BY PAUL OATES
IT’S RAINING AT THE MOMENT, so I’ve quit my mowing and I’m inside at the computer again. I thought I’d tap up Martyn Namorong’s blog site and read his latest post, The uncertain road to Melbourne [see also PNG Attitude, Friday].
Here are a few thoughts that might help Martyn with ideas for the Melbourne conference.
Martyn wrote: ‘We need to recognise that the current systems of government are inherited from our colonial masters.’
Yep! That’s right, but so what? The current systems of government were in turn inherited from earlier systems that were refined and tweaked for hundreds if not thousands of years. They were developed from systems that had been proven to work elsewhere.
When I was travelling through Greece a couple of years ago, I said to our Greek tour guide: “Thank you for looking after our history”. She got somewhat miffed and said: “No, it’s our history, not yours.”
I explained that it depends on how you look at it.
My history, language and culture comes from Australia but before that it evolved from Britain and before that Europe and Ancient Rome and before that Ancient Greece and before that Egypt and Mesopotamia and before that… etc.
“Oh!” she said.
Papua New Guinea’s history, English usage and culture come in part from that long line of antecedents as well as from traditional Melanesian sources.
Martyn wrote: ‘These systems were created for the purposes of taming so called primitive natives and pacifying them.’
Well I guess it depends on what systems you are referring to. If Martyn was talking about the system of Westminster government, then I would have to in part disagree.
It is true that the Australian system of government was bequeathed to PNG by those who in Canberra seemed to think, mistakenly, that they knew better and refused to listen to those who did have some practical experience at the kunai roots level of rural PNG.
If Martyn was perhaps referring to the kiap system of rural administration, then perhaps he might consider a very detailed discussion I had with some PNG mates about how the kiap system worked and why it worked.
I suggested to them that the only reason kiaps were able to manage rural areas and thousands of people was that those people gave the power to the kiap rather than the kiap taking it from the people.
I did however ask why did the people allow this to happen? Was it what the kiap could offer in the way of change and material goods? Was it the education and business opportunities that came after the area was pacified and law and order introduced? ‘No way’, they said.
It was because the kiap system dovetailed neatly into a fundamental and essential part of the traditional PNG village culture, i.e. the ‘big man’.
The village people recognised the kiap as the ‘big man’ and he became culturally acceptable and was easily fitted into the rural scene. In fact, kiaps did very little to change the village culture apart from ending warfare and other anti social practices. That was part of their success.
Only after the kiap system was dismantled by Somare after Independence did things go awry. Nepotism and corruption became rife.
In western government systems, the legislature is responsible for making laws, not enacting the law. That is the province of the public service.
This is the system PNG was left with. It was however changed by the elites who grasped power at Independence and decided to introduce changes to ‘help themselves’.
The fact that some MP’s want ‘the power’ to both make laws and dole out taxpayer money to obtain personal power and prestige is not the system installed prior to Independence.
So there could be a very convincing argument presented that in fact, the systems now currently in place in PNG and that are clearly not working are a direct result of home grown actions and not those externally imposed.
The term ‘neo colonialism’ may well define the problem but the source might also be closer to home.