The National, Wednesday July 8th, 2015
PAPUA New Guinea is a thriving democracy, one of the few among developing countries.
Citizens of this country will celebrate 40 years of political independence in September and the few remaining pioneer leaders like Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and Sir Julius Chan will reminisce about the peaceful and orderly manner in which we achieved that feat.
Since then, PNG has faced many challenges of nation-building and survived major political crises in recent years, which have threatened to dismantle its parliamentary democracy and system of government.
In the eyes of the world, we have had a pretty good run without the kind of political, social and economic upheavals that have beset and derailed other countries of similar size and economies.
While PNG may be the envy of many developing countries, whose citizens dream of democratic rights such as freedom of speech, our country still face serious law and order problems and corruption, which have the potential to cause collateral damage to our democratic processes and institutions.
In particular, corruption has become endemic, especially in the past two decades, and is affecting all levels of government, the public service and spreading its tentacles into the wider community.
The O’Neill Government was forced to take drastic measures to cut out this cancer by initially setting up the Independent Task Force Sweep, which has succeeded to a certain extent in its investigations and prosecutions of high-profile people involved in corrupt practices in government and business.
Task Force Sweep was recently disbanded by the National Executive Council but reinstated by a court order pending a proper trial.
If the Government has its way, it will replace Task Force Sweep with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that was recently empowered by an Act of Parliament.
Undoubtedly, law and order issues have been a thorn in the side of successive governments since independence and the Government has moved quickly to address them, including enacting tougher laws and penalties for serious crime.
The Government has sought the help of Australian Federal Police to help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, which is undergoing a major modernisation exercise.
Despite these commendable initiatives, law and order issues persist and continue to have a profound impact on government services and processes, business operations and day-to-day life throughout the country.
All citizens have a duty to their country by developing their talents and skills in gainful public and self-employment.
Moreover, a nation that has a sizeable population of well-educated, hardworking and lawful citizens stands a better chance of achieving its development goals than one that is full of uneducated, unlawful and lazy people.
Many of us dream of a country that is free of corruption, crime, ethnic violence, and other bad elements of modern-day Papua New Guinea but that is an ideal environment that will be somewhat difficult to realise in the immediate future.
Successive governments have done their part to achieve nationhood and we owe it to our founding fathers, Sir Michael and Sir Julius, for taking us thus far.
Former Prime Ministers Paias Wingti, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, Sir Mekere Morauta and the late Sir William Skate deserve our highest praises.
Our relatively young nation is now in the hands of a new generation of highly educated and motivated leaders. With Peter O’Neill at the helm, the coalition government has moved with speed and accuracy to transform the political and business landscape in PNG.
O’Neill has used his business acumen to account for his innovative political leadership with initiatives such as free education, free health and other policies. Unlike his predecessors, the People’s National Congress leader has the support of a booming economy that has been spurred by the exports of liquefied natural gas.
O’Neill may be the case of the right Prime Minister at the right time.