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« If Only… | Main | Sir Paulias Matane recognised for lifetime contribution to PNG writing »

24 June 2014

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Chris - Couldn't agree with you more on the greed among the political and business circles of this country.

In order for us, the new generations, to really appreciate what happened during those early days, we need to read the history of this country.

Wide reading from what happened from the coast to the highlands can enlighten us on our history.

Part of the challenge is for Papua New Guineans to write that history, some of which is lost forever through the older generations dying.

Some of the comments on this excellent piece infer that
Australia left PNG with legacy systems ill suited to the country's needs.

While I am quite sure that Australia relinquished its colonial role with unseemly haste, it did not leave behind a fundamentally unsound constitutional, legal and administrative system.

Since independence, the onus has lain entirely on PNG's elected leaders to use and modify that system to better meet the country's needs.

That they have spectacularly failed to do so is no reflection upon Australia, but tells you a great deal about the "Melanesian Way" that the usual suspects always bang on about.

The ugly truth is that incompetence, venality, greed and corruption have proliferated more or less unchecked amongst the country's political and business elites.

By passively accepting this or, in too many cases, enthusiastically participating in it, Papua New Guineans have effectively "normalised" corrupt conduct.

Until such time as PNG seriously tackles the cultural underpinning of this behaviour, notably the "wantok" system, nothing is going to change.

Australia's legacy to PNG was a history of broadly honest, well intentioned and generally enlightened administration, combined with a proven, viable and effective constitutional and legal framework.

Despite this and PNG's huge natural resources, things have not gone well.

The clear source of the country's problems was, is and will remain its apparent incapacity to actually use the Australian legacy systems for the greater good of the people.

It is up to Papua New Guineans to fix these problems: Australia cannot and will not do so for the very simple reason that any imposed reform will not last.

As Lenin famously said of Tsarist Russia: "What is to be done?"

The answer to that question lies in the hearts and minds of Papua New Guineans.

Yalkuna, we have to teach our children that being a PNGan today is not easy because of all those flawed systems and practices we inherited and have to live with. There are so many things that we need to blend well with our cultures that are consistent with universal values.

Mathias, your work is unveiling one of my many puzzles on why PNGians do things the way they do. I have looked at traditions and cultures and early colonisation, and you share an intriguing piece of work. Thank you very much.

Mathias, your account of this part of Papua New Guinea's history is very accurate, so congratulations.

The people I worked with at Watabung did not want independence at that time. They recognised that they didn't have leaders with the experience to take over the government from Australia.

Their leaders were getting experience through the local government system which was dedicated to the welfare of the local villages.

Taking the leadership away from these wonderful people and giving it to politicians following the Australian system just was not going to work at that time.

The Australian government lost its way, and the changes it made to the justice system was disastrous; allowing the rascals and corrupt officials to thrive.

Now it is time for the dedicated, honest Papua New Guineans to take over and I am delighted to hear of their efforts in this regard.

Thanks Mathias, you've covered a lot of ground .

Today is a result of yesterday's decisions.

That is why we need to make the right decisions today.

There are 111 seats in Parliament.

Politics is about personality.

Leadership is about character.

We may have politicians from wealthier provinces with overbearing (and overweight) personalities trying to push their own private and provincial agenda through parliament.

But if we have leaders of good character on the floor of parliament as well, I believe that democratic process can put them in line and promote the public national agenda.

Nice piece Bro, and love that photo...

Good essay, Mathias.

I remember when I was teaching Economics at Keravat in the late 1970s I took all my classes to see over CPI - the great coconut oil mill in Rabaul. There was some processing going on!

I used to also take them to a small joinery in Malaguna Road Rabaul where we saw them turning local timber into furniture and coffins.

We visited LAES Keravat to hear the latest in agricultural development and there were still many fine plantations mainly producing coconuts and cocoa, around the Gazelle and the local farmers were also growing cash crops as well as supplying the local markets with excellent vegetables.

There was great hope for the future of PNG and my students did very well in their exams and went on to excel in various fields. The local schools and hospitals were doing a fine job.

It is hard to comprehend how everything could go so wrong so quickly after Independence was granted. It now appears that those early leaders were not there to serve their people. They were very self-centered and they set in motion a very corrupt system.

Good call Mathias. The answer now is to concentrate on finding those systems that work and getting rid of those that don't. The same applies to a nation's leaders.

There are plenty of examples to study and learn from.

e.g. Judge a person on what they have achieved in their life for others rather than what they say they will do.

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