Thursday, July 29, 2010

A norm worth dying for: Life after Somare


Somare is indeed a shrewd politician and that is a fact.

Commanding calm, respect and power, he steered a formidable and determined opposition. 

Admirers of this man are attracted to him for his reliance, opponents rebuke him of his craftiness and Papua New Guineans are divided in whether he is good for us or not. 

The majority of our people know him as the founding father of our nation and that's that. 

They see him as an old wise man that speaks unquestionable wisdom and when he speaks, it has a power source that mesmerises everyone. 

A Sukundoumu indeed.
Having a rare privilege to brief him once, I was told that my 50-page brief needed to be condensed to five minutes as that is the concentration span of the old man.
I of course jerked at the thought of condensing an important policy position but that was the fact and off I went. 
He picked up one issue where we spent a good 20 minutes on and that was how the people will benefit.   
After consulting his advisors on the matter, he presented the policy position to cabinet.
Clumsy, gibberish and not impressive in articulating the issues, the ministers got the message.
I couldn't help noticing why this was the case, highly intelligent men and women in cabinet subjecting themselves to an ailing old man that although commands respect is woefully overwhelmed with national interest issues.
It was than I realised what PNG politics is, a rhetorical citation of subjecting men and women to a higher form of humility based purely on respect. 
 The cabinet heard crap that day from this old man and why did they entertain it?
  It wasn't fear, it certainly wasn't intellectual might. 
They simply allowed the old man to be what he is because of respect. 
Humility beyond reckoning and it almost has a religious pretext.  
With this power, Somare wheeled good things and bad things. 
Stability is his legacy and tragically, corruption and scandals are also his legacy. 
 Like every PNGean, when we saw the photos of both camps last week, we all couldn't help noticing Puka Temu's Dream Team.
Intellectual heavies, business tycoons, career public servants and acclaimed human rights celebrities. 
This is the government PNG needs.
When we saw the Somare camp, we all agreed they are so overrated and change needs to come.
Built on ethnic lines, family connections, this is a dirty group.    
 But again, the old man prevailed. 
He hijacked parliament, killed the vote of no-confidence and in a split second, has a four-month siesta. 
Why? Because our elected leaders respect him.
When he does leave us and gracefully swims away to the resting place of the Sepik River, PNG will be scrambling for a new political norm.
Intellectual freaks will concoct flowcharts and dissertations of development, business tycoons will speak of making money, crime magnets will be interested in protecting their turf and social advocates will push for improvement in basic services. 
 And in this mêlée of norm setting, billions of kina will be spent on out competing one norm to the other.
Advocates of the norms will become our next Prime Minister but wantoks, is the price of our sacred resources worth a new norm? 
I don't know, but I am comforted by the ever-increasing desire for our men and women to bring change to our country and it is my prayer that as we go into a season of norm making, the righteous norm prevails.

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