.

The question is: does anyone in PNG know or care?

Have the national media published a summary of Ms Sawang's excellent paper? Has it caused a national uproar it deserves or simply been greeted with incomprehension or a shrug of resigned indifference?

Sadly, I suspect that the large majority of Papua New Guineans neither know nor care about the situation. Given that most continue to live traditional lives this makes some sense but their disengagement and ignorance will doom the country to further misrule.

In this way, PNG is simply heading down a well-trodden path in places like Africa, where tribalism, sectarianism and ignorance have been exploited to benefit the few, not the many.

I do not expect to see anything change after the forthcoming election. It will be business as usual unless and until the economy collapses under the sheer weight of the corruption and incompetence that now bedevils it.

History suggests that we humans only learn to moderate our more aberrant behaviours through repeated episodes of severe pain and suffering.

Despite our collective intelligence, ingenuity and insight it is our collective capacity to repeat the mistakes of the past is one of the more startling characteristics of the human race.

There seems to be a periodic mass outbreak of wilful ignorance that propels us into catastrophe on a regular basis. The facts cease to be relevant, being replaced by a combination of wishful thinking, inchoate emotions and sheer bloody mindedness.

This tendency is deftly exploited by the chancers and opportunists who infest our business and political processes so as to garner personal benefits in one form or another.

Thus, in Turkey today, we have a majority seemingly bent upon endorsing a new constitution that effectively renders their democracy inoperative. This seems likely to be done in the utterly mistaken belief that having political power strongly concentrated in the hands of their autocratic President is the best way to secure the future of the country.

History says otherwise, but it seems Turkey must relearn an ancient and bitter lesson.

So, PNG is neither unique nor alone in its journey towards national disaster. The route chosen may vary, but the destination is always the same.

I say this being fully aware that my own cynicism and dismay about our collective foibles is now distorting my views of the world.

However, that said, I think you would have to wildly optimistic to believe that one of the numerous triggers for war and/or economic Armageddon will not soon be either deliberately or accidentally pulled.

Still, I guess PNG and the rest of us may, somewhat miraculously, just muddle through and we oldies must hope, for our children's and grandchildren's sake, that this proves to be the case.


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Paul Oates

The essence of the debate over what makes a good leader and who is one is that leadership is can only really be judged after the event.

Military Staff Colleges throughout the world have constantly sought to define what makes a leader and have virtually given up by insisting 'Command' is more important than leadership. Yet the debate goes on.

To try and define what makes a good leader is to descend into the history of humankind. There are many who could be used as examples of good leaders but who have led their people to disaster.

Often it depends on there being a potential individual with the required qualities who is in the right place at the right time.

Clearly an Alpha male or an Alpha female needs to have some experience and training in how to lead people. However the essence of good political leadership I suggest is how to select the right subordinates who will select the right supervisors who will all adhere to a code of ethics and ensure everyone obeys the laws of the land.

Even then, if the laws of the land are wrong, (read the various bad regimes of human history), much the same result will happen as if there were in fact bad leadership.

The crux of PNG's dilemma is simple. There are many potentially good local leaders but how can they become a national leader without compromising their ethical standards? The nature of PNG's multi faceted tribal make up is a truly difficult hurdle to overcome. The only common denominator used by recent PM's is to bribe their way to power using the nation's finances to their own ends. Clearly only those who will follow those who promise personal financial gains are not the right people the nation needs to ethically govern.

Many nations in the past have required a severe national threat to bring everyone, or at least the majority, into line and under a common leader. It's a bit like the traditional PNG Fight Leader who is selected and looked on to save the tribe in its hour of need. After the threat is past however, the fight leader resumes his place in the council of elders.

Perhaps PNG needs a national 'Fight Leader' who will then bow to Parliament after the 'battle for the nation' is over.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I'm not sure your average businessman is very smart Barbara - cunning, crafty, greedy and self-centred comes more to mind. There are exceptions of course.

Then again I've met some really dumb lawyers, and that seems to be the current breeding ground for political types.

I think good leaders are special people and identifying a category from which to draw them may not be sound thinking.

Barbara Short

I put the whole article on the Sepik Forum on Facebook. Five people liked it but there are no comments, so no discussion.

This sort of analysis is beyond them, unless they have been to university and studied this topic. But they do know a lot of the findings of the experts and do understand that the government has got them into debt.

Somare is now telling candidates who are interested in business not to stand for the elections. So you can see his choice would include people like his daughter who is highly academically trained but not in business. Also an ambassador who also probably has no skills in business.

But it is the accounting side of this government that is in trouble, and I wonder if these types of people can understand the accounting side.

Maybe a candidate who has a business head on them would do a better job to sort out the problems now facing the country.

Arthur Wlliams | Ex Assembly Member and Councillor

I too enjoyed the fuller post by Kessy at www.

Sadly I agree with Chris that the majority of PNG people will never read such news even if they had inclination to do so.

They are caught in just existing, as they have always done, despite the five-yearly antics of the aspiring elites coming home to persuade the plebs to vote for them.

Then, win or lose, the mouthy, smiling visitor will depart the muddy rocky trails for the balus back to life in their old urban scene with a lucky one destined for the perverting Badlands of Waigani.

Seems almost a fatal acceptance by the land-rich peasant class but politically-savvy poor who since the apparently glorious September day in 1975 know that for 99% of their clan or tribe the election won’t make a damn bit of difference to their sago or kaukau with greens on the family table in the next five years.

As someone once asked, “How do you know when a politician is lying?” Got the reply, “When their lips move!”

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