COMPILED BY KEITH JACKSON
1 January 2016 - Let us explain to the people that their vote is precious (Francis Nii)
Eighteen months from now Papua New Guineans will vote in the eleventh national parliamentary elections.
People from all walks and of all creeds will vie for a seat in the national parliament, re-elected every five years.
In Simbu, and I believe elsewhere, intending candidates are making their intentions known to potential voters and supporters. Many more will join the race as we move toward 2017.
Some people are campaigning quietly, confining themselves to acquaintances, associates, workmates, clansmen and others at social gatherings and buai markets.
The usual election ‘traditions’ are well underway: sponsoring sporting activities, buying coffins, shouting a few beers, handing out cash.
An intending candidate for the Karimui Nomane electorate gave me K100 the other day although I have not voted in Karimui Nomane since 2002. I gave the money to my wheelchair assistant.
There is a mind boggling quagmire of people who contested past elections and are re-contesting and new names and faces.
Considering their political aspirations, most do not have leadership acumen.
The person who gave me K100 does not speak English, these days a serious handicap. It is not enough that he is a local leader and a member of the provincial executive council.
Other contenders with inadequate credentials and weird temperaments are also going to join the game.
What really drives people like this to run?
Having discussed the issue with knowledgeable people, I’ve established the answer.
And it has nothing to do with winning an election to serve the people and the country.
If we ask them why they want to stand, all of them say they want to bring development to their electorate. It’s a glib response.
But if we ask further what kind of development, the veil falls away and the truth surfaces.
Those with no political vision or election platform become angry and defensive. Instead of answering the question, they retaliate with a question.
Some beat around the bush before coming up with some nonsense.
Others change the subject.
Very few can spell out clearly defined and feasible development goals.
The truth is that these would be if we could be’s are not contesting because they’re committed to development and change.
They are driven by reasons to do with greed and narcissism.
Most want to become wealthy overnight. They think politics is the way to get rich quickly.
Some want to destroy the winning chance of a rival candidate because of tribal feud or jealousy.
Others want to take down the incumbent MP because they are not awarded contracts or their project proposals are overlooked. Simple payback.
And there are those sponsored by the sitting MPs to extinguish other candidates’ chances of winning so the incumbents can win back their seats.
Such practices are engineered by thieves and non-performers who know well that their chance of winning back their seats is zilch.
Then there are those with no leadership acumen but with money and cargo to influence voters. They are crowd attracters and pleasers.
The most detestable thing, though, is that the people know these characters, their background and who and what is driving them. Yet they still vote for them because of family and tribal ties or bribery.
As a result, good candidates with leadership acumen and clearly defined development visions have not garnered the numbers.
The aftermath is rampant corruption and lack of development, especially in rural-based electorates, because the wrong people are elected.
So the mass of the people must blame themselves for corruption and lack of development. To blame the MPs is only part of the story.
It is my hope that our people are not going to again blindly fall into this trap in 2017.
Let us heed the call made by Oro Governor Gary Juffa.
As we meet people at church gatherings, coffee houses, betel nut markets, sporting arenas, educational and health institutions and elsewhere, let’s make it our business to hammer into their brains to be diligent and considerate in their choice of leaders in 2017.
They must think carefully and outside their little family and tribal enclaves. They must move away from tribal and ethnic politics. They must think nationally and globally.
We cannot go on forever repeating the same sin to the detriment of ourselves, our children and our descendants.
We must change and play our part by at least voting for the right people. If we are to not only serve the electorate’s interest but change the trend of politics at national level, we must communicate the reality of what voting means.
This current regime – so corrupt, dishonest and evasive of the law – must not become the model for our country.
2017 is time for a people’s call. It’s our call to set the stage for a new course and direction for the betterment of our country.
It’s our only opportunity to make a difference. We cannot afford to gamble on the hopeless and whine for another five years.
We must embrace the responsibility implicit in our vote and consciously do the right thing for ourselves, our children and their children.
We must vote the right people into parliament in 2017.