BY MARTYN NAMORONG
RECENTLY I HAD LUNCH with Matt Morris from the Development Policy Centre of the Australian National University. Matt was surprised that I had not met with other bloggers and commentators in Papua New Guinea.
On the two occasions I attended the Transparency International annual general meeting, I noticed how tense and out of place everyone seemed to be. While I understand the serious nature of the occasion, there was an atmosphere of plasticity unlike other meetings I’ve been to.
Jamie Maxton Graham lamented at a recent media conference that the Opposition seemed out on its own in talking about the Big Issues. He questioned why the public was not mobilising to do anything.
Matt Morris has worked in PNG and seems to know more about Papua New Guineans than some citizens and residents. Matt’s impressed that, for many Papua New Guineans, a little good deed goes a long way in building relationships. I only figured this out recently, having left medical school.
The key drivers of relationship building in PNG are pasin and luksave, Melanesian Pidgin words that can be loosely translated as character and acknowledgment of others.
Ones pasin earns one respect and following. This may be either positive or negative. Luksave on the other end earns social capital and is achieved by familiarity, greeting people, sharing a smoke or a betelnut….
For example, I send virtual gifts to my PNG friends on a social networking site and I have received a parcel of betelnut sent from afar plus heaps of free phone credits. Papua New Guineans are very generous people and appreciate the little of luksave.
Many advocates of change in PNG preach to the converted. They congregate with those from similar socio-economic or educational backgrounds. When they attempt to reach out, it is usually by hurling the message across a wide gulf instead of meeting the audience.
The receiver does not empathise with the sender and, while the message may be understood, it is ignored. The audience is not familiar with their pasin and well there hasn’t been any luksave.
Thus at one of Transparency International’s AGMs, current chairman Lawrence Stephens mentioned how people think its TIPNG’s business to deal with corruption. He told the story of two drunks arguing and one telling the other; bai mi kotim yu long TIPNG [I’ll report you to TIPNG].
I can understand the security concerns that may limit expats from meeting ordinary PNGeans but I cannot see why Melanesians can’t meet other Melanesians.
It’s common sense; people will respond to your message if it’s relevant and if you are relevant to them. Otherwise, you and your message become totally irrelevant to them even if the issue is of national interest. Go and meet more people!