RELIEVING the Papua New Guinea Defence Force Commander Maj-Gen Gilbert Toropo on the basis of age does not sit well, especially when considering set precedences and the manner in which the Marape administration is dispensing executive orders.
This comes amidst the Marape-led government’s sweeping changes across key State institutions in the twilight of its fading tenure.
Since when did a government considered going pass the age limit was a serious impediment to performance in the public service?
Particularly on the premise that not so long ago, a retired colonel by the name of Yaura Sasa was rushed into the citadel of the PNGDF command and control.
Maj-Gen Toropo was well into the first part of his second term as the country’s top military adviser and commander of the army when some paper pushers in Waigani decided that the military should bend to political convenience.
He is among the few, or if not the only special force soldier trained by the United States army and is acclaimed by many as a smart, measured and energetic military leader who dragged the aging army into modern discipline and command and control.
It is not about the question of who commands the army, but a concern on the detriment of the army’s honour and sanctity from the dirty hands of politics.
If Prime Minister James Marape has done nothing else in his troubled and turbulent tenure, he has sensitised us anew to concerns about the politicisation of the military, along with the diplomatic corps.
As much as the subject demands our attention, it has largely escaped the level of scrutiny and understanding it deserves. Ours being a system of governance based on popular sovereignty – rule of, by, and for the people – the military, belongs to the people it is charged with representing. Can the Government do whatever it wants with the military?
Our chosen form of government, representative democracy, is built of constitutionally empowered, co-equal institutions charged with checking and balancing one another. Our army has been the most trusted institution for decades.
It has managed to remain above the partisan political fray that has consumed many once-trusted cornerstones of constitutional offices.
Like all things crumbling from the tainted touch of this government, the military is increasingly politicised in recent times in ways that profoundly threaten its reputation for non-partisanship.
Left unchecked, this may gravely endanger the army to remain apolitical – which would have disastrous consequences for the nation’s security.
Using the army to score political points, let alone to shop for votes, will set a dangerous trend that will compromise its integrity and reputation as the cornerstone of our democracy.