Goal 3: National Sovereignty and Self Reliance
“The third goal clearly emphasises for PNG to be politically and economically independent and the economy to be basically self-reliant. Our leaders, the government bodies, and the citizens should be completely free from foreign control and free to make decisions and plan for social, political and economic development. However, ever since independence events have shown that in the name of ‘development’, Papua New Guinea has sacrificed its national sovereignty.”
The National Directive Goals and Principles which was integrated in the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea can be described as a road map to guide the action of the new and young nation after the departure of the Australian colonial rulers. They were made to compel governments post-independence to deliver social, economic and political development taking into consideration equality and participation, economic self-reliance, national sovereignty and protection of the natural environment. In the process of formulating those National Goals and Directive Principles, people as well as leaders were consulted for their views on how this new and self-governing nation should go about. Upon getting their views they finally came up with these five National Goals and Directive Principles. These goals are a source of help to steer the country forward. The focus of this essay will be mainly on the third goal which is “National Sovereignty and Self-Reliance”.
National Sovereignty and Self Reliance
I understand National Sovereignty as the power a nation has in order to do everything necessary, such as making, executing and applying laws; imposing and collecting taxes; making war and bringing peace; forming treaties and engaging foreign relations with other countries to govern itself. Nations do not possess the power of other countries external to their boundaries but they have power of internal sovereignty. Self-Reliance simply means you rely on yourself for survival. To put the two together we can say National Sovereignty and Self-Reliance obviously mean a nation has the supreme power to govern and rely on itself for survival within its internal boundaries instead of depending on external forces.
This goal was put forward to change the foreign-imposed system of government which is considered inappropriate to the needs of the people. As an independent country we have to take care of our own needs because someone who is self-reliant will not have to depend on others and will be proud of the things they can do for themselves. Furthermore, the third goal clearly emphasises for PNG to be politically and economically independent and the economy to be basically self-reliant. Our leaders, the government bodies, and the citizens should be completely free from foreign control and free to make decisions and plan for social, political and economic development. However, ever since independence events have shown that in the name of ‘development’, Papua New Guinea has sacrificed its national sovereignty. The influx of foreign companies have been very rapid convincing the public that their interests were being taken care of, but in reality the developer or investor’s interests superseded the development plans of the host country.
Now can we say that a country can entirely depend on itself for survival? The international system greatly influences the way in which a state acts, because a state makes its foreign policy according to what is happening in the international arena. There is no central power in the world to rule the entire world but some powerful states are taking advantage of their power to try and rule the world: we refer to these countries as the developed world.
These so-called developed countries, such as America and Australia, have been dependent very much on the developing world for natural resources to build their own countries. The dependency theory clearly spells out that developed countries have used ‘third world’ countries as their puppets to reap their resources and leave nothing behind. The resources have been flowing from a “periphery” of poor and underdeveloped states to a “core” of wealthy states; the latter is enriched at the expense of the former. The ‘undeveloped’ states are impoverished and the ‘developed’ states are enriched by the way undeveloped states are integrated into the global system. The rich nations become richer, the poor nations becomes poorer. That is the model of development we see in the world.
It’s almost 38 years now since PNG gained its independence and can we proudly say we have been independent since the day we removed the Australian flag and raised our own? If I was there during the first years after PNG got its independence, I think I would have some comments to make on whether or not we have been self-reliant for the first years after independence. I see PNG not as independent but yet dependent. Obviously, the aid dependency is a common scenario in the country. Foreign aid is coming from other countries such as Australia, US, China, Japan, etc as well as from churches and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as the UN, VSO, EU, and so on.
Almost every citizen of this country wants national sovereignty and self-reliance: meaning they want their state’s sovereignty to be fully respected and stand on their own feet to govern their country. Personally I can say that so far we have not achieved this goal because of the ‘model of development’ which I have explained earlier with the dependency theory. In other words we can say because of the “dependency model of development”.
This dependency model of development is making us perceive ourselves as inferior. It makes us believe we cannot solve our own problems or do things on our own but depend on outsiders to come and do it for us. The dependence on foreign aid agencies and foreign investment seems to be a very big problem in the country ever since our so-called Independence. This has undermined our national sovereignty and self reliance by making sure that foreigners are at the forefront of any development activity in the country. Once communities accept foreign companies and aid agencies to deliver goods and services and build basic infrastructures such as roads, bridges, health centres and schools, they are no longer in control of their land, resources and even their future.
Practically speaking, most communities in PNG have already developed this dependency mentality. Instead of them working together to solve problems that faced their communities, they sit back and wait for the government. The government also feels helpless and that’s where it invites the foreigners to come in. If the communities, over the last 37 years, had organised themselves in working together to provide for their own needs like building classrooms, aid posts, roads, bridges and so on, we wouldn’t have any problem achieving this goal now. It would have already been achieved 10 or 20 years ago. The kind of mentality that people developed has passed on and this has become evident in today’s situation where people have moved from being self-reliant to being more dependent.