Papua New Guineans have shown over the past years of Independence and especially in recent times about how they could probably do well with the Business and Bureaucratic elite and their political masters.
Waigani still has a very small footprint or han-mak in many areas of the country. Waigani indeed has been a source of introduced suffering to rural communities particularly due to mining, logging and large scale agricultural development.
During my recent trip to Australia, I kept highlighting this to my Australian audience. It’s this irrelevance of the bourgeoisie that has prevented large outbreaks of violence amongst the general population in PNG.
As the political turmoil that was generated on the 3rd of August last year unfolded, many people people have taken a pragmatic approach to the new political reality and accepted the status quo imposed by Parliament. People only reacted negatively to the new government when they felt their rights were being threated. Other than that ordinary Papua New Guineans have been very mature in their temperament compared to the immature egocentric ruling classes.
I told an Australian publisher that Namah, O’Neil and Somare were irrelevant to the rest of us Papua New Guineans. All of these men are irrelevant in the everyday lives of buai sellers which pretty much translates into the rest of us Papua New Guineans. It is the elite and the table-cats of these men, who find them relevant as their livelihoods depend on the scraps that fall from their Masters' tables.
When a betelnut seller in Lae was asked about her thoughts regarding the current crisis, replied, "wanem, O'Neil bai baim rais na karim kam long haus blong mi?" [What for! Will O’Neil buy rice for my family?”]
It is not necessarily a statement of indifference but that of prioritizing the most pressing matters in PNG’s citizens. Survival comes first given the greedy accumulation of wealth by the elite at the expense of the rest of society. It is little wonder therefore that when the resources on land and at sea are all gone, the exponentially growing urban poor will have nothing left to feed on but the flesh of the elite.
The growing neo-tribalism amongst PNG’s out of touch elite as a class set apart from the rest of society is typified by a recent Facebook post by a Sandaun Lawyer. In it he posted that on behalf of the elite of Sandaun he was appalled by Mr Namah’s recent antics. It is as if to discount the probability that the non-elite of Sandaun were appalled as well. Such statements give insight into the selfish thought process of PNG’s elite and ruling classes.
The elite and the ruling classes of PNG benefit from the use instruments of oppression left by the colonizers and adopted by the modern State of Papua New Guinea. This model of development has brought pain and suffering to Bougainvilleans and many other First Nations in PNG. There has to be a total deconstruction of the power structures that allow the elite to accumulate wealth for themselves and as a result, fight over those positions of power like street dogs.
Indeed the process of the elite using post colonial power structures to accumulate personal wealth is not a uniquely Papua New Guinean phenomenon. What has buffered the effects of this power grab, not just in PNG but throughout Melanesia has been the ownership rights to customary land. This has created a dual economy where the majority of the population has survived on subsistence agriculture while the elite thrive in the formal economy.
As Vanuatu’s leading political thinker, Ralph Ragevanu recently highlighted, customary land ownership and the subsistence economy ensured that the effected of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis was minimally felt in Vanuatu. Land is social security. Land is life.
Papua New Guinea’s elite, fully understanding the constitutional guarantee of customary land, have failed to recognize customary rights to the wealth therein. Driven by greed, they also fail to inform people that this customary rights are indeed universally recognized rights as described by property law worldwide that states; Cuius est solum, eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos (Latin for [for] whoever owns [the] soil, [it] is theirs all the way [up] to Heaven and [down] to Hell).
The elite have undermined this universal principle of property law by legislating for state ownership of natural resources. In doing so they now fight over levers that control the wealth generated from these ‘legally’ acquired resources. The current political turmoil is linked to this fight for control of National Wealth. The advent of Gas Economy will only increase and perpetuate this power struggle as more money flows into Government coffers.
The Somare Regime, which has morphed into the current O’Neil Namah Regime, has squandered K60 billion during its reign. You get this figure by multiplying PNG’s K6 billion annual budget by the 10 years the regime was in power. As long as remnants of the SONAMAH REGIME persist following the elections, there is no guarantee of CHANGE. And as long as the power structures that enable the elite to acquire wealth persist, there is NO GUARANTEE of the PEOPLE of Papua New Guinea seeing any of their wealth.
The Change that many people wish for, will only come when Papua New Guineans deconstruct the current power structures and return power from Waigani to the People back in the Provinces, Districts, Villages and Clans.