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Is it bribery to pay for campaign rallies?

The smart move would be to bribe the polling officials and security officers. Less people to bribe so much cheaper. But is it worth spending eight years in jail for that? Not so smart really.

Governor Allan Bird - " I don't believe our voters are stupid. Certainly not in Sepik"

| Academia Nomad

WEWAK - I see some smart commentators who, observing transport, food and drink provided by candidates at rallies, say this is wrong and constitutes bribery.

First of all, I don't believe our voters are stupid. Certainly not in Sepik.

Sepik voters are mature, they will accept transport, food and drink from all candidates who provide them and this will not influence them. They will still vote for the candidates of their choice.

Sepik voters want to know if the person they are electing will not only deliver goods and services but will also stand in parliament and speak for them.

They have exact standards of who they want. This is my experience over three elections. The current election is my fourth.

Perhaps in the National Capital District or in Lae, supporters can catch a bus to a rally, spend an hour there and return home on the next bus.

This is not so in East Sepik Province. For a villager to attend a rally for a candidate can mean catching a PMV at 7am, not having breakfast and returning home at 7pm.

Just to hear a 20 minute campaign speech.

Naturally they expect the candidate to pay for transport and provide a meal. Why should they pay to attend 20 rallies if there are 20 candidates?

Alternatively, candidates have to go to each village.

In this case, every village has a stage set up to be hired by candidates. They have several string bands or singing groups ready to perform for a fee. They have a mother's group ready to cook food which the candidate has to pay for.

The other peculiar thing in East Sepik is that supporters of a candidate will build a ‘campaign house’ and expect the candidate to provide tea, coffee and sugar so they can sit around and talk politics for the entire campaign period.

This is a hard one. Do you say no to the campaign houses built in your name and without your consent?

If one village supports five candidates, they will build one haus for each candidate.

My immediate village has eight campaign houses (seven for open candidates and one for me).

When an NGO or a government agency has a training workshop, consultation or other activity, participants are provided transport, meals, accommodation and allowances costing around K500 a day for each participant.

If villagers are expected to attend a rally and not tend to their cocoa or vanilla garden, they expect free transport, a biscuit and a drink costing K3.

Surely that is not an unreasonable expectation for people’s 12-hour day.

People talk about bribery a lot and I suppose it happens.

I have never experienced it myself but, say, I need 12,000 votes to win an open seat and each voter asks for a K100 bribe.

If I pay it, that's K1.2 million.

Say I buy 12,000 tee-shirts at K20 each. That's K240,000.

Say I need fuel, posters, a hire car, campaign coordinators and the rest, that's another K200,000.

These are crazy numbers.

Elections are not cheap. If you have a budget of K500,000, that will only cover your logistics. It's not enough to bribe 12,000 voters.

In the case of a provincial seat – the seat that elects governors - it's much more expensive.

I received 88,000 votes in 2017. If I bribed my voters with K100 each, it would cost me K8.8 million.

The person who came second scored 64,000 votes so, if he bribed them, he would have to spend K6.4 million.

The smart move would be to bribe the polling officials and security officers. Less people to bribe so much cheaper.

They could then do something illegal to get you declared. But is it worth spending eight years in jail for that? Not so smart really.

Many people who have never run a campaign have no idea what it costs to run one.

So give our voters some credit, our people are not stupid. They know what they are doing.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

You could get the impression that the election as an event is more important than the actual outcome.

It seems to be an opportunity to socialise, dress up, pick up a few benefits from the candidates' largesse and engage in a bit of fighting and revenge, always a popular sport in PNG.

If this is the case it shows just how cynical the voting public in PNG has become.

As they say, no matter who you vote for you still end up with a politician.

Marape or O'Neill. What's the difference?

Kindin Ongugo

I find two points a bit contentious.
1. "Sepik people........but will also want someone who can speak for them in parliament."
In my very limited experience about 99 percent of the average person on the streets of Moresby/Lae or bush tracts of rural PNG do not really care about the BS uttered by their MP in parliament. However, they do like a new service introduced into their communities.
2. "So give. credit...... our people are not stupid."
I think the opposite is quite true. That is why they keep getting it wrong resulting in systemic and endemic corruption placing PNG alongside Nigeria as the two most corrupt countries in world on TI corruption scale.
I think only stupid people keep repeating the same mistake because they never learn from their mistakes.

Paul Oates

An extra thought on the subject. The author clearly expects that everyone who received a small share of what he was handing out from the government purse, actually wanted that to happen because he thought it was a good idea?

Were other candidates also offered exactly the same opportunities made available by using public monies?

What about those who didn't want their tax money handed out to help someone they didn't want to vote for get elected? For some reason, that concept seems to be missing in this lopsided argument?

In other countries, even larger amounts being used in this way are called 'Pork Barreling'. Of course it doesn't really happen....does it?

There are some so blind as those who will not see!

Paul Oates

The argument being put forward is that if everyone knows what is happening to their taxes and resources in a transparent and ethical manner, and people then vote on the issues that have been fully explained by their elected representative, where's the corruption?

The trickle down management of public resources in paying to what the public wants is what government is theoretically all about anyway.

The potential problem could start where the people who theoretically own their public resources, are not informed what is happening to their own resources and therefore don't have the chance to decide about responsibility and accountability at the ballot box.

In a purely hypothetical example, suppose a government leader is offered an secret personal 'incentive' to make a favourable decision over a public resource without first seeking public opinion through an open and transparent consultative process?

A hypothetical example might be a timber company, that instead of going though a proper environmental investigation and fully informing and consulting the owners of a forest, decides it's a lot cheaper to give a 'present' to the appropriate minister and his government friends, rather than actually obtain official agreement and pay full compensation to extract and export timber logs?

Suppose the current owners of the forest don't want to lose their forest and don't know why a foreign timber company is now cutting their trees down? Perhaps they were never asked if that's what they wanted or are never given true compensation for their loss of a common resource.

The whole process is then written off or obfuscated as progress, provision of local jobs and national export incentives even if the timber company never pays any taxes as it has obtained a tax free agreement with the government.

Who do the owners of the now non existing forest then go to to get compensation and justice? Why, the only alternative is the government that had previously agreed to the timber company to extract the trees of course.
Much the same thing might possibly happen with national fish stocks or minerals currently in the ground.

Now you can rightly say this is only a hypothetical example. It would never happen in real life. Would it?

Let's consider another hypothetical possibility. Suppose a government has unfortunately spent all their resources and still needs to fund government business, otherwise the nation will collapse. The only way it can continue to operate is to ask for some financial handouts (sorry assistance), from other overseas governments who will offer to lend the government some money. But these 'loans' have to be paid back with interest or the lender will demand the right to take what they used to secure the loan?

Of course this would never happen. Why, because everyone would be fully informed about the loan and understand what might happen to their national resources and national interest if their government (on their behalf), defaulted on the loan. They could demand that any government that did that would quickly be thrown out at the first available opportunity. Err... Wouldn't they?

That is, if everyone clearly knew about what had happened and understood what was being agreed to in their name.

Umm.... Sorry, have I got that right? I'm on Earth am I not? It is 2022 isn't it or have just I been dreaming....

Lindsay F Bond

Democracy is the cost of being free. The governor has a point and it's well put. Who else will put in?

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