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« A Kiap’s Chronicle: 13 – Dreikikir | Main | The writers: Leonard Roka – Our esteemed ‘Captain Bougainville’ »

19 February 2017

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I liked your Lufa take on the forthcoming election. You write of ‘some day soon’ the change for the better will come. This is a worthy aspiration but there are others who tell us to rejoice in how PNG has come so far since the Oz flag came down in 1975.

They talk of its citizens need to have patience 'and after all it took Western nations hundreds of years to achieve their current standards of comfortable lives for the majority of their citizens'

Now there’s the rub!

We humans don’t have the hundreds of years to achieve anything. Life expectancy in the UK is around 75-80. PNG’s is 10 – 15 years less. So the need for enjoying life rather than merely existing is important for everyone including the villagers in the remotest isolated district like Telefomin that the Post Courier reports today.

Every day in the press you can read reports of the lack of basic services particularly health in PNG’s rural and squatter communities.

I shall never forget one afternoon in 1981 taking home one of my workers when I worked briefly in Moresby. Her new husband was a policeman. I went into the Gulf settlement area around Koki/Badili.

We stopped in front of a small low covenant home on a rocky hillside. Their home – no! Their place was in the sloping angle underneath the wantok’s home that itself was full with a family of perhaps 8 already in it. Yet my clerk and cop were both expected to turn up for work clean and dressed very tidily.

The MP they had at that time was already corrupt and when I met him 2007 was no longer MP but dressed beautifully in expensive gear and was involved in some spiv deal that kept him in the style to which he had grown so very comfortable with over 30 years while the people at home languished in almost the same style as their ancestors had experienced a hundred years ago.

When trying to stop destructive forestry on Lavongai in 1980s and 1990s, villagers unknowingly wealthy with large stands of timber on their own land were quite happy to give those trees away just to receive a free trip on the timber company’s ship or dinghies.

They would fight each other for a larger share of handouts from those degraders of their land, water and forest. Yet when we attempted to show them the value of a beautiful old kwila being perhaps being worth over K2,000 they didn’t or couldn’t believe us. After all didn't they burn off thousands of kina of such trees just to make a new garden.

Subsistence living made the Waigani Bubble seem a fairy tale to them only briefly made real every 5 years when mostly the same old failures came from their urban hideouts asking just for one little ‘X’ often not for them to be seen for another 5 years.

If they were sitting-fatties they got a helicopter to avoid getting their daks and arses wet on slow bumpy dinghies.

The majority of overburdened villagers, with a life expectancy lower than the urbanite, generally couldn’t see what the winning wantok did for them nor knew anything of the salary plus expenses the MP received and so couldn’t care less who won…”Maski long vot - Olgera I gaman tasol!”

Yes that’s why they don’t realise how they are allowing wage-slave system to grow which after taking the advice to wait patiently for another one or two hundred years will mean their offspring will still be at the bottom of the pile while the lovers of loggers and other ripoff merchants will live in luxury.

True a few will escape the system and prosper but the vast majority will be in a rut that eventually leads to an early demise in a six foot deep one.

Here in UK friends of William the Conqueror – he of the 1066 AD era, and later monarchs are still enjoying sometimes large blocks of land given them a thousand years ago possibly for supporting the king in foul deeds or providing their virgin daughters for his use thereof.

Today they slowly sell of small parcels for exorbitant prices to councils to house the modern peasants to live in houses made of ticky-tacky that all look the same and who earn basic wages on which they will pay taxes while the bigmen still salt away their wealth perhaps in the apt named Virgin islands and pay little or minimum taxes on their huge incomes.

Always recall as an Assembly Memba being at a Palm Sunday service in a tiny hilltop village. A fight had broken out over some sexual offence and I tried in vain to stop the brawl.

One villager reminded the fighters of my presence. The reply from one angry young man will linger and was certainly a vivid downer of my ego: "F..k the memba!"

Jeff, there are people who longed to free themselves from parochial politics. However, educated aspiring candidates, supporters and cronies of current MPs sometimes distribute goodies and promise heaven to the village folks and shatter their dreams of active participation in politics.

In PNG electorates, educated people have a duty to educate people on many development challenges including elections all year around, not just during election period. In a election awareness targeted at youth in a village church, an elderly man played the role of a candidate and campaigned against dishing goodies.

The next day, he represented his clan to thanks and accept eda lamb flaps carton dished to the village by an intending candidate. There could be similar cases in other electorates.

Good luck Jeffery Febi. Our politicians have become like the pigs in George Orwell's book - Animal Farm.

I know what you will face - an illiterate majority who were once a resilient and a proud people but reduced to poor peasants, almost down to beggar status.

Our leaders want to be the answer to our all our people's needs - pay school fees, buy coffins, hand out cash to pay compensations etc while the country lacks basic services.

I wish the majority of our rural people could understand what is happening to our country today - corruption, poor governance, huge debts, crumbling infrastructure, depletion of our mineral and forest resources etc.

But just right now, there is a little fish left in our seas and river systems, a little game lift in our remaining forests, some vacant land left to cultivate our food gardens.

We think everything is going to be OK but once all our resources are depleted by a ever growing population our people will suffer.

All new or current politicians who return to parliament this year should try their best to understand the real meaning of life itself.

Certainly ancient rulers like the Pharaohs did not. When they died all their wealth and their servants were buried alive with them in the royal tombs hoping to make an easy transition in the next life.

But now, archaeologists have found only their bones and all the wealth still intact.

That's a very useful explanation Jeff.

In many electorates voters are blind to what is going on beyond their tribal boundaries and will vote for whoever promises the most for the tribe.

These people don't care what's going on at a national level. And they make up the majority of the voters.

To them they don't care that O'Neill and his mates have dragged PNG to the brink of disaster while robbing it along the way. They are oblivious to this.

In this sense tribalism is the culprit in PNG's downward spiral and it doesn't look like getting changed anytime soon.

Perhaps the only hope is that a good prime minister emerges who can pull this motley crew of new members into line and make them think of national politics rather than village politics.

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