A Failed State: Politics Practiced in Papua New Guinea
The politics of Papua New Guinea take place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic multi-party system, whereby the Prime Minister is the head of government. Papua New Guinea is an independent Commonwealth realm, with a Governor-General who is nominated by the National Parliament, acting as head of state. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament.
Constitutional safeguards include freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. This was not the case when the police open fired on some university students who were about to march to Parliament House to protest against the current Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
The latest student boycott in Papua New Guinea calls for the Prime Minister of the country to step down and face investigation amidst allegations of corruption and mismanagement. However, the country’s Prime Minster still hangs onto the power claiming that evidence must be presented to him in order for him to step aside.
The United Nations, through various news media releases, has called on the government and police to allow democracy to prevail with transparent investigation into the shooting of the students who were planning to stage a peaceful march. The march was taking place in defiance of current government practice and to assert that government plays a significant role in bringing about change. Under international human rights law, freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the right to participate in government are fundamental rights. The PNG government is a signatory to various international and Pacific treaties to behave responsibly.
Public and student outcry was not heard. Chaos and deaths were reported across the country in which student protestors were either killed by the police or started fighting amongst themselves with reported deaths in Kainantu, Goroka, Lae and Port Moresby. The deaths were reported with photos through various social media platform and international websites.
The current Papua New Guinea Government, headed by Prime Minister O’Neill, holds the majority, with the opposition claiming only a few members who cannot overthrow the government with a vote of no confidence. It was reported that most of the members are from the ruling People National Congress headed by Peter O’Neill and its coalition. Most critics in the country indicated that the coalition were already bought by the ruling National Congress Party and the Prime Minister had a total control over the Judiciary, the Police and the Army making it impossible to overthrow the government of the day.
The only way to overthrow the government is to vote the party out in the next election which will be held next year (2017) however it appears looming that a new government will be elected, when you have people in power misusing and controlling the countries money and using it inappropriately.
Papua New Guinea’s Limited Preferential Voting System (LPV) or first past the post voting system was found to be inappropriate due to high illiteracy rates amongst the Papua New Guinea population and the tendency for a corrupt leader to be voted into government. The buying of votes, the hijacking of ballot papers, and forcing people to vote under the barrel of the gun and the cultural and wantok system of loyalty are some of the many malpractices that happen during every national election which directly increases the probability of an incompetent leader being voted into Parliament.
This in turn affects the whole parliamentary process of having effective and transparent leaders to debate and pass critical policies and amendments on issues which are currently affecting the country.
Most leaders are said to only attend a few parliament sessions and spend most of their time on women and pokies (gambling) and participate in corrupt activities to build their empire within the 5-year period of their term. Having the thought of being voted out in the next election after five years the MP’s have to accumulate wealth while they are in power.
After 40 years of Independence this cycle seems to be repeating itself and with no immediate attention given to address this issue, at the end of the day, the people themselves suffer silently. 80% of the population do not know what is happening at (Waigani) Port Moresby or what their representative are doing because they are illiterate and do not have access to any form of media communication.
The challenges that again will be faced by the people, for this National Election, is that the People National Congress, the party headed by the Prime Minister, has been blamed for the recent deaths and unrest across the country so there is a high possibility of the PNC party using independent candidates who can be bought easily to maintain the party strength to form the next Government. Critics say that the majority of the people’s representatives are like yoyos and they can be bought easily destabilising the need for a proper and transparent practiced of democracy in the country.
Looking at the wider picture, the people of Papua New Guinea are being denied their basic human rights. They are being denied access to many services such as health, education, roads and basic infrastructure, all of which sustain and improve living standards. Issues with law and order, the killing of women accused of witchcraft, violence against women, increasing unemployment rates and illiteracy all highlight the impoverished state of Papua New Guinea.
These are the very basic indicators which are used to measure the development of the country and it has been witnessed that the Government is spending more money to develop the national capital district only and boast that the country is moving forward, but evidence and experts say that the country have increasing debts which signifies a state of a failing economy.
Some other countries in the ASEAN Pacific region whom have recently obtained independence were said to have performed well in all aspects of development and catching up with the developed world. Contributing factors are transparency in governance and a vision that is underpinned by ensuring that its citizens are being taken care of.
Awareness raising is crucial to breaking the barriers of cultural and traditional loyalty, bribery, corruption and the many malpractices which are obviously driving the country backwards. More effort must be put into ensuring that ordinary people are aware of the importance of voting in a democratic society and why transparency and honest leadership is crucial to their representation in Parliament.
In addition, the government must put more effort into addressing the loopholes and ensure effective policies are implemented. This will in turn benefit the lives of the many ordinary Papua New Guinean citizens who are illiterate and isolated all through the country.