TUMBY BAY - What if Papua New Guinea’s forefathers had seen what was coming; could they have avoided what has happened to their nation?
I’m currently working on two novels. One is about a massacre of Aboriginal people in Australia in the 1860s; the other a kind of prequel to the Inspector Metau trilogy.
I’m using Inspector Hari Metau’s good mate and mentor, Sergeant Kasari, as the narrator of the prequel. In the book, he describes the story of how he became a policeman and met up with Hari.
The prequel begins in the mid-1960s and moves through to the present. It is addressed to a couple of young journalists who have come to Sergeant Kasari’s house in Kwikila to interview him for a newspaper article.
I’m having a lot of fun writing the novel and creating a whole new history for a bunch of characters who never actually existed; although to me they are just as real as anyone else.
The other interesting aspect of my writing is being able to reflect on those earlier times in Papua New Guinea when everyone was full of optimism for the future.
The experience of optimism is something the politicians and elites of Papua New Guinea have stolen from their fellow citizens. In its place they have created foreboding and a pervasive mood of depression.
I’m trying to maintain the humour of my earlier Metau novels but now and again I get serious because I think the material deserves it.
What follows is a short extract from Chapter 9 that follows a section where Kasari and Hari are first exposed to a new phenomenon called ‘corruption’.
It’s a word Sergeant Kasari has to look up in a dictionary because he can’t quite understand the concept.
Those years in the highlands when Hari and I worked together were the beginning of momentous times. I think they were also times of high optimism and not a little fear for many people. We were in a kind of vortex being pulled irresistibly towards self-government and independence and an uncertain but promising future. Many people believed that we had the world at our feet and a rosy future.
We now know, of course, that in the years following independence the optimism and euphoria slowly dissipated. Today, as you both know, the future looks anything but rosy. We still seem to have enormous potential but we can see it all being constantly nibbled away and subverted by corruption and mismanagement.
Old blokes like Hari and I were lucky in a way because that optimism made life worth living. Today you poor buggers don’t seem to have much to look forward to except more of the same. Corruption and everything related to it now seems to be so far entrenched that nothing anyone does will help.
I’m sorry for being so negative and I hope I’m not depressing you too much but that’s the way I see it. If we had known how things would turn out we might have tried to do something about it. We might have thought a bit more about the kind of people we were electing to government and we might have been less greedy and more willing to share the bounty of our new nation but we didn’t and I’m sorry about that.
In retrospect there were signs of what was to come but we didn’t pick them up. The business with the station commander and the accusations of corruption, a concept new to most people, should have alerted us and put us on our guard but it didn’t.
I know that you tend to blame all our country’s woes on the current crop of politicians but really the blame goes back much further than that. I think this might be a bit more apparent if I tell you what happened next to Hari.
You’ll have to wait for the book to appear to see what happens next to Hari but you might like to consider Sergeant Kasari’s proposition that the blame for Papua New Guinea’s present situation can, in part at least, be sheeted home to its forefathers.
That’s a life cycle thing of course. In years to come people will be blaming the present generation for the problems they will experience.
Or, perhaps, they might be praising the current generation for taking the bull by the horns and fixing everything so the future became bright.