We cannot build a decent Papua New Guinea when extortion and bribery are the starting points to acquire political power
ANGORAM - I’m the only female candidate contesting the Angoram Open seat in East Sepik Province – one of the 72 candidates who have nominated so far.
That may seem like an anomaly, however the underlying truth is that the steps involved in mounting an election campaign through all its processes up until the final count are complex, exclusive and expensive.
Without being under the banner of a political party, I have raised funds for fuel, camps, security, maritime, riverine and land logistics, and to pay allowances to each of my 20 plus campaign coordinators.
To do so I’ve reached out to my network for support for non-cash campaign items like merchandise, food, hardware, medicines, and transport.
Over the preceding months and years, I’d worked hard at consulting contracts and saved money.
But now on the trail I’m finding the need to run several vehicles simultaneously together with hire cars, boats and other contingencies.
I’ve spent a significant amount on petrol alone for the extensive travel required to cover the river and maritime areas of the electorate.
The road component requires what seems like an endless supply of diesel, labour and local food supplies.
The campaign has just started and already there are many hundreds of supporters who expect financial remuneration in return for electoral support.
This demand of money for votes is a cancer that is killing socioeconomic development and service delivery in our constituencies.
Many sitting MPs as well as aspiring MPs fear electoral defeat and succumb to pressure to provide cash inducements for large groups of people.
This behaviour is illegal but it’s now rampant amongst the wealthier and more powerful candidates who are openly bribing voters to support them.
The sad truth is that this practice undermines much hope of performance-based leadership emerging.
The shocking track record of a sitting member is easily erased when new cars, new boats, drums of fuel, food and cash are handed out at the end of the five-year term with taxpayers money that has been secreted away.
This evil plot to bamboozle our people with material goods or cash foregoes what should be the legitimate opportunity provided by an election to effectively assess the policies and community development plans of genuine candidates.
Instead, under the pressure of having already accepted gifts, our impoverished service-starved people cannot choose carefully and without distractions the good quality, serious, hard-working and committed representatives they need to improve their lives.
This horrible feature of PNG politics has created a trend where just-elected MPs feel they have a right to recoup private costs spent during the election by raiding public funds once they are elected.
We have seen this pattern in every recent election and we cannot aspire to host free and fair elections with this unconscionable behaviour.
This must end now otherwise our peoples’ impoverished status will continue to be manipulated by power-hungry and money-driven candidates every five years. We must break the cycle.
We can do this with a commitment to change to properly modelled and costed provincial and district development plans which can be exposed and explained to our people without first inducing them.
I’m not afraid to stand for election on this standard and, if elected, I will lobby as an MP to end this corrupt feature of PNG politics.
This is the second election campaign in which I have adopted this practice, and I feel my support is growing exponentially each day.