The National, Monday June 15th, 2015
A DEGREE of mistrust still confronts the Government’s national identification or NID card roll-out programme.
This is despite the sustained advertising campaign on the project in all three official languages in the print and electronic media including billboards.
Although the number one proponent and advocate of NID has downplayed last Wednesday’s protest by about 200 at the launching of the roll-out in Mt Hagen, the action by the small group yet again indicates a lack of information and appreciation of the Government’s intended outcomes or a clear understanding of the concept in pockets of the country still.
Reacting to the front page headlines in the dailies last Thursday, National Planning Minister Charles Abel believes the protest during the national identification project launching was “exaggerated”.
Abel says the people were excited, curious and happy to see the programme going ahead, and that it was unfortunate that there were “a few misunderstanding”.
He could not understand what the protesters were saying although they mentioned things regarding the national identity project.
“I want to say that let’s not allow this issue to go out of proportion,” he said.
“It’s a good programme designed to help ordinary people to make their lives easier and also to make easier for the government to deliver services to the people.”
Despite such assurances and a general interest from the public to register, there are still opponents of the NID programme.
This could be due to misinformation and fear, or worse, deliberate disinformation by those who for reasons of their own, would like to derail the project.
Since the launching in Mendi, Southern Highlands, by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, the project implementation has experienced some logistic and manpower issues.
There is obviously a need to improve the system so cards are processed and issued quicker.
People can easily be discouraged if the process proves to be as cumbersome and complicated as in the case of Government civil registration attempts earlier.
What is of greater concern though is the amount of misinformation or disinformation about the NID project. Misinformation is information that is unintentionally false.
Disinformation, on the other hand is intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately.
A common disinformation tactic is to mix some truth and observation with false conclusions and lies, or to reveal part of the truth while presenting it as the whole.
People therefore ask whether the Government is telling the whole truth about the NID project and whether those who oppose it are merely working on other’s fears by presenting information that is not totally true.
When the concept of a national identity card was first mooted it was met, naturally, by fear and suspicion from some Christians holding onto a literal fulfillment of the Book of Revelation – that this was all progressing towards a time when people would be required to be branded on the forearm or forehead or have a biochip inserted in them.
That will become necessary, so goes the belief, if the commonly used plastic ID card used today is proven not totally foolproof.
Therefore is an understandable fear there.
Besides, there is also the question of whether there is any guarantee that confidential information provided in the NIC process would remain under strict protection by offices entrusted with it.
Many learned Papua New Guineans including O’Neill himself, church leaders and members of parliament have attempted to dispel such fears. Abel tried to reason with Christians after Wednesday’s protest in Mt Hagen.
“My grandfather introduced the Bible to Alotau in 1908,” he said.
“I will not do something to destroy what my grandfather did.
“My people will not be happy with me.”
The benefits of the NID have been sufficiently promoted by the Government and the public is beginning to appreciate what is really a programme to benefit every citizen of the country.
However, there is an information hurdle the Government has yet to overcome.
The battle lines are drawn between the Government and the “false prophets” on the ordinary Papua New Guinean.
What is badly needed for the NID project to succeed is the truth which can nullify the misinformation or disinformation still lingering out there.