Archive for the ‘Constitution’ Category

As the pre-independence Papua New Guinea Constitutional Planning Committee rummaged the length and breadth of what was soon to be the new PNG, the many thoughts of the citizens were given. These were all compiled into what we call the National Goals and Directive Principles.

The very first goal outlines what the Constitutional Planning Committee wanted every citizen Papua New Guinea to reach, in order to unify and strengthen the state.

In simplified terms, Integral Human Development is the ‘creation of a person that is ‘whole’ or a ‘complete being’ within the state of Papua New Guinea. In the Constitutional Planning Committee Report (1974) it is written:

This means that we use the term development to mean nothing less than the unending process of improvement of every man and woman as a whole person. We take our stand on the dignity and worth of each Papua New Guinean man, woman and child.

‘Dignity’ and ‘worth’ of every Papua New Guinean is what the citizens wanted as the very first goal of Papua New Guinea as a nation as from 1975. The people wanted the independent state of Papua New Guinea to be the catalyst towards citizens respecting each other. Through citizens seeing value in each other, development should flow freely for all, the First Goal argues.

When the lawmakers tapped into Integral Human Development, they addressed the human person as a ‘whole’. For in the ‘whole’ human person, we connote the three main parts of a person: a man is made up of the spiritual, physical and mental components. Manifestation into these parts meant the Constitution was truly holistic. It was dedicating itself into getting every PNG citizen to be free spiritually, physically and mentally.

In the spiritual aspect of life, for example, the National Constitution was to uphold the Melanesian traditions, cultures or norms that connect the man to his environment. I say this because Melanesians were spiritual beings long before Western colonisation of our islands.

In terms of physical well-being, by enshrining Integral Human Development as priority number one, the government was telling the world that it would provide for its citizens. Equality, fairness and justice in the political, economic and social spheres was its obligation. This would imply, for example, that poverty would be eradicated for every citizen. In terms of mental well-being, the first goal implies the state is to provide easy access to services such as education and health care, without discrimination.

To the Constitutional Planning Committee, providing these things were the new nation’s top duty. It recognised that by a total commitment to the people, the newly independent nation could create a stable and viable state where every person was free to access and benefit from every development in Papua New Guinea.

To me, positive change for Papua New Guinea’s progress was well catered for on paper. The National Goals provide a nice foundation for any nation builder’s strategizing. But the leadership, on the other hand, were already engaged in denying citizens from seeing his or her fellow countryman or woman as having his or her own ‘dignity and worth’.

Inequality and injustice was what the colonial administration blessed the government of Papua New Guinea with to start off as an independent country, directly contradicting its written laws including National Goal number one.

A classic case in this regard is my Solomon island of Bougainville. The Government of Papua New Guinea was not willing to respect our ‘dignity and worth’ as non-Papua New Guineans. It was not willing to allow us to develop with our own values, despite goal number one, and despite being a member of the United Nations that protects minorities or marginalised peoples against all forms of genocide, exploitation and suppression.

At the cost of Bougainvillean land and people’s ‘dignity and worth’, Papua New Guinea was trying to get the new state up and running economically. Our dignity and worth was nothing to the state, which was built to sustain the bicycle tyre called Papua New Guinea and not those spokes that strengthen that tyre to carry the country.

And today, despite our very first goal being ‘Integral Human Development’, we still witness Papua New Guineans denying each others’ dignity and worth.

In summary, Integral Human Development is for the state to empower each individual citizen’s dignity and worth in its own unique setting for a harmonious national sustenance and developmental progress. But, for Papua New Guinea, the respect for its citizen’s dignity and worth has been neglected in the name of national progress, at the expense of the development of each citizen as a whole person.

By Martyn Namarong

 “Economic independence of a nation produces true political independence of a nation state. Political independence is only a facade if the nation is not economically independent. Economic independence is the control of the wealth of a nation by a majority of its citizens. Thus, in any context, Economic Independence means local ownership of resources and the means of production for the utilization of natural wealth (aka our natural resources)”

One of the fundamental ideas behind the creation of nation states is the right of a people to self determination. It is about a people being in charge of their destiny. The idea of a People being FULLY in charge of their own affairs is expressed in the word SOVEREIGNTY.

Sovereignty of a People expresses itself as:

– Political Independence

– Economic Independence

– Cultural and Societal Independence

What do each of these mean?

