We hit rockbottom in the Pacific last week.
Or at least James Cameron did. The Avatar director’s sub touched down about 11km below the surface at the ocean’s deepest known point, south-west of Guam (reminding us of how foolish it is to be contemplating mining something we know so little about).
There was also a sense that the O’Neill Government hit rockbottom last week.
It was not only the Judicial Conduct Bill 2012 itself, but PM O’Neill’s deeply patronising public response that caused outrage among many Papua New Guineans.
Resentment building after weeks of political scandal after political scandal – most linked to the incorrigible Belden Namah – boiled over when O’Neill used his televised address to pretend the judiciary bill was in the public’s interest, not his own.
People saw through the bullshit and, inspired by the example of the UPNG students, took to Facebook to vent their disgust. Discussion boards like Sharp Talk remain filled with condemnation of the bill and the MPs who passed it. UPNG protest leader Nou Vada has become an overnight hero.
We have taken ownership of this debate. By doing so, ordinary Papua New Guineans have shown O’Neill that he cannot make laws in our name, without our consent.
This is the sort of noble outrage that has been absent in PNG for too long. We have been far too patient with self-serving governments, lazily hoping we’ll get a better deal at the next election.
That apathy comes home to roost in places like Josephstaal, a Middle Ramu community in inland Madang I visited last week.
Josephstaal is wonderfully self-sufficient, but it has been neglected by government after government. Its road is in ruins – I know, because I trekked through it, up to my knees in tais, over the weekend. I had to, because the airstrip is also not fit for planes to fly in and out of.
Transporting supplies to and from Josephstaal is an impossible task. It doesn’t have to be that way, though – the road from nearby village Guam is in great condition. The only difference is its kiap is presumably less corrupt.
Josephstaal is the sort of place the government should be supporting, not neglecting. Give the Josephstaals of PNG better roads and our cities would be flooded with food. ‘Food insecurity’ is a lie the government tells to get more Australian aid money.
But last week, Papua New Guineans began questioning those lies. And O’Neill is listening.
This is an election year, remember. Convince O’Neill that we’ll rausim over this bill, and he WILL repeal it.
If this is the sort of outcome possible when Papua New Guineans express their anger, I say PNG can’t get to the bottom fast enough.