IN mid-October this year, public servants intending to contest next year’s national general elections will be required to resign from their jobs in compliance with the law or public service general orders. In most cases, it is those in senior managerial level. In leaving, they will walk away with valuable experience and knowledge. It is a legal requirement that any public servant wishing to contest must leave six months prior to the issue of writs for the election, which happens around mid-April every five years. A lot of Government resources have been spent on training and mentoring public servants with the intent that they improve productivity, pass on necessary skills and, in general, make a return on the time and resources invested in them. Some of those departing civil servants would have accomplished that while others may have been simply biding their time to try politics. Senior officials in the mainstream public service and State-owned enterprises with political aspirations will need to quit their jobs to try politics. That is nothing new as that is the choice and right of those seeking political office to leave their public service jobs to pursue their dreams in politics.
Many have gained leadership and management skills during their public service years, which later proved invaluable to their new roles as elected officials.
In fact, a lot of former and current parliamentarians are ex-civil servants with years of experience they had carried over into their new form of “public service” in politics.
A possible reason for releasing public servants with political ambitions from their positions that early is so they do not use public assets and their paid time to advance their political ambitions or prepare for the upcoming elections.
Public servants leaving to enter the elections have been reminded in the past that they would not automatically re-enter the public service if they lose but would have to apply like everyone else. Just what makes politics attractive?
Some elected official in a faraway place had this to say about the draw of politics:
- IT provides a sure way to make a difference – all politicians say this and it is at least true at the start of their political careers;
- PEOPLE enjoy being seen in the newspaper – those who enter politics are generally very comfortable with being the centre of attention. While most people value their privacy, politicians want to become household names; and,
- GETTING a kick out of the strategy – much of politics is about the gamesmanship that comes from seeking to win an election, pass a law and accumulate power.
Some people are attracted to this kind of high-stakes environment. Much of the above can be true for local politicians and political aspirants. There could be much more that motivates people to run for political office. Some of that comes to light on the campaign trail, but the balance, good or bad, is well-guarded until after the election. An unfortunate but common perception of politicians in office and political hopefuls is that most are out there to make the most money in the quickest way possible to become rich. The voting public should know and appreciate that there is “clean politics” too. All political hopefuls, including current public servants intending to contest the 2022 elections, have a constitutional right and a natural ambition to try to something new, challenging and exciting, to make a difference. That old kind of Papua New Guinea politics already tainted in the minds of voters and younger citizens should make way for a refreshing new start. We need such a change.