Corruption is an insidious cancer in the social, economic and political fabric of the nation. It will have to be stamped out if Papua New Guinea is ever to reach its true potential
ADELAIDE – Let us suppose that the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) was not both corrupted and inefficient.
If this was so, then the PNG’s Chinese traders, described by Hamish McDonald in the current issue of The Monthly (link here $ or read an extract here), might have sufficient confidence in the system so they would not feel compelled to adopt some of the extrajudicial measures referred to in the article.
This is not to excuse or justify what the traders do, but once people believe the system is broken or loaded against them then unlawful activities begin to proliferate.
The level of corruption in PNG is such that public confidence in state institutions and services has been significantly degraded.
This reflects the dismal failure of a succession of PNG governments to effectively clamp down on corruption and malfeasance that is obvious to all.
The reason for this appears to be that many, perhaps most, members of parliament see their election as winning a lottery.
A lottery in which they have five years – the term of parliament - to enrich themselves and their cronies before they have to re-contest their seats at a general election.
Thus the task of suppressing corruption becomes increasingly more difficult and the likelihood of defeating corruption vanishingly remote.
Unless and until the mentality evident amongst MPs is changed or suppressed, then I expect that law-breaking by Chinese traders will persist if not grow worse.
Corruption is an insidious cancer in the social, economic and political fabric of the nation. It will have to be stamped out if PNG is ever to reach its true potential.
A useful first step would be to establish the long-promised independent, powerful and well-funded Independent Commission Against Corruption.
If this was supported by a significantly beefed up Auditor General's office and a special police branch devoted solely to rooting out and destroying corruption in the RPNGC, then PNG would have a fighting chance to minimising the current condition of rife corruption.
Australia has had to go down a similar path owing to the untrustworthiness of far too many of its political class and their hangers on.
The soon to be established Australian federal integrity commission to be created by legislation this year will hopefully have a very broad remit and considerable powers.
This will be required to ensure that the public can have confidence in the honesty and integrity of the processes of government, starting at the very top of the decision making pyramid where ministers and their key advisers reside.