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Independence Day? We were always independent....

Powes Parkop
Governor Powes Parkop fronts an Independence Day crowd in Port Moresby - was the notion of gaining 'independence' ever relevant?


PORT MORESBY - As our 44th independence anniversary drew to a close, I took some time to reflect on the concept of 'independence'.

What are we independent of? And from who are we independent?

Since when did we depend on others, and what did we depend on them for that we don't need to depend on them anymore?

And, anyway, are we really independent in an increasingly interdependent world?

My view is we should change the designation of Independence Day to 'National Unity Day' or simply 'Unity Day' or 'Union Day'.

These are more descriptive and meaningful to our story.

The word 'independence' irks me because of its colonial connotations.

It denotes some kind of a power pyramid which perpetuates an inferiority complex, a curse from which many Papua New Guineans suffer.

In truth, before colonisation, we were hundreds of groups of old, independent, self-sustaining and autonomous tribes.

We had well-defined social, economic and political systems that were successfully brought together as a single nation, as we know it today, on 16 September 1975.

I propose changing the designation for 16 September every year to National Union Day.

God Bless Papua New Guinea!


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David Kitchnoge

I like the Irish story Phil. That's what it should have been for us.

I agree that the Australian administration largely aspired to emulate the Irish experience. Our Constitution which was largely developed for us by Australians with token input from a handful of key PNG figures at the time of 'independence' speaks to Papua New Guinean ways and is testament of Australian intentions for us.

Unfortunately, we didn't have the fortitude of the Irish to Papua New Guineanise (for want of a better word) the west. We instead endeavoured to westernise Papua New Guinea and that has been our problem since. I can only put that down to the wow factor and a sense of inferiority complex.

Papua New Guineans must believe more in our own innate abilities and stop trying to be what we are not. I can see Marape hinting at this change in paradigm. I wish him well and hope we all can emancipate ourselves from our mental slavery and jump onto his bandwagon.

But careful not to be arrogant!

Philip Fitzpatrick

You're right about the thought invasion David.

Apart from the brutal exploitative colonisations like that of the Belgians in the Congo the main aim of even the most benign colonisers seems to have been creating in the people they colonised living images of themselves.

Being of Irish descent I rather enjoy the process that occurred there. Rather than being changed by the British they absorbed and changed them. The saying goes that the British in Ireland became more Irish than the Irish. The cause of this, among other things, was the Irish outlook on life, which the British invaders found attractive.

Something of the same sort might have happened in PNG. The Australian administration, at least at the coalface, adopted many PNG ways of doing things.

Maybe having a crop of westernised politicians and elites living in the bubble of Port Moresby has worked to the advantage of the majority of rural folk.

Letting them engage in their greedy personal schemes might have left the rural folk to get on with real life.

If Marape can get some of the rural services like health and education up to scratch things should be fine.

David Kitchnoge

You make an important point, Phil. I think the biggest invasion we suffered has been invasion of thought. We need to work hard to rediscover our independence of thought. And my little tantrum here is an attempt at that.

But physically we were and are still largely independent and resourceful people even in this day and age.

Case in point: Papua New Guinea didn't feel the sufferings of global financial crisis when it happened. GFC? What's that?

Even with the current downtown in our own economy, our rural villages where most of us live are still very much happy places with content people. All we need is a functioning aid post and life is still good.

Philip Fitzpatrick

David, Garry, Paul and others - If you accept that PNG was a conglomeration of well-governed, equal and economically viable societies prior to colonisation you have to wonder what the latter was all about.

The first thing that springs to mind is invasion.

Australia has always maintained that its colonisation of PNG was different to other colonisations in the world where resource exploitation and land hunger were primary motives.

The argument goes that the Australian colonisation came late in the day when benign motives had developed in political thinking.

History, however, tells us that the main reason for the colonisation was for security reasons and the proximity of potentially aggressive colonial powers like Germany.

There is also the facetious argument that if Australia hadn't taken over some other country would have done so.

If Australia did, in fact, invade PNG, and there are indications in the style of administration used that this might have been the case, then the description 'independence' holds true.

Garry Roche

There is perhaps a certain irony in the fact that a mere 50 years before 1975 ‘independence’, the people in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea would have been among the most independent people in the world.

They were less dependent on outside sources than most other populations in the world.

• Tribal governance was all local, there was no dependence on external governance.

• Practically all the food and drink was sourced locally in the Highlands itself.

• All building material for housing was sourced locally.

• Herbal medicine was sourced locally.

• Salt was sourced in Enga and elsewhere in Highlands.

• Decorative oil was sourced in Southern Highlands.

• Transport was not dependent on outside fuel or vehicles.

It is true that ornaments such as kina shells were traded in from the coast, but while these were highly valued they were not essential for life itself.

Generally, the people in the highlands were very, very independent.

David Kitchnoge

Agree fully Paul - Knowledge is power and we need to be aware of what makes us tick as a people and start believing in ourselves.

It's amazing how much of a springboard a little bit of self belief creates.

But we have to be careful not to confuse self-belief with arrogance. I see a lot of arrogant Papua New Guineans with misplaced sense of entitlement mucking around and creating havoc.

Paul Oates

I think you are decidedly on the right track, David.

I agree with you. PNG people have always been independent and resourceful. They now just need to take charge and stop the rot that has been allowed to develop by a few who have used the system to their own advantage.

Mekim savi wantok.

David Kitchnoge

That's the point Corney. We do not need to reinforce the idea that somehow we should break free from someone or something. We have always been free, independent and autonomous.

I don't like the psychology of the word 'independence'.

There is one other word I dislike with a passion and that is the word 'discovery' used in the colonial context. We were not discovered. We were in fact visited by other people. We are not an object to have been found.

Corney Korokan Alone

I am happy with the word independence because:

Nobody should choose friends for Papua New Guinea.

Nobody should should choose enemies for Papua New Guinea.

Nobody should lecture Papua New Guinea on what polices and laws to draft and apply for her citizens.

Nobody should tell Papua New Guineans which beaches they should swim in, schools our children must attend, hotels and restaurants they should dine in and suburbs they are suited to live (red lining nonsense doesn't cut it anymore in beloved Papua New Guinea).

Nobody should continue to lecture Papua New Guinea on what policies and development models should be adopted for its land use and natural resource(s) extraction.

No foreigner in beloved Papua New Guinea should ply their trade in condescension and abuse of our human rights.

The world is already open for business. That's an established fact.

That however doesn't give us any relief to start forgetting about the heinous crimes and systems of control that some so-called friends and developed nations built their empires from.

Lest we forget!

David Kitchnoge

Lindsay - We in Morobe already have Tutumang for parliament and the Israelis have Knesset too. But I don’t feel strongly about that title as I do about ‘independence’.

Francis Nii

A good and rational view worth discussing, David.

Lindsay F Bond

David - It's surely about time PNG people put their own labels on what matters most for them and as a nation.

Just hope your parliament can take to it without fear, and that labels like "parliament" survive for credibility and fundamental cohesion.

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