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Subject: Let us not repeat History

Fr. Robert Plews Laka, SVD (PNG Goes into Polls)
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Date Posted: Mon, Jun 11 2007, 07:34:35pm

In a few weeks time, Papua New Guinea will be going into polls. After the laying of writs, campaign fever had shook the nation, pigs slaughter, cashed distributed and candidates “marketing” themselves with one common goal: DEVELOPMENT, should it be human development in terms of free education or infrastructure development, in terms of roads, hospitals and you name it. Same old campaign tactics with empty promises shaking up the people during the campaign periods and after that, what is next? It seems everything is going back around the circle for the last 30 years, since PNG became sovereign nation. Each candidates promise development but what is this development that they promise?

Looking at the term development, it can be understood from an intellectual point of view, as well as physiological point of view to infrastructural standpoint and many more but from this context, I see it is a process in progress. It is a process where it takes time to come into maturity and a progress because any living being strives for progression. One has to move on. Thus, place and people need to move on using the talents people have in order to experience development. Development is essentially about change: not just any change, but a definite improvement—a change for the better. At the same time, development is also about continuity. Because if change is to take root, it must have something in common with the community or society in question. It must make sense to people and be in line with their values and their capacity. Development must therefore be appropriate—culturally, socially, economically, technologically, and environmentally. Is this development that the political candidates pose?
Real human development concerns more intangible factors that relate to the quality of change in people's lives, as well as to the quantity of change. This view that human development is more complex than economics alone is clearly expressed by John Clark in his 1991 book Democratising Development (p. 36):
“Development is not a commodity to be weighed or measured by GNP statistics. It is a process of change that enables people to take charge of their own destinies and realise their full potential. It requires building up in people the confidence, skills, assets and freedoms necessary to achieve this goal”.

Has any leaders in their campaign speeches and policies outlined thought about programs that would instil confidence in the people so that they can develop themselves? Have we on the other had thought about having such skills and assets that would give us the freedom to achieve our goals or have we resolved to free handouts and let others do the job for us.

In 30 years time, Enga and PNG had produced some of the most noble men and women to lead the country out of illiteracy to an affluent society where we can rightly say, we are independent. Our rich cultural heritage embedded in our educational achievements have made us truly Melanesians, truly unique from the western world. We are blessed with ethical moral values that are passed onto the next generation by the elders. It is a pity that some are dying out. Some of these ethical values are still valid today and can be applied in workplace, schools or else where. I for one believe that for national progress, we need to implement ethics in work place, professional ethics. Knowing the ethical value and not practising them is not the same thing. There is a profound difference between the conceptual knowledge of the moral good and the devoted, effectual love for the moral value. The abstract cognition of something as good and the perception of the intrinsic reason why it is good does not arouse personal enthusiasm and does not yet beget virtue. The beauty and goodness of the moral value must be deeply sensed and truly loved, if a virtue is to develop. This existential awareness and active love of a moral value is much more decisive for the formation of virtue than the clear conceptual comprehension of the moral good. A simple farmer in Ambum with his simple understanding but deep love of God and of good, may possess the virtue of a saint, while theoretic moral knowledge is by no means yet the guarantee of a virtuous, holy life. Thus, love for the ethical value is attained and fostered by the deepening and faithful pursuance of the right existential choice.

After the elections in a few weeks time, members will return back to parliament to form the government of the day. And as usual, people in higher offices and ordinary people will mark the day with colourful events. The question I believe the people could ask is not: what has the government done, rather it should be what President JF Kennedy said: ask what you can do for your country. For 31 years instead of we becoming Independent, I believe we are still dependent. We became dependent on others to provide the service for us. We want to get the job done only when there is any form of reward available; we want to get our job done only when there is supervision. When can we learn to work for the common good? When can we learn to be consistent and professional in line of our duties? One old woman told me once when I was assign to Bogia, in Madang. Father, I believe PNG is not PNG, rather, it is papa givim me, the new name for PNG. I think she was correct is some sense.

