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Brutal reaction to handout of luxury cars to MPs

Oops, prime minister, you just blew up your credibility in one crazy decision. Or will Mr Ngangan take this one himself on behalf of the team?


NOOSA – Last Thursday, when James Marape despatched his bureaucrat Ken Ngangan to advise the public through the Post Courier newspaper that all 111 members of parliament will get vehicles from the APEC fleet “for their electoral duties”, he must have anticipated there would be a strong reaction.

After all, the purchase of the vehicles a year ago had triggered a story that travelled around the world a few times before hitting the ground as yet another example of the greed and excess of the O’Neill government – which Marape and his brothers deposed in May bringing hope to the nation.

Now, to all intents and purposes, O’Neill’s problem of abusing public funds has become Marape’s – and it seems to be a problem of his own design.

Hapless finance secretary Ngangan told the newspaper that Marape himself would be the recipient of a Bentley Flying Spur, half a million kina's worth of luxury grunt, while 40 ministers would have to put up with 40 Maserati Quattroportes (K350,000 apiece) and 70 lesser MPs various but still shiny, leather-cushioned marques presumably with block-out windows.

Having recently ditched Facebook, a decision necessary for my mental health, I haven't seen the reaction to this information in Papua New Guinea’s social media, but I imagine it’s been brutal.

So has the response received here at PNG Attitude. By Monday morning the story had reached 5,000 readers and on Twitter had a hefty 11% engagement rate.

Dr Shailendra Singh, writing from Fiji, addressed the question of “how PNG MPs tackled the problem of luxury cars bought for APEC but lying idle since the meeting”. The witty Dr Singh had the answer: “They gifted the cars to themselves.”

Other commenters were not so amused.

“This is one big 'up yours' from Marape and his cohorts,” wrote reader David Kitchnoge. “The goddamn country is broke. The government should be in a sell mode. Everything it does not need must be sold - starting with these luxury cars.”

And David provided some examples of what being a broke country means:

“Public servants who work for these politicians have been told to accept partial payment of their salaries or no payment at all. The newspapers recently reported that a teacher in East New Britain has been going without pay for years.

“My cousin who has entered teaching this year has been teaching in Lae without pay since she started. My brother who works in the finance department is paid a token 'living allowance' every fortnight instead of his full pay.

“Schools, hospitals, roads etc all need funding. This is not the time to reward anyone. Certainly not the useless politicians who've brought our country to its knees.

“We will be watching to see if people like Bryan Kramer, Allan Bird, Gary Juffa, Sir Mekere Morauta, Dr Allan Marat and Kerenga Kua accept one of these cars.”

We will indeed, David, and late yesterday, we were still awaiting some indication of their response to this demonstration of hubris and excess.

I’m really interested to learn what the more sensible and progressive MPs think of this arrangement and whether they’ll be accepting the vehicles or disposing of them for funds that may assist their electorates or pay off some of PNG’s debt.

“I will be sorely disappointed if they do accept those vehicles,” said Hani Rawali. “This is clearly a black and white matter.”

While Wilhemina (Wiz) Beki wrote: “This leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. What a slap in the face.”

“Bunch of self-serving idiots,” Jeremy Carroll exploded. “By accepting these vehicles you are pretty much endorsing corruption and the mismanagement of public funds”.

And Peter Lavoy added that the announcement was “not reassuring for a population that lives largely at the subsistence level”.

But when was the last PNG government in office that put the people before its own desires?

Bernard Corden answered that question with a quote drawn from the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville in relation to the USA: "The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colours breaking through".

“The Christian, rich, black bullshit should have been a warning of what to expect,” thundered Phil Fitzpatrick. “Marape needs some serious mentoring before he goes too much further I suspect. Sharing around the Bentleys and Maseratis is one really dumb move.”

“Wow!” exclaimed Iso Yawi. “As a minimum wage earner, it's disappointing when taxpayers' money is spilled on the luxury egos of politicians.”