Political independence in its fullness finds itself in the way Political Power is exercised by the Citizens of a Nation State. In order for Citizens to exercise these powers, they must have greater political capital than any organization, institution or foreign influence. A nation State in which its Citizens have less Political Capital than other third parties, is not a politically independent state.

I have decided to use political capital as a marker of true political independence as it expresses who has greater influence on the agenda of a nation’s highest legislative entity – Parliament.

Declarations of Independence and the creation of Parliaments are mere symbols of the desire of a People to have full power and authority to execute decisions about the destiny of their nation.

Parliaments and Constitutions are symbols of Authority. Ultimately, though, the exercise of Authority or the execution of powers is determinant on whether the Authority has the resource capacity. If the Authority has its own resources, it exercises its own Powers. If the Authority has its resource needs supplied by a third party (e.g mining companies), its Powers are exercised merely as the will of the third party.

If the Authority has its needs supplied by its people, then it expresses the will of the people.

If one looks at the relationship between resource ownership or wealth and the exercise of political power, one understands that Political Power is based upon the ownership of wealth. In other words, economic independence of a nation produces true political independence of a nation state. Political independence is only a facade if the nation is not economically independent.

In any context, Economic Independence, means local ownership of resources and the means of production for the utilization of natural wealth (aka natural resources). Local ownership is crucial to having the General Will of the People being expressed through a Political Authority.

If resources within a political boundary are owned and exploited by foreigners or a few elite, the Political Authority or Government reflects the will of these parties. In instances where the “state” owns the resource, the Government’s decisions reflect the will of those who create the enabling mechanism for exploiting the resources. Therefore, whoever controls the wealth of a nation controls the state.

If the exploiters are state apparatuses then the government decisions reflect the will of those in power. If the exploiters are private individuals or companies, then the power relationship is relative to how much private investment went into the exploitation. The greater, the private investment, the greater the power the private investor has in the relationship.

All Governments need resources to exercise their power. It is therefore in the interest of Governments to ensure that they have a sustainable and reliable supply of resources. If the state owns and supplies its own resource needs, then the state promotes its own interests. If citizens supply the resource needs of the state, the state protects the interests of its citizens. If corporations supply the resource needs of the state, the state protects the interests of corporations.

In today’s context, governments also have resources supplied in the form of loans and foreign aid. The state would obviously listen to the suggestions of these parties as well. Even Churches and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who indirectly supply resources by playing the role of the State, undermine political independence.

As a stated earlier, political independence is the exercise of the general will of the citizens by their government. As soon as the government diverges from this paradigm, the people lose political independence. Political independence however, is founded upon economic independence. Economic independence is the control of the wealth of a nation by a majority of its citizens.

Economic independence is a necessary precursor for the creation of a politically independent nation. A nation for the people and by the people is only possible where the people are in charge of the economy of the nation.

“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”

“The constitutional fathers dreamt that one day we would be free. We worked very hard to look at the needs and the aspirations of the totality of the highly diversified – culturally, linguistically, even religiously – people of Papua New Guinea. And we tried to come up with something that would form them to become a great people with a great vision and motivate them to take the necessary steps to become activators of change and development, not mere passive recipients of goods and services.

It is sad that we have leaders of this country who are, for their own political and selfish ends, prepared to sacrifice the collective good of the people of Papua New Guinea. Using political parties … as vehicles of convenience to get into power, to manipulate and exploit the people of this country.

We have been marginalised.  And we are marginalised because a number of our leaders have been bribed.

And that is why young people today must unite and be educated with those universal, perennial values that are very important for any nation. 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.

We have some hope of reversing the situation that is fast developing this country with detrimental consequences of making Papua New Guineans totally dependent on government hand-outs and so on. PNG I believe now stands at the threshold of a new order. But we have a great mission to liberate and empower our people not only objects of development, but subjects of development as well. We must be the agents of change. We must not be prepared to be told ‘yu no can askim plenti question.’

But we have many problems, because when you try to redirect a warship that is set on a course, it is not easy. But it does not give us the excuse not to try.

I think that the National Goals and Directive Principles are still very relevant. And if all of us tried to implement (the vision) enshrined in the National Goals and Directive Principles, Papua New Guinea would be a better place.

