Thursday, January 05, 2012

What alternative systems might work in Papua New Guinea?


I write this in answer to Paul Oates’s recent article on the subject. 
John Fowke

As a young public servant stationed at Talasea in 1964, I took part as a team member, helping to conduct the House of Assembly poll in villages from Cape Gloucester back to Talasea, and then in the actual vote-count conducted at the Talasea Local Government Council’s council chamber. 
Although I had already conceived of a deep affection for the country and its people, and had acquired a modest acquaintance and understanding of the society, I was too immature to give the subject of the swift and self-generated rise of a  party-based national political system which soon followed, any meaningful thought and analysis.
I was, however, aware of the likelihood that one result would be the effective exclusion from the chain of government of the grassroots-based LGCs (Local Level Governments) and I thought to myself that this was probably a mistake in the making, an idea which became a firm conviction as years passed.
A conviction I have previously expressed a number of times.
This vast social and cultural revolution was imposed in answer to international pressure and  opinion within the Australian electorate where there was still a strong memory of the ignominy of colonial control by an authority on the other side of the world.
In haste, urged on by the United Nations, a new national census preceded the creation of electorates and the preparation of  electoral rolls and an electoral bureaucracy in 1962-63. 
The multi-tasked patrol officers imparted as much as was possible of the principle and practice of the new and, to many, frightening changes soon to come whilst completing this major task.
The structure which grew following self government is an organic Papua New Guinean policy.
The party-based system is not the result of  Australian planning or imposition; it is the result of lack of forethought and lack of imagination on the part of the minister and senior administration men in the years preceding self government. 
Lack of foresight by all senior men, that is, except for the late David Fenbury, who, as father of local government in the Territory had raised a proposal for incorporation of the existing, grass-roots-based LGC structure with Minister Hasluck as early as 1956.
Very simply, from the meetings of the famed “Bully-beef Club” arose PANGU, the party of the well-educated and ambitious “young turks” of the about-to-be nation. 
From the ranks of the older generation, the tribal elders, men of traditional position and influence, plus white-men with a vested interest in a slow and orderly advance to independence, rose COMPASS PATI, later re-named.
Here, in PNG ATTITUDE, and in THE NATIONAL  and WANTOK in PNG, and in QUADRANT in Australia I have written  recommending the concept of an adoption of  LLG-based representation, nationally, where the existing parties would become superfluous, being simply structures offering an entry into politics for ambitious men almost all undistinguished in any other way and certainly devoid of idealism in a nationalist or nation-building sense.
In this I have been supported by Sir Barry Holloway and his amanuensis, Graham Tuck, with whom I have discussed these ideas quite exhaustively. 
These two ex-kiaps are with others involved in the painfully slow process of obtaining policy changes leading to efficiency, honesty and full social equity for the general population via reforms through decentralisation and improved transparency in the public service, but there is little to show that anyone else is very interested.
The politically-inclined are impelled by ambitions which would not be achieved where they represented councils and were required to report to and work with their electorate via minuted meetings attended by all councillors.
All this is stated in support of the writer’s belief that the current situation where criticism and openly or obliquely-derogatory comment is leveled at policies, at politicians and at the national leadership, while understandable as the product of anger and frustration, nonetheless misses the real point.
PNG’s system of politics and governance is organic in the true meaning of the word.
It is a system which has grown from a traditional cultural matrix, drawing at least as much from this source for its conventions and practices as from imported texts and ideas.
Fertilised by imported ideas, but nurtured and allowed to develop from the fruit and seeds of an ancient, functioning and well-understood land-owning, tribal social system.
Society at large has supported the development of PNG’s peculiar polity of patronage over three decades and it is just as much the product of the citizenry-at-large’s expressed will, or lack of expressed will, as of the will and  greed of the actors upon the political and administrative stage themselves.
 Change will not come in any major way until the rise of an outspoken, politically-aware activist movement from within the city-based, educated and salary-earning middle class. 
Currently the young of this class is inclined to waste its breath in incessant outpourings of ire and resentment, backward-looking, mild expressions of which have appeared recently on this blog. 
Other PNG blogs feature quite rabid negativity and nothing of evidence of a view of how the future might be.
 Who will start the ball rolling? 
Views of how the future might be, and how to get there. 
Positivism, please, ol lain koresponden na kontributo.

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