OPINION: By Peter S. Kinjap in Port Moresby
Many current Papua New Guinean parliamentarians are highly respected individuals in their own areas – successful in business, education or public service.
With such backgrounds, they routinely attract great respect. This drives their popularity and ability to attract votes when they make known their political aspirations. Voters put their trust in these people.
But when politicians attain public office, their pronouncements, decisions and actions at times may attract criticism and opposition. Politicians must be able to face such scrutiny when they decide to come out of their private life and become public figures.
Many parts of Papua New Guineas have misconceived perceptions of leadership. We mix Melanesian leadership style with Western leadership.
In Melanesia, a leader is one who owns many pigs, marries many wives and contributes greatly to society in terms of wealth-sharing and problem-solving.
With the introduction of the Westminster government system, the perception of leadership was different. PNG’s democratic system provides that any politician or public office holder who is not performing should be able to be questioned by any member of the public.
Recently, many local youths have been led to believe the tribal system or Melanesian perspective should prevail and many lives have been lost in related violence. Injuries have been sustained and homes and families have been destroyed.
This mostly happens when the information on the Western perspective is not disseminated. When we want to raise issues in social media forums (the only medium left for us to openly discuss and express ourselves) some people turn to personal attack or seem to oppose every idea put forward.
To post a question about government services and start debating and creating discussion is not wrong. But in PNG, it seems to be.
Some people think we should respect politicians and not criticise them on social media. Well, I hold the opinion that you can respect them as an individual but as politicians they are answerable to questions by any member of the community.
Holding onto the Melanesian ways of respecting even non-performing public office holders or politicians is totally unacceptable.
Let’s demand what is rightfully ours while still respecting them as private citizens and successful people in their own right.
Let’s know our rights and insist that politicians should act in our interests and then we can accord them our respect.
The more we confuse traditional respect with present day bad behaviour, the more we compromise with corruption.
There is a clear distinction between a Melanesian leadership perception and a Western perception.
The more we confuse ourselves with Melanesian and Western perceptions, the less government services we see in the communities and the more corruption is right in front of us.
Corruption is a real threat to the growth of the nation. It is a double-edged sword that hangs over our head.
Together we must fight against corruption for a better PNG tomorrow.