We have the mentality of give me, give me, give me. What happened to what we have received? Do we take care of what is provided for us? Do we take into consideration how much effort has been put to bring up development? What is development then? Is it development that we want or destruction that we resolve to after receiving development aids?” How many schools, hospitals and mission areas are down into ashes. How much has been spent for compensation? How much has been destroyed through graffiti. We are our own worst enemies. We have not become our “brothers’ keepers”. What have we done? How far have we gone?

We must not be not be labelled as Educated fools and learned idiots. It is about time, moral ethical values have to be uplifted and implemented in one’s way of life in Enga and in PNG. Ethical people must elect ethical leaders. Ethics, as the systematic analysis of the constituents of human goodness and rightness and the condition of human fulfilment and morally good action, which is regulated and governed by the requirement of reason. Ethics articulates the ends of human existence and action, defines the means of attaining those ends, and justifies these judgments. Ethics defines those qualities of persons that determine a fulfilled, completed and perfected person and provides a rational defence of these judgments. An ethical person works for the common good of all people. He/she is never greedy or promotes nepotism.
With this, what kind of leaders do we wish to elect then. What kind of people have we become after a good number of years educating ourselves in any institution in PNG and around the world. I believe it is ample time to make the wises choice we would make for the good of ourselves. We don’t have to be manipulated by others, rather to make good choices based on the faculty of our reasoning. It is about time now, we’ve got to move on because we are the power that give the mandate to a person whom we believe could govern us with good moral and ethical principle.

We must not repeat what our short history had shown us. Earlier and even now, we have become the enemies of our own. Our living standard has become so high. Prices of goods and services have jumped up over night. I am afraid the signs of the times are here that as a nation we are going through some hard times and most probably challenging times ahead. “Every nation in our category goes through this process and when you look up yonder, there is nothing realistic to hope for”. In fact, had it not been for the prayers of our people, we would be in a rather precarious position and one that we would not be able to get out of. In terms of development, I believe one has to develop inwardly first. Development does not refer to the infrastructures, roads and services given to us. Rather, it refers to personal development. One has to develop a sense of OWNERSHIP of what is given to us. When we destroy them and have the “I don’t care attitude” I believe, we will never ever experience progress.

As we are about to go into polls in a few weeks time, I ponder back over the previous election times, I see that we have no one else to blame but ourselves. That is a hard fact to accept, and maybe it’s presented so unexcitingly that we have yet to come to grips with it. But when we look at the decisions and confrontations our country has had to face, we cannot help but feel that the blame should rest squarely on our decision makers.

I have mentioned earlier about the old woman who renamed PNG as Papa Givim Me. I believe she had a reason to say that. We have to blame ourselves. If we look carefully, we can say that our own people also contribute to our problems. They put a lot of demands on our leaders through petty demands for plane tickets, funeral arrangements, bus fares and other daily needs. I am afraid, our leaders get pressured into decisions and compromises because of this. But the telling factor is that they are the ones who will face the music at the end of the day. If you study how leaders allegedly misappropriate money you will notice that it is either given out as cash or used for something contrary to its intended purpose. Our leaders don’t have time to rest, think clearly and attend meetings and other commitments. Whenever they want to do something, there is always pressure from their people. Some are totally unnecessary, others are justified but not needed, and so our poor leaders live under very demanding conditions. Their houses are filled with supporters, their cars driven by close aides and their entire livelihood is spent dealing with other people’s problems. All because we the people don’t allow them to do their work. We portray our MPs as sources of manna from heaven. We, through the mandate we gave them, assume that they are the ones who can and will make each and everyone of us acquire whatever it is that we desire. MPs are also threatened all the times that they make decisions and partake in activities, which they know will prolong their tenure in office. We the people are also responsible for the election of our leaders based on expectations. PNG is a land of vast opportunities. Our Motherland is a land where her children are friendly and want to assist each other. It is a land where we all can be rich, prosperous and successful. Unfortunately we have allowed greed to creep in between us. We have introduced to the villages and have borrowed a few concepts from the cargo cultists and adapted this to our daily chores. In doing so we have manufactured a liability in our lands; the dependency syndrome, papa givim me attitude has swallowed all of us, politicians, people, church authorities and the grassroots. Our ability to fend for ourselves has somewhat disintegrated into thin air, and our children are also in that predicament as well. None of us will ever do something that will concern the plight of the country. You can try but you will easily get walked over. People are disinterested. Simple issues such as littering, spitting buai on classroom walls, windows or public places, taking care of public properties and even each other are no longer prevalent. We, the people pass the buck to our leaders as if they will at some point emulate the Lord Jesus himself and perform miracles. Those are the kind of expectations we have of them and we continue to force, chock them and pressure them. Our MPs never have time to do their duties properly. They are always the subject of contempt and when they don’t think properly, they cannot govern well. Starting from the prime minister down to the lowest backbencher. That is something they cannot get away from, and instability for them starts from their constituents.

