Papua New Guinea: Time to Lead the Pacific

I think it’s about time that Papua New Guinea emerges out of its shell, opens the curtain, stands up, takes a deep breath, makes a stance, and leads the Pacific.

Despite the internal hurdles of a very bureaucratic and complicated political, economical, and social microenvironment, PNG has always managed to keep in tact its international reputation – more so positively than negatively.

By saying that I don’t mean the Moti Affair, the Taiwan Scandal, the Singapore $US40 Million Forestry Scandal, nor the Pacific Register of Ships Limited Controversy or the Sepik Highway Trust Affair – all very real and relevant issues that need to be addressed. By that I mean our ability, as the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, to express our opinions on the international scene based upon logical and righteous decision making in the best interest of the people of PNG – and to stand by it.

The best example is one that I, and many of you, will never forget and that is the speech Dr Kevin Conrad, Executive Director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations and Ambassador of Papua New Guinea on Climate Change, delivered at the 2008 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali.

He became an environmental celebrity overnight and PNG received global media attention for forcing the United States to effectively change its official stance by 180 degrees.

This video still gives me goosebumps:

Another example, and one that may have slightly greater ramifications, at least at this stage, is Sir Michael Somare’s stance regarding the issue of Fiji returning to democratic rule. Fiji has faced constant condemnation from Australia and New Zealand since Cmdr Bainimarama usurped authority in the island nation in late 2006. However, it simultaneously enjoyed support – or the lack of criticism, from its neighbouring Pacific Island nations.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama

Commodore Frank Bainimarama

That situation drastically changed at the closing of the 39th Pacific Islands Forum recently held in Niue. The Pacific Island Forum has agreed as an entity to suspend Fiji from the Forum if Cmdr Bainimarama does not deliver on his promises by the end of the year – and the drive behind that decision, apart from Australia and NZ, is the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

Papua New Guinea’s original position on the issue was not to make any comment or be part of any decision regarding the status of Fiji. However, this is the first time PNG has changed its position, with the idea in place that PNG will be pro-active in making sure that Fiji returns to democratic rule.

And I think that is a great thing – mainly because it certainly shows that Papua New Guinea as a sovereign state is clearly committed to maintaining democracy in the region.

And that has got to be a slap in the face for those pundits who keep on saying that democracy has failed in PNG – which I believe, on a side not, is a view that is fundamentally flawed because Papua New Guineans have been practicing democracy since the stone-age, a long long time before the western concept of democracy was formally introduced to us.

Point to Ponder: How will PNG’s stance affect relations with Fiji, particularly within the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG)?

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~ by Tavurvur on August 31, 2008.

One Response to “Papua New Guinea: Time to Lead the Pacific”

  1. THE REAL STORY OF THE KEVIN CONRAD-MICHAEL SOMARE RELATIONSHIP HAS BEEN LONG KNOWN IN PNG BUT IS ONLY NOW GETTING OUT TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD. GOOGLE AND YOU CAN FIND OUT ABOUT CONRAD’S MANY FAILED AND SOMETIMES SUSPICIOUS BISNIS VENTURES. THIS IS THE LATEST ARTICLE FROM THE AGE NEWSPAPERS (AUSTRALIA) CONCERNING KEVIN CONRAD:

    Climate hero under fire in PNG
    Ilya Gridneff
    May 8, 2009

    One of the world’s leading voices on climate change policy, Kevin Conrad, has been linked to a string of failed business dealings in Papua New Guinea.

    Conrad, PNG’s UN Special Envoy and Ambassador for Climate Change and Environment, came to international notoriety at the Bali conference in 2007 he told the US to either lead the debate or get out of the way.

    This year the UN Environment Program named Conrad a ‘Champion of the Earth’.

    Last year, Time magazine named Conrad number one “Leader and Visionary” within its annual list of “Heroes of the Environment”.

    But in PNG, Conrad has a different legacy.

    PNG’s Public Service Minister Peter O’Neill when opposition leader in parliament in 2007 attacked the government on Conrad’s business dealings.

    He accused Conrad of involvement in a failed housing scheme in the 1990s for the Public Officers Superannuation Fund where 17 million kina ($A8million) was paid but not one single house was built.

    O’Neill also alleged Conrad in the early 2000s was involved in PNG’s banking corporation losing almost 35 million kina ($A18million) while landowners lost their coffee plantations because of the collapse of an coffee export company.

    PNG’s Eastern Highlands province Governor Mal Smith told AAP that Highlanders who lost coffee plantations due to Conrad fear they will lose their forests through his climate change dealings.

    “We don’t trust him with the money carbon trading will bring,” he said.

    Paul Barker director of PNG think-tank, the Institute of National Affairs, said Conrad’s international persona was quite different to the perception in PNG.

    “There are tens of thousands of (superannuation fund) contributors now asking where did the funds go?” he asked.

    “And now if he is going to be directly involved in a mechanism managing trust funds for carbon trading, well concerns about the past need to be resolved.

    “He really needs to do a little bit of explaining.

    “There is a wide public scepticism within PNG.”

    Conrad was notably absent from this week’s PNG Office of Climate Change and Environment Sustainability roadshow touring the country to promote and explain their push towards carbon trading.

    And Conrad did not respond to approaches in relation to O’Neill’s allegations.

    But in an interview earlier this year with AAP, when asked if he was a failed businessman Conrad said: “I’ve succeeded more than I’ve failed. If you look at PNG every businessman has failed about as often as they have succeeded and the reason is because the government has had too much control.”

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