As a Papua New Guinean who grew up during the pre independence era and am now a public servant, I have enjoyed reading on this site for the last three weeks. From different sides of the fence we all remember that era with fondness.
As to the themes of PNG failing and imminent revolution, I have mixed feelings. I share the sentiments of Dr Ninkama but feel that all is not gloomy and lost. There are many dedicated people both in government and in the bureaucracy who are trying very hard to make things work. I am optimistic that in time a critical mass of like-minded people will bring about change but it will be slow and it will take several generations.
I trained for several years in Australian hospitals and could have stayed in Oz. I didn’t because the problems in this country have made it challenging to work here and try to find solutions. (Life is boring if there were no problems). My colleagues and I who form the Paediatric Society of PNG are slowly,and with help from many dedicated colleagues in Australia, beginning to observe small but improved outcomes due to some programs instituted with the aim of circumventing the obstacles presented by bad governments and inefficient bureaucrats. An example is the small but definite turnaround in infant mortality rates (in contrast to maternal deaths in childbirth).
At the village level there is also some room for guarded optimism. I go home to the village every year and, whilst services have not been effectively delivered in my area by the government or politicians, the people have slowly realised that they need to help themselves.
In the last two years in my former primary school, my tribesmen raised enough money to build twp double classrooms and twp teachers’ houses without even appealing for help to those of us who are employed. We are now trying to build a library and more teachers’ houses.
The greatest lesson of not having external help is that the villagers now look after these resources with greater care then if they had aid or government help.
Most of the young man are now no longer seen loitering. They are working raising cash crops or engaging in small businesses such as running trade stores and at last count four of them with now sizable coffee plots and assets have gone back to finish high school as adults.
As to the idea of revolution, I am afraid it will not eventuate. If anything, there may be unorganised anarchy and violence but the possibility of organised revolution is now more remote than it ever was. Many young people are angry but that does not mean they have a shared vision and common purpose.
We all have to work hard. The tendency is to blame politicians. But all of us by omission of commission contribute to the state of affairs. The onus is on all Papua New Guineans to engage with politicians and local leaders in a constructive manner.
Accusations and name calling only make leaders obstinate. I have had to swallow my pride and engage certain individuals who may not be totally honest or scrupulous but I believe that the outcomes are more important.
The road ahead will be extremely rocky but it is not the time for Papua New Guineans to run away; the ship is not sinking yet.
As to Australian aid much of it is now tied so that it is not likely to be squandered by politicians but linked directly to aid programs. However such a commit of course frees the PNG govt from funding these programs.
Finally to all of you, thank you for what you did for my people and for educating people like me.