CLEVELAND – It has taken me a long time to reach an understanding of what the problem was leading up to Papua New Guinea’s independence.
At the time, in the 1970s, the thought process was that the Westminster system works for us in Australia, this we can impose this obviously working system as a unifying force for a people and their many hundreds of cultures.
After control was transferred from the Australian Administration to the new PNG government in 1975, cracks began to appear.
They were addressed by the simple expedient of pointing out that, by adhering to the accepted system, the problems would right themselves.
Anyone stepping out of line should be identified and shamed into accepting the system and how it was meant to operate.
But the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy would never work when the majority of the people involved didn’t understand it and never would.
And it would never work when it stood in diametric opposition to the basic cultural beliefs of the people who it was meant to govern.
These people were the inheritors of a different form of government in which either everyone accepted a decision reached after lengthy preceding discussion, otherwise there would be no decision.
So we arrive at the situation we have today in PNG where the way parliament is run in reality is along communal village lines and the Constitution that is sovereign over it is not in step with the nation's cultural perspectives.
Where to from here? Well the fracture suggests a major political upheaval and a drastic realignment to readjust the system of government.
And that’s exactly what happened in nations that went through many decades of post-colonial 'readjustment' before the end result we can see for ourselves today.
With the best intentions, and there are still plenty of those, there is no way to fast track a unifying single system of government over many different and entrenched tribal cultures and the systems they begot.
Understanding that problem is the first step along a very long road.