GOLD COAST - In case you haven't read much of my writing, my fellow author and former kiap Phil Fitzpatrick will confirm that for many years I have been banging on about responsibility and accountability.
These are two seemingly inviolate pillars of responsible government. They are something many of us trained in the Australian public service discipline hold near and dear.
These same concepts can be somewhat flexible, depending on a person’s background and cultural perspectives.
In the boardrooms of big business other matters like tax minimisation and profit margins are also of prime importance.
My friend, the late Doug Robbins, who wrote occasional pieces on his life as a kiap for PNG Attitude, enunciated some of our frustrations over how the PNG experiment seems to have deviated from the system we thought we had bequeathed to the new nation on our departure around independence.
“We thought we’d done enough!” Doug lamented, when it appeared that each year, PNG’s government services and increasing financial dilemmas kept diverging from the immovable benchmarks we thought we had left in an easily followed road map for the future.
Where did we go so wrong, or did we go wrong?
Our concepts of so called ‘western’ government and financial integrity are built upon a system that stems from hundreds of years of trial and error.
In fact, no one could ever say today that this system has been entirely perfected, since there is a continuous stream of convictions over financial dealings, when some government employees have drifted over the line of what is legal.
That is, those instances where wrongdoers are found, taken to court and convicted.
So what aspect did we, who thought we’d done enough, get things so wrong?
Clearly, the mistake was that in our ivory tower of cultural hegemony we believed we'd developed a sound system of government.
We thought the rules and regulations we espoused would be emulated and set in place for the future because they had worked so well for us.
The mistake we made was that we expected that our vision and beliefs would be accepted like those in a religious liturgy.
The problem for those the Papua New Guineans we handed over to was that our concepts and perspectives were not seen in the same light.
What seemed so straightforward to us was in fact complicated and at odds with long-standing cultural norms based on an entirely different set of beliefs, experience and priorities.
Who were we to expect that our perspectives and concepts of good government were the right ones to follow? Clearly our thinking was muddled and with the benefit of hindsight, not well thought out.
Perhaps it’s now time to admit that our system of government is not only flawed but could and perhaps should be replaced by a better one?
But where do we find such a better example to follow?