Political Reform Imperative to end PNG Kleptocracy

The past few months in PNG politics have provoked a number of responses to be made public by nonpartisan domestic and international observers of Papua New Guinea on the events which we have witnessed unfold thus far.

These responses have been wide and varied in terms of origin, purpose, experience, justification and even legality – but encouragingly, all these responses share the common denominator of putting an end to the current political woes encompassing Waigani.

Although suggested processes and methodology differ, sometimes even polarized, the outcome(s) of the views that domestic and international observers of PNG share is largely homogeneous. This means that people are proactively thinking about how we can improve the situation in PNG – another positive by-product of the political impasse.

One of the more authoritative publications released and based on field work completed in PNG over the past year is the Lowy Institute’s March policy brief on averting violence in the 2012 General Elections.

In that paper, Dr Scott Flower and Jim Leahy (standing for the Western Highlands Regional seat in the upcoming election) identify a number of election-related issues and propose a number of solutions to help mitigate the risk of election-violence occurring and re-occurring again in the future.

Although some of the key areas identified for immediate focus to manage the security of the election period by PNG and friends of PNG are premature and precipitated and in my view undesirable, for example – the urgent consideration of a regional security force with possible helicopter support from the US, most do hold considerable value over the long-term and should be seriously considered by the current and forthcoming PNG governments.

Another significant discussion, driven by the events of the past months in PNG and a blog post I wrote, has reared its head in the public discourse and is centered on the idea of reforming the PNG parliament.

As followers on Twitter would know, I recently voiced my dismay at the ongoing uncertainty in PNG politics and the ineffective checks and balances which are fundamental to ensuring the success of PNG’s democratic system.

Already, such dismay as expressed by myself, has caught the attention of long-time PNG observers who are now arguing, and I believe rightfully so, that the citizens of Papua New Guinea are losing faith in PNG politics.

The Vanuatu-based Pacific Institute of Public Policy last year wrote a wonderful essay on whether Melanesian democracy will be sunk by demography. In that poignant piece, the Institute states:

“Any democracy relies on the checks and balances inherent within the system, to stop it being abused by corrupt or megalomaniac leaders.

But often it is these very checks and balances that are being used as an excuse to topple governments regularly.

The problem is made more acute by the fact that other political safeguards – such as a robust ombudsman – generally don’t exist.

Ideally, elected governments should be allowed to serve their full term with a strong ombudsman and Leadership Tribunals to deal with abuse of power, but that does not happen. The same leaders get recycled over and over again.”

In that same essay, the Institute warned that:

“PNG is now better described as an autocracy verging on kleptocracy.”

And as Flower and Leahy point out in their Lowy Institute brief:

“PNG, thanks to its size, wealth and influence, has the potential to set the benchmark for democracy in the Pacific and more particularly in Melanesia.”

It is because of these reasons presented by both domestic and international PNG observers, and most strikingly the growing disillusionment with PNG politics by PNG citizens themselves – specifically the large generation of youth that now make up almost 50% of PNG’s population, that political reform is imperative.

The total lack of parliamentary accountability, the inefficiencies of PNG’s watchdogs to effectively perform their duties and fulfill their functions, the perception of non-existent government services in rural and even urban PNG, and the constant immature squabbling amongst PNG’s politicians which has marred realistic and timely progress – have all contributed to an immense sense of frustration with the current system, its functionality, and to be honest – its existence.

~ by Tavurvur on April 16, 2012.

5 Responses to “Political Reform Imperative to end PNG Kleptocracy”

  1. This makes me wonder where exactly we went wrong? I know that really doesn’t help solve the current problems, but where did PNG go wrong?

  2. Thanks for another great post Tavurvur!

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. People have had enough of the current political system in PNG. What is worrying me is that it seems the majority of intending candidates are recycled politicians.

    We need change.

    • There is a real danger with the ongoing political impasse that PNGeans will lose focus of the real issues at play here and succumb to illogical knee-jerk reactions.

      In regards to your question Jonk on where PNG went wrong – I think this is a complicated question.

      There are a lot of factors which have contributed to the current situation we find ourselves in.

      I tend to look at the status quo and at how that can be improved into the future.

  3. Tavurvur, I agree with you. Change is needed, and I think we have the right reasons now. What has happened over the last months is most definitely reason enough for the youths and citizens to exercise their democratic rights effectively to ensure this change. Vote in honest leaders with integrity and like all good societies get the simple things right. Democracy, integrity, and all the great things start from home.

    • Thanks Pom Observer. Peter O’Neill has been harking on in the two national dailies the need to vote in “good leaders” – a good message which has become somewhat juxtaposed by his own actions in office.

      Hopefully our people can differentiate for themselves what constitutes good leadership.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s