SEVERAL years ago a few of the pundits on PNG Attitude toyed with the idea of compiling a dossier of corrupt politicians in Papua New Guinea and invited readers to contribute.
The general idea was to provide information for voters in the elections that were then due.
Even though anonymity was offered the response was disappointing.
All those readers and commentators who had railed against the state of politics in Papua New Guinea suddenly went silent, even the anonymous and the vitriolic shut up.
This said a lot about Papua New Guinean politics.
Firstly, it was apparent that a feeling of fear was pervasive, either from potential litigation or, more alarmingly, the possibility of physical retribution.
Secondly, it demonstrated that, despite what they said, the voters of Papua New Guinea lacked conviction and were not prepared to stand up for their rights.
It will be interesting to see whether these attitudes still hold sway in 2017. I suspect they will.
Collecting dirt on politicians in Papua New Guinea is relatively easy, they are not the brightest peas in the pod when it comes to covering up their nefarious activities.
In many cases they actually parade their venality. It is a useful rule of thumb that any politician with a thick neck and grossly distended belly driving a big black Land Cruiser is probably corrupt.
This point is subjective but points to another problem in identifying corrupt politicians who should not be re-elected.
This problem relates to the state of public commentary in Papua New Guinea, particularly on social media. Bar a few notable exceptions, social media cannot be trusted to be accurate let alone unbiased.
Its sources thrive on gossip and innuendo rather than serious investigative endeavour. Papua New Guinea invented ‘fake news’ long before it became mainstream during the US elections.
While social media can be reckless, mainstream media, print and electronic, can be accused of laziness. They publish government and other press releases verbatim with no questions asked.
There are a few smart politicians who are good at hiding their corrupt activities. This has become apparent recently in Australia where hitherto highly regarded politicians have been exposed with their noses in the trough alongside their less sharp mates.
There is every reason to suspect that this is the case in Papua New Guinea too.
Who then to trust? Who should you support in the 2017 elections? Should you be doing what we are doing in Australia and electing some of the crazies from the fringes?
It is a difficult call, but there are a few pointers.
The first is fairly obvious. Anyone in the current O’Neill-Dion government should indisputably left out.
They may not be taking kickbacks or bribes or selling their people’s future from under them but by supporting a government that is patently corrupt, dishonest, uncaring and inept they are demonstrating a low level of integrity.
Re-electing them again is simply inviting more of the same and is too big a risk. It is also stupid.
But you also have to be careful of those on the opposition benches too. Just because they oppose the government doesn’t mean they are squeaky clean. Some of them are just biding their time for a bigger slice of the cake.
If there is even a hint of wrong-doing and compromise in their past, they too are risky propositions.
On current assessments and taking the above into account, it would seem that the whole swamp will need draining. The best parliament in Papua New Guinea after 2017 might just comprise half a dozen members.
Papua New Guinea has a reputation for dumping a large proportion of its serving members of parliament at each election, around one-half. It is a kind of aberration of the Einstein theory of lunacy, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time.
This time around it would be nice to see 98% of them dumped and a completely new lot, wisely chosen, installed.
But we’re not holding our breath.
In a way I’m glad that our early idea for a name and shame dossier didn’t eventuate. There is no way we would have been able to find a dossier big enough. As for sweeping up the dirt, they don’t make wheelbarrows that big either.