Third Goal: National Sovereignty and Self-Reliance
Papua New Guinea’s National Goals and Directive principles are our home-grown set of objectives and aspirations founded upon the traditional customs of our peoples and incorporated into the Constitution of PNG. The National Goals were set as a sense of direction and a guide for every PNG citizen in pursuing and achieving their aims. Importantly, it captured our very own traditional diverse cultures, beliefs and values, and identified proper and applicable mechanisms to promote them. This paper is produced to review and evaluate PNG in terms of National Goal number 3, National Sovereignty and Self-reliance. It asks if PNG is fully exercising its power as an independent state or is still partly independent.
Despite this goal’s inscription in the preamble of the Constitution, it is yet to be realised. It is just another paper plan, decorating our Mama Lo (Constitution). I argue that we are Papua New Guineans and in order to see change and progress, we have to go back and realise this National Goal along with the other four National Goals.
Political Independence is when a government has the full authority and power in making decisions for the nation, which are more or less free of foreign influence and control. Apparently, the National Parliament and Constitution are the benchmark and authority for this. However, the main meaningful measurement of how independently the government is exercising its power is whether it operates in the interest and will of its citizens, rather than serving a handful of elites and private and multinational organisations (foreign investment). Serving such interests keeps our government under the control of foreigners in one way or the other, which in turn sees government neglecting its own people.
Goal 3 declares it is a fundamental goal of the people that PNG should make its own decisions, and that its sovereignty should not be reduced by external political, economic or military dependence; that national leaders should always be free to make national decisions.
Now we want these words to be actions to lead us towards realising and achieving National Sovereignty and Self-reliance. But to do so, our governance must differentiate itself from the colonial manner of administration, which is better termed as the western Model of Development. This model of development is inducing our government to be dependent or serving the interest of foreigners and not becoming the true representative of the people who voted them in. PNG blogger Martyn Namorong has identified this so called western model of development as the root cause of all evil in PNG.
I see that if our government preserves this foreign imposed model, it is likely our elected representatives will function perpetually in the interest of foreigners and elites without worrying about the National Goals set for Papua New Guineans to realise development on our own terms. The current model, a colonial legacy, is deliberately designed by westerners in a way that it will induce our government to function in their interest, even though we have been given the opportunity to govern ourselves. Moreover, this model of development disempowers indigenous people, and leads to law and order problems and political instability. This model is not in the interest of PNG citizens and contradicts with our traditionally established values. It seriously ignores the directive principles integrated into our Constitution.
Therefore, political independence to me means that we should go back to the eight directive principles inscribed under the National Sovereignty and Self-Reliance goal, and put them into tangible practice. Political independence will only occur if our political system is reformed on the basis of PNG values. Achieving stronger government decentralisation and devolution would be of great benefit towards this. As former Constitutional Planning Committee member John Momis said recently, “We must not be afraid to make a detour from wayward ways and go back to the past that the National Goals and Directive Principles of our Constitution prescribe for us.”
Another area undermining PNG’s political independence is foreign influence. It is stated in principle eight that PNG’s sovereignty
“must not be undermined by dependence on foreign assistance of any sort, and in particular for no investment, military or foreign-aid agreement or understanding to be entered into that imperils our self-reliance and self-respect, or our commitment to these National Goals and Directive Principles, or that may lead to substantial dependence upon or influence by any country, investor, lender or donor”.
One on-going problem that triggers foreign dependence is debt.The government always branches out to international agencies such as International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank for assistance, which allows these international ‘aid’ agencies to implement a range of strict economic and administrative policies without the people’s say. Furthermore, even churches and other non-governmental organizations undermine political independence.
Thus, the Goal of Sovereignty and Self-reliance means to me that our government must be reformed in a way that really reflects the wills and values of PNG. Instead of operating in accordance with the flawed system left behind by the whiteman, and with less foreign assistance of any sort. This requires, critically, decentralisation. Government agencies and the public service should be fully functional and efficient.
In addition, it also means that people should have much more power to execute decisions about the destiny of their lives. When our government becomes the true representative for our people, then we might well see real political independence.