PRIOR to independence in 1975, Papua New Guineans were paid less than their expatriate counterparts.
The rationale for this was that the Australian Administration couldn't afford to pay them full tote, and nor could a PNG government after independence, and that there needed to be an incentive for expatriate professionals to commit their careers to PNG.
It was also argued that in PNG at the time, many workers also maintained gardens and hunted and fished and therefore didn't need the same pay as expatriates who had to buy their food and other consumer goods.
I shared a house with Joe Nombri in Kiunga when I was a Patrol Officer and Joe was an Assistant District Officer, and I earned more than him.
As far as I could tell we were both in the same boat, working men a long way from our homes. Joe should really have been paid a proper wage.
(As an aside, my wages weren't that crash hot either, we were in a service industry where we supposedly got so much job satisfaction we didn't need a higher salary).
You could argue that this policy of disparate pay rates and other conditions like housing created a precedent that still exists today where expatriates get paid much more than Papua New Guineans, although a lot of that income is hidden in allowances.
So today Papua New Guineans expect to get paid less than expatriates even though they've got equivalent or even better qualifications.
They accept this as normal and are deferential to expatriates even when they know they are a lot smarter than them.
What is different now, I think, is that the PNG government openly exploits these low expectations.
Why should the government pay police a decent wage and provide better conditions when people accept the situation as normal?
Trouble is this 'normal' leads to corrupt and poorly disciplined police who are apt to use excessive force.
Perhaps the most destructive result of this ready acceptance of below par conditions is the acceptance of corruption as 'normal'.
Corruption is never normal, it is always abnormal.
And how can the attitude of low self-esteem that seems to grip the country be solved? Well, the politicians certainly aren't going to try because they exploit it.
If it's going to change it has to come from the grassroots level, and I don't mean Paul Paraka’s new political party, the Grassroots United Front, GRUF.
As Emmanuel (Manu) Peni says, "The people of PNG have to stop believing and deceiving themselves that all is well."