An entry in the Rivers Prize
WHEN THE SUN RISES in the east, every citizen is thinking about what the day has in store for him or her. And what do you think the day promises in Papua New Guinea? Every day is a search and clash for all citizens.
Across the land and sea of this beautiful country, there is the scurrying, rollicking and blustering wind of inequity and inequality that is widening the social, economic and political gap amongst the populace of every village.
Every man, woman and child rummaging the country looking for green pastures and leaving their backyards to dereliction.
In their new land they become the dirt and cruelty to their fellow indigenous citizens; they are the injustice and exploitation in the name of that freedom granted upon them by the strange Eurocentric belief that Melanesians did not have it before colonisation.
That canoe, PNG, has paddled idly and ignorantly through the tempestuous sea of globalism too far. The horizon is far the shore is further.
Since time immemorial in PNG, there were independent tribes, clans and family networks. These institutions were sovereign; they had territorial integrity; they had laws; they pursued trade and diplomatic relations.
There was order and that order was sacred to the people and beneficial to the land. Harmony and survival were sustained within this territory.
The key for survival was respect and enrichment of inter-clan and tribal relationships.
But the tide of modernisation disrupted the epistemological world. The barter system of trade is no more; a marriage for peace is no more; a feast for land dispute settlement is no more; a pig as a token of appreciation is no more; grandpa storytelling is no more.
As a state, PNG was founded on sand and without a clearly defined political roadmap. Most national strategies are created from foreign advice or guidelines that do not reflect any PNG relevance or reality. Therefore, in PNG every new government equals new policies that consign the former into oblivion.
In doing so, the state creates its own enemies; the very people that mandate it to power turn against it with dissatisfaction, then they run back to the old Melanesian institutions as boundaries to disrupt modernization and cause injustice on their own people and country.
Citizens harming citizens and harming their own country in PNG clearly show the widespread confusion of people who are surprised by the clash of the Melanesian imprints that remain and the Eurocentric modernisation with its enforced ideologies and institutions.
PNG is country that cheats itself with the imported ideologies of politics, economics and society despite the fact that these institutional norms clash with Melanesian realities.
But the elite PNG minority benefit. PNG has been tethered for them.
Intellectually, PNG was not prepared to be a country in the Eurocentric world order. Its celebrated founders were Melanesians engulfed by the sweetness of turning PNG into a state with western world concepts.
When they build that grand canoe in 1975, they were blinded to the massive task of dragging with them tribes of conflicting dreams.
Development in PNG has become the exploitation of the nation by an arrogant and selfish elite. Massive foreign owned investment has energised corruption, caused the social, political and economic breakdown for the majority and enabled the few elites in their urban safe havens to bag the wealth of the country.
With their Melanesian ways; ordinary citizens are sucked into cities and towns, causing more harm to the ecology of society and the state system. There is no peaceful and harmonious life in the struggling urban communities of PNG.
A peaceful PNG shall be reached with the calm and open amalgamation of the Melanesian Way and introduced Eurocentric norms that are now part of the global system. Both realms must be engaged in a mutually acceptable and respectful manner for the betterment of PNG.
In the pre-contact Melanesian world, territorial integrity was the fundamental norm. No one came into a territory (land, river or sea) without advance notice. When using land for gardens, the intending user gave notice to the owner and used the land but temporarily.
After use, a gesture of thanks like a bundle of a ripe bananas or some meat was given to the landowner. This would happen first, before the user continued harvesting for self. This was respect within society and people.
But in modern PNG, the elite law makers laugh at the old ways and call them barbaric. But in reality, there is good in these traditional norms for the modern PNG canoe.
PNG today needs to revisit all provinces and redraw all colonial boundaries. It has to identify each single tribe and clan network and their territory under the dictates of all myths and oral histories in existence; then search for the related neighbour(s) and group these into districts (if too small) or provinces.
Waigani should be the umbrella government overseeing mostly international obligations and defence of the PNG canoe.
This done, the next move is to class all related provinces into federal state governments with the highest forms of autonomy endowed with controlled freedom of movement and all other powers and functions.
That is, all these states must have in place strong vagrancy laws right from the provincial level of government.
Today, the PNG canoe needs a little pain to create long term happiness.
For the PNG canoe, the states are obvious. They are Papua, Highlands, Momase and Islands. However, the present model needs some restructuring since there are loopholes. For example, the Siasi islanders are culturally more aligned to West New Britain then Morobe thus they should be returned.
With this the old Melanesian rule of territorial integrity back and people safe within and respected from outside because the state government is bold with its autonomous powers and functions.
After this, the next step is to adopt the most realistic models of Eurocentric development for each state according to the needs of the people within, and not according to the entire PNG canoe.
In an article entitled, Six Development Models, the Human Capital Theory is propounded which states that ‘improving human capital (education, health, fertility rates) is a necessary pre-requisite for economic growth’.
You can read this in collaboration with the Welfare Concept of Development that says that ‘true development does not consist in increasing the amount of consumer goods but to provide for everyone’s needs for good health care and education and protection from crime’.
These represent the best approach and strategy for all states of PNG.
And these two models are bases for sustainable development where there is harmony between man and resources for the long-term benefit of present and future generations of citizens.
This is tangible given the little income PNG will be generating from the mining, petroleum and gas boom currently underway. It will need to be supplemented by cash crops from local citizens and the nationalisation of firms buying cash crops that rob farmers.
Such steps will increase local incomes for villages and increases their buying power, leading them to a progressive drive towards positive change. This change spreads from tribe to province then to state.
In doing so, we uphold the old Melanesian concept of utilising whatever resources are available to us for our survival. And when there is a lack in our district, we forge trade relations with the next district.
If there is still scarcity, the province comes into action by trading with another province within the state; and if one state cannot prevail, then we go to another state.
This strengthens the domestic economy of the PNG canoe that has long being lied to and robbed by the parasitic concept of ‘no man is an island’ that is suitable for the First World and a few stable countries who have healthy and sound foundations for their countries.
Here PNG’s four states should meet all the needs and wants of their citizens. If they grow peanuts, let them process tinned peanuts; if they have cocoa, let them produce cocoa powder for the PNG Highlands state; if they grow coffee, let them manufacture coffee for the island, Papua or Momase states.
Where one resource, for example timber, is equally distributed across PNG, let the central government distribute production items that a state must work on so the flow of the domestic market and trade is not disrupted. Bear in mind the need for export earnings as well where surplus is attained in production.
Waigani should be proactive in managing the four states for it is the strength of the four states that strengthens it politically, socially and economically.
All states should have own education systems to create citizens that know the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats of their respective states. Each state must have its own tertiary institutions with laws that have its citizens graduate and serve his or her own district or province for a period of time before deciding to seek employment in another province, state or overseas.
Citizens need to know their states well so as to be good decision-makers in their respective governments and society.
With such governance we hold the will to defend our own territories or states as our progenitors did for their territories in the dreamtimes.
In summary, by re-creating the PNG canoe with safe and empowered tribal and clan systems, we hope for stable provincial governments that bind together to form a powerful federal state for a harmonious and peaceful PNG where equity and equality rule.
All four PNG states ought to be autonomous in their social, economic and political decision making for the good of their citizens; this creates free and satisfied PNG citizens who care for each other, their province, their state and their PNG at large.