BY DAVID KITCHNOGE
THE ANTI-CHINESE sentiments that exploded into pockets of looting in various centres around PNG in 2009 must be properly analysed and addressed.
At the outset, let me say that the incidents of unrest were not acts of racism as some people would like us to believe. Any person from any country who has had the good fortune of engaging with Papua New Guineans at a personal level will tell you we are not racists.
Rather, the riots were a manifestation of a complete collapse of our governance systems over the years. It was always bound to happen the very first time corrupt Papua New Guinean officials colluded with foreigners in breaking our laws. If this is not clear enough, then we will truly miss a great opportunity to seriously address corruption in our country.
There is no one to blame for our predicament. As one of my friends said, the people have vented their anger at PNG and it was unfortunate that the China man was in its path. But, in saying that, I am not absolving the illegal Chinese immigrants of any wrong doing either.
Instead of pointing fingers, we must focus on fighting the root cause of the problem to avoid such resentment in future. And while we look at addressing corruption and its detrimental effects on our country, there are a number of things we should not ignore about the relevance of China to PNG.
Firstly, there are many different peoples of Chinese origin in our country, and they differ mainly by time of immigration. Descendants of those who came to PNG before independence, or the ‘old Chinese’ as researcher James Chin calls them, are equal Papua New Guineans like we indigenous peoples.
They continue to play major roles in the development of our country in politics, business, music and the arts. Who can ever forget the late Glen Low who wrote the beautiful uniting song Wan Kantri by the Barike Band?
Secondly, China has emerged over the last few years as one of the world’s economic super powers. And it could not have asked for a better time to increase its dominance of the world.
The global financial crisis resulted in the shedding of substantial value by major listed companies around the globe, thereby creating a perfect opportunity for China to pounce. Their ambitious bid to take over mining giant Rio Tinto in Australia was an example.
Although we have dealt with Chinese businesses before, they are no way near the size of the players that are now dominating the world. And I believe we do not have enough retrospective knowledge about their corporate behaviours, values and business ethics to appropriately engage with these large Chinese investors.
Accordingly, we must thread with extreme caution when dealing with Chinese businesses that will be after raw materials from our country to quench their insatiable demands.
As a protection mechanism, we must urgently get our governance systems and processes into shape and insist that these be followed at all costs and without fear or favour.
From now on, all our dealings with foreigners must be done at complete arms length and at terms that are fair to our people. But we will not achieve this if we do not rid ourselves of corruption first.
Originally published in the Sunday Chronicle