BY GARY JUFFA
IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS, Papua New Guinea has experienced a spate of disasters in rapid succession. It is as if the elements of nature have spewed out their anger and Papua New Guinea experienced disasters from the air, land and now water.
Yet it is not nature that cost the nation the lives of Papua New Guineas sons and daughters so much as human errors in judgment by those who had the opportunity to prevent the terrible events from occurring - humans.
In these instances, humans employed in foreign-owned companies operating in PNG. Yet even these agents are not to be blamed so much as the persons who direct and urge them to act and employ them and do so for profit.
These are of course the owners, those who reap the profits of the business activities that generate revenues for bank accounts.
But even they are only partially to blame. For there are those placed there by “the people” who sit above these rampant profiteers: the government, its elected officials and the departments and agencies and their agents, developing policy and providing check and balance, regulatory and monitory oversight in strategic and tactical efforts to protect the interests of those who need the goods and services.
The events that occurred in the last few months are instructive of how the people have been ignored, left unprotected to the whim and will of corporate interest.
While no one doubts the use and need for corporate activities and the taxes which they reluctantly pay, they are in need of control and regulation so their mission to generate profit must not interfere with human life.
That responsibility is placed firmly every five years on a select group of individuals chosen from by the people themselves to act as guardians of the interests of the people and essentially the nation; creating and implementing laws to ensure that the people’s interests are taken into account and protected.
The consequences of representatives ignoring their responsibility are severe. The people end up paying more then they bargained for. Sometimes with property, blood and lives.
In October 2011, an Airlines PNG plane crashed into the jungles of Madang killing 28 people with only four surviving. The country grieved for the victims who not included those that perished but those that were left behind with the sad memories, those that have been left will now have to endure the vacuum created by the loss of their loved ones and the consequences of their absence in their lives.
In January 2012, PNG went into collective shock and mourning yet again when news of a landslip that occurred in the Highlands reached the rest of the country and indeed the world.
This awful tragedy killed an estimated 68 Papua New Guineas living in the vicinity of a quarry operated by a contractor of Exxon’s giant LNG gas project. Entire families were buried, fathers, mothers and children along with their simple hopes of a better life.
Whilst the nation was still reeling from the loss of life in both disasters, a ferry overladen with passengers, mainly women and children, capsized and sank. An estimated 100 people are missing, feared dead. Tales of horror from survivors tell of an ordeal that lasted just minutes when the leaky old tub was submerged by giant waves. Lower decks were filled with sleeping women and children.
The Australian government reacted swiftly and dispatched its navy and coastguard saving many lives from a watery grave. The Australian political landscape also reacted swiftly, not missing a beat and Gillard took no time in claiming credit and offering condolences laced with condescending statements all in the same paragraph.
Lack of proper attention to the development, implementation and monitoring of laws and regulations, policies and procedures designed to protect human life continues to allow deaths of Papua New Guineans.
The perpetrators are never ever punished, merely stumbling in their march towards greater profit, momentarily pausing to recover losses and regain momentum…and march on…seemingly untouchable…their investment worth far more then the lives of the citizens of this island nation, constantly and consistently in a state of non development.
The blood of these innocent victims drips not only from the hands of those employees, the pilot, the ships master and the quarry manager, but also from the executives right up through to the boards of these organisations that avid seek profit in Papua New Guinea with little concern about standards or regulations as demonstrated in those events.
The worst disaster, though, that continues since 16 September 1975 to this very day, is that of our lack of good governance.