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06 November 2014

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Thank you everyone for your comments. I must say I learnt a lot. You see what scares me is the image that this 'failed state' tag carries with it.

Most people overseas will never visit PNG thus, when the failed state tag is used, images that will spring to their mind is images of hunger, chaos, government with that could not attract investors only sympathy and aid.

The failed state tag is not an appropriate description of the state as a legal entity and its performance in service delivery to the people.

Do you ever pause to ask the question; what about the society in PNG? The Melanesian way of life that has always provided for our people?

The state-society relationship in PNG is one where the state is weak but the society, referring to the Melanesian way of life, is strong.

However the Melanesian way of life is totally irrelevant in the Western definition of the state which is synonymous with wealth, good life etc.

However the level of service delivery and the quality of service provided varies from place to place depending on many factors both geographical and political.

The point here is that PNG is a developing country facing a lot of challenges but the failed state tag is inappropriate.

Come to think of it, if PNG is a failed state, then how come it is going to host the APEC meeting or the South Pacific Games or how does it have the confidence to pass huge billion kina budgets?

The question of whether PNG is a failed state or not is an interesting one but sometimes it gets too confusing when people rely on or use certain indicators to argue their case. Most notably the MDGs and Human Development Index come to mind.

Personally, these indicators are important to help us make better decisions for our people but sometimes they can be easily exaggerated to a point where certain exaggerations are made against PNG.

In a country where the task of collecting credible and accurate data is like going through the eye of the needle, exaggerations are bound to take place.

After 39 years of independence we have yet to fix this problem and all hopes are on this "National ID" Project.

Personally, Where I am living water which is one of the basic necessities of life is not easily accessible. I have documented time and again on this forum about the struggles that is facing the community that I live in.

This situation unfortunately is common in other parts of Port Moresby, PNG's capital city. I wonder what we have been doing in terms of planning since independence? Have we been short sighted all this time? Or have we've been ill-directed and ill-advised?

Our nation's hospitals and clinics are sadly commonly associated with long queues of people and shortage in drugs.

On average I presume that doctors rarely attend to more than five patients in a day thereby creating a booming private health industry in the country where patients are forced to dig deep into their pockets for treatments.

Once again I am forced to ask myself what our government has been doing in the past to ensure that our health facilities are commensurately brought to a level that can cater for our population growth. What's the guarantee that this situation will improve?

Corruption is unfortunately rampant in this country and when million of kina is embezzled in full view while established processes and systems are deliberately being ignored, I wonder where we as a nation is heading to.

So far the judiciary is doing a fantastic job of maintaining rule of law where couple of pollies have been sent to prison. We need more of that.

I have realised over the years that it is not the systems, processes, laws and policies that is the problem in this country but it all boils down to our attitude.

PNG is not a failed state but if we keep twisting and bending the rules that are meant to protect the failure of our nationhood, we may wake up one day to realise that these assertion maybe defeated.

I have seen so many times where in the absence of government support people in this country do the best they can to make ends meet.

The water woes in Port Moresby is one classic example where people are being forced to walk a certain distant to fetch water.

As a proud young patriotic Papua New Guinean, I get easily agitated when PNG is described as a failed state by foreign journalists. There is too much exaggeration in what is reported in the media and other news outlets.

Yet I sometimes sit down and think that we are at the turning point in our short history. This is the time when we all should sit down and reflect on our past failures and success and make every possible stride to build a better future for us and our future generation.

I on the other hand wake every day to people having to walk up to 10 km to get clean water as the logging company supported by corrupt police, bureaucrats and politicians has destroyed the water sources.

I wake everyday to people unable to read and write as the funds for the library and school have been misused and the teachers don't even show up.

I take my children to the hospital but there is no doctor and little medicine. I watch as people die from easily treatable illnesses due to lack of trained staff, medication and equipment.

I am proud to be Papua New Guinean and thankful for our independence but I am not to proud to admit we do need help. We do not need handouts. We need education.

If we ever want to resolve our problems them we need to get educated and solve them for ourselves in our own way. So to all you donors - quit giving us handouts that make us dependent and help to educate us to make us truly independent.

PNG is so diverse in cultures and traditions and its adherence to integration through unification is considered to me, “null”.

Given the fact that PNG is a State firmly attributed with the collectiveness of different languages and traditions, it is rather erroneous with the common saying that unification in diversity is driving the country forward.

PNG is a failed State as it has always been and will be so for the next 40 years.

As a failed State, the government of PNG and its bureaucratic division has never in its duty delivered equal wealth that each province contributes. Moreover recognise its people to political will to disintegrate from the paradox of self-governance.

The good gospel tells us through the story of the Tower of Babel that common understanding made it easy for the people of foreign lands to communicate easily and understand each other’s visions to build a Tower to the Heavens but the voice of God spoke from the skies and the people stopped by speaking in different languages.

Supposedly, we the citizens of PNG have a common understanding of rising from the fore to go against the developed countries on the quest to topple their superiority, I bet you would say “hello world war three”.

But this is just a thought from the glint of my mother’s left eye and I’m not sure which generation it would take to realise that corpocracy is stealing our true happiness; probably the time when the “google glass” has landed on our shores and our people have an understanding of a common goal.

