I appreciate and commend the PM O’Neill Foundation and its employees for working hard to meet its legal requirement and raising funds to support and sustain the foundation and achieving its objectives.
But I also feel that most non-government organisations, especially civil society organisations, that require the same level of support and commitment from business houses, government agencies and individual MPs, should be accorded it.
My reason for being sympathetic to other NGOs is because none of the founders of these organisations occupy a privileged position equivalent to that of the founder of the O’Neill Foundation.
They do not command the attention of high profile individuals who can donate huge sums of money on behalf of themselves, their families or their organisations.
Such imbalance has been evident in the amount of money the O’Neill Foundation raised at its last fundraising night.
Other NGOs share the same dream to raise similar large amounts but mostly fall short.
In addition, the concept that NGOs can operate as integral development partners of government have not been critically explored and embraced by successive PNG governments.
Most NGOs struggle to survive and deliver services under very difficult circumstances. The national government and provincial government don’t even seem to know how many NGOs are operating.
Peter O’Neill in his capacity as prime minister is also a chief law maker and he should strive to make laws to promote new NGOs as well as existing ones. The act of setting up the O’Neill Foundation does not help to improve the current relationship between the government and NGOs as development partners.
While the O’Neill Foundation meets legal requirement and its intentions are noble, Mr O’Neill occupies the highest public office on the land which is funded by taxpayers and as such he is expected to be accountable to the people in every way.
There is no way Mr O’Neill can be separated from his position as PM and as founder of the O’Neill Foundation.
In such a scenario, there is great potential for conflict of interest.
Through its activities, the foundation raises the popularity of Mr O’Neill as an individual and as prime minister of the coalition government. This will adversely affect aspirant politicians in his Ialibu-Pangia electorate in the next election which will detract from a free and fair election.
The Uruguayan president donates a significant portion of his salary to charity but didn’t set up an organisation in his name.
In most democracies, parliamentary representative disclose connections with NGOs and declare their interest before assuming parliamentary duties and renew connections after their parliamentary life.
In light of this, the O’Neill Foundation has started a new trend in PNG politics. I will not be surprised all elected MPs start foundations similar to Mr O’Neill’s.
Taxpayers’ money will be continued to be used by MPs to sustain these foundations.