BY PAUL OATES
‘ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM’ is an English saying for an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.
It is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there have chosen to avoid dealing with the looming issue.
Extending idiomatic English, the picture of prime minister O’Neill shaking hands with Michael Somare at last week’s court hearing is the epitome of the expression ‘kiss and make up’.
In a recent political contest that has some people claiming PNG as being on the brink of revolution, it behoves all Papua New Guineans to ask where their nation is going and why?
At the risk of being accused of insensitivity, I suggest the essence of the problem is the equivalent of the elephant in the room.
And what is the elephant’s name?
‘Lack of direction’ some might say; yet there has been any amount of planning by successive PNG governments.
‘Corruption’ many see as the problem; yet this is nothing new and is a problem way beyond the shores of PNG.
“I think maybe the spear needs to be fully thrown at the greedy politicians first before any else. You want something here, just pay enough graft and it is yours,” said Joe Deledio in PNG Attitude on 10 February 2012.
“The worst disaster, though, that continues since 16 September 1975 to this very day, is that of our lack of good governance,” said Garry Juffa in PNG Exposed.
Yet are these just excuses masking the real conclusion?
Previous essays in PNG Attitude have raised the cultural differences between the so-called Western world and PNG. If one could identify the main pivot point between the two systems, it would probably be kastom, the Tokpisin term for PNG culture and traditional values.
Can PNG advance as a nation using what Michael Somare referred to as ‘The Melanesian Way’?
If PNG kastom is applied to a modern city or town and not a village, can it work in practice?
If you work hard and bring your wage back to your family only to find it has suddenly expanded to share your good fortune, what does that do to incentive?
If you are a supervisor and find an employee you are responsible for isn’t turning up for work, do you report or sack him if he’s from your own area and strong cultural bonds urge otherwise?
If you know of someone who has done something illegal, do you report them to the authorities if you don’t know that they are also in on the deal?
The PNG Police Commissioner reports that at least half the nation’s budget is stolen each year. Yet apparently little was done to stop it happening or to hold the villains accountable.
US President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read: ‘The buck stops here’. That referred to the fact that he was ultimately responsible for everything that happened in his country.
What it didn’t mean however is that everyone else could sit back and let their nation collapse.