Hence it is highly called upon all provinces to push for provincial autonomy because by having a federated State will only progress take place and the real “Sons” and “Daughters” of this land will show their communal attributes.

There is no more room for free riders!

Those who toil the land will be forever beckoned and the one whose seed that is plunged to 800 years or 900 years or 650 years etc, etc, etc., be so.

I am happy to endorse Peter Turner's remarks. He is much better placed than me to make them.

That said, like many other ex-kiaps, I feel some degree of frustration that PNG has not achieved its potential and that its people, especially those living in the rural hinterland, are not getting the services they need and deserve.

Basically, I want PNG and its people to thrive, not just survive.

PNG, like Australia, is a lucky country in that its burgeoning population can still feed itself thanks to its well developed subsistence agricultural system. Starvation does not stalk its verdant hills and valleys.

This simple fact disguises the extent to which so many people are socio-economically disadvantaged due, in part at least, to the manifest failings of government and bureaucracy.

However, I accept the validity of what Peter has said: PNG is not yet a failed state in the sense that Somalia, Syria and Iraq appear to be.

The rule of law still prevails, albeit somewhat shakily, and some positive things are happening, even if the rate of change seems agonisingly slow.

In the longer term, I am hopeful that people like the many thoughtful, articulate and occasionally provocative Papua New Guineans who contribute so much to this site will come to dominate the public policy debate in PNG.

Once that happens, it becomes possible to believe that far reaching change for the better can actually occur.

I'm not really sure what the critics want Papua New Guinea to become Peter. The opposite of a failed state? I wonder what that looks like.

Maybe it looks like the place that the critic calls home. But if it became like that it wouldn't be Papua New Guinea would it?

In another post I suggested that the timing of independence was irrelevant. I also suggested that Papua New Guinea is still not ready for independence.

I think what I meant by that is that it is not ready yet to become a clone of Australia, or the USA or China or Indonesia for that matter. I sincerely hope it never does.

I rather like Papua New Guinea. I'm also fond of Vanuatu, the Cook Islands and Fiji. For all its warts, polyglot Port Moresby is a fascinating place. In Australia I'm fond of wandering around Fraser Island with the local Butchulla people.

Thinking about all of these places it is apparent that it is the people in them that is the attraction. Their way of life is similar to mine but at the same time different.

Like you say, most Papua New Guineans are happy and contented. Even if the power sometimes goes off, the roads are full of potholes and their politicians rip them off.

After a couple of days in Papua New Guinea, especially out in the villages, the tension seems to fall away. What seemed so important in Oz doesn't seem so urgent any more. It's a nice feeling.

My fellow former Kiap comrades Paul Oates, Phil Fitzpatrick and Chris Overland make very incisive and accurate observations and express sentiments that I, and no doubt Jack Klomes too, agree with.

With respect to them and the other ‘former residents’ who display respect, interest and caring about PNG and its people, like Jack, I would like to zero in on this term 'failed state', which gets up Jack’s, and many others including mine, noses.

Not outraged, but a little put out that the strength and vigour of a proud young nation and its people's achievements in such a short time, are seemingly mis-estimated and under-valued.

I live in PNG, have done so for over four decades, married locally, raised my kids here and trust that I will be able to see my days out in this beautiful country. The majority of the people seem to be happy enough to put up with me on the basis of mutual respect, courtesy and affection.

Yes I have been given a hiding, yes I have been robbed, yes I have had to shoot it out with an armed robber who had taken a PMV full of people hostage and did not like my interference.

Yes I am disgusted at the widespread venality, rampant corruption, undignified avarice and greed (as are many other place on Earth I guess), which is so avidly reported and discussed.

But yes I have also experienced many years of, almost universally demonstrated compassion, altruism, civility, patriotism, spiritual strength, and as I said, innate courtesy and respectfulness, to fall back on.

Yeah, I guess I’m prejudiced, I like this place.

Having said that, I am no starry eyed ‘do-gooder’. I have seen, and see, many instances of unhealthy practices, unholy bloody murder, civil violence, race, class and tribal hatred, religious intolerance, racial prejudice (most evident against Asians) and, worst of all, internecine and merciless ‘ethnic’ or ‘tribal’ warfare, which continues unabated in some places, when old enmities are incited and stirred up by savage and uncouth individuals, usually fuelled by alcohol.

I am somewhat immune to such shenanigans because I like to think that I have ‘put on the strong armour of God’, but it is more likely the Reserve Police uniform and ‘accroutrements’ that I am equipped with when I perform my ‘national service’ as a Constabulary Reservist, that provides me with a certain degree of ‘criminal repellent’.

I live and move freely anywhere in Port Moresby, and all over the nation, am currently on assignment in Porgera, which has been wracked by murderous clan conflicts for years.

Over the last few years I have worked in Lae, Mt Hagen, Tari, Wabag and Milne Bay, my wife's 'ples'. I get around quite a bit and keep tabs on what is going on all over the place.

I know exactly how Jack feels. Failed State? Nogat! No way. Not by any standards, economic, political or social.

