TUMBY BAY - When politicians make a commitment to the public, whether at an election or in the course of governing, they are essentially laying their credibility on the line.
Even if the commitment is something they know will be hard to deliver, it still reflects on their credibility if they fail.
And, if this happens, a shrewd politician will admit to the failure and ask the public to understand that they tried.
Peter O’Neill did none of these things. He made promises that he knew were impossible to deliver and then conveniently ignored that he had made them.
He made promises, like ‘fee free education’, that he knew would be hard to deliver but didn’t bother to consider the ramifications.
One of the most obvious consequences of this was an increase in student numbers requiring more teachers and infrastructure.
But he continued to cut the school funding rather than increasing it, while still boasting that education in Papua New Guinea was free.
He promised an independent commission against corruption but, when it looked like it was going to bite him on the backside, he dropped it like a hot potato.
He promised to stop the activities of illegal loggers and end the farcical SABL illegal land grabs but ignored the advice he was given and ‘forgot’ about it.
All that he delivered on these and many other promises was fancy rhetoric and shattered dreams, while busily lining the pockets of himself and his cronies.
He essentially bankrupted and broke the nation for his own personal gain.
His successor, James Marape, has also made promises to the people of Papua New Guinea. These have been couched in terms of his own personal aspirations for his nation but he and everyone else know they are essentially promises.
Chief among these is the promise to make PNG a rich black Christian nation. To do this he has promised fiscal responsibility and an end to corruption.
These are laudable aims and quite deliverable but it must be remembered that O’Neill promised many of the same things.
O’Neill’s credibility eventually went down the gurgler when the long-suffering public finally decided he was a liar and a fraud.
In the end O’Neill became the face of what was wrong with governance in PNG. He became the face of incompetence and he became the face of corruption.
If James Marape doesn’t want to suffer the same fate, he will have to deliver on his promises.
So far his promises are mere words. He has a long way to go to prove himself.
In this sense he needs to quickly get points on the board if he is to take the Papua New Guinean people with him.
They have indicated they are willing to give him and his ministers a go but, after the O’Neill experience, are still sceptical.
If James Marape wants to convince an understandably wary Papua New Guinean public that he is the man for the job and means what he says there is one very obvious thing he should do.
He should move as quickly as possible to bring Peter O’Neill and his cronies to account.
The symbolism of such an action, not to mention the moral imperative, is the one thing that will convince the public that he means business.
O’Neill has already begun his old trick of tying up any actions against him in the courts for as long as possible.
Marape needs to quickly cut through this legal bullshit and make the prosecution of O’Neill a top priority.
O’Neill is public enemy number one. If he is not successfully prosecuted, Marape’s credibility will suffer in a big way, perhaps in a way that is terminal.
O’Neill and his legal squirming still has the ability to bring Papua New Guinea down. It would be stupid to let him get away with it.