Public servants also contribute to the stalemate. According to them is: “I know what I am doing.” I can come anytime to office and know off early.

In some provinces they hardly ever present in their own offices. They are out somewhere and collect their pay cheque whenever convenient for them. That means whatever policies devised by politicians and intended to bring about benefits to the masses will be blockage. Students are knocked off early on fortnight week Fridays. Patients die in emergency ward when the doctor on call is not available, electronic banking cannot be done because the system i daun ya. That is the irony of our public servants not living up to what they are required to do. Somehow it seems the towns are the best places to be and despite incentives to keep them there, they are never there. Policies, decisions and other major initiatives can be formulated at the national level but unless that gets down to the people, it is deemed as nothing but “mauswara tasol”. There is no better way forward, because of the pivotal functions some public servants hold. Many are fortunate to get job and should make the most of it. They should not take it for granted.

Our business houses could help us but they cheat us. Prices of the items on the shelves are never the same in the serving box. One toes, two toes and five toes seems to be gone and are replaced by lollipops, which nobody likes. Our business executives can also help but they choose not to. Whenever the country has unrests or major law and order problems, they take all their money and run. They have no consideration of what this can do to our reserves and other funds. Even if our country needs massive injections of foreign capital, they will not work hard to bring in foreign business. In other countries businessmen will try their best to bring in foreign currencies so that reserves are stabilized. Some of our businessmen are also living overseas, buying properties and even claiming permanent residential status. We are talking about indigenous locals who make so much money and are not even prepared to let the money remain onshore. Other countries are prepared to welcome them back in because they know their millions assist their citizens and economy blossoms. I am not saying that businessmen/women are obliged to invest their money in PNG, but at least they know what they can do to improve the situation for us all instead of putting money offshore.

Then, there are our men and women on the political front. They are the ones who will or will not make changes for us. It occurs to many of us that the big picture is often missed out by many. They walk into political offices and see what gains there are, which in essence clouds their judgment. They allow themselves to be sucked into the demands of the political process, which really is nothing but envy and disgrace.

But they cannot be squarely blamed for their behaviours. The calibres of people they choose to hang out with are also responsible for their behaviour. But like Deputry Prime Minister and Minister for Transport Don Polye once commented: stay out of trouble if you can. It is not easy and things are never going to be the same.

But the real test for politicians are the masterminds behinds all the political manoeuvring. There can be a lot of good things happening all over but when it boils down to the basics, only those who are big players will have the upper hand.

What can be done correctly is how we all can make a simple pledge and try not to destroy it. That is how success is measured, being totally and staying that way for better of for worse. We are our own enemies. We have no one else to blame; we should try our best to work around the basics as a one-step-at-a-time approach to make sure we get back on track again. No one will help us. We are in deep, troubled waters and only our inner strength will help us. It will put us back on course again, we need to work hard, make a few sacrifices and never ever lose sight of where we are going.

It is said that enemies within are always hard to get rid off because they are part of a system that is dependent on each other. Now that we have identified some of these, it is best we move closer to the road to recovery and make sure that we vote a leader who would lead us out of the trouble water. A leader who has a vision for the citizen of Enga, a leader who will say, ENGA FIRST, WANTOKS LAST. Such leaders would govern the province and the country through the principles guided by our rich traditional ethical values set by our ancestors and lawmakers.

Let us mark the choice that will be truly democratic and truly independent. May God bless PNG and Mother Enga.

(Sorry for the long essay. Part of the essay is based on other essays as well which are worth publishing, for all of us).

Fr. Robert Plews Laka, SVD
In Philippines

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