Violence will achieve nothing

Editorial, Normal

JAMIE Maxtone-Graham, the former head of the Parliamentary Committee Investigating Asian-owned and operated businesses yesterday urged Papua New Guineans not to take the law into their own hands come Dec 31.
He joined police and Public Employees Association president Michael Malabag in dissuading those who might be inclined to walk the way of violence come the deadline that has been circulated by e-mail by an anonymous writer.
Mr Graham said a situation existed in PNG where business interests, particularly those in the cottage industries, were almost entirely in the hands of foreigners of Asian origin.
He said the preliminary hearings he held before he was stood down confirmed that there was a lot of angst and anger in the community directed not only at the business houses but also at the Government.
While he has written to the Prime Minister noting his concern, and urging Government action, Mr Graham said nothing would be served by violence.
“Violence would merely cheapen what is a genuine concern that needs addressing at the policy level and necessary by way of legislation,” he said. “While it might seem like our leaders are unconcerned of our people’s plight now, there are many who are working hard to change this perception and our work would be wasted if people were to take the law into their own hands.”
We agree with Mr Graham.
His committee found appalling weaknesses and lapses in important government agencies that deal with foreign nationals and corporations.
The Immigration Division of Foreign Affairs which issues visas, the Labour Department which deals with work permits, and the companies division of the Investment Promotions Authority which registers companies, and the Internal Revenue Commission which collects taxes, operate in absolute isolation.
There are no regular meetings for exchange of notes or information. Many of these agencies are severely understaffed and under funded. They operate under laws and regulations that are way outdated such that provisions for computer based knowledge and communication like the internet are not even mentioned.
Security and intelligence organisations are likewise uncoordinated. Border surveillance, both sea and land, is next to nil with the PNGDF having no capacity or funding and Customs and police having even less.
The NIO had the most comprehensive presentation to the committee but because it contained running files, the evidence was given in camera. We gather from Mr Graham that the intelligence organisation has basically warned the Government that the issue is a time bomb with a very short fuse and that the people’s anger is equally directed at the political leaders.
It is not difficult to see where the people’s anger comes from. In a country blessed with so much riches, there is so much poverty. So much has been squandered since Independence.
Proceeds from Bougainville copper, from the cash crops and from all the other gold and copper mines and the oil wells of the Southern Highlands seems to have just evaporated into thin air.
Everywhere we look, there is evidence of degradation, deterioration and suffering. On top of that, we see foreign nationals holding down jobs and businesses which can very easily be done by Papua New Guineans.
When enterprising Papua New Guineans want to enter into business, they find they lack financial resources. Lending policies of banks and financial institutions are so restrictive so as to be prohibitive.
And so the people watch as their wealth, their land, their resources are taken before their very eyes. Oh yes, we can see where the anger comes from.
How to stem that anger, how to get them back some of what rightly belongs to them, how to ensure that certain jobs and businesses are reserved exclusively for citizens, that is a job that is do-able but which nobody seems able to be doing at the moment.
This is what we urge the Government to get stuck into next year – to plug the gaping holes in the line departments and agencies to work out and implement policies that can give our people a level playing field and some share in the distribution of wealth in their own country.
As to the deadline for a citizens march on Dec 31, it would be absolutely contrary to all that the people want to achieve as Mr Graham said.
The people just need an assurance from the powers that be they are attending to this problem as a matter of national importance.