“The sweet sound of Marape's choir has lulled many to sleep at the gates,” Wiz chimed in. “For those not asleep, they are transfixed by both the sweet sound and words of the choir that promise a great and glorious future. Meanwhile, Wiz added, “Wild pigs, still awake, roam freely, plundering gardens. Be alarmed. “

“Taking back PNG by getting all APEC luxury vehicles and giving it back to all the MPs for free!” exclaimed Sandy Kipan. “Wow prime minister James Marape, you're living your wildest dreams!”

“And the usual expected corruption just keeps rolling along in PNG,” penned Sorj Dogimab-Bonit.

Davida Eri made a similar comment: “Round and round we go ... just perpetuating the vicious cycle. Different but SameSame.”

But the last word goes to Alexander Mel: “Are we really that surprised though?”


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William Dunlop

Yes Bernard, From the sublime to the ridiculous.
For which James Joyce was in my opinion quiet adept at.

JK Domyal

If you are a PNGian, or have been living in PNG for long, you could decipher the meaning of this statement.

"When our brothers and sisters from the westernmost part of PNG reign, PNG would not progress but regress into despair and hopelessness, and corruption would be rife."

Keith Jackson

For tomorrow's PNG Attitude, if I can take this matter further, I'd like to pull together more information about the hopeful note on the literary petition sounded by Philip Kaupa, who seems to have a connection with prime minister Marape, and the 'personal' message relayed to Phil Fitzpatrick by John Hocknell, who also seems to have a connection with Marape.

Hocknell cites Marape as saying there was never any intention to gift luxury vehicles to MPs - a statement that took five days to make following the original story in the Post-Courier that quoted PNG's director of finance Ken Ngangan.

If any reader can shed more light either on Kaupa's optimism or on Marape's claim that giving away the vehicles was never his intention, please contact me using the Comments link below. (You can indicate in your comment if you do not wish it to be attributable to you.)

Bernard Corden

Dear Phil and William - The Masefield poem is sublime and reinforces why poetics is the nemesis of scientism.

Bernard Corden

An interesting comment in this week's edition of The Spectator Australia from Neil Brown a former deputy leader of the Liberal Party reflecting on the 50th anniversary of his election to the House of Representatives...……"The overall perks are too many and too generous. I left parliament when they decided to give motor cars to members and senators, scandalously unjustified"

Philip Fitzpatrick

For the curious it's a delightful poem by John Masefield called 'Cargoes'.

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

William Dunlop

Quinqueremes of Nineveh rowing home to Marape's haven in sunny Papua New Guinea.

With a cargo of hand me outs in the form of Bentleys and Maseratis as well as unlimited Biblical gold Mydors of yore.


Dave Ekins

"True colours" indeed, Phil. My comments of 6 June about Marape are ringing in my ears.

David Kitchnoge

Today I read someone's post on LinkedIn that leadership is about inspiring others and management is about getting things done through others.

It follows then that you lead first before you manage.

Is it any wonder that we can't get anything tangible done in PNG public life when we are being led by uninspiring idiots?

Chris Overland

In Mel Gibson's movie hagiography of William Wallace (Braveheart) the Scots warriors show their contempt for the English army by baring their buttocks at them while shouting their defiance. Kilts are good for such displays.

In a similar way, PNG warriors also bared their arses at their enemies. An occasional arrow in the butt was a small price to pay apparently.

Now, James Marape et al have a new way to show their derision and contempt for their fellow citizens; they can just do a few laps of Moresby in their new cars.

This is a way to figuratively bare their arses to the poor schmucks who fund them and their cronies' lifestyles.

It hasn't taken long for the new mob to fulfil the worst fears of many that their words were merely wind - oli tok mauswara tasol.

History says that the snouts must be removed from the trough by main force much more often than force of argument.

William Wallace knew this and died for his beliefs, but his beloved Scotland ultimately crushed the English invaders at Bannockburn and forced them to make a humiliating peace.

