Coviet-Straggler in Paradise
Ethnicism - group survival; root of racism

Covid-19 exposes gross failures

Phil Fitzpatrick: "The K70 million the World Bank gave PNG months ago to prepare for the pandemic has mysteriously disappeared"


TUMBY BAY - Covid-19 is having a remarkable impact all over the world as it exposes the ideological and structural shortcomings of government and corporate entities.

In the USA and Britain, the bumbling incompetence of their leaders is shown in the disastrous statistics related to rates of infection and deaths from the virus.

In Australia the virus has exposed the government’s neo-liberal policies as unfit for purpose and has prompted a remarkable left turn in its ideology. Whether this will be sustained in future is yet to be seen.

In Papua New Guinea the virus is just starting to bite but it has already starkly exposed the failings of every government since independence to manage the economy and the nations’ social structures.

Throughout the world, all these shortcomings and their perpetrators are being exposed for their cold-blooded and callous attitudes to ordinary citizens.

Papua New Guinea is a country rich in natural resources with a significant pool of intelligent and progressive people.

Forty five years after independence it should be a rich and vibrant society with exemplary and efficiently run health and educational services.

It should have a first class infrastructure of roads, bridges, sea ports and airfields. It should have a well-managed and sustainable forest industry and a burgeoning agricultural sector exporting to the world.

It should be a tourist mecca, with high class facilities catering to thousands of international tourists who want to visit its remarkable geography and vibrant cultures.

It should have an intelligentsia of academics and writers leading the Pacific ever forwards into a brighter future.

PNG should be a nation that demonstrates by its actions and successes the unique Melanesian way of life with its emphasis on community and equity.

Alas, none of these things has been achieved.

Instead PNG is an economic and social basket case. It is a violent and lawless nation that has been led by a succession of cruel and corrupt leaders who built incredible personal riches at the expense of their own citizens.

It is a nation that has allowed its abundant natural resources to be pillaged and raped and carted overseas leaving behind one environmental disaster after another.

It is a nation that litigates and stalls and spends taxpayers’ money on enquiries and reports that it simple ignores in its rush to exploit the next dodgy scam.

While all of this has been well-known for many years, it is only now that Covid-19 has begun to lift the blanket so the world can see what’s underneath.

Faced with the prospect of the deadly impact of Covid-19 the government is doing what it has always done in times of crisis. It is screaming “poor me” and running to the rest of the world with its hands out.

It wants the world to send money, equipment and expertise to fix the mess it has made worse by its own stupidity.

The government knows that it is in deep shit and it is floundering around in its usual fashion. The colourful rhetoric is coming thick and fast but positive action is nowhere to be seen.

The US$20m (K70m) that the World Bank loaned it in April to prepare for the pandemic has mysteriously disappeared with no sign of what it was used for.

This time, apparently, a large chunk of it wasn’t wasted on Maseratis but on vehicle hire ostensibly to run a public education campaign that very few people saw or knew about.

Where the rest of it has gone is anyone’s guess but a quick check of politicians and senior public servants’ bank accounts might be enlightening.

No doubt the world will respond to the pathetic bleating of the government and send assistance.

It always does, and that’s what the politicians contemplating adding new wings to their mansions in Australia using their Covid-19 windfall, are counting on.

And when the pandemic is over and the bodies have been buried, a bemused world will look at the same old mess that is Papua New Guinea and wonder why it bothered.

Until the next disaster.


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Philip Kai Morre

One of the real pandemics that is physically proven is the international drug syndicate and money laundering now effecting the security of our country.

PNG is now a transit point for transnational crime that is now beyond control.

The latest episode of cocaine smuggling via the Indonesian border is a real threat to PNG security and human sufferings.

Covid-19 is not that serious, the fear and anxiety are far stronger.

The drug problem is so serious because almost 30% of the younger population are involved in drugs - cultivating, trafficking or consuming.

Drug abuse is a new dilemma much more worse than coronavirus. There are many more psychiatric patients than coronavirus patients.

We have many longlongs and the government is also going mad losing sight of its people.

PNG has (roughly) more than one million drug addicts and they have the right to treatment and rehabilitation. However, the treatment of drug addicts and alcoholics is a complete failure in this country.

The real pandemic in PNG is the drug problems that affects the development of this nation.

Thomas Gavia

The real pandemic in PNG I must sadly say is corruption. It has come to steal, kill and destroy.

