A LOT of people in a lot of countries are closely watching what is going on in Papua New Guinea at the moment.
In Australia, the USA and China there are nervous resource developers wondering whether they should review their investment plans for the country.
In Australia, in particular, the government is keeping its fingers crossed that it doesn’t have to launch a RAMSI-style rescue mission.
About the only country that might be happy about the recent events is Indonesia because PNG’s troubles are taking the heat off West Papua.
But it’s in the other Melanesian states, like Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia that most interest is being generated.
In the Melanesian world Papua New Guinea is the big banana. Economically and demographically it casts a giant shadow over its near Pacific neighbours.
They know that if Papua New Guinea descends into turmoil, or becomes the dictatorship that it is rapidly heading towards, the repercussions for them will be dire.
They know that their own political classes will take the lead from whatever happens in Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea will be the future blueprint for Melanesia.
When Vanuatu started falling apart, for many of the same reasons now affecting Papua New Guinea, it took an outside military intervention to stabilise the small nation.
When the Solomon Islands imploded the same thing happened for the same reasons.
In between, Papua New Guinea experienced its own cataclysm in Bougainville, mostly brought about by rivalry over development spoils.
All of these events should have been salutary lessons in how not to govern a country. But the lessons don’t seem to have been learnt because it is now happening in Papua New Guinea. The big banana looks set to join its tinpot cousins.
Yet there is still hope that the country will pull out of its downward spiral. That hope lies firmly with its ordinary people, with those brave people like the students who don’t want to see their nation become another failed Pacific state.
It’s quite a challenge but the gauntlet has been well and truly thrown down by the events of last Wednesday.
At the moment Papua New Guinea is being run by criminals. There is no other way to describe the politicians in charge.
They may not have been charged, arrested and convicted but by any other definition they are criminals. There is little difference between them and the underworld mafia in other countries.
In fact, their corruption, greed and plundering of the public purse while their people suffer makes them much worse than any of those mafia dons. At least those men look after their own people. The politicians of Papua New Guinea can’t be bothered.
There are foreign businessmen, and no doubt local businessmen, who are weighing up their options right now. They are planning their exit strategies in case things get worse.
Conversely, there are carpetbaggers, conmen and fraudsters eyeing Papua New Guinea as a potential new playground, just as they did before they set sail for Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.
If you thought the big companies in Papua New Guinea were bad wait until these darlings arrive.
It is make or break time in Papua New Guinea.
Let’s hope it is not the latter.