| Academia Nomad
PORT MORESBY – Recently, there have been two gun incidents in Port Moresby involving politicians.
The most serious of these occurred when a gun allegedly belonging to a PNG politician was accidentally discharged killing a bystander.
This tragedy followed a video that went viral towards the end of last year of Finschhafen MP and national planning minister Rainbo Paita firing a semi-automatic weapon.
After investigations, Paita was not charged. Any ordinary Papua New Guinean would probably have faced serious charges.
Paita justified his handling of the weapon saying he had a firearm license. It wasn’t clear whether the licence allowed him to handle semi-automatic weapons.
In addition to politicians there are two groups in Papua New Guinea who are notorious for owning and using guns: criminal gangs anywhere and tribal warlords in the Highlands.
Of these three groups, politicians own guns legally.
If politicians own firearms and are licensed to handle semi-automatics, it begs the question of whether we all should be entitled to own and use guns?
If politicians own guns because they feel unsafe, there must be thousands of Papua New Guineans in the same boat.
Maybe every young girl should own a gun.
Anyone who commutes to work by bus and has to pass through the Four Mile bus stop should own a gun.
If you go to Koki Market any time of the day you should be entitled to a semi-automatic weapon.
Where do we draw the line? It’s either we all can be licensed to have guns or nobody should.
I don’t see any justification for only allowing MPs to protect themselves.
After stepping down a minister after a video of him firing a military-type high powered weapon went viral on social media, Paita stepped aside while an investigation occurred and apologised on Facebook.
The post instantly drew much sympathy, mostly from his followers but a few others as well, who probably didn’t know the convention of representatives stepping down in such circumstances.
The question I have is whether Rainbow Paita should have been praised for stepping down.
I suppose it really depends on which side you’re on, and how much you understand about democratic convention and practice.
In January 2018, a British MP and government minister, Lord Bates, arrived late for a parliamentary sitting.
His first act was to notify parliament that he was resigning immediately for the “discourtesy of not being in place to answer the question” asked while he was absent.
The resignation was subsequently rejected by his peers but the point is that a government minister felt his responsibilities so keenly that he offered his resignation for just being a few minutes late.
Meanwhile in PNG a minister was praised for resigning after a video went viral on Facebook.
People have to stop giving MPs too much praise.
At around the same time, photos circulated on social media of people somewhere in Port Moresby carrying Governor Powes Parkop on a chair. The worship of politicians in PNG is unparalleled.
There are questions police have to ask Rainbo Paita. In his Facebook post he claims he has a firearm licence.
Police have to ask whether the kind of license he holds allows him to handle military type weapons?
If yes, what are the implications: can any citizen get a licence and be eligible to handle high powered weapons?
After all, every Papua New Guinean has equal rights under the law.
If his licence allows him to handle high powered weapons, so does anyone in Morata or Busu or Tari.
Paita said he fired the weapon while on a private property. What does PNG law say about target practice? Is any private property acceptable for target practice?
It may be that there is no such law, and that discharging a semi-automatic weapon on private property is not illegal.
You may recall that we are a country that cannot prosecute drug cartels because our laws don’t cover illicit drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine (meth). See my article of late February, ‘Who to blame when foreign crooks walk free’.
Rainbo Paita only resigned because the video went viral. Not because he thinks what he did was unacceptable. If the video hadn’t gone viral, he wouldn’t have resigned.
His logic seems to be something like this: if what I’m doing doesn’t go viral on social media it’s not wrong. It’s only wrong when firing a military type weapon goes viral on social media.
Papua New Guineans have to set a higher bar for their MPs. The standard is so low that MPs get praised just for doing what is expected of them.
I do not want to criticise Rainbo Paita but point out the insanity of the low bar we set for ourselves and the lack of critical thinking we possess.
On a positive note, it was good to see Paita step aside. But in a democracy, that’s supposed to be the norm, not the exception.