Papua New Guinea’s parliament operates more as a collection of loosely affiliated Mafia mob bosses than a genuine democratic institution
ADELAIDE - China, tribalism, corruption and a province that wants to be its own nation pose a prickly pathway for Papua New Guinea over the next few years.
The desire of Bougainvilleans for independence is not going to dissipate on the basis of a deal concocted by Port Moresby to give the province autonomous status within PNG - an offer that falls well short of expectations.
This message has been delivered a number of times in clear and unequivocal terms by Bougainville president Ishmael Toroama.
What I see is a great opportunity for China to further its own interests and cause a great deal of discomfort for the US, Australia and other Pacific allies.
China could, for example, agree to underwrite an independent Bougainville in return for being able to build infrastructure like ports and airports.
Or maybe help fund the re-opening of the Panguna copper and gold mine.
Micro-states are desperately vulnerable to such wheeling and dealing and a new born Republic of Bougainville will be no different.
All in all, the next few years will be a very testing time for both Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.
Toroama’s deadline for independence is less than four years away.
PNG as a country is entirely a colonial construct and, as the recent national election demonstrated, tribalism still trumps democracy in many places and in many ways.
Tribalism and the wantok system retain much of their traditional potency, as has the tendency to defer to the bigman, especially those new, enriched bigman bearing gifts.
As a result, PNG’s parliament operates more as a collection of loosely affiliated Mafia mob bosses than a genuine democratic institution.
Not that we Australians have much to crow about given how our political parties operate, with branch stacking, threats, bribery and 'jobs for the boys' all deployed to win and retain office.