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05 April 2017


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Phil and Paul - gruff ... gruff (2X). No No no, certainly not gruff.

Its been a slow and insidious process ever since 1975, or perhaps even before that.

Prior to independence 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. 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 all their food etc..

I shared a house with Joe Nombri in Kiunga when I was a Patrol Officer and he was an Assistant District Officer, yet 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 part of the service industries who supposedly got so much job satisfaction we didn't need high wages).

You could argue that this policy of disparate pay rates and other conditions like housing etc. created a precedent that still exists today where expatriates still get paid much more than PNGs, although a lot of that is hidden in allowances. So today PNGs expect to get paid less than expatriates, even though they've got equivalent or 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 governments openly exploit these low expectations.

Why should the government pay police a decent wage and provide better conditions when people accept the situation as normal? And this 'normal' situation leads to corrupt and poorly disciplined police who 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 not normal, it's abnormal.

And how can this attitude of low self esteem that grips the country be solved? Well, the politicians certainly aren't going to do it because they exploit it.

If it's going to change it has to come from the grassroots level, and I don't mean GRUF.

As Manu says, "The people of PNG have to stop believing and deceiving themselves that all is well."

You're spot on as usual Phil. They say travel broadens the mind but in the case of many PNG pollies, it only seems to broaden the midriff.

Has the PNG media has become completely subservient to the political process or are the reporters and editors not well versed in what their roles are? Maybe they need some travel experience and training with the Australian media? I do believe someone suggested that in the past?

Is Radio Australia still listened to I wonder and what are they broadcasting?

There has never been a better time for the PNG people to be properly informed about how poorly they are being treated? Why isn't it happening?

Which end of the microscope are the PNG media looking into?

John Burton made an interesting comment on my article about statistics and how PNG always seems to be at the bottom of the barrel.

"My students are pretty confident things "aren't that bad" and, because they are not all very good at numbers, few have a strong idea what the under fives mortality or the MMR [maternal mortality rate] means in daily life."

Manu makes a similar point, that is, people in PNG have become used to inferior service, inferior products, inferior politicians and so on and they erroneously accept that as normal.

It is only when many Papua New Guineans visit other countries that they realise how poorly they are treated in their own country.

A good example of this was the team that visited Australia for the Brisbane Writer's Festival. Among them was Francis Nii, who I understand had not been out of PNG before. He particularly remarked on the way provisions are made for disabled people like him in Australia and not in PNG.

If people in PNG do not realise that life can be better with decent politicians in charge they are unlikely to want to change them or exercise discretion over who they vote for.

It is the job of the media to highlight this stuff and the media in PNG, print, broadcast and every other format have let their country down.

If people realised that a prime minister like O'Neill is not 'normal' and candidates like Paraka are not 'normal' they might start asking questions.

But it's not just the poor quality of politicians. It taints every aspect of PNG life. Take food for example. It's not normal to eat the offal that goes into PNG tinned meat, the tinned cat food standard of tuna that is sold in the stores and discarded cuts of meat like lamb flaps.

There is so much about PNG that is sub-standard I could harp on for ages.

What I find really hard to believe is how Papua New Guinean people accept this sort of treatment.

But, then again, if the students at one of PNG's premium universities accept these things as "not that bad" there's little hope of a remedy.

Well said Emanuel. Recognition of the problem is the first step along the right road. The next step will be people banding together and collectively working out solutions. That's the hard part of any problem.

The usual step along the historical lines of human nature is that there will be a number of false leaders who will emerge and try and gain wealth and prestige by promising to fix the problems. When what they preach doesn't work they come up with new plans and promises.

The true leaders who can lead their people out of the 'malumalum' are those who have experience and proven ability.

At the moment, PNG appears to be culturally locked into a regime whereby no practical leader can emerge due to tribal rivalry and mistrust of the outsider.

If those PNG leaders want to see how to bring their nation back from the abyss they need only research and follow the lessons of history.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

We are not only deceived by our leaders. We deceive ourselves by our apathy and complaisance. We accept our situation in life. We accept our status quo and blame others for where we are. Usually we crucify those who descent who steps forward with any other ideas and questions.

Our tribal allegiance is as strong as it was 50 years ago. The practice is subtle but alive at every levels and spheres of power and influence. Some will say this is not true. The outcome is the PNG we have today.

Anyone for example stepping forward and publicly criticising the Grand Chief is quickly reminded of his being the father of this nation and the longest serving. Yet we are as colonised as we were at the time of colonisation.

Others say he gave us democracy and freedom. I ask freedom from who and freedom from what. We are prisoners in many sense of the word.

We accept sub standard products and services. We accept mediocre and criminal leaders and managers and celebrate them. We stand behind them despite of their outward disrespect to institutions and institutions.

Any dissatisfaction or dissent is vented on especially Facebook and among other whisperers. No one step forwards. Anyone who steps out is branded an Idealist, perfectionist and an activist who wants to cause trouble. Oh others say "wants to act like a white man!"

We desire change but we do not see and feel the change. We beg for change but we will not step forward and out of the virtual social media.

Most importantly, we live our lives doing exactly what the leaders are doing in our own spheres of power and influence - we hire wantoks and promote them, we use family businesses to run our organisations, we squander donor and government monies, we disrespect laws and rules, we steal and look after thieves, we do not deal with conflict of interest, we abuse office space and time and resources and we mismanage our homes where we are producing little devils,

A society that accepts "kaikai kan" as a normal vernacular or physical brawl as a method of settling disagreement is a society that is on the verge of chaos and anarchy.

Much research has concluded that the middle class are never the leaders of change. They send their children to good schools, have health care and take trips overseas. In PNG, the middle class do all that plus they look after the entire extended families.

The middle class are powerful in their family, their villages and the different communities in which they engage. They would not want to change that if they actually get a kick out of this.

The system and the situation is good for them. They have the power to help promote accountability, transparency - Social change! but when things are going well for them, they watch as University Students expect and demand better. They watch as individuals step forward and demands.

A set of loose groups demanding change is where we are today and this has to change.

The people of PNG have to stop believing and deceiving themselves that all is well.

So for PNG in its pride of nationhood, its celebrations of dances and warrior stances, its anthem standing to public attention and display, its "when only the best will do"...
has it become not only "even the best can't do" but also "even the rest (voters) can't do"?

Will this impending national election simply be more 'apex' than APEC, caravanning canvass, credentialed on credit?

Who are they who troop not only the colours but the courage to master and muster fiscal fortitude, true and trustworthy?

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