O'Neill: Papua New Guinea emerged 'stronger and secure' after constitutional crisis

09/11/2012 06:32

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Honorable Peter O'Neill, CMP, MP





Statement by Prime Minister, Hon Peter O'Neill, CMP, MP

Statement by the
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea,
Hon. Peter O’Neill, CMP, MP
on the occasion of the 5th Bali Democracy Forum 8 – 9 November 2012,
Republic of Indonesia


Theme – Advancing Democratic Principles at the Global Setting: How Democratic Global Governance contribute to International Peace and Security, Economic Development and effective enjoyment of Human Rights.

(Acknowledgement and Salutation)

Mr President, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

Let me at the outset commend you Mr President, for the generous hospitality and warm welcome extended to my delegation, and other leaders and delegations, to beautiful Bali.

Let me also thank you, Mr President, for hosting this event, a far-sighted initiative now is in its fifth year.  As your closest neighbour, I’m glad to be here to share with you my ideas on the theme for this year’s forum.

Mr Chairman, the theme for this democracy forum is very appropriate. We do not have to look further than this great republic to see how advancing democratic principles can promote peace and security, economic development, and the enjoyment of human rights.  The achievement, and strengthening, of democracy in the Republic of Indonesia is one of the great achievements of our time.

With the pace of reform in your country, Mr President, it’s easy to see why many believe Indonesia will become the 10th biggest economy in the world in just over a decade.  As a close neighbour, I’m very encouraged that this change is happening in a very peaceful and secure manner.

It is a clear example of how advancing democratic principles and strong and balanced economic growth can successfully combine to enhance living standards and create opportunity for the people we lead and represent.

The growth of Indonesia’s economy, and that of nations such as China, Japan, Korea and India is beginning to shift the world’s economic centre of gravity away from North Atlantic to Asia. The economic growth powered by the advancement of democracy and its principles is becoming the envy of the rest of the world.

The tides of resentment we have seen in the last couple of years against autocratic, and undemocratic, government simply confirms the desire of the people of the world to be free, and to elect their own representatives and governments in a robust and competitive environment.

The recent transition to democracy in some countries, notably in North Africa, has not been as peaceful as Papua New Guinea’s was 37 years ago. We have to remain confident that the new emerging democracies will remain democratic, socially cohesive and economically stable.

We need to encourage the spread of genuine democracy and freedom in countries which do not yet enjoy either.

I am bound to say that, even after 37 years of democratic government and nationhood Papua New Guinea still faces challenges – including managing the transition from largely a subsistence based rural economy to one which is on the cusp of delivering really strong GDP growth through mining and gas development and export, especially LNG which we will be supplying our region and beyond in substantial volumes in the next few years.

As we grow our exports, we will be more influenced than ever by world economic events. To an extent we have been isolated from these events because of our subsistence base, and our relatively small export base. But is all about to change, and we will have to be up to the task of managing that change – and ensuring it benefits the whole nation.

As we do so, we can and I hope will draw on the experience and achievements of nations such as Indonesia which have managed so well the transition to democracy, and delivered strong economic growth.

Mr Chairman, I want to make just a few comments about the theme for this 5th Bail Democracy Forum today.

In doing so, I want to make just a brief reference to our own recent experiences, experiences which have strongly re-affirmed the health and relevance of our democracy.

We have just been through national elections, which led to my own re-election as Prime Minister.

Prior to the elections we faced some real difficulties which some suggested put our democracy and the rule of law at risk. It is a suggestion I did not agree with, but I need to mention it.

We had a highly competitive, boisterous and robust election campaign. We had a largely peaceful voting period, and a count that took too long but was essentially smooth.

And above all else, we had a totally peaceful election of myself as Prime Minister, and a formation of a new Government.

Democracy – parliamentary democracy – triumphed!

Isn’t that how it is supposed to be?

We had our tense periods, but through the democratic ballot box, underpinned by freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly and participation, that democracy survived…..and I would argue emerged stronger and more secure than ever.

With those observations, Mr President, let me make just a few comments on the overall theme of this Forum.

The advance of democracy in our region, and elsewhere in the world, holds out the real opportunity of a more secure, more peaceful, and harmonious world.

If we manage democracy and economic development wisely and well, we will have the best of all worlds – our people will be free, and free to participate in the democratic process, AND they will have the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the benefits of economic growth and prosperity.

I think that is the greatest challenge we all face today.

Delivering democracy is vital – and delivering sound, and broadly based economic development, will entrench democracy, and the confidence of our people in it.

Having seen our democracy triumph once again, we now face what may well be an even greater challenge – getting the “balance” right when it comes to the exploitation and development of our vast resource base.

This Forum, and the individual dialogue with leaders it facilitates, provides us all with an opportunity to exchange views, and experiences, on managing development.

It is a massive challenge.

We have to ensure we protect our natural environment – something that was inexcusably neglected in the past – and we have to ensure that when resource development occurs, landowners and local communities genuinely benefit, and do so in the long term. We must ensure the development that takes place in their communities and districts provides them with genuine opportunity to participate in that development.

We also have to ensure that we “value add” to the greatest possible extent to the development of our resources. And we have to again ensure that “value add” means the creation of training and employment opportunities for our people.

Then we face an even greater challenge – to ensure the tax, royalty and other revenue flows from resource development are managed wisely, and provide for our long term future, and not just our immediate needs.

We are establishing a Sovereign Wealth Fund to ensure we meet this need, and I acknowledge the assistance of the Australian Government in developing the principles and processes on which the fund will be established and managed.

Today and tomorrow I look forward to discussing with other leaders the issues I have outlined, and how we can benefit from your experience in addressing them.

We have a great opportunity today.

And that is simply this – we have the opportunity to ensure that growing democracy, and strengthening its principles, can combine with sound policies for growth to deliver stronger economies, and a genuine sharing of the benefits of democracy and growth by the people of our nations.

Of course there will be obstacles and setbacks along the way.

But if we work together, if we learn from each other, and we continue this dialogue in the years ahead, we will achieve the right outcome for our own nations, our region, and beyond.

I am delighted to be able to participate in the 5th Bali Democracy Forum, and I am sure it will be the success we all want it to be.

Thank you.

Hon. Peter O’Neill, CMG, MP
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea