Monday, August 30, 2010

Looking for a good captain


Since independence our political leadership has been found most wanting.
 Every MP elected by parliament to become the CEO PNG Inc. represents the people as well as being head of our government. 
As prime minister of the day, he alone must take full responsibility for the way our country’s national business is conducted.
Papua New Guinea’s early vision was good and noble in its intentions.
PNG’s national interests clearly stated in our constitution are all-enduring. 
They are still very much valid today but unfulfilled by the state and its many agencies over the years.  
Had we followed our earlier plans diligently, then PNG would be a better country and just society now. 
This unfortunately is not the case we are faced with 35 years after becoming independent from Australia
Many reasons contributed to PNG’s present woes. 
However, the main contributing factor to our present-day problems must also be directly attributed to all political leaders since independence. 
Successive PMs, as captains of our state ship never really stuck to the one course being steered at any one time long enough before making many tacks (as in sailing, to catch strong breezes by making the spinnaker full and getting good steerage). 
All our captains unfortunately did not make the required adjustments in the way they ran their ship. 
They all failed to ensure the ship’s daily business was managed by competent crew members. 
The training of the ship’s crew is always the captain's sole responsibility.
 They unfortunately failed in ensuring their senior officers and crew were always fit and up to the task of running a ‘tight ship’ at all times, in any weather conditions; 24/7 and 365 days of the calendar year.
Firstly, the PNG ship was not ready in all respects for sea in 1975. 
The then administration was being run by an all Australia-made team who failed to diligently prepare the PNG ship for sea. 
They knew what would happen when you send someone to sea without the pre-sea training perquisites being done which includes crew training as well.
 This did not happen and Australia did not exercise its full duty of care. 
Secondly, the captain was in a hurry to go to sea with his new crew, so perhaps saw no need for more time in doing other related training. 
This would have been good.
 It would have fully prepared for any future situations. 
Thirdly, Australia knew full-well our man was in some sort of a hurry, but was not quiet ready yet.
 It could still have told the captain about the delayed sailing plan until they were fully confident the ship was ready in all respects for sea before the launching ceremony.
 Only after doing this and making sure all other safety checks have been thoroughly done then Australia would be in a very good position to hand the ship over to its new owners (the people/shareholders of PNG). 
Australia failed its important duty as colonial administrators of our country. 
As it turned out, the captain was not properly trained and Australians also knew this same man is expected in time to impart what he was briefly taught, or knows; passed on his crew members later.
Therefore, nothing today should even surprise our political leaders, especially recent captains of our ship.
Sadly, the captain in his quiet moments is probably regretful that he has not made a very good job of it as he contemplates what life would be like after retirement. 
Hence, on hindsight, the man at the helm should know exactly what is really wrong with our ship today. 
Is he able to fix the very big problems now, before it is too late? 
The writer and many other PNG observers have great reservations over this prospect, as Father Time waits for no man. 
In addition, the captain’s long service is no reason to sing praises now about what a great ship we have, as most things onboard are not ‘ship-shaped’.   
Worse, the passenger’s state of health is very poor and has not really improved at all over the long voyage.
 Many are getting sicker by the day and are still dying at sea.  
The captain can save them if he chose, and commits to it now. 
This is not happening. 
Either he cannot, does not know how to or simply have now lost the zest that initially went with the job. 
One usually gets into this rut when in the job too long and sadly the novelty of the job wears off over time.
 This is totally unacceptable and must change for the better, for obvious reasons. 
PNG is where it is today because of leadership failure. 
Many bad things have happened in PNG because of inaction by its many captains of state over the years.
 The man at the helm has steered too many different courses.
 This made several captains over the years to be publicly perceived as not fully competent to steer PNG in taking her rightful place in the 21st Century.
The other thing worth noting here is that the passenger’s constant cries to the captain for help on where the ship was heading and its final destination were, and is still being ignored to this very day. 
This has made the ship's passengers very angry, frustrated and many tried to rebelled, not follow orders with many creating little pockets of social fragmented resistance groups for self-preservation and daily survival purposes.
The solution to PNG’s problem is obvious.
Activate our leadership ‘succession plan’ now. 
The time is right to make a good sea-change and is needed today before the ship runs aground. 
Many bad things have been done in contrary to PNG's national interests.
 PNG needs a fresh new competent political leadership.
The leader must be someone with a heart for PNG and knows what the job entails by doing it well without compromise.   
The new PNG leader from here on must at the same time take full responsibility for the safety of his passengers, and the ship's cargo at all times.
PNG’s new captain needs to stay on a true course without wavering.
So in review, PNG had a good vision at independence.
  But through several poor political leadership right up to the present time, the country is not where it was first planned to be 35 years ago.
 There is not much point in crying over split milk now by people in their comfort zones in making a bad job of defending the ship’s captain.
In 1975, Australia failed big time to not properly prepare PNG's state ship.
 Due to Australia's grand strategic failure, it is now shamelessly seen spending billions of its taxpayers' money trying to buy PNG ships' stores whenever supplies are running low, now and then.
This is not fair on the Australian taxpayers because the ship of another country is actually making its own money with good profits.
 But its whole money management is wrong, with the captain and crew's actions to date being assessed as very highly questionable; and in some cases deemed illegal.
So who is going to court-martial the captain and crew of our ship?
As nothing is being done, the risk of mutiny ever increases with the passing of time.
  It might put a stop to this because many state agencies entrusted to stop the people doing this are failing in their mandated jobs to prosecute and convict those who steal from the national coffers.
All in all, Australia should have seen this coming some 35 years before but pretended ignorance at the time.
 It wanted to see a quick ship delivery to its new owners with no moral sense of duty to do the right thing by PNG.
What is now happening today in PNG should not even surprise Australia one bit. 
It will be interesting to see what Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott's future bi-lateral strategy is on what they plan to do about PNG after they get past their ‘hung parliament’ predicament and move forward this year. 
Whether it will be Julia or Tony in charge does not really matter to PNG. 
What really matters now is how the new Australian leadership will constructively deal with PNG with its ongoing development challenges.

Reginald Renagi is a trainer of seafarers and formerly trained/served on many different classes of warships in the Royal Australian Navy.             

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