We must learn from history and other nations

Focus, Normal

The National, Tuesday 14th Febuary 2012

AS I have seen for myself, exploiters of our resources are seen in many other parts of the world doing the exact same things they do here. 
They are so ruthless in their business dealings that they do not care about their corporate social responsibility to society, except when it can be used to cover up their own greed.
Equally dangerous for our country’s future is the blatant access to state resources by members of parliament and their cronies in the public service. 
Various people have been arrested and charged with corruption, and are then allowed out on bail. 
Why is it that the system has failed to detect and give early warning of people openly exploiting state resources? 
Could it be that our present predicament has resulted from our lack of capacity? 
If this is true, then a bigger threat to our national security and resources will surface when the expected billions of dollars from resource deve­lopment starts to flow to the national treasury.
Can the proposed legislation on the sovereign wealth fund be the answer by provi­ding security for our nation’s wealth? 
In this regard, two important issues come to mind. 
The first is the assumption contained in the proposal that there will be no corruption among the six wise men on the board, who will be political appointees charged with responsibility for the security of the nation’s wealth. 
If this is the case, then our leaders are clearly completely ignorant of the global financial and economic crisis of 2007-09 – which does not provide a sound basis for confidence in trusting banks, investment houses, accountants, lawyers, and other devious souls who can easily take our wealth and disappear into the wilderness.
Secondly, if it is already known that we do not have the technical capacity to cope with present demands, who will implement the decisions made by the six members of the board, no matter what the projects are? 
Even when our national wealth is to be invested overseas, it will cost money to do so; and, as advice becomes competitive, how can we be sure that money will not be pushed under the table for favours? 
As we have seen from the experiences of 2007, 2008 and 2009, and especially the loss of 152,000 service providers, financial and other experts, including those from canary wharf in London, it is clear that even the collective brain-power of the six wise men will be totally inadequate to withstand the forces generated by the greed of bankers, financial advisers and other so-called experts. 
Closer to home, let us be mindful of how Australian accountants and lawyers robbed the citizens of Nauru of their investments made with income earned from mining their phosphate.
Finally, the wholesale exposure of corruption on the part of members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords in London in 2007 and 2008 should remind us that members of parliament cannot always be trusted. 
As a result of media exposure of members of the mother of parliaments at Westminster, some members have been made to return monies that had been improperly acquired, and some have been sent to jail. 
Moreover, according to media reports, even the former president of France, Jacques Chirac, has been found guilty of corruption and is currently on a two-year suspended sentence.
The experiences just outlined provide a worrying basis for predicting what might happen in Papua New Guinea. 
As popular saying has it, when you see an iceberg floating on the ocean, what is above the water is only a small fraction of the total mass of the iceberg. 
The danger lies below the surface of the water, as we know from the history of the Titanic.
The ship of state is not the Titanic, a newly-launched ship which apparently struck an iceberg on its maiden vo­yage across the Atlantic Ocean due to a human error of judgment by the captain, and is now sitting on the bottom of the ocean. 
Fortunately, Papua New Gui­nea’s ship of state is currently only marooned! 
But, let us not forget that all citizens have a responsibility not to allow it to sink into the hands of warlords and pro­fiteers.
The present political convulsions in PNG are not a new phenomenon in human history. 
Those of us who have been exposed to international politics and global events know that many other countries have gone through much more dangerous and deadly expe­riences than the current political skirmishes in Port Moresby. 
It would, obviously, be very much more serious if people were to engage in armed conflict. 
Having spent the best part of 10 years of my life working to resolve the Bougainville conflict, as chairman of the bipartisan special committee on the Bougainville crisis and as special state negotiator during the peace process, I will not enjoy seeing the situation in my country develop beyond the ongoing political convulsions.
As minister for foreign affairs, I participated in the UN General Assembly’s debate on the Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict. 
Then, in 1991, I was attending the ACP-EU joint parliamentary assembly in Strasburg when United States president Bill Clinton autho­rised the intervention by the US forces in the Yugoslavia/Serbia armed conflict. 
As ACP co-president of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, I led a number of missions to various countries, including the Republic of Togo, Equatorial Guinea, as well as Burundi and Rwanda in 1996 following the 1994 genocide, when about 800,000 men, women and children lost their lives. 
What I saw in the refugee camps was horrific. It hurt to see hundreds of children from Burundi and Rwanda, some less than 10 years old, being locked up in prisons for crimes which they might not have committed on their own. 
Among countries where resource development is a major issue, I have had the opportunity to visit Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea,  where I met the leaders from both countries. 
More recently, in my capa­city as ACP secretary-general, I had to deal with countries such as Mauritania, Sudan, Niger and Chad. 
During the 2008 ACP summit of heads of state and go­vernment in Accra, Ghana, I assisted the Ghanaian president and his foreign minister in dealing with the situation when two delegations, both claiming to be the lawfully elected government of Mauritania, turned up for the meeting. 
We had to pursue this issue in Paris, followed by a visit to Mauritania itself. 
With regards to oil-rich Sudan, I visited Khartoum on four different occasions for various meetings, including two separate meetings on a one-to-one basis with President Omar al-Bashir. 
Today, what was Sudan is divided into two countries for various reasons, including the extraction of oil.
In 2007, I visited Tunisia, and, in 2009, Egypt, though neither is an ACP member-state. 
My mission arose because of their close association with the African Union, whose members are African member-states of the ACP.
It was clear, from both my personal observations and my dialogues with leaders that things were not right there – which eventually proved to be correct, when these two countries exploded politically in 2010 and 2011 respectively. 
Though the matter is one for accountants and, ultimately, courts to determine, it has been claimed that the former president of Egypt embezzled around US$60 billion. 
After the death of the late president Sani Abacha of Nigeria (whom I had met in 1996), an account containing US$350 million was disco­vered in a bank in Paris. 
In the overall scheme of things, let us not forget the history of former presidents Ferdinand Marcos of the Phi­lippines and Mobutu Sese Seko, of Zaire (Congo) who, despite their ill-acquired billions, finally escaped from their respective countries as very sick people.
Following the 2008 presidential elections in Kenya, the result led to rioting in the capital, Nairobi, which claimed the lives of more than 850 people. 
More than 600,000 people were displaced, mostly squatters in Cabrera, one of the biggest slums in Africa. 
Ethnicity was one of the contributing factors, and one side of the political configuration would not accept the result as it claimed to have been unfairly treated. 
Oginga Odinga, who became prime minister in the re­conciliation government with incumbent President Mwai Ki­-
ba­ki, claimed those who had fought for political indepen­dence, had been left out of the political equation for far too long.
So, with regard to the current political convulsions in Papua New Guinea, it is clear to me that the crux of the matter is not the supreme court, or the national parliament as institutions of the state. 
The issue at stake is one of power and money and the misuse of our state apparatus, including the Supreme Court and the National Parliament, out of political ambition and greed.

Final segment tomorrow: Sir John argues that all Papua New Guineans are morally bound to protect the Constitution.