SOME 3,000 MEN AND WOMEN of Papua New Guinea who have both energy and proven expertise in an industrial or professional field are employed overseas.
They are sick and tired of the “same old, same old” situation of ever declining services, standards and social welfare under successive PNG governments over many years.
They go away and live and work where they are appreciated and paid well and are thus able to do better materially and in terms of providing for a better future for themselves.
An Australian acquaintance who grew up in the Wahgi Valley in the years following independence visited an isolated mine-site in Ethiopia recently. While there he observed an aircraft engineer of apparently Melanesian origin working on a helicopter.
Risking embarrassment, the Aussie spoke a low-key greeting in Tok Pisin. In seconds the pair were hugging each other - white Aussie and brown Highlander - as the latter shouted “ Aiyo! Bara, yumi tupla blon Banz na kam ya!”
Okay, that’s all very well for the three thousand.
But do they tell themselves that one day they’ll return to try to make a difference at home? One hopes so.
They leave behind probably another 6,000 people equally qualified, equally possessed of expertise and experience, and equally endowed with the latent ability to initiate change as catalysts within this suffering society.
To mention latent ability is to say nothing of responsibility, which is another factor for consideration.
Several thousand well-educated and competent middle-class professional men and women don’t show any signs of active engagement with the problems in society, with the ills of a dysfunctional political party-system or with addressing the challenge of their largely-ineffectual and often dishonest political overlords.
What’s wrong with all these expensive products of what Jeff Febi, and others qualified to judge, confirm as a fast-deteriorating system of education?
To my mind, and after long years of exposure to the questions within this society at all its levels, it’s very simply a lack of guts.
Explain it away in any manner you wish - be it cultural and customary inhibitions and reticence, bad policy in the far-off Aussie Admin days, or cowardly references to God’s will, as are often made.
No, it’s simple lassitude and lack of courage to lead discussion and change by speaking out.
By all means, fellow-readers and fellow-contributors, use your intellect and ability with words to cast aspersions on the old colonials and their ways and decisions, on globalisation, on multinationals and the resource-exploiters whom you have licensed to operate in your forests, and your mineral and oil fields.
By all means traduce the foreign operators of the retail and wholesale and minor trade and service businesses. But when you’ve finished, remember by whose permission all these business people operate in your country; and by whom the rules and regulations are imposed.
These are, without exception, activities well within the capability of today’s generation of middle-class professional Papua New Guineans. But commitment, energy, guts?
Remember men of the calibre of the late Mahuru Rarua, the late Kila Kone and their peers at the Federation of Cooperative Associations at Konedobu.
Remember the Federation’s client associations all around the coast, to say nothing of all the village-based societies with their import-export, insurance, wholesale and coastal-shipping interests.
Interests that stood in strong competition with those other big names of yesteryear: BPs and Steamships.
Remember the Stret Pasin Stoa Scheme and the Lutheran Church’s major retail/wholesale and crop-purchasing enterprise, NAMASU, with branches all through Momase and the Highlands.
These were building blocks placed and cemented by a generation of men who, well-educated, lived under a racially-discriminatory system which limited their advancement in public service departments, prohibited their entry to social clubs, prohibited gambling and the consumption of alcohol, and who yet - under this chafing emotional load - carried out very valuable, responsible executive duties.
Is their legacy meaningless? Are they to be forgotten whilst their better-educated and advantaged children and grandchildren shop with resentment, and with apparent submissive resignation, under the eye of foreigners?
Foreign securities sitting on high stools watching for pilfering. Foreign checkout-chicks whose elderly foreign bosses sit nearby, mentally adding the takings as the day progresses.
Will you modern men and women clear the weeds from these abandoned foundations; restore PNG-owned and controlled enterprise at every level from village up? Will you work to facilitate fair representation through a political system controlled by the electorate and seen by the electorate as such?
There’s a lot of work to be done, and its your job to do it.
The job of all you writers and poets and graduates in science and geology; all you airline-pilots and builders and diesel-engineers and doctors and nurses and branch-managers.
All of you. All of you must get out there and kick arse – metaphorically-speaking, anyway.
It’s the only way you’ll all live to see satisfactory conditions of life and justice and citizen-equity established throughout your land.
A land which will become a healthy, prospering and just Melanesian society. Forever.
Don’t let it become forever known as The Land of Dohore-Larim. It really is up to you now. Do it.