BY MARTYN NAMORONG
IF YOU EVER bump into a tall handsome young Irishman at Jubilee Catholic Secondary School in Port Moresby, that could be Father John Glynn OL. Now in his seventies, Father John has been a mentor, chaplain, counsellor and fortress for many Papua New Guineans.
I came across Father John during my Secondary School Years. Well every one of us at Jubilee Catholic Secondary School, did and still do. Everyone has their take on Father John, and I’m sure the majority loved him but were mostly asleep during his classes.
For me personally, his influence still defines my life and world view. He is to me a mentor and a friend. His ideas on youth empowerment and leadership and his example on addressing issues of social justice have shaped my thinking. While we may have difference of opinion on how to deal with certain controversial social issues, we both believe in a fair and just society.
Currently, Father John is the school chaplain at Jubilee Catholic Secondary School and regularly celebrates mass at various parishes in Port Moresby. He is also a board member of the Digicel Foundation and the Patron of WeCARE and Youth Against Corruption Association.
He recently made a presentation to students from various schools around the nation’s capital on the topic Corruption and Youth. Here is what he said:
Corruption is rottenness
-- it is when something goes bad - food, an infected sore, anything! Corruption is when people go bad - lying, stealing, cheating
-- especially in areas of Government and Administration. Corruption extends from top to bottom in PNG society.
When someone buys a stolen phone on the street they are just as corrupt as the businessman who falsely gets money from a Government Department, or as a politician who diverts public money into his personal account or as a School Principal who accepts money to give a Grade 11 place to an undeserving student.
Corruption affects youth when it denies young people their rights to education, care, a safe and supportive life. Corruption affects youth when their elders give their children the example of dishonest behaviour and encourage them to behave in the same way.
When parents are corrupt - when teachers are corrupt - when education personnel in the Department are corrupt - then what chance have the young people of avoiding becoming corrupt themselves?
We have schools in the NCD that suspend children for not wearing shoes. We have schools that lock children out of school for coming a few minutes late. Our schools are not designed to meet the needs of the children. Instead we demand that the children must meet the requirements of the school.
This effectively discriminates against the poor, the vulnerable, and those children who belong to dysfunctional families. It teaches the children that cruel and punitive treatment by adults against youth is normal.
When leadership is corrupt the country is in grave danger. Corrupt leaders use the country’s assets for their own enrichment. In order for them to do this they need to be given the freedom to be corrupt. There are two ways they can get this freedom.
One is by being dictators - controlling the police and the military so that the people have no choice but to accept their leaders and let them do whatever they want. This is how Colonel Gaddafi controlled Libya. This is how the military regime controls Fiji. This is what could very well come to happen one day in Papua New Guinea.
The other way is to keep the population in ignorance, and to make the idea of corruption acceptable to the people. It is of great benefit to the majority of our elected political leaders to have an electorate that is dominated by men who are - for the most part - minimally educated or not educated at all, and who have no real concept of democracy, or of the responsibilities and duties of elected representatives to a democratic parliament.
Our government promises free education for those lucky enough to get into school, but half of all the children in our country are denied the opportunity of any schooling at all, and our government does nothing to develop universal primary education. We need classrooms and new schools, and free or subsidised primary teacher training.
But providing the infrastructure for universal education is not even on the agenda for discussion. An ignorant and illiterate population is easy for unscrupulous leaders to delude and manipulate.
A recent report suggests that no more than 15% of our people are functionally literate. In New Ireland the level of literacy is rated at 25% and this is after almost 100 years of primary schooling in that Province.
If very many people in society practice stealing, lying, misappropriating what does not belong to them - and if it is seen as all right to take for yourself whatever is not guarded from you - then Leaders are free to practice corruption. We become a society where the rule is ʻEveryone for himselfʼ, ʻIʼm all right Jackʼ, or ʻWari bilong yu!ʼ
Our children grow up in a society that accepts and tolerates corrupt behaviour, and that sees no shame in being someone who steals, or in being someone who borrows money with no intention of ever paying it back, or in being someone who is violent and abusive towards his wife and family. We accept and tolerate people in positions of authority and responsibility whom we know are themselves dishonest and corrupt.
In Papua New Guinea it is this widespread acceptance and tolerance of corruption and dishonesty of all kinds, combined with a population that is largely uneducated and unknowing, that gives our leaders the freedom to practice corruption on a grand scale.
When we look at our 109 MPs we see that each one of all those Members is for himself first and foremost. Yes, they form parties - but the parties are not based on an agreed and accepted philosophy to which every member is committed. The party is based on self-interest. The result is that members can switch parties easily - whatever is best for me is the rule. Every member is, at the lowest level, the enemy of every other member and they unite only out of ʻwhat is best for meʼ.
Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare is old, and weak, and vulnerable. So many of those who have been his ʻfriendsʼ and ʻsupportersʼ for many long years have turned against him to bring him down and get rid of him in the most shameful manner. It is reminiscent of a school of sharks in the ocean. If one shark is wounded, or incapacitated, all the others turn on it and rip it to shreds.
The most powerful Members in Parliament are those with money, and with the authority to make appointments to senior positions that give access to huge slices of the national budget. These are the ones who can attract support from the other Members.
The support that they give is not based on any common philosophy, or set of principles, or on jointly held convictions about what is best for the country. It is all a matter of self-interest. Sir Michael was very powerful for a long time, but his illness and long hospital stay in Singapore reduced him to the status of ʻwounded sharkʼ, with inevitable consequences for him.
In other democracies parties are based on philosophies, principles, agreed ways of looking at things, agreed attitudes towards social issues, shared convictions on what is right and what is wrong, and general agreement on how to deal with the nationʼs problems.
Parties may be based on commitment to social issues - socialism; or to wealth generation and resource development - capitalism; or to environmental issues - Greens, etc.
In Papua New Guinea there are no political philosophies. There are no well thought out high ideals and principles. Our leaders show no signs of having any knowledge, or of being committed to any of the ideas of the great political thinkers of recent history.
In most countries political parties have a youth wing. That is an organisation created and run by the party that young people can join and in which they can get an education in the principles and the philosophy of the party. They can learn all about politics, and about political leadership.
The youth wing provides young people with a voice - they can actually have an influence on the policies of the Party. And they have a pathway for entry into politics for themselves.
In PNG none of our political parties can have a youth wing. This is because they have nothing to offer to young people. They have no message for youth – no political philosophy or principles to teach, no long term strategies for future development.
The Party exists only to enrich and empower its members and their supporters. Party membership does not mean very much in PNG. There is nothing to differentiate one Party from another, apart from personalities. Senior party members have no interest in young people because they can see no personal advantage in doing anything for youth.
The result is that our youth see politics exactly as our leaders portray it - it is first and foremost a pathway to personal enrichment, power and privilege.
To be continued