THE result of June's national election will determine the future of Papua New Guinea and it is important that voters are well informed about the issues that are critical to the nation through informed, open public debate.
It is also important to ensure that the conduct of the election itself is free and fair and that electoral systems and processes are transparent and subject to international and domestic public scrutiny.
The adoption of appropriate policies is the key to getting Papua New Guinea back on track, not grandiose schemes, vote-buying and sweet-talk.
The latter is what has brought the nation to its knees, coupled with unprecedented levels of corruption, waste and mismanagement.
I am concerned about the level of gutter politics exhibited in the election debate so far. There has been a tendency on the part of puppets of the current regime to engage in slanging matches and personal attacks.
Such self-preserving behaviour is counter-productive and clouds the real issues.
As I consider whether to nominate for election, I see six main issues that should be discussed widely and openly.
There are extraordinary levels of corruption, waste and mismanagement, which have brought Papua New Guinea to the brink and into international disrepute
There are grave threats to parliamentary democracy, human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of association. The election itself is under threat from the Government’s stranglehold over the institutions that influence election outcomes
Unprecedented economic and financial mismanagement, which are shaking the foundations of the nation. If allowed to continue, the task of rescuing and restoring the economy and public finances will be extremely difficult
The stalling of the machinery of government and consequent failure of service delivery, resulting in declining living standards. Essential sectors such as health and education have been so badly funded and managed that Papua New Guinea is begging Australia to fund them by way of direct budget support, as well as to underwrite the lavish APEC exercise
The collapse of law and order with growing social dislocation because of poverty, unemployment and rising prices caused by the government’s recklessness. The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, once a proud and effective institution, is struggling to cope because it is under-funded, under-manned, fractured and politicised
Politicisation, misuse and abuse of important institutions of state such as the Central Bank and the Treasury. State-owned enterprises have been used as personal piggy banks and slush funds. Watchdog bodies have been undermined and perverted.
These are the issues that need to be debated, in a rational and productive way. Only through informed public debate can we understand the nature of our problems, identify solutions and implement rescue plans.
At present we are hearing too few voices because there is an air of fear and intimidation across all sections of society. People need to speak out - silence serves to encourage thieves and wreckers.
I call for public vigilance and debate over the conduct of the elections - the nation cannot afford for the Electoral Commission’s systems to be bypassed or manipulated.
The first step should be for people to check the electoral roll – this can be done easily and quickly on the internet at this website. Any omissions, mistakes or inconsistencies should be immediately reported to the Electoral Commission.
Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of parliamentary democracy, and part of that is faith in and support for the Electoral Commission and electoral processes.