Sunday, June 14, 2009

3,000 march against Papua New Guinea corruption

By Ilya Gridneff of AAP

June 14, 2009 - 12:29PM


More than 3,000 Papua New Guineans have turned out to march against corruption, calling on their countrymen to quit using traditional custom as an excuse for lawlessness and graft.

Corporate teams, non-government organisations, public institutions, school children and citizens came together at today’s rally in the capital Port Moresby under the banner "Enough is Enough!"

The third and biggest march organised by Transparency International (TI) against PNG's rampant corruption also drew a few politicians, but none from the government.

TI last year ranked PNG as the most-corrupt country in the Pacific and put it in lowly 151st place out of 180 countries in a global survey.

TI chairman Peter Aitsi said corruption of all kinds and every level of magnitude needed to be rooted out in PNG.

"We work in a shifting environment in terms of our culture," he told AAP.

"It's evolving and mixing with western cultures as well, which potentially causes instances where people can use custom as an excuse for corruption, so this is what we're confronting as well.

"Custom is there and can be appreciated, but we live under a law now and our constitutional law is what we all must abide by," he said.

PNG's closely tied kinship network, known as the wantok system, is seen as both a social safety net and destabiliser as it relies on perpetual welfare and favours.

"In 2007, (the march) was mainly corporate teams and individuals," Aitsi said.

"In 2009, we've had 30 (government) departments come along, and last year we had the department of finance audit team come along.

"The message has started to be heard.

"It's the beginning - we have the members of the opposition there and so what we want to do is build a bridge.

"It's in the government's interest in supporting a community initiative that is bringing positive change to the country," he said.

The march was led by PNG's Governor-General Paulias Matane. Only three politicians attended, all from the opposition.

Last month, Prime Minister Michael Somare admitted community resentment over widespread corruption in PNG's police force and labour and immigration departments was one factor behind a spate of anti-Chinese attacks.

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