Corruption is a norm along the corridors of Waigani. It doesn't care how many governments we change or the most holiest prime minister we have.

It's on the prowl to deceptively lure anyone into its basket regardless of race, gender, qualification....

If there is one thing that we must save ourselves from, it is corruption.

Once there is accountability and transparency practiced in our society under the watch of Christian morals and ethical standards, sicknesses, illness or deceases and any other issues that meet us ahead will be contained like it has never happened.

The power of righteousness and justice must prevail in order for corruption to die in its own wake. The question is when?

Stephen Charteris

I am with Mr Ponjel. My time living variously in Vanuatu, Solomon Is and Papua New Guinea has left me with a very strong sense that the only decisions that matter are those taken at community level. It was ever thus and should be expected to remain so.

Whatever happens in Vila, Honiara or Port Moresby is irrelevant to the vast majority. It remains my observation that interventions, be it governance, health, education or law and order are nine tenths of useless, unless communities are invited to drive the process – a process they ultimately need to own. While vision may be universal, appropriate human capital development is local.

Lesley Mark

If and when the following two diseases, which have continued to purge PNG for this last 45 years, are not addressed, treated and cured, PNG will sadly continue to manifest them year after year, leadership change after leadership change.

1. Official Corruption

2. Nepotism

God bless PNG

Steven Ponjel

Thank you Steven Charteris for your positive feedback!
PNG's democratic government model ignored the integration of the Melanesian chieftaincy.

Fiji calls it the Council of Chiefs and succeeded in building a vibrant government.

Despite the military coups, Fiji has fared well in all sectors.

Papua New Guinea desperately needs to restructure our governance systems as a status to ensure accountability and transparency communicated from the bottom up and not the present top down approach as they get snatched on the way to the bottom.

Officials are compromised and our bigman syndromes needs to be manicured!

Philip Kai Morre

I am just frustrated that we need a revolution and we expect a good dictator with the right frame of mind to bring back PNG.

A good dictator would send all corrupt MPs, CEOs, administrators, managers and down the liners to a remote island in a separate prison camp.

We cannot bring back PNG according to the gospel of James Marape because corruption and problems are everywhere starting from the top to the bottom.

If every one of us is corrupt including the holy priest or pastor, who is going to correct us?

Arthur Williams

Just like the UK citizens complaining about this week’s quarantine restrictions post Spanish holidays, PNG has plenty of whingers.

Daily there are calls from bloggers saying: ‘Why are we in a state of emergency?’ or ‘End it now!’ etc.

We had the so-called God-botherers saying: ‘It is a fitting punishment for the evil life styles of the nation!’ or conversely ‘God has protected PNG!’ while our newest religious adherents saying ‘Inshallah’ or as oli have proclaimed, “Maski, ples daun!’

As Phil has said, PNG is following the populist mode of reacting to a crisis rather than being pro-active. Almost nobody in its governments has cared a damn about the continuous run down state of the nation’s health services.

They didn’t care when aid posts were closed, medicines such as lowly paracetamol not available along with no basic items like swabs, scrubs etc.

The annoying thing to me reading the sad tales over 20 years since I left permanent residence there is what I have long called the ‘Gusai Syndrome’.

I first saw it when I lived for a year or so in Moresby. At 1600, the mostly smartly dressed elites were off to softball or footy practice.

They didn’t go and exercise in just any old clothing. They wore the latest fashion in the uniforms of their sport. They seemed more concerned about appearance than exercise.

It was likewise in the offices of government you had to put on a display (Gusai or showing off) for your colleagues, friends and bosses to believe you were the best.

The syndrome was a disease up to the highest levels of governance so that ‘black mastas’ could show the region and the world that PNG had arrived.

I never fail to cringe on seeing a certain Gulf poli in the news. He is always immaculately dressed and appears to be ‘The Man’ for all seasons. Having lived in his backyard area I know more about him than can be told in public media.

What always come to mind when I see him and others waffling about their ideas that are always for the future as they want their voters to forget what happened to the K10 million a year which in practice they controlled to improve their districts.

That is always a tempting route to follow for any MP but could so easily be cured by the government controlling the distribution of those annual funds merely by ensuring they were properly acquitted. If not then there was no access to the next year’s funds. Sadly the auditors seem to be incapable of monitoring a mere 121 MPs.