I wonder if PNG has a William Wallace equivalent who, to mix metaphors, will cleanse the temple?

Otherwise, it looks like business as usual amongst the great and the good.

Paul Oates

For some reason, this quote seems very appropriate.

“The machines that function so well in the temperate zones rust, grow fungus and break down in the wet tropics unless they receive very special care. The same kind of thing happens to people.”

attributed to Charles D Rowley, ‘The New Guinea Villager’ 1965

Philip Fitzpatrick

In that article Michael refers to, Martyn Namorong wrote: "Papua New Guineans can be confident that their Alternate Government will save PNG from O'Neill's mess".

One wonders who is going to save PNG from Marape's "mess".

Michael Dom

If Marape's brand of Christianity follows the Prosperity Gospel then this turn of events is logical and morally required of him within the church.

And what happened to the policy advisors' alternatives?

Ian Ritchie

For all those people hopeful of a "fresh new breeze" in PNG politics, this decision is absolutely heartbreaking.

I also wonder if any of those 111 MP's have considered how they will manage and fund the ongoing maintenance of these vehicles.

Moreso, who has the Bentley and Maserati dealerships in PNG, with the specialised training and expertise to diagnose and service these marque badges?

My prophecy is that these cars will eventually be left as rusting hulks on the roadside as monuments to greed, stupidity and political lies.

Arthur Williams

In PNG Attitude on 30 May, the headline to Ernst Mundua's article asked 'A genuine alternative - or could it be just more of the same?'

His article saw two prescient comments: (1) From Paul Oates - 'Is this just moving the deckchairs around the Titanic prior to the ship sinking?' (2) From William Dunlop -
'Not one agenda has changed'.

While on same day on the Exkiap website, Phil Fitzpatrick observed, 'Good riddance to Peter O'Neill but more of the same to come I suspect.'

When I saw the PM’s majority of 101 to eight in Opposition I managed to raise a wry smile at those simple folk who suggested Moses had come down from the mountain.

State money was used to buy these cars that are now to be given to the PM and other MPs. Thus it could be deemed a breach of the Leadership Code and anyone receiving such a gift should be brought before a Leadership Tribunal.

Paul Oates

Apart from ignoring the obvious lack of holding anyone who bought these vehicles accountable, there are another few basic issues that haven't yet publicly surfaced.

The first should be that anyone who takes over such a 'white elephant' should be made to pay the purchase price plus ongoing costs. Surely that is only fair?

Imagine what will happen when these vehicles are driven around Moresby's poorly maintained roads. Then imagine if these vehicles are transported in some way to the MP's electorates and what will happen when they encounter the quality of the local roads?

The maintenance and fuel costs will be enormous and probably outstrip the original purchase price in some cases. Who will be able to maintain these vehicles and what will the spare parts cost now and in the future. Has the PM not thought of this?

In the near future, local people will continue to walk past these broken down examples of insanity as they travel into work or try sell their meagre produce.

Lindsay F Bond

Reader David refers to the goliath that is PNG's small mindedness, where politicians treat the national tok as if of a village remote from eyes and ears of foreign fraternity.

The party trick of O’Neill gifting cash to his cohort now morphs into cars cashed of a kind, a humble bumble.

Philip Fitzpatrick

There are pivotal moments in history, including in the lives of politicians. Sometimes those moments can seem innocuous and minor until their full import are realised.

I suspect that this is a pivotal moment for the Marape government. He has revealed his true colours and they have turned out to be of the exact same hue as the previous government.

There is now no turning back. Marape may rescind his largess to his cronies but it will still be remembered and it will haunt his prime ministership until he is gone.

The people of Papua New Guinea now know that he is untrustworthy and does not have their best interests at heart.

It's another sad day for the nation but are we surprised? I don't think so.

William Dunlop

The ‘poor us’ prime minister Marape, babbling in the footsteps of his numerous predecessors and aiming for 110 thieves instead of 40 of his ilk. Ambitious laddie indeed. Begooragh!

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