I am often asked when my next piece of writing will appear in PNG Attitude. It’s something that has bothered me – keeping in touch with Uncle Keith, Ben Jackson and my PNG Attitude friends. So what have I been up to?
FOR the past year or two I have actually been doing a lot of writing for various publications in addition to providing public relations and political risk analysis to various clients.
I’ve also been voluntarily assisting Papua New Guinea’s civil society organisations to become a strong and formidable force through the extractive industries transparency initiative (EITI).
EITI is about tracking revenues as they are transferred from industry to government and then from the government coffers into various projects.
That is a global standard. However, in the PNG context, there are funds distributed outside the Treasury Department’s consolidated revenue fund.
For instance, how do we track payments made to landowners or as compensation, tax credit schemes and so on?
Billions of kina have been paid outside the budgetary process as part of various agreements entered into during mining and petroleum license negotiations.
We need to track these monies because the information will shed light on why many landowners in rural PNG lead a pathetic existence whilst the landowners’ leaders wine and dine in the most expensive hotels in Port Moresby.
In addition, contextual information about the social and environmental impacts of extractive industries is valuable in determining whether the revenues generated by extractive industries offset the social and environmental impacts.
The government also needs to inform the people of Papua New Guinea about the fiscal terms (e.g., tax holidays or tax exemptions) it has agreed to when negotiating project agreements with companies.
I have thrust myself into voluntarily assisting civil society because of capacity constraints in many organisations. It is in this context that I would like to highlight to readers of PNG Attitude the importance of being active citizens by volunteering to participate in civic activities.
Through my discourse with many Papua New Guineans who admire my role as an activist, I understand that a lot of people do not know how to engage in creating the conversations between the margins and centres of power.
Many people view activism as the primary mode by which citizens and the ruling class can engage in conversations about national issues.
But I believe active citizenship, as differentiated from activism, is a very important means by which Papua New Guineans can engage in shaping the future of this nation.
There are many people who can contribute to nation building by raising their hands and participating voluntarily in various useful activities in society.
The subversive nature of being an active citizen as opposed to being an activist is what appeals to me.
For many people who feel left out of important national issues, being an active citizen can be an important mechanism for creating dialogue between the margins and centres of power.
But beyond that, I would encourage more Papua New Guineans to become more subversive as the machinations of the state crack down on the public expression of grievances.
For me, being part of the EITI process is about the subversive nature of being an active citizen and ensuring the industry and government are held accountable to the people of Papua New Guinea.