A historian's view of the very near future....
09 December 2022
KUNDIAWA - There was some doubt in the sixties about how a country of 800 different tribes speaking 800 languages would come together under one united government.
These feelings were expressed freely by Australians as well as New Guineans.
Many expressed that New Guineans themselves were not developed and that the economy and infrastructure were not ready for self-rule.
However, outside forces, including the United Nations, were too great and Papua New Guinea cut ties with Australia starting in 1972 with self-government and then independence on 16 September 1975.
And so began the common talk of PNG's independence being given on a golden plate.
Based on these facts, and how the MV PNG had sailed this far after 47 years, debates take place at every kona of our society and abroad.
My solemn feeling is personal and does not represent any organisation. This is my prediction.
PNG will disintegrate into many states. It is inevitable.
The national government will try to calm the anger and movements from the regions by giving more autonomy, both financial and political, but the pressure will be so great that it will give in to these demands.
The Bougainvilleans have always wanted to become a different state. They are on the verge of getting it now.
The Mataungan movement of Rabaul is still an undercurrent. They will annex with New Ireland, Manus and West New Britain.
Papua Besena is still a strong faction. They believe to this day that Papua, based on traditional ties and being a British colony, is not part of the bigger New Guinea.
All these regions hate the rest of PNG, especially how we Highlanders conduct business, run politics and especially our caveman tribal killings and destruction that gives a terrible image to PNG as a whole.
Given the opportunity, they will all go.
That leaves Momase and the Highlands. Without any other choice, Momase will also go. It too doesn't like the way our Highlands leaders conduct themselves.
Our greed, destructive and animal attitudes in their cities and towns are hated by these people.
Within the Highlands, the different regions have really strong views about how they see things, the greed for power and resources is displayed by our leaders, endemic corruption is practised openly and, even more, our Highlands leaders are never united.
These leaders beat their chest so loudly at every opportunity and steal as much as they can when the opportunity presents.
I have coloured a very bad picture? Given a bad name? This is the bloody truth! Accept it and continue reading!
As a Simbu I speak for many. I simply hate the way the politicians from our upper highlands provinces conduct themselves.
In fact I believe the rest of PNG don't like us because of the way the people up north behave.
So in that situation, Simbu will not go to bed with these others. Simbu will most likely form a nation with culturally closer and friendlier people - the Jiwaka and the people of the Eastern Highlands.
Seventy years ago, some politicians in Australia said New Guinea is not ready for sovereignty.
They said the island would need 100 more years before its people were ready for independence.
Early Highlands leaders Tei Abal, Kondom Agaundo and others expressed the same view.
They said only when I can produce automobiles and have a mint that can produce our own money I am ready for independence. Now I am not ready, don't force it on me.
Abal, Agaundo and other leaders were taken to Australia and saw the way people lived and conducted business, saw how governments are run and witnessed the well-developed infrastructure.
So they knew exactly what they wanted – and knew that New Guinea was not ready.
The piece just above may be irrelevant in the context of separation of the regions from the central government, but what these paragraphs and opening lines explain are the underlying reason why our nation is sinking after five decades of self-rule.
Surely I am not an academic, but these are my personal views of how I see my beautiful country heading, having self-studied our nation's history and followed closely our development and progress since 1975.
Please comment wisely.
I would not be so pessimistic, Mathias. Highlanders are most enterprising and will pull a good sweat to achieve something.
It is this attribute that the nation should try to harness in a proper way.
Rules and laws are in place but the enforcement mechanisms are not working, so the processes, procedures and systems to enforce these rules and laws should be strengthened and given adequate resources.
The rule of law should take centre stage and mechanisms to get respect for the rule of law should be a paramount concern for the government.
I think it would be amiss to not appreciate the zeal of Highlanders as nothing can really be done to stall their over-zealousness to do business, be it the right or wrong way.
One action that can assist stall the disintegration of PNG is for politicians not to interfere with the public service machinery and with appointments of heads of department.
Departmental hierarchy should be based on merit, adequate educational qualifications and career experience.
Another thing they can do is to declare their assets annually in public through the media. Any accumulation of wealth should be readily investigated for 10 years after a politician has left office.
