TUMBY BAY - The response to my article on kiaps being ‘narapela kain man’ - at last count more than 1,200 Likes - has been surprising.
It seems to me that that strong reaction packaged an important message that needs to be understood by leaders in Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Reader Anthony Sil cut to the core when he noted: “During the kiap days we were in harmony. We worked together”.
Anthony also said that the kiap ‘philosophy’ should be kept in mind by Australian politicians “before making decisions on PNG-Australia trade and development issues”.
Michael Geketa, responding to a suggestion that the new Alliance party, with anti-corruption central to its platform, should think about tapping into pre-independence era expatriate expertise and using it as a resource.
“I firmly believe that the kind of leadership exerted by the kiaps in PNG’s early days is a missing link,” Michael wrote.
I’m not quite sure how to define the philosophy of the way kiaps worked. I suppose it centred around strong leadership, pragmatism, trust, honesty, immunity from corruption and, above all, a deep commitment to the people of Papua New Guinea – all elements sorely lacking in today’s leaders and elites.
Beyond that I think the overwhelming response to the article powerfully indicates that Papua New Guinean people desperately want things to change. The response to the floating of the Alliance party seems to be an outpouring of that same demand.
In essence, in terms of Papua New Guinean leadership - be it politicians, business people, churches or other institutions - people are looking for a brand of narapela kain man na (hopefully) meri to step forward to take up the baton.
I know, and so does everyone else, that bringing back anything remotely like the old kiap system would be impractical. A powerful group of unelected public servants would smack of neo-colonialism.
So it is not the philosophy of the kiaps that needs to come back but their ethos.
Ethos (attitude, character, spirit) exists within the minds of men and women and represents their guiding beliefs, whether they be a group, community or nation.
Currently the prevailing ethos among Papua New Guinea’s elites and leaders is greed. That obviously has to go; same in Australia.
People with that kind of ethos need to step aside, go back into their burrows or be forced to go.
In their place there needs to be men and women with a positive ethos, ‘narapela kain man na meri’.
We are hoping, both in Australia and Papua New Guinea, that the Alliance will provide that ethos of leadership, pragmatism, trust, honesty and commitment to the people as well as the leaders to match it.