Vital competencies for successful MPs


A consultant who has spent 17 years in the heart of PNG politics shares some of his thoughts on what it means to be a successful member of parliament

THE next general election is only a few months away and political tension is no doubt begining to rise. Those in Parliament would want to retain their seats and those without are plotting and strategising to unseat them.
Many have come and gone but what are the most important qualities that set a successful people’s representative apart from, shall we call them, under-performers?
An acquaintance who wants to remain anonymous reckons MPs should get some fundamentals right for them to do their jobs well – especially for those that have given them their individual mandates.
The anonymous friend entered the hub of politics at the National Parliament in 1997 as consultant to the then Leader of Opposition Bernard Narokobi. It was, in his words, exciting as he began to mingle among Members of Parliament and more so with those in the Opposition. Those were the likes of the founding father Sir Michael Somare, Dr John Momis (then Fr Momis), Sir Pita Lus, Sir John Kaputin, Sir Moi Avei, Ted Diro, Bart Philemon and Lady Carol Kidu, to name a few.
There were two prime ministers during 1997 to 2002. Sir William Skate (PNC) manuevoured his way through after the general election and was elected but lasted for less than two years. He was ousted in a successful vote of no-confidence (VONC) engineered by the Leader of the Opposition Bernard Narokobi.
“There were long hours of mitigations and maneuvouring between Members of Parliament. I heard a lot from MPs; their grievances, frustrations, disappointments and sometimes acknowledging and regretting or pitying themselves for lacking the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively and efficiently deliver much-needed services in their respective electorates.”
Sir William Skate was voted out in the VONC and Sir Mekere Morauta was installed as the next Prime Minister.
“A 17-year-span is pretty long and what I will share here is not just observations but personal encounter with MPs. So now comes the question ‘What makes a person becomes a successful member of parliament in terms of service to his people who voted him/her?
“I would say what the pre-requisites or important competencies of an elected member of Parliament are, based on my personal observations at the parliamentary level.
“One can be a respected community leader, ward member, an educated elite, a professional career man/woman but what awaits them at parliament is the daunting task to effectively maneuvour between politics, bureaucracy, the rule of law, and local and international development partners. Let me try to elaborate more on each of the above competencies.

  • Politics
    A person declared winner in an election becomes a Member of Parliament and therefore is mandated by his people to be their representative. He/she is the voice of the electorate in the legislature. That mandated representative is expected to deliver service outcomes.
    He/she is expected to understand the various political dimensions that dictate the corridors of parliament and its chamber.
    Understanding and knowing the different forces of political power-play and being able to speak the political language fluently becomes a pre-requisite for a new comer.
    Having the network among political power-players in Parliament and the Waigani Central Business Centre (bureaucracy) is a must. It’s all summarised in Tok Pisin vernacular ‘save pes’ gets served without much fuss.
    Just look at the likes of ESP Governor Allan Bird, Yangoru-Sausia’s Richard Maru and Wabag MP Dr Lino. They mastered the pre-requisites and their electorates are experiencing massive changes in less time.
    The political power players know you as a new comer in the game and they are out there to capitalise on your ignorance. Parliament is not a ‘learning’ institution, a place for mandated leaders to come and learn the tricks of the trade. It’s a place where intelligence, brilliance, innovativeness and creativity is demonstrated at the highest level in the name of service delivery.
  • Bureaucracy
    Knowing and understanding the various systems of government, their roles and functions is crucial for a Member of Parliament. The processes and procedures one has to abide in preparing project submissions for funding are fundamental attributes that no MP should have an excuse not to know. Having the knowledge and the network in bureaucracy achieves positive results for MPs.
    n Rule of law
    The Constitutional Structure places Parliament as the Legislature. Its sole purpose is to make and amend laws for the good of the people. Institutions and leaders are obligated by law for the purpose of good governance. It is incumbent on an elected leader mandated by his/her constituents to understand and know the constitutional framework, the five Goals and Directive Principles, the Organic Laws and the various Acts of Parliament. Representing your constituents and rising on the floor of Parliament offering constructive debates on bills before they become laws is indicative of a true leader who embraces the real aspirations of the people.
  • Local and International Development Partners
    Massive development opportunities in various sectors often remain untapped by Members of Parliament. What appears obvious to this day for such ignorance could easily be summed as incompetence by certain or if not most mandated leaders. Free government hand-outs under the disguise of PSIP and DSIP have clouded the opportunities that are available from our local and international development partners.
    MPs simply lack the intelligence, brilliance and creativity to explore the opportunities that are out there waiting.
    The National Parliament is a highly dignified and prestigious institution of the State.
    Those elected and mandated by their constituents to enter the house must be of the highest order of discipline, intelligence and brilliance. Nothing less would do.