LEADERSHIP HAS BEEN A NOBLE VOCATION since time immemorial; however only a few people live up to its demands.
Those few stand tall and forget their own self-interest and, by doing so, eventually achieve immortality. They have these attributes in common: trustworthiness, humaneness, courageousness, sternness and intelligence. We call them servant leaders.
The common people trust servant leaders because they never lie or steal. They have infinite civic virtue and are selfless and, most importantly, walk the talk both in the dark and the light.
Rain or shine, servant leaders look over their shoulder to see if the child, the woman or the lame is content with life.
Servant leaders have a strong heart that does not shiver at the hour of adversity and stand firm on their values to the hour of death. And they have sharp minds that can sew up answers to produce peace and wellbeing.
Servant leaders do not run away from adversity but endure with their people to produce wellbeing again.
The opposite of servant leaders are pedestal leaders.
They travel the road of greed, wrath, sloth, envy, lust, gluttony and pride. Pedestal leaders hoard what should be available to all, build castles and live as Caesars of Rome, dining and wining with whores.
Pedestal leaders are misers when it comes to the people’s wealth and only return like a comet every few years to splash cash and kind on starving lamb flap-craving tribesmen and women.
If their lamb flap baits are not enticing enough or if sometimes people say enough is enough, and look for a better candidate, the misers come with their gun-toting henchmen to wipe whole tribes into oblivion.
Then they take the podium to tell everyone that they have to vote for honest and God fearing leaders like themselves.
They are narcissists and are not in any way close to what the word leader means. We can equate their egos to the psychopathic Nero who burnt Rome and its people for no logical reason.
The pedestal leaders are a disease in society so, tell us, how do we deal with them?
Most of them do not gain their sustenance through hard work and probity. They are no different from common criminals like the late Kapris and Raphael.
Can someone stand up and ask them some straight, hard questions in the manner of the ABC’s Four Corners? We bet they would not turn up to face the camera.
Pedestal leaders are a real problem in society, so why do the people continue to vote for them?
Well, most times we know that the people do not want to face the wrath of the losing pollies and be forced to leave their tribal lands for urban areas.
So, bugger it, just give the vote to Dracula and let him disappear so we can live in peace. That’s what people say. It’s because they don’t want guns blazing on their tribal land.
After the 2012 election, Papua New Guineans celebrated the news that Garry Juffa, Kelly Naru, Bire Kimisopa, William Powi, William Tolgap, Tobias Kulang and many vibrant young leaders were returned or won seats as MPs.
There was optimism that with this breed of politicians in government and opposition PNG could rebuild in the aftermath of Jeff Nape and Michael Somare’s gang bang-style of parliamentary business.
There was hope that these new MPs would help the old with reforms to sieve out corruption and collusion in public and private sectors and make meritorious appointments in their place.
Alas, controversies still abound and business is still done in an undemocratic manner.
Let us find a new name for this quasi-Westminster system that defaces the true value of democratic debate, parliamentary privilege and protocol. The depth, flavour and logic of the formative years of the PNG parliament has been lost forever.
Now, all the pollies sit in Parliament like vultures on tree tops and spy on the life below looking for the whereabouts of money and women.
Some of the leaders who showed glimpses of servant leadership have now hibernated in the government backbenches as if they had just had a big meal and are full to the brim.
Matters of national interest are rubber stamped without any politician showing his true patriotism by standing up and arguing for or against.
The former kitchen cabinet lieutenants like Tiensten, Puraitch, Aimo and so on too are probably so overwhelmed with fear that they too shy away or neglect their duties by hiding somewhere in the lecture halls of UPNG.
They are probably praying every night that the sins they committed as lieutenants of the National Alliance will never surface to haunt them.
Sir Michael Somare is also awkwardly following around prime minister Peter O’Neill as if he had something to hide. If he leaves O’Neill for a while, he could face the wrath of the law. We also suspect he is acting as a shield for his former arrogant minister son.
It is not a problem which side the leaders or crooks are on in parliament. The problem is when they don’t stand up and articulate the thoughts and wishes of the people they represent. Leaders represent their people; therefore they have to know their people’s interest and not just their own self-interest.
As parliamentarians they are entitled to perks, privileges and money earmarked for their district. By law the district and provincial development funds - DSIP or PSIP money - cannot be taken away from them.
When the government is elusive and plays delaying tactics in releasing the DSIP or PSIP funds, it reflects ignorance of parliamentary business and protocol.
It seems the fear that DSIP and PSIP funds will only go to MPs on the government side is a factor behind the swollen numbers on the government benches and the lack of numbers on the opposition side.
The other obvious reason is that the former lieutenants from the last government are now vulnerable and haunted by their blunders and see the only way of taking cover is to make tea for the new lieutenants.
To wit, it seems the one or two who have crossed the floor to join the government recently may have done this so they could be acquitted of pending charges of corruption and squandering.
Once, they joined the government their cases were no longer featured in the media or the corridors of the courts and were swept under the carpet.
This leads to another inference; the criminal justice system in PNG is subjective. Well, we know it has always been subjective because it has a record of sending more poor buggers to prison than the well-to-do buggers.
The culture of “to the victor belong the spoils” makes it hard for meritorious appointments to be made to state departments. Patronage and nepotism, as well as bang-for-buck service delivery has been the norm for many years.
For example, in the last government a club boy from National Alliance was appointed to look after the Climate Change Office. The guy (now a murderer serving time in prison) flew his wantoks from a village in the Sepik to work in his office. The Sepik wantoks didn’t have a clue about REDD because neither of them could read nor write.
Soon millions of kina in funds from the UN and the PNG government disappeared. The joke is that the executive turned murderer has a PhD. He was a capable man who could have managed a government department but he still took the selfish opportunities that came his way.
The public service is full of capable men and women who use their education to steal.
Another agony is the unnecessary pressure and demands from ministers on departmental heads. They want money, cars, laptops, trips and funding for pet projects submitted by their henchmen. Lately the scalps of some secretaries and directors were taken for not being willing to inflate the egos of their ministers.
What about the vice ministers? They also want office space in government departments filled with tea, coffee and internet connections for their henchmen to come in for a chat and to watch pornography. Vice ministers also want cars and things from the department. The departments do not budget for these crooks, why should they? The board chairmen and directors of entities are also a similar nuisance for public servants.
And it goes on.
At the moment, Peter O’Neill seems to be both a servant leader and pedestal leader. The latter is derived from his previous roles as a businessman and chairman. We ask that he discard the pedestal leadership side and work on improving his servant leadership skills.
He should tell his ministers to stop interfering with the professionals running the government departments and concentrate on their roles as legislators.
Now that his government is safe with a huge majority and has amended the laws to stretch his tenure in office we beseech him to ensure that proper parliamentary debate about issues of national importance be encouraged.
For those pedestal leaders who have shackled themselves to the backbenches or frontbenches of government for no logical reason, can you all rise and flex at least an aroma of true servant leadership?
And by the way, we give the benefit of doubt to the Speaker. We know he will be impartial and not become a disciple of Jeff.
Warmil Kral is a pseudonym. The identity of the author, a senior PNG public servant, is known to the editor