Many other countries, like Nauru, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Central African Republic, Iceland (remember they went bankrupt because of a government sanctioned 'Ponzi' scheme a few years back), and dozens of others, don't operate to OECD standards.

I arrived fairly late in the colonial period, 1971, and spent much of my time with ‘locals’. After my first posting at Koroba, one man patrol posts weren’t exactly swarming with ‘whiteskins’. After 1975, my compatriots were nearly all Local Officers, all of whom accepted that it was ‘time’ for nationals to take over the political reins.

An early convert to Liberty, Fraternity and ‘Egalitie’, I have never had reason to change my opinion.

‘Early’ Independence was a blessing, and PNG will always love Gough, and Sir Michael, even if they have already forgotten Judge Murray and Sir John Guise.

There are all sorts of statues erected by foreign governments to their famous men, around Port Moresby, the Mahatma at the Botanical Gardens (which is a pleasure to behold), some Indonesian politician, a Malaysian businessman (not so pleasing), etc. I have no doubt that Gough will get the nod one day.

I have no admiration for Gough’s politics; I loved the big guy because he smiled at me one day, shook hands, said ‘G’day’ and gave me the time of day. Lovely fellah.

I had the same experience with, and regard, for Pope John Paul ll, rest his soul, when he blessed my golden hued pikinini at Darwin airport in 1987, when I was on a short break from PNG).

Failed State? Well what's a successful State? It may look like the place is going down the 'gurgler' sometimes, but in many ways there have been great improvements, the most important of which was, as Jack says, the achievement of Independence without much stress and no bloodshed, leaving unsullied the reasonably friendly relationship with the former colonial ‘Masters’ intact.

The policy of equal development was never going to work, and is still not working. Europe has not developed equally and even the States of America have not developed equally. Similarly, Philippines, Thailand, China and even Australia.

The fact remains that there existed in the 1970’s significant political will and desire to be ‘free’. Tony Voutas saw it, Karl Kitchins (Stack), Kevin Deutrom and Dave Abernethy saw it, and yes, Gough Whitlam saw it too.

Efficient' services, incorruptible and dedicated Public Servants and honest government, may be a thing of the past (isn’t it everywhere?), or not achieved yet.

And, if the standards have fallen somewhat, with terrible tragedies still occurring in hospital waiting rooms, the Fire Service unable to put out fires, PNG Power unable to provide electricity on a regular basis, PNGDF aimless and under employed, no-one is starving in the streets.

There are no Secret Police knocking on the door at midnight, no IED's on the Highlands Highway, no fighter bombers parked out at Jacksons, no tanks at street intersections, no drive by shootings, the financial system seems to be working, and the people are not rioting in the streets.

Private Enterprise is remarkably efficient, and, if one is persistent one can usually get a result from most Government Departments and Instrumentalities.

The Courts were able to bounce back from Belden trying to arrest the Chief Justice in his own Court and all sorts of 'difficult' constitutional and legal matters are being successfully untangled by the referee. Thank God for our Judiciary.

Jack is right when he says that PNG ‘should not be looked at through a western lens’. Phil Fitz tells a lot of 'home truths', and Peter Luck peels back some of the 'misty eyed' nostalgia regarding Saint Gough's altruistic benevolence.

Chris too is perhaps right when he intimates that one day the revolution will come. You will know when, because all the Asian businesses will go up in flames, like in Honiara, Tahiti a few years back and Indonesia in 1965. But not yet and with any luck, never.

The ‘good days’ are with us, the government is profligate with the ‘easy money’ that it has to spend, and the people are clearly more prosperous than they were a few short years ago (just look at all the cars on the roads). Maybe the lean times will come, then there will be ‘bread riots’.

Papua New Guinea is psychologically ‘healthier’ for having discarded the ‘guidance’ of well meaning, but often patronizing and sometimes misguided foreigners, who failed to grasp that, like children, ‘you have to crawl before you can walk’, and like all peoples ‘you only truly learn by your own mistakes’.

I too do not feel like I am living in a 'failed state' and I meet too many proud young, and quite a few proud old Papua New Guineans, who are quite happy to be living in their own Democracy, warts and all, rather than someone else's.

In the long run, it's what they think and feel that counts, not the long range view of caring, altruistic and interested, but still, outsiders looking in.

PNG is fortunate to be located along the equator where every corner of the landmass is always covered in green.

Had it been located in a limited resourced area I wouldn't hesitate to say that evidence of a failed state would be obvious everywhere on the streets and even worse in the rural areas.

Funny how the debate about PNG's independence seems to be all about Australia's role, with little attention given to the Papua New Guinean point of view.

How would Ozzies feel if say New Zealand took over Australia and told us we had to become 'civilised'? Could they trust us with independence? Democracy? Education?

Sure we still go around murdering each other in Bankstown and Frankston, dealing drugs to crazy lost teens, and bribing politicians - but hey this is white Australia, so it's OK.

You Papua New Guineans on the other hand, must be taught a lesson, or have your mistakes rubbed in with salt....

Jack, you are truly my country man and I honourably salute you.

I am really impressed by the way you stitch our reality together with these vivid words.

Let's all live like we belong here.

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