Dr Unage responds
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Date Posted: Wed, Apr 18 2007, 12:37:24pm
By Dr Michael Unage
18th April 2007
Political idols vs democratic principles
IT may be odd to do a meta-critic in this column but the nature of the issue demand that I do one.
This commentary is in response to an article in My Say (“Not PNG Culture to Rip Elders, April 13) by Mamando Pain, who teaches at an institute in Lae. Ordinarily, Talking Point is rather silent and learns from constructive criticisms but the article by Pain reflects a mind of a lower bunch which demands a response. The article conspicuously reflects the category in which the scribe is situated.
Indeed, the writer lacks moral and legal sensitivity, thus displaying ignorance to the principle of democracy and good governance, especially in regards to the rule of law.
Furthermore, Mamando Pain is absolutely lethargic to dangerous political trends in PNG and at the same time, ignorant to PNG’s cultural values to which he subscribes himself as an exponent.
He appears obsessed with Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and it is haunting him. If the reader can juxtapose my article on “The Question of NA Leadership” with Pain’s “Not PNG Culture to Rip Elders”, one will surely discover the shortcomings in his article, which reveals his weakness in politics.
In trying to do a critical exegete to my article, he misses the very import behind it.
He, instead offers an argument which in literary term would be referred to as non-sequitur fallacy, which is the very opposite of logical reasoning.
For instance, to say that Harry should be in politics because he has a good voice is a non-sequitur fallacy. Thus, a good voice is an advantage to a politician.
However, it does not follow that anyone with these characteristics should be in politics.
The non-sequitur argument in Pain can be discovered in what he says of Sir Michael: “If the Grand Chief is given the proper fatherly treatment in his last years of his political career, then I believe PNG would receive the fatherly blessing to prosper in every aspect of the nation.”
What kind of logic does one find in such mumbo jumbo?
For Pain, the Chief is the father of this nation and an elder in politics and, in his view, is therefore politically indispensable.
Thus he calls on the nation to consider the legislative and governance blunder committed by the Government as something very insignificant.
He suggests that everybody in the country should sacrifice their deep-held democratic principles in order to revere his idol.
This is what he says and I quote: “Sir Michael is my father and he is also the proud father of Dr Unage. In fact, Sir Michael is our father, PNG’s father.”
Like many Papua New Guineans, I personally have a lot of respect for the Grand Chief for his personal achievements and political contributions to the nation.
However, that does not mean that I have to sacrifice my democratic and moral values out of a misconstrued filial affiliation as demonstrated by Pain.
While people are concerned over the dangerous trend in PNG politics as reflected by the Moti saga and the amendments to the NCDC Act, Pain sees them as exceptionally marginal.
One wonders if the scribe has any sense of democratic values and the very abuse that will arise.
When the country is calling those issues as foul play, Pain thinks otherwise.
He claims that “the two cases are insignificant when compared to the Government’s achievements”.
For the NCDC Act, he says “many fear that the Act gives political and administrative powers to the NCD governor but the person who holds the post is not the leader of PNG”.
An error can be found in this statement as every leader elected to Parliament is a leader of PNG. He is legally called a legislator.
The 109 MPs make laws for the entire country.
Pain needs to read more into the roles and functions of both the legislative and executive arms of government to make a proper judgment on the issues confronting governance.
Pain says the Moti saga is too small to warrant the removal of the Prime Minister and the Government.
The Moti affair is a crisis of a greater magnitude although Pain may be right in saying that PNG is a victim of international politics.
He also claims that the incident could be a “mickey mouse” game played by Australia.
Fact is, his claims can hardly be substantiated.
Fact is, the Prime Minister, perhaps through his subordinates, may have reacted badly to an issue which could have been handled proactively through diplomatic means.
The tax-payers feel unjustified when millions of their kina have been squandered on the clandestine flight to Solomon Islands, the Defence Force inquiry and the continued technical/legal debate before the courts.
Tax-payers do not see that as ‘too small” a matter.
In his non-sequitur conclusion, Pain insists that the ruling coalition must continue because there is no better alternative party, which could possibly perform its achievements.
Only the voters have the final say on which party should be in government.
In an election, political parties and candidates are given the time to compete.
A democratic election is a competitive election and only those that appeal to the voters can be chosen.
However, two things need to be said. First, many commentators are of the opinion that the current government is harvesting the fruits of previous government’s legislative changes, especially by Sir Mekere Morauta. And if any praise is due to the National Alliance, Bart Philemon would receive the lion’s share of it.
Second, there should be an evaluation of the development goals of the current government.
Do the social and economic indicators say anything about the achievements of this Government?
What are the economic indicators of the export-driven policy?
What about the Government’s commitment to good governance?
Only when the outcomes are measured, we can really know about the Government’s achievement.
Another misconception found in Pain’s article is the failure to distinguish between the respect given to an ordinary elder from a traditional chief.
Respect for an elder is a value in many societies as he mentioned. Nonetheless, a traditional chief or “big man” earns his respect.
Respect is not given to him indiscriminately.
For instance, if a clan leader assists a non-clan member to commit a
sexual crime against a member of a neighbouring clan, people would naturally question his leadership abilities. The leader would surely loose his face.
The predicament endangering political development is people, in the likes of Pain, turning political leaders into idols irrespective of their character and performance.
Finally, I would respond to some particular factual errors in Pain’s arguments.
First, the National Capital District (NCD) is in PNG. It is the heart and the capital of the country.
Thus, Mamando is wrong in saying that NCD is not PNG.
The second factual error is that the country Moti got involved was Vanuatu and not Fiji.
However, what I find strange in Pain’s article is this statement: “We also must bear in mind that the Moti saga has caused all the citizens of PNG to be guilty, including Dr Unage.”
I would reassure Pain that I have no sense of guilt, but am very much ashamed as a citizen by the blunder.
Perhaps, the sense of guilt is a projection of Pain’s subconscious.
He is guilty of the blunder committed by his political godfather.
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