Equality and Participation
Equality and Participation is the second National Goal and Directive Principle that is discussed here. This Goal and Directive Principle say: “We declare our second goal to be for every citizen to have an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the development of our country”. That is, all PNG citizens – male, female, children and others have an equal right to take part in the political, economic, social, religious and cultural life of the country.
Today, are the ordinary citizens of this nation given the equal opportunity to take part and benefit from any activity? Do Papua New Guinean citizens truly enjoy equality in government services, equal participation by women, participation in every aspect of development, the means provided for them to exercise creativity, the achievement of universal literacy, the right to a stable family life?
Our economic system in PNG is not equally distributed. Despite our natural resources, we still face an economic crisis, because certain people are enjoying the wealth and resources while others are suffering. For example, the benefit in terms of money and employment from PNG Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) go to the landowners and its employees alone, not all citizens of this nation. Yet the second goal calls for every effort to be made to achieve an equitable distribution of incomes and other benefits of development among individuals and throughout the various parts of the country.
The second National Goal also calls for the creation of political structures that enable effective, meaningful participation by our people in that life, and in view of the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of our people for those structures to provide for substantial decentralization of all forms of government activity.
However, since independence, politics has become synonymous with corrupt practices like stealing public funds, accepting bribery and playing nepotism in the higher offices. Such practices prevent meaningful participation by our people. Meanwhile, it has become common that men with a high income and a lot of cargo are able to take part in elections while more women and men with little money are being deprived of their right to participation.
The Second Goal further calls for equality of services in all parts of the country, and for every citizen to have equal access to legal processes and all services, governmental and otherwise, that are required for the fulfillment of his or her real needs and aspirations.
Yet the majority of the people are unaware of any government services. Many people do not have access to adequate road, health and education services. Where is the decentralization of all forms of government activity? Obviously, there is no evidence to suggest that any government since Independence has created political structures for the equal benefit of the entire population.
Successive governments since independence have forgotten about the many Papua New Guineans marginalised and isolated largely by vast geographically terrains and the lack of a road link with the outside world. This is the case in my home in Nipa Kutubu electorate in the Southern Highlands Province, where there is no road. Many parts of the country are still in darkness in terms of basic services, meaning that there is no equal distribution of government services. There is no effort made to achieve an equitable distribution of incomes and other benefits of development.
The second goal further calls for equal participation by women citizens in all political, economic, social and religious activities. Politically, women are far behind men despite the three female elected members in the parliament in the current election (2012). Men and women would have been equally represented in politics if there had been more than 40 or 50 female members voted into Parliament. At present there are only three female members out of the 111 Members.
Nor do women have equal participation in all economic, social and religious activities. However, according to Papua New Guinea population statistics the number of women is greater than men. Does the government maximize the opportunities for women to participate in the development of the nation? Evidently, there is no equal participation by women.
Moreover, the second goal calls for means to be provided to ensure that any citizen can exercise his personal creativity and enterprise in pursuit of fulfillment that is consistent with the common good, and for no citizen to be deprived of this opportunity because of the predominant position of another. It is obvious everywhere that jealousy is one of the main factors depriving the rights of individual or group from partaking in activities that would sustain their lives. At the same time, people fear that if they start up a business, they would end up losing their lives by thugs. For instance, the Post Courier (‘Pregnant woman pack raped, dies’, August 21, 2012), reported that a pregnant woman was raped and killed on her way to Bogia to sell their garden produce at the local market. These threats mean that women are indirectly deprived of their right to pursue income generation safely, without fear of their lives. What is the government’s stance on the safety of our market women, who work to feed our families and communities?
It is absolutely clear there is no participation either directly or indirectly by many societies in the decision-making process in this country, despite the fact those decisions affect all individuals. The majority of people are not aware of what the government is doing. This is due to the lack of development in education, road, health and other basic services. Evidently, high illiteracy is the main factor that prevents participation. The National (‘Stocking Literacy Statistics’,August 16, 2012), stated that 43.8% of Papua New Guineans are illiterate. Thus decisions in many societies are made by the educated people – the majority follows them without knowing the outcome of the decision.
At the national level the government makes the decision for every citizen of this nation. However, the consequences will be faced by everybody. Therefore, the government needs to ensure any government activity reaches the community level. Thus, every citizen will not only take part and benefit from the government activities but will have the chance to air their views on matters that will affect them. Otherwise, few people will continue to participate and the majority of the nation’s citizens will remain blind and deaf.
Finally, the second goal calls for recognition of the principles of the equality of rights and duties of married partners, and for responsible parenthood to be based on that equality. As observed in many societies, marriages today are not stable. There is no trust, cooperation and enjoyment in many of the families. Many families are divorcing, and in the process innocent children are displaced, some dying of hunger and others deprived of their right to an education – resulting in them roaming the streets and preying on other people. This is a total indication that there is no equality and rights practiced in the family. Family is the backbone of any development. Thus government has to stabilize family first before any other development takes place. Otherwise, PNG will remain stagnant in terms of development.
It is clear the government has done very little since Independence to achieve Equality and Participation in PNG. The government has to start at the family level, to provide the basic services that enable all people to participate in and contribute to development. Then and only then will the development of Papua New Guinea go forward in a way that benefits all citizens.