National sovereignty and self-reliance are very, very important. National sovereignty calls on leaders not to sell their people’s rights. Not to allow this country to be ripped up and raped by foreign investors. National sovereignty calls on leaders to reject bribery. National sovereignty calls on leaders not to use public funding to make investments overseas while their constituents are barely making enough money to buy medicine, school fees, and so on.

Self-reliance means embarking on a massive program of empowering people to get involved in small scale socio-economic activities. Activities that would take into full account the Melanesian way.

We are communal peoples. Social relationships, interdependence, to us is very, very important. We don’t want to marginalise people. We don’t want to compete and destroy one another. We want to collaborate, we want to form interdependence. Interdependence: we are all leaders. We depend on one another.

Good leaders must be servants. Good leaders must be educated enough to appreciate the values of human dignity, the right of each citizen to participate, the right of each citizen to have a say, the right to have a voice. We are all equals. Good leaders should not have the license because of their position to make policies and decisions that are detrimental to the common good.

In my view, every province in Papua New Guinea should be given greater autonomy. Giving autonomy to Madang, for example, doesn’t mean Madang would want to secede – nogat. Giving autonomy means you are now structurally forcing this highly centralised and bureaucratised government in Port Moresby to give the people of Madang their due. The sources of revenue, sources of employment, sources of information should be decentralised. The national government should not usurp the role of the provincial governments.

If you look at the natural resources that are being destroyed and are being developed today, what are the tangible results of the exploitation of the people’s resources? In 1974, PNG leadership was talking about a need for sustainable development. For ecological balance. Preserving our rainforests and only using what we need, and not destroying the beautiful rainforest and the seas we have.

As active agents of change, we can create an educated, intelligent, just society for PNG. Out of the many combinations of tribes and languages we can create a very good country with all its differences, and create an independent spirit right throughout the nation.”

To watch short films featuring John Momis  discussing writing the Constitution, click here and here.

To watch a video about the National Goals and Directive Principles, click here.

We are beginning to understand upcoming elections stand no chance of improving the dismal status quo of non-representation.

As we come to see – sooner than we may have thought – the O’Namah Government is just as bad as Somare’s regime, it’s becoming clear the revolving door of self-interested politicians will continue to spin, no matter how we vote, this election or in another five years’ time.
 
As a result, some are now talking more seriously about political reform. A recent blog post  by former kiap Paul Oates argued PNG’s parliament needs an Upper House to review legislation before it becomes law.
We question whether reinforcing the Westminster system – an imposed system that, Senate or no Senate, is collapsing around the globe – is the right approach.  Should we be thinking of more fundamental reform? Should we be talking about a political system based on our realities and founded on our Pacific values, rather than on a foreign imposed model that’s not working for us?

Let’s start with the root problem: the majority of Papua New Guineans do not feel represented by the current political system. The reasons for this are complex, but can we identify a few of the major flaws?

One thing we need to look at is the number of MPs we have: 109 seats is way too many for people’s concerns to be meaningfully addressed. When 2000 public servants quit their jobs to contest the election, a seat can be won by someone who gets enough of his wantoks and mates together, or buys enough of them. These candidates see the current National Election as a lottery – if they get voted in, they win the spoils of corrupt politics (sponsored by those same foreign corporations supposedly bringing ‘economic growth’ to PNG).

So slashing the number of seats in Parliament would be a start. But even after doing so, the issue of MPs’ accountability to their electorates is not resolved. Money and power is concentrated in Port Moresby, hence the vast majority of local communities get totally neglected, government after government. They lack access to essential health services, school facilities, road access, because their member isn’t based there. He’s in Port Moresby, where he doesn’t have to answer pesky questions about the lack of medicine or electricity from his local constituents.

There are reportedly growing calls for independence among various PNG provinces. This suggests people want to be closer to the decision-making process. A better system of government would be decentralised, so that political leaders were based closer to the communities they are meant to serve. By bringing the decision-making base closer to home, we can ensure greater accountability by leaders across the nation.

And that brings us to the most fundamental reform – a return to the National Goals inscribed in our  Constitution. It declares, in its National Goal for Equality and Participation, that:

WE ACCORDINGLY CALL FOR the creation of political structures that will enable effective, meaningful participation by our people … 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.

In talking about political reform, let’s not constrain ourselves to the box of the current Westminster system. Let’s go back to the forgotten goals of the Constitution, which captured the traditional values which our Melanesian cultures are built on. If the current political system does not respect those values – or those of our Constitution – perhaps it is time to talk about a system that does.