Real leadership has several defining factors, not least humility, ethical behaviour and the ability to place the welfare of the people and communities above personal ambition and benefit
TUMBY BAY - Yet again a Papua New Guinean national election has turned into a spectacle of mindless violence and corruption.
There are two weeks to go before each electorate’s writs have to be returned, the deadline having been extended from today to 12 August.
There is likely to be much more death and injury before this sorry election is over.
Clearly, something has to be done about it before the next general election in 2027.
But that is a hope repeated every five years, never to be realised.
Despite this, PNG remains a democracy, although democracy’s norms are being greatly tested.
The nature of its terrain and widespread and often isolated villages makes the provision of extra security arrangements involving police and army difficult to deploy, particularly in the highlands.
Although, that said, most of the lawlessness occurs in larger townships rather than in remote areas.
Perhaps, a new approach is required.
This could begin with a frank assessment of why so many candidates stand for election and what motivates them to do so.
It is generally acknowledged that many candidates are drawn to run by the prospect of easy money and substantial power.
Not just money in the form of a higher salary. This is quite a modest reward, MPs earning about K13,000 (A$5,000) a month in salary and allowances.
But beyond this, representative office has plentiful opportunities for graft, theft and fraud – not least through the district improvement funds which provide each MP with K10 million ($A4 million) every year, to spend at their discretion on roads, health, education and other services.
The accounting for these funds is anything but strict.
Which brings me to the matter of leadership.
Real leadership has several defining factors, not least being humility, ethical behaviour and, most importantly, the ability to place the welfare of the people and communities being led (or represented) over and above personal ambition.
That’s the kind of leadership required in PNG politics. It has a name - servant leadership.
Servant leadership would not give MPs K10 million a year to spend, unaccounted, at their own discretion.
It would establish the long promised, never delivered commission against corruption to investigate and prosecute incidents of dodgy deals by politicians. It would give the auditor-general more powers to demand financial accountability from MPs.
It would establish a law that anyone convicted of such offences could never run for public office again, whether in parliament or the public service.
We all know that sneaky politicians would try to find ways around these kinds of measures, no system is ever perfect, but the penalties and policing should be severe enough to make officials think very hard about the risks involved.
Maybe when enough of these low-lifes are imprisoned their shonky mates might get the message.
What I'm aiming at here is not only dealing with established politicians but seeking to change the kind of candidate who will run for parliament.
Kicking out the bad guys and making way for the good guys.
All this hinges on the courage and morality of parliament to pass such measures. This is where it falls down. Politicians asked to pass laws to restrict their own ill-gotten gains.
But perhaps a good theme for the 2027 election could be to elect honest and humble politicians.
The pressure for this would have to come from the community.
If that were possible it might go a long way to creating peaceful, free and fair elections and to electing honest, respectful and community orientated members of parliament.
Now wouldn’t that make a difference to Papua New Guinea, and to probably every country you’ve ever heard of.