One MP I knew was able to obtain return airfares from his electorate to Moresby using routes that diverted to other airports on their travels. The next step was to freely catch a government charter.

Over a year or so he was able to build up a stack of unused tickets that when election came he could fly his loyal clan chiefs for a junket in a posh hotel; albeit 12 to one double-room.

At provincial level an AM could sign in at the Assembly office then go about his personal business or back home without attending one sitting. He would still get his quite handsome sitting allowance.

No wonder so much of the nation’s wealth has been squandered by too many white collared thieves over 45 years.

Australia has not helped by continuing to bankroll PNG for far too many years post- independence. Why I cannot fathom. Is it a sense of guilt? If so - about what?

In 1975 PNG was left with quite reasonable 1970s standards of education, health, transport. Businesses were thriving and producing jobs and profits.

After watching a documentary on TV about Fiji I recall one of my daughters asking, “Daddy why didn’t mummy’s place have roads and permanent houses like we just saw?”

2020 July 15 United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) – in The National of PNG
1995 PNG ranked 78th
2010 PNG is 147th
2019 PNG is 158th
That’s a drop by 80 places in 25 years.

I must disagree with Stephen saying the present (seemingly implied Westernised) system is not going to work! However I argue it’s not a corrupt system but rather the humans administering it make it so. Root out corruption for the benefit of all PNG citizens.

Chris Overland

I agree with Phil that PNG's leaders have stolen, mismanaged or squandered much of its wealth, leaving its people vastly under serviced and resourced.

This is consistent with the all too familiar pattern in post-colonial societies. Thus the moralistic and principled rhetoric of Robert Mugabe the freedom fighter turned out to be nothing more than wind once he was safely ensconced in the presidential palace.

Mugabe and his cronies rapidly remodelled the once flourishing Rhodesia into the moribund basket case now called Zimbabwe.

The same pattern has been repeated over and over, with the same tired and threadbare promises of imminent wealth and plenty being endlessly repeated by the usual suspects as they scrambled to secure the perks of power.

Policy prescriptions that have been presented to naïve, credulous and sometimes desperate electorates as "socialism" have turned out to be nothing more than the installation of kleptocracies or oligopolies.
Venezuela is a stand out example of how this can turn a moderately wealthy country into a basket case remarkably quickly.

Compounding the disaster has been the ruthless exploitation of the former colonial world by international capitalism largely free of legal constraints or moral scruples.

Today's massive international corporations and financial institutions are so powerful that they have effectively captured the government instrumentalities meant to regulate them.

They are literally too big to fail, at least until someone screws up the courage to let them do so or, alternatively, finally exert effective control over them.

The great winner out of the last 40 odd years of unbridled neo-liberal capitalism has been China. It has deftly played an unduly credulous western world to beg, borrow or steal the knowledge and technologies needed to create a modern economy based upon socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Now China has revealed the steel claw that had been hidden in the velvet glove of its formerly cautious demeanour and diplomacy.

As Phil has said, C19 has ripped away the camouflage that has disguised the inequitable, unjust and fragile nature of neo-liberal capitalism and revealed the awful truth about the inadequacies of our political elites.

The question for all of us, whether in PNG or Australia or elsewhere, is what we the people will actually do about this.

If history is any guide a global crisis of the current dimensions will ensure that change will come, whether wanted or not. It is really just a question of time.

Whether that change will be for the better is very much an open question right now.

Lindsay F Bond

Shall I compare thee in a summary way?
Thou could more lovely be less tempestuous

over awed
lands adored
parts pastored
yet ‘tis flawed

ills sectored
though implored
truth ignored
monies poured

planning snored
uplifts floored
rich favored
scores vapored

so, long as folk can breathe and breed
so long lives await for life freed
from lies, for independency.

Stephen Charteris

We have heard this view expressed so many times before. And seen through a western lens it would appear to be a straightforward case of unbridled corruption begets the results we now observe.

It remains my observation that PNG is the land of a thousand tribes, each with its own deeply personal mini-state governed by connections anchored in deep time.

The unique imperatives arising from that reality will always supersede the thin overlay of a “foreign” national language, shopping centres and a 'peoples' parliament.

If Covid-19 reveals anything I would suggest it is the need for a root and branch rethink on how essential services should be owned, governed, funded and delivered to the grass roots.

In my view the present system is never going to work.

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