AN ARTICLE ENTITLED ‘Speaker breaks silence’ in the PNG Post Courier newspaper has shed some light on the lead up to the recent controversy on the decorations of the House of Parliament. Unfortunately the light is dark. Here are my humble observations.
I maintain that there are a lot of decent, educated and well mannered people among the members of parliament elected in July last year. To the best of my limited knowledge, I include among them the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House.
This national leadership, however, was born with an “original sin” which has come to light on several occasions: the sacking of the vice-chancellor of the University of Technology, the agreement with Australia on refugees, the probable implementation of the death penalty and now the removal of Parliament decorations as a first step for a special project aimed at “uniting” the country under the common denominator of “Christianity and faith in God”.
The original sin I am referring to I will call “contempt of public opinion”. At this moment the parliament is a rubber stamp of the government and public opinion is considered irrelevant for democracy. The idea of the current political leadership is that “you have voted us in for five years; we will talk to you again in 2017”.
What the Speaker intends for “Christianity” is not clear. He was raised in the Lutheran tradition, which all of us respect very much. Apparently the composition to replace the totem pole in the Grand Hall of Parliament has the Bible at its centre.
But is it really convenient for the State to meddle in religious matters independently of the churches, and to promote a sort of Christian theocracy at the dawn of the 21st century?
For those who like it, Christianity is already a unifying factor for PNG, along with the Constitution, the National Anthem and Pledge.
Papua New Guinea is a peaceful country. There is no political violence. No threat of military takeover. Non-Christians also feel at home in PNG. What does the Speaker intend to “reform”?
Does he want to rid the country of sorcery related violence and all sort of fears deriving from ancestral beliefs, spirits, carvings and masks? This is commendable. But is he on the right path by avoiding public debate not only in the country but even in the House of Parliament?
And is it really credible that corruption and ill conceived decisions in Parliament stem from the power of those carvings as some evangelical leaders seem to imply? Can somebody realistically believe that bad political behavior will go away when the carvings go?