Where is government presence in Papua New Guinea?

06/10/2012 07:13






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 absolutely NO presence of government at all 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 the effects except when someone(who appears or claims to be the prime minister or head of department) talks abroad,  sends out a  media Release  which is read out without answering questions afterward, and all the  lip service that's been  going on for  years . And probably some manipulated media reports of ground breaking ceremonies or cash handouts at a gatherings etc.

When I say lips service I mean:

  • The paying of a hefty K300 million to the Education department without any system in place to determine quality assurance of education.  Who determines what's going into the heads of the students? Who determines the quality of teachers? Who determines the performance of teachers and their knowledge to educate our children? And those that cannot be achieved in 1 year, not even 5 years. Ten years is not sufficient but it could be reasonable as long as the quality of education is there. If not, it’s just 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: have you changed their performance when you entered office?  Papua New Guineans could be ignorant but as a “responsible government” have you ensured they work to achieve their monthly, 6-monthly or 12-monthly or 5 year plans? How do you monitor that? What factors determine their performance? Papua New Guineans are smart in bad ways and they can come back to you (as government) for more money with unworkable plans to improve service delivery, without any show of the dynamics of plans. We don't have that and it is just a lip service when government say good governance is promoted when there is no good governance.  All I see is a public service comprising heavy betelnut chewers and smokers who get into the office at 9.30 am take two-hour lunch break at 11.00 am and knock off at 2pm – weekend for them actually starts every Wednesday pay week.  Nearly all poker machinists in PNG are government workers and landowners.
  • 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 fire in court is innocent until proven guilty. Consequently big names get arrested, create public uproar but then escape justice because (a)   No proper evidence is submitted and (b) the evidence fails to convince 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 their 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 on 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 semi-educated cops at roadblocks aiding insensible officers from the Road Safety Authority (a weird government liability) by blocking roads and causing traffic havoc to the general public. We still wonder whether that open-air money collected is ever accounted for.  In short police lack a presence in PNG.  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 have taken place is the question I haven't answered yet. As I write, Port Moresby is experiencing major road congestion and all road access are in an appalling state, yet the O’Neill government continue to ignore it. If all the educated elite and businesses that pay taxes and revenue are located in Port Moresby, what kind of service would they want to give to people who contribute little or nothing in other parts of PNG? I know even resource distribution prohibits that but the cost versus benefit analysis  should justify or warrant the  construction of new roads or the maintenance of old ones,  or even the establishment of proper transport infrastructure such as a railway network.
  • Look at the public transport system what’s the plan to improve it? Privatizing public transport will wreak havoc for the country because service providers can unilaterally stop their services and throw towns and cities into chaos. And what guarantees can they get from the State?  They don't get subsidies nor do they get a support from State.

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.