| My Land, My Country
PORT MORESBY - I am concerned about increasingly loud, twisted, short-sighted and naive views held by many people about the fight against corruption and bad practice. Some of these views may even be deliberate distractions.
It seems people think the only way to fight the scourge is to jail those who are adjudged as corrupt.
That is one way to fight it. But it is not the only way.
In fact, it is the hardest way to deal with the issue.
Why is it hard? Because of the way our justice system works around how a successful prosecution is secured against any crime.
The heavy burden of proof is on the aggrieved party and the accused remains innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
Those who actively engage in fraud are usually smart people and go to great lengths to cover their tracks.
They take great care to conceal substantive evidences and investigators often find themselves having to decide whether they should prosecute their cases based on circumstantial evidence.
It costs significant time, money and effort to piece together a case with sufficient evidence to secure successful prosecution. It is not cheap.
Justice is never cheap.
You need a well-oiled, well drilled, well-resourced and well-funded system that works 24/7 without fail to have even half a chance of fighting corruption and bad practice through the justice system.
We simply don’t have a system at the moment that is fit for this purpose. That is a fact we must accept. And accept fast.
When you accept this fact, you realise pretty quickly that the loud criticism levelled at some of our leaders around why they are yet to jail XYZ now they are in power is really irrelevant.
I implore those who are throwing stones at leaders such as Bryan Kramer, Gary Juffa, Allan Bird and others who have publicly taken stands against corruption, to please stop and think.
They, and all of us who want the issue dealt with, have to work with and through the justice system we have, the challenges of which I described above.
It would be hypocritical to short cut our processes in our haste to try and jail one or two people.
But what these leaders and others, inside and outside Parliament, have contributed is most importantly to put the issue on the pedestal and shine the spotlight.
I would argue that is the most important contribution they have made against the scourge of corruption. And we all ought to keep it going.
We need them to continue to publicly voice the issue and keep it in our national consciousness.
We must influence the next generation of Papua New Guineans to grow up as individuals and as professionals to collectively ridicule and reject corruption.
And the leaders such as those named here are doing exactly that.
These efforts might not pay dividends now but they will, as surely as there is daylight after nightfall.
And the dividends will be handsome when there is widespread rejection of bad practice at an individual level. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Hold our leaders accountable by all means, but don’t unfairly bash the good guys. We need them to continue to talk against corruption and keep it in our collective consciousness. That is the long game.
The first outcome everyone is looking for through the justice system is the immediate term approach. We are clearly not winning in this regard, but we can if we take time to build our capacity.
Sadly, it might take a lifetime to build sufficient capacity. To expect the active jailing of fraudsters as an anti-corruption measure at this time is wishful thinking.
Is there a medium term response? Yes. The Sir Mekere approach.
Reform governance structures to promote good behaviour and minimise chances of malpractice as a consequence.
When he was prime minister at the turn of the century, Sir Mekere Morauta implemented sweeping reforms which not many people understood.
He was in fact fighting corruption.
Many people attacked his privatisation agenda as a ‘sell off’. It’s only in recent times that people began to really grasp the agenda.
The real ‘sell-offs’ occur in places where nepotism, incompetence, bribery, threats and intimidation are the order of the day. Places that have very weak or non-existent corporate governance regimes are also selling us out.
This piece is written in honour of late Sir Mekere Morauta’s contributions to our national life. May he rest in peace and may Papua New Guineans grow a little wiser and respect the efforts of our leaders who strive to make a difference.
Let’s jail those who have wronged us if we can. But let’s not allow the failure to do so detract us from the longer term goals. Let’s not lose the war whilst trying to win little battles.
David Kitchnoge has extensive experience working in financial firms in Papua New Guinea. He currently Chief Investment Officer at Nambawan Super which holds investments in a range of sectors in Papua New Guinea