An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Essay & Journalism Award
DEMOCRACY permits individual rights to citizens who are abusing their privileges when intentionally engaging in corrupt activities.
To minimise this scenario, the state needs to restrict certain rights of individuals. The right to contest for public office as stipulated in Section 50 of the Constitution of the Independent State of PNG is one such right.
The tendency of Papua New Guineans to respect the position of leadership in pre-colonial societies including colonial and post-colonial is evidence that leaders have a paramount role to play. The axiom of “where the head leads, the tail will follow” confirms the paramount role leaders play in any society.
The change in the geo-political climate warrants a change in the style and substance of leaders. By restricting the nomination of candidates in both the national and local government elections to only educated and professionally experienced citizens is perhaps contradictory but is crucial for the common good.
Plato’s The Republic talked about his ideal state composing of three classes. The merchant class maintains the economic structure of the state, the military class meets security needs, and the philosopher-kings provide the political leadership.
Through a system of education and vocational selection, the three classes are separated. Believing that men are of different and unequal abilities he considers that they should be put into social classes corresponding to these differences and suggested the following method.
For the first 18 years of a boy’s life he should be taught gymnastics and sports, playing and singing music, reading and writing, a knowledge in literature. If he passed this course sent on to the next stage, those who failed were to be tradesmen and merchants.
From 18-20 those successful in the first course were to be given two years of cadet training. The ones thought incapable of further education being placed in the military class as soldiers.
The reminders, who were to become the leaders of society, proceed with advance studies in philosophy, mathematics, science and art. Such education was to be a state concern, state supported and controlled, selecting men and training them for service in the state according to their abilities.
In a bid to create our own philosopher kings, legislatures should amend certain laws to set a criterion to determine who should contest national and local level government elections. This will restrict the right to contest for public office to certain individuals who are potentially viable as leaders.
This can be done by amending Section 84 and 85 of the Organic Law on National and Local – Level Government Elections (OLNLLGE) that deals with the nomination of candidates.
Section 84 states that no person is qualified for nomination for an electorate while he is nominated for another electorate and that last-mentioned nomination has not been withdrawn.
There should be a new sub-section saying thatonly those with a tertiary or technical education in any field with 10 years or more experience in the public or private sector respectively are eligible to nominate.
Clear understanding of how the government operates and the main objective of having a government, understanding of the economy and the social conditions of the surrounding communities are highly relevant knowledge the intending candidate should possess prior to nominating.
Section 85 states that a nomination must name the candidate, his place of residence and occupation. Also it must set out the qualification by virtue of which he is qualified for nomination and be witnessed by a person to whom the candidate is personally known.
There should be a new sub-section stating thatthe candidate must be a resident of the respective province for 3 years or more. For example, for the Kundiawa-Gembogl open seat the candidate can be someone of any ethnic origin but a citizen of PNG who has lived in the provincial capital or the surrounding areas within the electorate for more than 3 years.
What happens if this particular person is in another province or is in the National Capital? If this person’s intention of contesting is genuine then after his required 10 years or more service in the public or private sector he or she should retire, retrench or somehow be a part of the community he or she is interested in representing.
The country needs leaders who can not only think but analyze issues with a greater understanding. Furthermore, leaders who understand the mechanism of domestic and foreign politics as well as economics and other pressing issues are like precious gem stones in this globalize world.
What about those past leaders like Imbakey Okuk, Pita Lus and others who were not highly educated but managed to bring the country to where it is now? By comparing the global political climate in their era with today, surely educated leaders are more suitable because the level of interaction between different countries is increasing due of globalization.
Papua New Guineans have abused the term freedom. The fact that it is every citizen’s constitutional right to run for public office, some of PNG’s current leaders and some past ones have fit the category of unqualified leaders.
Maybe they were traditional ‘bigmen’, chiefs or uneducated self-made business tycoons but without the intellectual capacity acquired through higher education their understanding of issues concerning national interest has contributed to the lack of good governance.
Uneducated leaders have a tendency to be more egoistic which is in contradiction to the Organic Law on the Duties and Responsibilities of Leaders part II. This law talks about the responsibilities of leadership. Instead of putting the interest of those they represent the greed of entertaining their own ego is by far the greatest. Violating Section 6 subsection 1, 2, 3 and 4, consequently, most of them isolate themselves in Port Moresby and concentrate on building their own empires.
PNG needs patriotic leaders who can break out of fragmentation, parochialism and insularity to really unite the country to move forward, in comparison, after Deng’s era China used economic development to strengthen nationalism. A charismatic nationalist leader with a strong emphasis on national development is a potential spark to uniting nationalist sentiments.
For the local level government the proposed amendments will help elevate the standard. Educated people will seriously address issues affecting the community rationally and in a more coherent manner promoting accountability and transparency from the lower levels of government.
Perhaps the proposed amendments will be a pull factor for future leaders to go back and work in their province or district boosting human resources and having a positive effect in the developmental process.
The right to represent is striped from the general public and given to those who are privileged. As a result, the argument of creating an elitist society comes into the picture, those citizens with material wealth, education and money will have the comparative advantage.
Since democratic societies are highly classed those on top of the hierarchy will surely benefit. This will inevitably lead to the dependency theory of development, which argues that elites in developing countries like PNG will exploit their country’s resources by dealing with multinational corporations and rich nations.
By creating an elite class who are educated they can also be agents of underdevelopment. With power they can manipulate resources and the decision making process to feed their capitalist desires.
In the lower levels of government those village ‘bigmen’, chiefs and self-made uneducated leaders or formally traditional leaders will be marginalized. They will no longer be eligible for public office.
This means the new educated leaders have to earn not only the trust of the educated people but also the illiterates in the village that still possess the mentality of recognizing traditional leaders.
Not only quality political leadership is necessary but quality bureaucratic leadership is vital in moving forward. The selection of departmental heads should be based on merits and not the fulfillment of political favours. The political involvement and pressure from government ministers has hampered the function of the public service machinery and affected the development of the country.
Persons with a master’s or doctorate degree in a field related to the department and who has come through the rank and file are worthy of appointment. The selection process should be free from political pressure and involvement where the respective departmental head should serve the full term of office unless the officer is implicated.
Penalties presently imposed on those found guilty of corruption-related offences provided under the PNG Criminal Code are lenient compared with penalties imposed in other countries for similar offences according to the late John Nero.
The late Ombudsman Nero advocated that the penalty for engaging in corrupt practices should be harsher. This will make citizens think twice about engaging themselves in corrupt practices. If found guilty a lengthy sentence or a hefty fine will underline the seriousness of the offence, a 7 year sentence or K2,000 fine will have an impact on the offender.
For leaders who are entrusted with the leadership role they should face a tougher sentence because of their status in society. They should be the ones setting a good example, if found guilty of corruption in office in conjunction with the Leadership Code their assets should be forfeited to the state. They should be exiled or imprisoned for a maximum of 14 years.
By restricting the rights of citizens to stand for public office to potentially viable leaders will help breed a new type of leadership. As well, quality bureaucratic leadership will strengthen PNG’s bid to tackle corruption and enhance the performance of the public sector to successfully implement government programs.