By Gorethy Kenneth in Port Moresby
Former prime minister and New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan is defending his seat one last time in Papua New Guinea’s 2022 general elections next month because he believes the system of government has failed the country.
Had the system not “failed miserably”, the iconic New Irelander said he could have called time “a long time ago” — but a lot of things, systems, mechanisms and people had misfired and failed along the way, prompting his last shot at a last term.
At 83, Sir Julius said this would be the last roll of the dice in his long and illustrious political career in which he was twice prime minister of PNG.
Showing no signs of fragilities, he was opening a new LLG office in the gold-rich Lihir Islands and campaigning on his resource policy in the neighbouring Anir (Feni) Islands, south of Lihir last week.
An advocate of power sharing, Sir Julius wants to see New Ireland emerge as an autonomous province of PNG before he retires.
Autonomy is the rallying call for his reluctance to step down. He reckons mainland PNG will remain immune to autonomous political squabbling but in the islands, it will be as easy as “cutting the rope and floating away”.
It is the Sunday after the PNG Kumuls’ epic rugby league Test win over Fiji.
We are sitting in the antiquated living room of Sir Julius’ Port Moresby apartment.
He is a little wry, perhaps taxed by the boat travels in his sparsely isolated home islands, from the past week.
Not one to shy away from life’s challenges, he even offers a humorous insight into what his political adversaries have dished out in the last couple of months.
“You know, my opponents have declared me dead four times on Facebook, and every time, I’ve risen from the dead,” he chuckles.
In a one-on-one exclusive, the knight spoke his mind: “I am not coming back just to play the game, nogat, I am here to score more, otherwise I am just wasting my time. If I don’t get anywhere, I make up my decision in between.”
Sir Julius said the people must have greater power sharing nationally, on a provincial and local level.
“Sadly yes, the system of government has failed the people, we must have greater sharing of power, national, provincial and local, greater sharing if not practically practised I think this country will disintegrate,” he said.
‘It happened in Russia’
“I mean we got enough to look at some of the more advanced countries in the world, how it got disintegrated. It happened in Russia, it used to be a big, big, big country, they are now fighting one another.
“Because of the regional population I think if we don’t change the system and give the other areas of PNG a chance to lead, that too will cause friction as it is at the moment. You increase the electorate… every time you increase one electorate in the New Guinea Islands region.
“I think you have to increase 10 in other parts of the country so hap blo mi yia, forever and ever. It will go smaller in percentage terms and being human that doesn’t go down too well; everybody wants to participate therefore we have to come up with a system somewhat to adapt [to] that.
“And when people have that power, they make decisions and when something goes wrong, they cannot throw blame at the government.
“As it is at the moment, every good is enjoyed at the local government but everything bad is the cause of the national government. And if you allow that to go on for a few years, it will deteriorate this country completely.
“I [have] got to share this with everybody — the mainland will never break, it’s not easy and it’s just like Israel and all the other countries that [are] next to it. The other countries, you know whenever there is a land problem, they will forever for thousands of years from the days, they will never be able to solve the disputes of the land border.
“But in the islands, you just cut the rope and we float — we are different. So there it is, that’s my summary and I am not coming back just to play the game, nogat, I am here to score more, otherwise I am just wasting my time. If I don’t get anywhere, I make up my decision in between.”
Gorethy Kenneth is a senior PNG Post-Courier journalist. Republished with permission.