The story of a mendicant state with little prospect of recovery
Peter O’Neill: Appalling governance from our worst PM ever

The apologists: A sad pride before the fall that is coming


AS THE Peter O’Neill saga rolls on in tandem with Papua New Guinea’s worsening economic outlook and plunging social indicators, the cacophony on social media is building to a crescendo.

It is like watching a volcano getting ready to blow its top.

People are actively looking for ways to get the message out to voters to eject the current crop of parliamentarians in 2017 and to never vote for their like again.

Whether they will succeed or not is difficult to predict. The optimists are hoping they might and the pessimists are resigned to their belief that nothing will change.

Among all this light and shade there is a thin group of commentators who are resolutely defending what to everyone else is indefensible.

I’m not referring to the spin doctors employed by the government and politicians but to ordinary citizens who seem to honestly believe that Peter O’Neill has been a good prime minister.

Or do they?

I suspect that deep down they know the truth. They just can’t admit it.

I was going to say I feel sorry for them and their naivety, but that isn’t quite right.

I think they are good people with a strong nationalistic spirit and pride who are hurting on the inside; perhaps more so than anyone else in Papua New Guinea.

As an old white kiap who had high expectations for Papua New Guinea, and still does, I can relate to their anguish.

All through the deteriorating years since independence I had resolutely defended Papua New Guinea. When Bill Skate wrecked the economy I told people that it was only a passing phase, part of the process of growing into a nation.

When news came through of the horrific torture and murder of women suspected of being witches in the highlands, I told people this was but an isolated phenomenon among backward and uneducated elements of the population.

When tourists were attacked and their carriers cut up with bush knives near Wau, I told people it was an isolated incident and most of Papua New Guinea was safe.

It is only in the past couple of years, during O’Neill’s reign, that my optimism has turned into despair.

It must be the same for many of O’Neill’s disillusioned defenders. They must know by now that their political hero is a fraud of the worst kind.

All around them people are echoing this sentiment. On PNG Attitude commentators are comparing Papua New Guinea to the worst of the African failed states.

I don’t think anyone believes this is a fair comparison but it is a useful way of highlighting the dire state of the nation.

Most people know that the conditions that exist in those states are no way reflected in PNG. Papua New Guinea doesn’t have that key ingredient of a dominant ethnic group; although O’Neill’s bolstering of the PNG Defence Force is a worrying trend.

We in Australia don’t seem to have a problem in acknowledging that we are governed by mediocre people somewhere on a par with used car salesmen and real estate agents.

In PNG, which is a largely a patriarchal society, pride is important. Tribes go to war over matters of honour. Admitting that their pride is misplaced is very hard for many Papua New Guineans.

Papua New Guinea has many achievements to be proud of, but I’m afraid Peter O’Neill and his government isn’t one of them. He is destroying everything that people can be proud of in their country.

Things were bad before O’Neill but they were salvageable. It is getting to the point where salvage may not be an option.

Better to be rid of this government – it’s the only way to restore Papua New Guinea’s rightful place in everyone’s minds.

Then it will be a country to be truly proud of.


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Paul Waugla Wii

I really want to believe that there is a better tomorrow for us in PNG but sometimes my optimism is overshadowed by all the political excesses prevalent within the O'Neill-led regime.

The national debt incurred by the current government has gone up to levels that cannot be easily comprehended by the grassroots.

PM O'Neill has completely wrecked the economy of our country.

Phil, there is wisdom in your words as I can see. PNG's present economic crisis may reach a point where it may not be salvageable and that is our greatest concern.

What may transpire beyond that point of time is something that we are going to find out in matter of time.

Lindsay F Bond

Assessing effect for rural folk in PNG, where are the real figures?

According to the Bank of PNG, "levels of financial exclusion in rural areas continue to be very high – probably between 95% - 100% in many rural communities" (date? likely to be less significant).

According to a Wikipedia source, as to Egypt and the GFC of 2007-8, "penetration of banking is low in rural areas at only 57% of households," (intended here for comparison with a nation then allegedly experiencing some woe.)

As national finance is outside my endeavours, these numbers may prompt contribution by others in the discussion 'tween Corney and Phil.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I hope your optimism is well-placed Corney.

PNG seems to bounce back from the most dire situations time after time and I've always wondered why.

Bill Skate managed to upend the PNG economy in a matter of two years through profligate spending and borrowing. You have to give Mekere Morauta credit for salvaging that mess. And as far as I know he's never been tainted by corruption charges so I think he is someone worth listening to.

You may be right that social media has inflated the concerns around the O'Neill government. I'm not there to judge first hand. My impression is that he is someone who events have overwhelmed. He also strikes me as a typical Huli (?) who cannot bear to admit he has made any mistakes.

PNG will survive all this as it usually does and no matter what happens it will have little effect on the people out in the sticks.

Corney Korokan Alone

Phil, I wonder if you had a chance to recalibrate your naivety-meter before reading the sludge of social media lately with regards to PNG's state of the government and economy.

Do note that the difference during the Skate, Morauta and Somare years was that such sludge wasn't in the mainstream. Now, nearly every teenagers' vomit is splashed across for all meter carriers.

This Thomas will continue to be an eternal optimist despite all the paranoia.

Jerry Wanahau

A very true comment on a sad state. Only a handful of us access such information and our population is still left in dark in the remotest parts of the country.

Peter O'Neill will always be in money power within this short space of time and for sure he will be in a money game to lure political support at any angle that suits most.

Sure our own educated elites will have hard time convincing people . A move like the university saga was noted widely and at least the nation is aware what O'Neill and his leadership stewards are like.

Paul Oates

Phil, differences can be deceiving. While I agree with you that the worst of African dictatorships has not yet arrived in PNG the potential is there, waiting in the wings.

How is this possible in such a different part of the world and with such apparently different cultures. Well on the surface, that's true. But look below the surface and what must be recognised is that human nature has not evolved since we began to populate the Earth. All that has happened is that some have learned how the create better societies and living conditions.

It seems like the only way to pass on practical information is in fact to gain practical experience.

When I became a father, I thought it would be easy to pass on my experience to my sons. With the benefit of hindsight, this has not been entirely successful.

Likewise, the ability to see things clearly depends on your perspective. If Michael Somare was prepared to look back on how his nation has developed, would he do things differently?

The gathering storm that is today's PNG government has developed like a sand castle on the beach that cannot last when the first real wave from the rising tide arrives. If Peter O'Neill could do things differently, would he now do so? It's not too late to undo that which has been done and say 'Sori' to his people.

It's probably fair to say that once a mistake is made and another mistake is made to cover up the first, then it becomes increasingly impossible to stop the rot. Can PNG step back from the brink? Yep! But it will take a real leader to bring it back and real honesty to admit some followed the wrong road.

The PNG people are a resilient people and they can be very understanding and forgiving if someone shows genuine remorse. But this remorse and 'Tok sori' must happen before it's too late to stop the inevitable conflict.

Once the volcano erupts it's all too late to stop.

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