We cannot have it both ways

Editorial, Normal

WILLIAM Kapris languishes in Bomana jail and was just this week granted access to a lawyer to prepare his case.
He is in prison for escaping lawful custody for a previous conviction while he awaits trial on charges of criminally masterminding the robberies of two Bank South Pacific branches in Kerema, Gulf province, and Madang town, and perhaps a couple of major heists in between.
Stories abound about the exploits of this man and not all of them are uncomplimentary.
There is one that goes that one day Kapris, in the company of his five police guards, was given a guided tour of most of the city’s nightclubs.
He was awaiting transportation to Bomana jail at the Boroka police lock-up when this “guided tour” is alleged to have occurred.
Needless to say, he paid for the night out using his bank card which he seemed to have kept throughout his periods of incarceration.
All his guards had a roaring good time following which he was returned to his cell in the wee hours of the morning.
At least the police remembered their guard duties, that much we can give them.
Kapris keeps a mobile phone in his cell or at least he is contactable, so the story goes, at any time by his mates for advice or directions.
Whether these stories are true or not, a kind of popular folklore is developing around the man, one who would anywhere else be considered a dangerous criminal.
This is the kind of society Papua New Guinea is.
We all know who might be guilty of a particular crime, that we detest such crimes and its perpetrators, we will protest loudly and long on the issue but we hold a kind of grudging admiration at the same time for the criminal.
Take for example the simple case of the daily traffic jam between Nine-Mile coming into Port Moresby.
Drivers aggressively circumnavigate the traffic, driving on the road shoulder or kerbs and walkways, weaving in and out of the slow traffic or driving down the wrong lane at top speed, cursing all the while.
We all abhor these manoeuvres but when our interests are served, such as when we are in a car or public motor vehicle when this manoeuvering is being done, we exhort the driver to greater efforts.
We appear to do the same for corruption. Almost everybody complains loudly about corruption at all levels of society, including our own politicians.
Our capacity for self criticism is turned on full volume but dare somebody from outside the country suggest the same and we bristle with instant indignation and tell the somebody to mind his or her own business, that PNG’s problems are only growing pains, that we are far better off than many other countries – all of which are true, of course, except the fact that we rarely admit these facts to ourselves when we are in self-recrimination mode.
We will denounce the minister or the departmental head who is exposed for taking bribes or for fraudulent behaviour but think nothing about forking out K100 to the immigration official to locate and speed up processing of our passport application.
The MP who picks up K20 million from the National Planning Department without following due process is guilty of corrupting systems and processes but he is seen as a hero in his home electorate where he perhaps delivers K5 million of the loot.
This is the society Papua New Guinea is developing into as we hurtle into the future and towards increased wealth with the proposed LNG project likely to come on stream.
PNG is a good country with good people who are shy, hard working and humble.
Our intellect and humour is second to none and we are realists enough to know we have very real problems.
We are our own worst critics but so long as we continue to play double standards, to condemn our criminal kind while at the same time hero-worshipping them, when we clamour for an end to corruption but ourselves practice it in our own lives, there is little chance of this nation every sailing into the clear.
We are being dragged under by our own indecision and, we might add, even cowardice in how to deal with real problems.
Something is either bad or good.
We can not have both and prosper.