PORT MORESBY - The way the Papua New Guinea government is preparing for APEC is no different to how village people prepare to welcome the bigmen, the leaders in their communities.
When word of a leader’s impending visit reaches community leaders, they mobilise the people to do clean-ups and decorate the place. Pigs are slaughtered, mumus are made, a party is thrown in honour of the bigman.
The bigman, upon seeing the massive work done to celebrate the visit, dishes out cash. It’s typical Melanesian thinking – we’re doing this to show our appreciation of your visit, you must give us some money in return.
In the village, everything is fixed on the event. Once the event is over, the community goes back to where it was. Nothing changes.
It must be noted that only the places to be visited by the bigman that are given makeovers. The others are neglected. It all goes down to enticing the leader to donate money.
I call it “bigman begging”.
That Port Moresby is getting transformed for APEC at the expense of other centres and other projects shows this traditional rationale is not lost on our parliamentarians. They are reverting to that custom but on a much bigger scale.
The government has been proclaiming the benefits to be derived from APEC will justify its excessive spending on preparations in the nation’s capital. Only time will tell whether the sacrifices were worth it.
But as a nation, PNG should have to present everything about us to world leaders, not just glossed-over Port Moresby.
And that’s where writing comes in. Social media platforms need to light up.
While the world leaders are looking at our skyscrapers, show them the squatters in the settlements,
While they drive in limousines on the smooth newly-tarmacked roads of the city, tell them we ride to town every day over crater-like potholes and in overcrowded PMVs.
While they savour the delicacies of the country’s finest chefs, remind them that our government is forcing many families to live on junk food.
And as they enjoy the Pacific sunshine, remind them of the child who just died because the government failed to provide immunisation.
Let them know Port Moresby is not PNG and what they see is a fraudulent veneer, forged to hide our government’s mismanagement and incompetency.
World leaders need to know about the real PNG, not the sham that is fabricated in Port Moresby.
They need to know that if they are thinking of investing in our country, they need to know the reality of our economy.
If we take a nap during this time of APEC, the money might get lost in the pockets of a select few and make its way to Australia … like it always does.