Gavamani, where the bloody hell are you?
Papua New Guinea's 111-seat national parliament in the capital Port Moresby.
By Steve Reynolds
I was outside my house watching two drunken boys fight while people gathered to find out the cause of the melee. The boys were grade 10 drop-outs from last year, they looked too young to get into brawls. I could feel that something was seriously wrong. I feel that there is no government presence in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
What will the government of the land do about it? I think it comes from the root word ‘govern’ meaning to control, monitor, stoke-take, guard, protect, watch, ensure compliance, quality control, assurance and sustainability of laws, process, assets, people and all that stays and works in a country.
For many years, I have yet to see or feel the presence of government at all. I don't see or hear of the effects of government intervention except when someone (who claims to be the prime minister or head of department) talks abroad, sends out a media release which is published or broadcast without answering the hard questions, and all the lip service that's been going on for years. You can also throw in manipulated media reports of ground breaking ceremonies or cash handouts at public gatherings. When I say lip service I mean:
- The paying of a hefty K300 million to the Education department without any systems in place to determine quality assurance isn’t right. Who determines what our students learn? Who determines the quality of teachers? Who determines the performance of teachers and their ability to educate our children? It is like pumping K300 million to construct a bridge and it gets washed away after a month, all the money going down the drain.
- Good governance is a lip-service? How can you preach good governance when you cannot lead by example? Look at departmental heads. Did you change their performance when you entered office? Papua New Guineans can be ignorant but as a “responsible government” have you ensured they work to achieve their monthly, 6-monthly, 12-monthly or 5-year plans? How do you monitor that? What factors determine their performance? Some Papua New Guineans are cunning and can come back to you (as government) for more funding to improve service delivery but in fact have defective plans that will fail to reap rewards. The public service currently comprises heavy betelnut chewers and smokers who get into the office at 9.30 am, take two-hour lunch breaks at 11.00 am and knock off at 2pm – weekend for them actually starts every Wednesday pay week.
- Is the fight against corruption working? I see millions in taxpayer money being pumped into anti-corruption agencies but what have they done? Lawyers know legal loopholes hence any accused who comes under scrutiny in court is innocent until proven guilty. Consequently big names get arrested, create public uproar but then escape because (a) no proper evidence is submitted and (b) the evidence fails to convince and compel the judge to impose maximum penalties and (3) penalties for corrupt perpetrators are not severe, allowing them to get bail and evade imprisonment with lesser penalties. Therefore, corruption cannot be effectively eradicated until all legal loopholes are patched. Sometimes even investigations are launched against the government’s political enemies (not their cronies) which is corruption in itself.
- The restoration of law and order is a joke. They say they will make our country safer but I have yet to see any police presence in cities and towns. All I see are police armed with high-powered firearms and travelling around in macho-like land cruisers, making me feel as though we are in the midst of the Afghanistan war. In many countries, there is police presence in communities. They patrol the streets and suburbs with firearms and communication aides, on the lookout for pick-pockets and louts who terrorise and bully other members of the public. Right now, nothing of that sort is happening. All I see are cops at roadblocks assisting officers from the Road Safety Authority (which is also a government liability) blocking roads and causing traffic havoc to the general public. By the way we still wonder whether the fines collected at roadblocks are ever accounted for. In short police lack a presence in PNG and sadly we have highly-trained body guards protecting businesses and government cronies instead of citizens.
- I continue to hear and see infrastructure development being preached and talked about on TV but to whom and where the developments take place is the question I continue to ask. . As I write, Port Moresby is experiencing major road congestion and all road access are in an appalling state, yet the O’Neill government continues to ignore it. Look at the public transport system is there a plan to improve it? Privatizing public transport will wreak havoc for the country because service providers can unilaterally stop their services, consequently throwing towns and cities into chaos.
- And I see the Prime Minister and other leaders travelling overseas nearly every 2-3 months. Do they ever think about doing something good for PNG? They don’t have to look far for examples of leaders doing good for their nations while travelling abroad.
There are millions of things I can write about but I just don’t have the time nevertheless together we can still make PNG a better place while we have the time.