Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Blaming the symptoms and ignoring the disease


In a recent Editorial in Papua New Guinea’s The National, it discussed how guns are changing the way PNG people live. 'Power now revolves around who owns the most powerful gun around', it is contended. But are guns the disease or only the symptom?
On David Ulg Ketepa's website 'Kange Nga Kona' recently, there is an excellent article titled 'Ways you and I can combat crime in our societies'. Six very constructive ways are listed to combat crime. It has been suggested that crime is 95% opportunity and 5% intent. When communities reduce the opportunities, crime rates plummet. Many parts of the world now organise a Neighbourhood Watch scheme where citizens and police combine to prevent crime before it happens.
Yet the question still remains as to why PNG appears to be lapsing into an ever decreasing spiral of gun culture. A clue to the reason is in the article: 'Power now revolves around who owns the most powerful gun around.' Could it be that the government PNG no longer has any 'power' and therefore unable to govern?
In an ongoing campaign to reduce the 'road toll' or traffic accidents involving injuries and fatalities, Australian State governments have continually chanted the jingo 'Speed kills'. Yet is it the speed (a non
personal but measurable fact), that a vehicle is travelling at that actually causes the accident or the inability of the person behind the wheel to control the vehicle? Conveniently, governments trumpet how they are working to reduce the road toll by penalising drivers who speed. There are now unmarked speed traps and automatic cameras installed in many States that photograph anyone travelling over the speed limit. The outcomes of this very prescriptive action have produced vast amounts of revenue for the State governments. It seems to have had little impact on the overall accident statistics however. Vehicles are still being sold that can easily exceed the speed limit. Also, there seems to be no real attempt to address why some drivers are apparently unable to effectively control their cars. These so called 'freedoms' are clearly ‘off limits’.
So is gun control likewise 'off limits' to the PNG government and if so, why? There can only be two reasons. The government is either:
· Unable to control of the problem and, as highlighted in The National, 'dragging their feet on tabling the Gun Committee Report and in implementing its 244 recommendations; or
· It finds the 'status quo' very convenient and the real issue of national law and order doesn't have to be addressed.
So it seems that when it comes to government solutions are concerned, it’s far too easy to blame the symptoms and conveniently ignore the disease.
Editorial in the PNG newspaper The National

Guns changing the way we live

THERE are communities scattered throughout the towns of PNG who are landless.
When you take a closer look at these landless people, they have varying backgrounds. One group comprises the people who have grown up in towns and cities.
This is the class of people whose parents might have had land holdings on their traditional land but through a lifetime of employment in towns, they have left behind children who have not gone home to claim what is rightfully theirs by inheritance.
And since land holding is a communal thing at rural settings, where physical presence and land use speaks louder than anything else, these town grown children are essentially outcasts in their own land.
They join the increasing numbers that cluster around squatter settlements and make grabs at State or traditional land on the fringes of towns. These children are there to stay.
They do not have any place to go to in any case.
This group is mostly youths and the oldest of the group would now themselves be rearing a second generation of landless children.
There is yet another group of landless who are placing pressure upon limited resources and service lines on the fringes of towns and cities.
These are the people who have been displaced in tribal conflicts and hail mostly from the five Highlands provinces.
These people had homes, gardens and land but they have been physically and brutally forced from their homes.
Studies will show these people fled for their lives and although they yearn to go back, it is not there for them.
And the reason why they cannot return is the gun culture that has sprung up.
The gun rules society today.
Once upon a time, tribal conflicts were a conflict resolution method.
When mediation and all other forms of peaceful settlement failed, a conflict was taken to the battlefield.
The victor took the spoils. People fled the land but eventually came back and surrounding tribes always ensured that land belonging to a tribe remained intact for that tribe.
Not any more. With guns, tribes face wholesale massacre and are fleeing never to return.
The gun is changing the way we live. Guns are used to maul, to maim, to rape, to rob and to scare away entire communities.
Yet no government, including this one, has come up with a firm policy on what to do with the proliferation of guns in PNG.
The Somare administration established the Guns Committee in 2005 under the chairmanship of retired General Jerry Singirok.
Immediately it undertook a nationwide assessment of the guns proliferation issue and related issues. The team undertook a nationwide road show and spoke to a huge cross-section of the population.
Not surprisingly, locals and expatriates spoke passionately about guns and the cost to the nation of their illegal use.
Although concerns were voiced everywhere, it was in the Highlands that it became abundantly clear how guns were completely ruling and in most instances ruining the lives of communities there.
Entire villages have been wiped out as a result and whole communities have been displaced permanently, most of whom are to be found in urban settings such as Lae and Port Moresby.
Often the animosities follow these migrants into the cities so that the nation has witnessed gruesome payback killings right in the centre of towns in broad daylight.
Guns have also tilted the balance of power at the community level.
Power now revolves around who owns the most powerful gun around.
In the competition, therefore, to gain power tens of thousands of kina, young brides and scores of domestic livestock, particularly pigs, have been given in exchange for guns.
So why are the Government and Parliament dragging their feet on tabling the Gun Committee Report and in implementing its 244 recommendations?
It makes you wonder whether our leadership is in touch with what is happening.

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