By WENCESLAUS MAGUN
IN my early school years at Wararuk Utu Primary School from 1974 to 1979 then Brahman High School from 1980 to 1983 in Madang and later on in life one song I learned to sing and sang with joy was, We shall overcome…
Little did I really appreciate the deep meaning of the lyrics of this song then.
Now after 54 years of life and having served my country in many different roles – from a pastoral worker on Manam Island from 1988 to 1989, then later as an officer with former regional member for Madang Sir Peter Barter to a senior reporter for Wantok, to WWF as education officer, to the Communication Institute as communication officer to TIRN as their Western Pacific campaigner before establishing Mas Kagin Tapani Association henceforth Makata, I still didn’t spend time to reflect on the lyrics of this song.
This is largely because I did not experience much of the challenges my grandfather Paul Tamoltiai Daing, my grandmother Joan Irande Kadoga, my dad Adelbert Daing Magun and my mum Madeline Ogi had experienced.
My grandparents were amongst the first locals to see a white man and participate in building our young nation in the late 1800s to a period just before 1942 at the outbreak of the Second World War in the Pacific. A time when our fuzzy wazzy angels laid down their lives to fight for our freedom.
It would be fair to say that some of them did not know what they were really fighting for. Hence, some joined the Japanese troops while many joined the Allied troops who eventually defeated the Japanese troops and set the path for which we now enjoy.
My dad continued the missionary work his dad did after WW2 during the early 1960s up to Sept 16, 1975 and up till the time he resigned from his primary school teaching job. His highest level of education was grade eight which he achieved through Lahara courses.
My grandparents and parents were amongst a group of New Guineans and Papuans who had passed through a time in PNG’s history where indigenous or native peoples could not live in the same house a white man lived in, nor were they allowed to go to a beach a white man had the privileged to, for “natives and dogs were banned”.
There were also a disparity in wages, traveling benefits, marriage restrictions between whites and natives, and many more.
Later in the 1960s natives were allowed to drink beer. Still then they could not do so in clubs restricted to whites only.
They lived in a time when was an urgent need for self-governance was felt so that they could liberate themselves from the oppression and suppression by their colonial masters.
With help from Australia’s Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, PNG was able to overcome colonial rule. PM Whitlam helped Chief Minister Michael Somare back then and our founding fathers to gain PNG’s self-government and eventually independence under the Westminister system.
The pre-independence period was a time our people really felt the need for liberation. A time when the lyrics of the song “We shall overcome” really mattered. A time when the word “we” the people in their fight to gain democracy was critically important.
The struggles our founding fathers and mothers experienced had helped them to write our constitution and our national anthem that we now take for granted without really appreciating the deep meaning and value captured in them which reflected the struggles they had experienced and overcame to set a course for us to inherit.
As we reach our 45 years of independence, we need to challenge ourselves to face the reality of how each one of us will continue to improve this great nation – a nation in diversity yet united as one people.
We are truly a better people now because of what our founding fathers and mothers have established for us.
After independence, we have faced many challenges. Corruption, crime, gender and sorcery-related violence, a struggling economy, unemployment, raping and pillaging of our natural resources, and so forth.
The development objective carved in the laws and policies established pre-independence which we inherited after independence were very much in favour of the colonial master and their development partners. Some efforts have been made by the Constitutional Review Committee team to review some of these outdated laws but more work is still needed to overhaul many of these laws to meet our present and future needs.
These challenges should not make us weak. Our past experiences must lead us to believe in ourselves and ask ourselves on how we can build our nation.
This period leading up to celebrating our 45th anniversary should help us find answers to questions such as:
What will our environment be like 45 years from now?
Who will own the shops 45 years from now?
Will our farm produce be manufactured into finished products and sold within our country and exported overseas?
Will our women walk freely in our communities without being harassed, raped and killed?
Will our youths find or create employment after school?
Will there be water, sanitation and hygiene in all our communities?
Will all our communities have electricity?
Will all our children be educated?
Will we allocate funds to build roads and bridges, jetties and wharves to link our economic corridors to unlock our potentials?
Will our SMEs be supported?
Will we reduce law and order problems?
Will our mining, petroleum, fishing, logging and related renewable and non-renewable extractive industries policies, laws and regulations be amended to meet our demands and needs? And more…
With an additional K2 million from Covid-19 funds pumped into each district development authority (DDA) trust accounts this year and K1.5 million to each of the 22 provincial governments on top of the existing service improvement programme (SIP) funds for each MP a golden opportunity to transform our districts and provinces presents itself.
Let’s not forget that governors also get additional discretionary funds annually. These funds are exclusive from mining and petroleum royalties and GST funds some provinces like the National Capital District and Morobe have, and those provinces where mining, petroleum, and similar activities take place in.
While some provinces have more money on hand to use in general all provinces and districts have so much money to use to implement sustainable infrastructure, human resources and other social and economic impact projects annually.
Any wise MP can use their DSIP or PSIP to secure counter funding from donors to implement key services in their respective constituencies. For example, in the case of East Sepik Governor, Allan Bird used this opportunity to secure counter funding for the agricultural projects for the Sepik provinces from European Union through the National Planning and Monitoring Department.
Like Governor Bird, MPs can use this golden opportunity to get counter funding from other donor agencies to establish multi-biillon kina sustainable impact projects if they are intelligent and wise.
It is therefore our aggregation of duty to find sustainable and positive answers to the questions I raised above as well as vote men and women to represent us in Parliament who are intelligent, wise and can think outside of the box to use DSIP or PSIP funds for services we need.
We the people of a democratic Papua New Guinea can overcome our challenges and build our nation that can be educated, happy, healthy, wealthy, safe, friendly, rich, free from exploitation and prosperous if we continue to improve our great nation.
Let us overcome our challenges and unite as one people in diversity to build our island nation half of which is ruled by Indonesia.
The slogan ‘Take back PNG and make it the richest black Christian nation’ can happen. Yes, if we all do our part where we are, as we are, with whatever resources we have.
First we must believe in ourselves and continue to try to improve our great young nation with over 800 diverse tribal languages and ethnic groups yet united as one people in one nation.
As a young nation we have also accepted other religions and foreign nationals to settle in PNG.
Embrace with pride and caution
Some have intermarried with our men and women and have made PNG their home. This makes us a culturally diverse nation, an added characteristics we must embrace with pride but caution as well.
Foreign ideologies and philosophies, if accepted in our young nation, can override our identity, integrity and dignity if we do not believe in our own philosophies, and ideologies and value them.
To ensure this does not happen we need to develop a home-grown curriculum for schools where we teach our children our cultures, ideologies and philosophies together with our Christian principles and practices.
The risk of not having our own education system where we teach our younger generation our own ideologies will put us in a great danger of disintegration and disunity.
Our nation is still very fragile. If we do not get the basics right our future can be catastrophic.
Our young nation can become a failed nation from being intact and united as one people in one nation with diverse cultures and religions despite declaring ourselves as a Christian nation.
The process Bougainville is going through at present to gain independence is indicative of what can happen if we let our guard down.
The new normal we face now until the time when we find solutions to heal, eradicate or manage the diabolic Covid-19 health problem gives us time to search for answers on how best we as individuals can improve and build our great nation.
- Wenceslaus Magun is a freelance writer.