Money cannot change mindsets

Editorial, Normal

The National, Wednesday January 6th, 2016

 FORMER Hela provincial police commander Mark Yangen said in May last year that the province needed “divine intervention” to change the mindset of its people and stop rampant lawlessness.

“Only God will change Hela,” were Yangen’s chilling but prophetic words, having come to the conclusion that nothing else can change the people’s behaviour insofar as the rule of law is concerned.

It seemed Yangen had fought a losing battle in the land of the Gigira Laitepo where even the lives of God’s workers were in grave danger.

“If I, as the provincial police commander, can do all my best to change the mindset of the people and if they cannot change, only God will change Hela. When will people listen to their leaders and respect the law and change their behaviour?”

Yangen was replaced in the recent reshuffle of police commanders throughout theb country.

Seven months later, Hela acting administrator William Bando warns that the province could plunge into total anarchy given the current breakdown in law and order.

Bando sounded the warning this week following a series of murders, including those of two PNG Defence Force soldiers at Komo and a policeman, and suspension of flights in and out of Tari after part of the airport perimeter fencing was ripped down.

Air Niugini, PNG Air and other third-level airline operators have been forced to pull the plug on all flights in and out of the provincial capital.

“This is a compounding problem and people are killing each other. Not a week goes by without a tribal fight, without someone being chopped down on the road.”

We agree with Bando that the current political infighting over the governor’s position is adding fuel to the raging fire.

Ousted Governor Anderson Agiru claims he is still the political head of the province despite the purported election of Komo-Magarima MP Francis Potape in his place last Tuesday. 

“I am still the Governor. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no challenge, no vacancy.”

Potape’s faction had purportedly removed Agiru two weeks ago and then last week voted him in as the new Governor.

While the political wrestling match is going on, the embattled province is heading towards total anarchy.

The National Government must heed Bando’s warning and intervene before all hell breaks loose in Hela.

A state of emergency may be required to bring the current situation under control. 

State security forces must be dispatched immediately to the trouble spots to quell raging tribal fights and hunt down culprits who are killing people and pillaging villages.

The province is host to Papua New Guinea’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) development and the country cannot afford to scare away further foreign investment because of the breakdown in law and order. Moreover, the leaders of Hela must realise the gravity of this situation and make a concerted effort to restore peace and order. Political differences must be put aside for the benefit of the people. 

Much is at stake for this relatively new province.

Lawlessness and crime can be controlled in the short term but changing the mindsets of the Hela people, most of whom still live, think and behave like their fore-bearers, is something that cannot be achieved overnight. 

It is a gradual process that involves changes to the thought processes of individuals, families and their communities.

These changes are also influenced by socio-economic factors and the political environment.

When Hela was split from Southern Highlands several years ago, its future development and prosperity looked secured by the multi-billion kina LNG project.

The Gigira Laitepo prophecy had been fulfilled and the people of Hela would no longer be in total darkness.

Despite the millions of kina pouring into the once impoverished Hela district, money cannot change mindsets.

The current breakdown in law and order in Hela shows that the country’s largest economic project has had little or no impact on the way the majority of Hela people live, think and behave.

And they will continue to conduct their lives like their ancestors did until they are exposed to appropriate social and educational development, intertwined with Christian teachings and values, which will change their thought processes.