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The enigma of James Marape

An elderly aunt in Indiana (not Phil Fitzpatrick's)


TUMBY BAY - I’ve got an elderly aunt in Indiana, USA, who thinks Donald Trump is wonderful. She was a volunteer in his 2016 election campaign and is thinking about doing it again this year.

My aunt thinks Barack Obama was the worst president that America ever had and that the Democrats are socialists who will destroy America.

She is one of millions of Americans who don’t realise what the rest of the world thinks about their buffoon president.

Sometimes you have to stand back to see a situation clearly. That’s why a view from a distance often imparts a clarity not available to those up close and involved.

I think a lot of people outside Papua New Guinea are still making up their minds about prime minister James Marape.

There is a lot to ponder.

On the face of it he seems to be a genuine reformer. How much of this is spin and how much is real is hard to tell. He was, after all, a senior minister in the disastrous O’Neill government.

That association raises quite a few questions. If he knew what O’Neill was doing why didn’t he speak up?

He now says he disagreed with O’Neill on several matters. Then why didn’t he resign from the People’s National Congress government and join the Opposition?

If he had the same personal convictions he espouses now, why didn’t he act on them when it truly mattered? Why did he let O’Neill get away with what he did?

People inside Papua New Guinean say their politics are complex. From the outside they don’t seem complex at all. With their emphasis on alliances, numbers and personal gain they simply appear chaotic, illogical and, most of all, terribly corrupt.

In that sort of environment maybe Marape, in government under a strong ruthless leader, realised he could do very little. Maybe he decided to wait until he was in a position of greater power.

Or maybe he was enjoying the spoils and only decided to act when he decided O’Neill had burnt up his political capital and was doomed.

Despite what my American aunt thinks, Barack Obama was a good president. Or at least he tried to be a good president. It was a sad reality that just about every good thing he tried to do was nobbled by the Republicans and vested interests.

Is the slow progress that has started to dog James Marape similar to what happened to Barack Obama? Are the vested interests within parliament and in the corporate world outside conspiring to limit his effectiveness?

It’s hard to know but there are a few tell-tale signs worth noting.

One example is of interest to PNG Attitude readers. That is Marape’s apparent indifference to the plight of writers in Papua New Guinea.

Does he simply not care? Is it just because he is too busy with what he sees as more important matters? Is it because he is acting on poor advice from his advisors and spin doctors?

Fixing the dreadful mess left by Peter O’Neill is a monumental job after all.

But then again, Marape has been seen supporting apparently frivolous things like fashion parades. How can he justify supporting fashion designers but not writers?

PNG watchers will remember the enthusiasm that greeted Peter O’Neill when he ousted Michael Somare.

There was a strong hope that O’Neill was going to end the years of corruption under Somare and make Papua New Guinea great.

Are all the positive noises that James Marape made when he ousted O’Neill just more of the same empty rhetoric?

Marape booted out many of O’Neill’s most corrupt ministers but he also retained quite a few of them. And corrupt public servants as well. What sort of power have they got over him?

Along with the usual gaggle of rats abandoning the sinking O’Neill ship, Marape has also managed to pull in members of the Opposition to work for him, including quite a few who are very capable and have demonstrated high political ideals.

Do they actually believe in him or are they hoping to change things for the better from inside rather than outside? Or has he offered them something they can’t refuse?

I don’t know whether my poor deluded aunt in Indiana would like James Marape or not.

Then again, I’m not sure I want to ask her.


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Chuck McLaughlin

You are fortunate to have such a wonderful elderly aunt.

JK Domyal

Thanks Phil for this nice thought.

I quite agree with you for how the personal and coalition politics played out between P O'Neill and J Marape as PMs.

In the previous 7-8 years, J Marape was the right hand man to P O'Neill and everything was at his disposal. When the writings was on the wall across PNG for P O’Neill to resign over various allegations, J Marape never at one time made any move.

Due to some unknown reasons, J Marape seized the opportunity without any leadership plan in May 2018 and ended up as the PM, kudos to the hard working small opposition team who made the break and let O’Neill’s regime to fall.

Now PM J Marape wants to make PNG a rich black Christian nation in the world. How on earth would this be possible, probably the move has to start within himself, his office and NEC and into the echelons of powers in society?

More than 12 months into J Marape’s regime, we have yet to see some initial move that would demonstrate his regime’s signature of nation’s significance.

Such as enacting the ICAC Bill, or re-establishing Task Force Sweep, or a major restructure to the PNG public service system or the PNG taxation system or setting up rural empowerment or an Agriculture Bank.

What we have seen now is polishing the status quo of the O’Neill’s regime; more of the former ministers in O’Neill are still with Marpbe. Cronies appointed to key positions in public machinery under O’Neill still continue today, even a failed attempt was made to have P O’Neill arrested -ashamed.

People are starting to lose confidence in J Marape and this will led to his demise either in November 2020 through a vote of no confidence or at the 2022 general election.

Lindsay F Bond

Bit rich, Gideon. Saying "greed of money" overstates.
Try adding a hint of humour?

Try viewing “diggers playing table tennis with gold mining tools”

Not only such diggers ventured, and with purpose, but for survival itself. Worth a reading, is “vicious round of gold and poverty” in Daily Standard (Brisbane) 5th May 1931 (89 years ago).

To give credit where it is due, PNG politicians and bureaucrats are grappling with difficulties as did those of other nations in the past. If only it were the case that folk survive on gardening alone, without government help and protection, their work would be easier.

Gideon Endo

It starts with individual Papua New Guineans changing our mindset, how we see things, our choices must reflect our families, clans/tribes/villages, our communities, not the prime minister by himself.

He needs our help, simple Papua New Guineans adhering to instructions. Like our tumbunas [forebears], we are capable of doing wonders for this country of diverse cultures, unique, special, invaluable cultures that bind us as one and so sets us apart.

We are not to copy Western influence; we have the right to choose our own path. Our culture is our identity.

1 - Mining. Introduced by white men for the greed of money and wealth accumulation.

2 - Oil and gas. Introduced by white men for the greed of money and wealth accumulation.

3 - The requirement to have a job to sustain oneself. Introduced by white men for the greed of money and wealth accumulation.

4 - Corporations. Introduced by white men for the greed of money and wealth accumulation, and the list goes on.

5 - PNG culture. Invaluable, priceless, identity.

So what is the point or the logic when greed for money and wealth accumulation is the goal!

Why should I be required to all the time have money when I do not need it all.

I know how to make a garden, plant banana suckers and taro and kaukau and kumu and yams that are healthy and 100% organic.

David Kitchnoge

Thanks Phil. I think you've echoed the feeling some of us are beginning to have.

Marape has made a lot of statements for which he must deliver or, at the very least, be seen to be on the path of delivery.

He has pronounced his vision and needs to get down to getting the administration to develop policies around those pronouncements, craft implementation plans and to deliver.

His police minister is trying his very best. His agriculture minister started out saying all the right things but has gone quiet since. His petroleum minister has effectively put on hold major new projects in this sector.

We are still waiting to see a coherent plan that makes sense.

Lindsay F Bond

What measures of distance between writers and right-ers?
Is it that languages of earlier PNG had no vocal equivalent of "writer"?

Bernard Corden

"Corporations no longer have to lobby governments, they are the government" - Jim Hightower

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