Disaster provides catalyst for change

Editorial, Normal

The National, Wednesday 08th Febuary 2012

IN the immediate aftermath of the mv Rabaul Queen incident, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said everything will be done to establish the cause of the accident.
“We will leave no stone unturned,” he said. “We cannot afford to continue to lose our people’s lives. Sea transport is one of the most important forms of transportation in the country.”
While the fingers will immediately be pointed at the shipping operator and government officials within the regulatory bodies as being the main perpetrators – a fair chunk of the blame must fall squarely on successive governments and society in general for allowing this to happen again.
This incident yet again, highlights the appalling inadequacies of our public service and the ingrained willingness of officials from all levels of government to compromise public safety and well being – of course for a “very, very” small fee – to bend the rules and continue to award operating licences and permits, enabling rogue operators to run amok, and continue to ply their trade, with complete and utter disregard for the laws of the land, sea and environment.
Successive governments have known of these irregularities and malpractices within these regulatory organisations and of rogue operators, but have continually failed to take heed, act on and take the necessary measures, thus allowing these malpractices and corrupt acts to flourish into the thriving industry that it now is.
The prime minister needs to be held true to his word. No stone must be left unturned – a comprehensive incident report must be furnished within a specific time frame, complete with findings of investigations into the dealings of operators and the regulatory bodies tasked with ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the traveling public.
Recommendation for immediate remedial actions must be implemented, and then a complete overhaul of corrupt systems and processes, government officials and operators.
Based on the findings of the report, an example must be made of all individuals, companies and organisations found guilty of wrongdoing and non compliance. Legal proceedings must be initiated and the maximum penalty exacted.
It is a sad fact of our society – where the public debate and rhetoric is endless in the immediate aftermath of such a tragedy, but lessons learnt are never taken to heart, in ensuring that corrective remedial measures are implemented on the ground by the relevant authorities to prevent a recurrence of such a tragedy.
The news media – print, radio and TV along with social media network site Facebook and Twitter – is littered with discussion threads on the tragic sinking of the mv Rabaul Queen. There are numerous views and opinions and possibly good suggestions which sadly, in all likelihood, will never get taken up and acted upon because of the indifference that prevails – no one takes ownership.
There is an old adage “evil triumphs when good men do nothing” – and we collectively, as a people have been guilty on all fronts. We continue to accept and tolerate substandard services with not a care or whim. Our indifference, ignorance and cumulative non-action have amounted to the current state of affairs where deteriorating public services and infrastructure is the accepted norm.
The legendary “Bonbon Ngara”, the sea serpent of the Vitiaz Straits, the nemesis of all ancient mariners along the Huon Peninsula, has again reared its ugly head to claim yet another vessel and to mock our collective incompetence.
Let not those lives be lost in vain – let it be the catalyst for change.
lTaawi Ngaluc is a regular commentator and contributor to our Weekender