We are independent, we are free

Editorial

ON this our 41st Independence anniversary, we are proud to be Papua New Guineans.
We have much to celebrate, and much of which to be proud of.
Our country is free – free of dictatorship, free from foreign occupation and free from the threats of invasion and military domination.
Perhaps those freedoms amount to little in the minds of our youth and children.
That is because most have been spared the horrors of warfare.
Most have not seen soldiers butcher members of their families in front of them.
And few have spent their childhood growing up in a refugee camp.
We are free to elect our Members of Parliament who are free to govern this nation in the ways in which they see fit, guided at all times by our freely-created Constitution.
We are free to speak, and to write, and to meet together.
We are free from colonial administration, no matter how benign.
We are the owners of great riches buried beneath our feet.
Our resources are helping to build the world, power its machinery, drive its transport and feed its people.
We are born with a vast network of tribal beliefs and customs, the inheritance of countless generations of ancestors, whose strengths give pride and a sense of belonging to a place and a time.
We are proud, we have survived through many a century, and we can make of the future what we will.
We have an abundance of the good things in life.
How then is it possible for many other countries to see us as a failing state, a warring collection of uneducated tribesmen and women?
Why are we frequently portrayed as a loose assembly of clans unwilling to bury past prejudices?
And why is it so hard for us to move forward in unity, with the confidence born of a new awareness that we are one people, in one place, for all time?
It achieves nothing to simply blame the perceptions of overseas observers.
In our desperation to excel, to gain recognition, we reject all criticism, well-intended of malignant.
We rally against those who dare to say anything adverse about beloved country – yet within our boundaries, we see ourselves more as belonging to ethnic and tribal groupings from the Highlands, Mamose, Islands and Southern regions.
It is tempting to say that Papua New Guinea is far less united today than it was on September 16, 1975.
Criticism and ambition are the two emotions that trigger our latent sense of unity.
Critics can be assured of a hot reception from all sections of the PNG community, no matter how accurate the criticism, nor how mild its presentation.
As for ambition, we need only look back to the Pacific Games or even the Commonwealth Games to see how lavishly we praise those who have managed to excel on an international stage.
It matters nothing where those who excel in sports on behalf of PNG were born; is it enough that it was within our shores, and that they are true representatives of our people.
Sadly, most of our politicians fail to see the importance of being Papua New Guineans first, and representatives of their own people, second.
When an outstanding leader seeks to fulfil the international requirements of a ministry, or of the Prime Minister’s position, he is roundly criticised for failing to attend to the everyday matters of his own electorate.
Even the voters cannot see the truth behind that overly familiar saying, “one people, one nation”.
Poverty has become a reality in our country and that’s an outrage when we have abundant land, food crops and the social structure to ensure that no one ever goes hungry.
But in our haste to better out own individual circumstances, we have forgotten the oldest and most potent cornerstones in our traditional foundation – the
twin abilities to care and to share.
As our citizens celebrate 41 years of political Independence today, we at
The National wish our readers and nation a happy anniversary and prosperous future.
And with that wish comes the hope that Papua New Guineans will rediscover the importance of caring and sharing together as one nation and one people.

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