We have lost the zeal to work the land. Look at all the rundown plantations. If the government had put in the resources, time, budget, decent housing and adequate wages, I'm sure Highlanders will not go looking for alternate ways to make a decent living.
None of the groupings that Mathias refers to will be is issue.
Human beings want a decent roof over their heads and a decent wage for their sweat.
If we keep to the land, stay out of town and stop relying on pollies and pushing them to act like a bigman.
We also need good and passable roads to get our rural produces to a point of sale and every village must be roadlinked.
A lot of coffee, copra and rubber goes to waste every year.
Every employer must be mandated to provide housing on site - good decent housing and not matchboxes like the ones recently put up by Misima Mines.
Logging companies and oil palm industry staff housing must be better than the current model, where even two family members is a crowd let alone three with the babysitter.
Madame Bishop is blunt to the politicians but it's for all Papua New Guineans to do the small things right and we'll get by.
She could assist by voicing a demand that all Aussie consultants in PNG return back home. The boomerang aid keeps one consultant for K40,000 per month tax free and most departments have a couple too many.
One department has six that costs them K6 million a year that could pay a decent wage for 200 more PNG staffers.
And, Mathias, what about the foreign overseers? We need legislation to stop all foreign overseers, be in the mines, plantations, shops or sweatshops.
They milk out a lot of our internal revenue and they are the unnecessary overheads that get passed to the people of our country.
The cost of overseers and consultants could built adequate housing on plantations, logging sites and minesites, which will keep the zealots out of towns where tribalism will become less evident.
We also need to bring back the public service grading system where you have clerk classes 1 to 10 and workers can be moved around the country based on your public service grade instead of being fixed to a position.
When we can get our people to work anywhere, we will have created national unity, instead of the provincialism we have now.
Posted by: AG Satori | 12 December 2022 at 02:39 AM
Mathias, I treasure these comments, as indeed I treasure your poetry.
I one hundred percent endorse every word you have written today and salute your courage in doing so.
If PNG is to survive, we have to rise above name-calling and chauvinism and stick to principles, although this will be very difficult in reality.
We are very 'race-aware', if not actually racist, in our outlook towards others and I challenge anyone to deny it.
I firmly believe that the rise of the slush funds, reflecting bigman, highland-style politics (and noting that 40% of us are highlanders, who, for better or worse, run the country), has been a disaster.
Alongside this, for time-after-time, I have heard politicians telling public servants "get out of the way, we know what the people want, because they elected us, so leave it to us", or words to that effect.
The resultant sidelining of such a large portion of our workforce has been highly demoralising and, indeed, a major driver of the corruption that we face today.
Let's put it another way, if a dedicated public servant is devalued and rubbished, how will they feel, what will they do? Wouldn't it be tempting to look after 'nambawan'? I ask you.
Finally, I think it's not fair to only bag highlanders. What about their energy, amazing business savvy and their ability to take the long-term view and work patiently to achieve long-term goals, whether in the field of education, business (from collecting bottles to major guesthouses, big trucking ventures, helicopters pilots to airline companies, whatever).
What's needed is better ethics (a rules-based society) and, above all, a much-more-elevated mutual respect.
Easy to say, much harder to achieve, and that's made harder by the attraction of our rich natural resources.
Posted by: Ian Poole | 09 December 2022 at 01:31 PM
Mathias, separate states was one of the options offered to the people prior to self-government.
The options offered were either a unitary government like New Zealand, or a federation of states like Australia.
The states envisaged were: New Guinea Islands (except Bougainville), Bougainville, New Guinea mainland, and Papua (mainland and islands). Together they were to be named The United States of Melanesia.
But the problem then was that out in the villages, with no knowledge then of how other governments operated, when asked what they wanted the people chose none of the options offered.
They chose the only option they then knew which was for the kiap system to continue. Of course this did not please the then Australian government which imposed upon PNG its present unitary system.
On reflection, it might have been better to have imposed the federation system. Who knows? Federation might have operated better than the present unitary system.
Posted by: Chips Mackellar | 09 December 2022 at 11:44 AM