Sunday, December 27, 2009

Papua New Guinea's future: Em ol wanlain bilong yu ia; yu mas trastim ol

From John Fowke

IN AN EARLIER contribution, I suggested that the social, developmental and fiscal malaise which holds PNG in an unbroken grip, proceeds from something deeper and more elemental than the existence of public service, fiscal, and political corruption.

The implication I intended was that the situation is due to an inherent weakness in Papua New Guinean society.

Whilst this view was contested both in posted commentary and by Reginald Renagi in one of his opinion-pieces, I'm afraid it holds true, no matter how humiliating or irritating the suggestion may be.

As a foreigner who has spent by far the major part of his life in rural PNG, I well know the sensitivities and have always tried to avoid the habits of the 'Ugly Expatriate', to borrow from Graham Greene.

In that nice old Motuan phrase, I have always endeavoured to be tauna mai manada. In other words, a gentleman.

But having been urged by our revered Blogmeister to contribute a succinct prediction of "things that'll happen" in PNG in the coming year, I am going to spoil any good impression I may have left behind and be provocative.

The coming year needs to be the year in which the educated PNG middle class stands up, stops hiding behind pen names, overcomes residual cultural fears of offending clan and family or attracting 'payback', and speaks with one voice, bound together by a strong but hitherto unrecognised common interest.

The educated middle class must - loudly and forcefully - state what it wants for itself, its families and its descendants. It is long past time for this to happen.

Come on PNG, grow up, stop hiding and complaining and putting forward pie-in-the-sky solutions. Put your shoulders to the load, men and women, coastals, islanders, highlanders, all the educated middle-class together!

You will make it happen. Just do it. You are the Party of Power!

All of you who read and contribute to various blogs and who read the PNG papers, you are the ones who must get up and be the first on the dance-floor, the first to speak, embarrassing as it may be.

Stop whingeing and making covert comments about each other. Stand up and say what you want to be done to get the nation going. If you act as one, forgetting all residues of cultural antipathies and suspicion, you'll be surprised how fast things will change.

I thought for a while that the Christians would get it together in the last couple of elections, but they didn't. Perhaps they too are weakened by that old, old characteristic of PNG, the 'people over the hill syndrome' - "em ol lain nogut ia – noken trastim ol!"

This weakness is shown in the currently fashionable view that a split into semi-autonomous regions will solve the problems. Be real, blokes; it'll be even more disastrous than the present set up.

No, you, the well-educated, largely urban dwelling middle class of PNG, you are the future.

You have influence back home in the village because you are members of a support-group. Make your position in life, your ambitions for yourselves, your kids, and the bubus to come the glue that forms another, far more influential and fruitful commonality. Forge a huge linkage of common interest of class and aspirations for the future, as opposed to the bonds of common ancestry that help perpetuate the problems.

This is the future. Mini-states are meaningless states in the context of the wider world.

Make PNG the paradise it should be. It'll be hard, it'll take long, but remember…only you (with the others) can do it. If you love your country, you must raise your voice and show your face without fear.

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