Hela and Jiwaka not quite the same

Editorial, Main Stories

YESTERDAY there was a letter in The National from a son of Adnepa who wrote in from Busan, South Korea, calling on the Government to name a chairman of the new Jiwaka province to take charge of the transition process.
He pointed out quite rightly that the proposed new province, Hela, already has a new chairman in Education Minister James Marape.
Adnepa Ngalye lamented the present political tussle between non-elected officials in Jiwaka for the post and wondered why the three MPs from the area were not entitled to the post.
The same concern was raised by Anglimp-South Waghi MP Jamie Maxtone-Graham in Parliament to which the Prime Minister told him that had he not been posting footwear at a resort outside of Port Moresby pledging to change the Government and attended Parliament, he might well have seen the error of the Act before it was passed and corrected it.
It was smart political rhetoric meant to sting, and it did, but not quite right sounding coming from the man who is credited with having given the people of the two regions their own provinces. It is his job too as well to ensure laws that were passed were fair and applied universally across the country.
This is no a petty issue.
There is a significant difference in a provision of the laws which created the two new provinces which is quite inexplicable in its pettiness.
The law which created Hela stated quite explicitly that a Hela MP ought to be the chairman of the transitional authority. The Jiwaka Act does not state the same.
This begs the question: Why is there a difference in the two laws which ought to be identical in every respect?
Would it have anything to do with the fact that every member of Jiwaka – Jimi, North Waghi and Anglimp-South Waghi –  sit on the Opposition benches?
Rather than one of these MPs occupying the post, the law makes it open for other non-elected officials to occupy the post as well.
Has politics descended so low that it will affect even legal and constitutional arrangements in the country so that some parts of Papua New Guinea embrace one form of governance, rules and regulations and other parts embrace another – depending entirely on which side of the political fence a leader was sitting?
It seemed a rather silly and childish way to do business, but there it is.
And then, there is the Hela curiosity.
Education Minister and Tari-Pori MP Mr Marape qualifies to occupy the position as does Komo-Margarima MP Francis Potape, Koroba-Lake Kopiago MP John Kekeno as well as Governor Anderson Agiru, who is a Hela man himself.
The curious aspect to all this is that Mr Agiru, who operates under the dictates of an Organic Law, has now been made a deputy chairman under the operations of an inferior Act of Parliament.
It might look like nitpicking for the present but, in the event a conflict was to arise between chairman and deputy chairman, this curious arrangement could prove to be quite a test in the courts.
Be that as it may, the bigger picture which appears in danger of being completely overlooked is that here, at last, are two final chances to make it right.
After 43 years of operating the provincial government system including a complete overhaul of the system 10 years ago, this system of Government is yet to realise the decentralisation dreams of its
conceptual architects.
That being the case, here is a unique situation where two new provinces have been created where all the lessons of the past can be put to use.
If we can make these two provinces work, we can make all the other provinces work.
Yet, the approach taken so far from the drafting of the law to their application and the decisions which seemed to be taken for political expediency would seem to indicate that there is no such desire in the present arrangement.
In the end, the sorry sight might just be that there is a lot more of the old way of doing things, that the politics will continue, the new bureaucracies will continue their old style of management and PNG will have blown the best chance there is to prove whether or not this constitutional creature can actually work for the people.