Election of PNG Prime Minister

By: PNG Political Commentary FB Page

There has been a lot of confusion and also a lack of understanding in regards to the election of the PNG Prime Minister. Therefore I’m here to give an explanation on the election of the Prime Minister to clear the polluted air. And that’s right the Prime Minister is elected! Not appointed! That’s one thing you all have to understand. Who elects the Prime Minister? All 111 members of Parliament take part in the election of the Prime Minister.

Now let’s get down to basics. First of all it is the law that regulates or outlines the Prime Minister’s election process. The PNG Constitution, Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties (OLIPP), and the Parliamentary Standing Orders (PSO) are important laws to take note of.

 

Invitation to Form Government

• It all starts with an “Invitation to Form Government” (Section 63(1) OLIPP). Under this particular provision the Electoral Commission, on the date of the return of the writs, is mandatorily obliged to advise the Head of Stead (Governor General) of the political party which has endorsed the greatest number of candidates declared elected.

• After receiving the advice from Electoral Commission, the Governor General then, in accordance with the advice of the Electoral Commission, invites that particular political party to form government.

• Note that the Governor General cannot act on his own accord but only on the advice of the Electoral Commission. Also the Governor General is not at this point appointing a political party to form government but rather inviting it to form Government. Like for instance, someone sends you an invitation to go to a birthday Party. If you receive the invitation it doesn’t mean you’re already at the party, you may go or you may not go.

At this time according to the latest reports, it is evident that People’s National Congress Party (PNC) has the greatest numbers of candidates that have been duly declared as elected in 2017. Therefore there’s no doubt that PNC would be invited by the Governor General to form Government.

parliament

Election of Prime Minister under PSO section 7

This is the stage where things become technical but I’ll try to be as layman as possible.

• The Prime Minister is elected by members of Parliament normally during Parliament’s second meeting. The first Parliament meeting is convened after the due date of the return of the writs and is usually for swearing in of members, the election of the Speaker, and other official business (s142(3) PNG Constitution, see also case of Haiveta v Wingti & others [1994] PNGLR 197) .

• By virtue of section 63(4) of the OLIPP and section 7 of the PSO, the political party that has received the invitation to form government from the Governor General has the privilege of nominating a member of parliament to become Prime Minister. Parliament would then vote after the nomination and the nominated candidate would have to muster a simple majority in order to be elected and declared Prime Minister.

• If the candidate nominated by the invited political party does not receive a simple majority than Parliament would have to resort to section 7A of the PSO for the election of a Prime Minister.

• Take note that the procedure under section 7A of the PSO is only followed if the candidate nominated by the invited political party fails to secure a simple majority of votes to become the elected and declared Prime Minister.

• Simple majority should be around 50% of the total members of parliament. So 50% x 111= 55.5 round it up you get 56.

Election of Prime Minister under Section 7A PSO

• The Speaker of Parliament calls for nominations.

• At this stage the floor is open to all members of Parliament to make nominations.

• Under this process the privilege of nominating a candidate
for the Prime Minister’s seat is not only given to the party invited to form government but also other political parties.

• Members of Parliament can nominate more than one candidate for the Prime Minister’s seat under this process.

• A preferred nominated candidate for Prime Minister does not need to reach a simple majority of votes from members of parliament. The preferred nominated candidate only needs to receive a majority of votes in order for him to be declared as the duly elected Prime Minister (PSO section 7A(11) ).

If PNC and its coalition partners increases to 56 or more, most likely we’ll see PNC’s Party Leader retain his seat as Prime Minister and the formation of a PNC coalition government. On the other hand if the Eastern Alliance Camp increases we might see a change of government. Remember this is Papua New Guinea, so expect the unexpected…

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Immediate Priorities to Prepare for 2017 Elections 

By: Solomon Kantha 
Recommended to Electoral Commissioner in 2015

IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES TO PREPARE FOR 2017 ELECTIONS 

 

a) Improvement of Electoral Roll 
The electoral roll will be the key priority and will obviously require a proper, thorough and effective updating. The Electoral Commission will need to work closely with political parties, candidates, elected leaders, civil society and voters to get the buy-in to ensure a clean and updated electoral roll. It has to do more than just administering elections. Roll management needs to be configured so that any re-enrolment, updating and verification is conducted with centralized oversight, auditing and controls. More importantly, a dedicated roll management unit within the Electoral Commission headquarters must be set up and supported by the government as a specific program. There would also need to be transparent recruitment and performance management and regular auditing of province, district, and ward-based level staff.

 

Reasonably low-cost technology can compile (in the field) a digital Voters’ Roll that includes both photograph and fingerprints. Consideration will be given to requesting this technology and to trialling it in priority areas.  

 

b) Introduction of Voter Identification Card 
A voter ID card must be implemented for the 2017 elections and is the single most important device that can transform the election in the polling process by eliminating double/multiple voting, voting using ghost names, under-aged voting, impersonation and other aspects of electoral fraud. A basic voter ID card can be introduced with a photograph and finger print basic security feature and issued to every eligible registered voter. I have observed the use of a voter ID card in elections in other countries in the region and it has tremendously facilitated a successful election. The voter ID will have the basic particulars of a person such as an ID number, full name, sex, date of birth, province, district, electorate/constituency, and village. The voter will therefore vote in the electorate that appears on his/her voter ID. Apart from its use once every five years, the ID card can also serve the purpose of other identification for ordinary citizens to access banking, travel, pension, business and other services. The voter ID card will be reissued only if the person changes electorate or changes name in the case of a married female voter.  

 

A Voter ID Unit will be established to work on the voter ID card system and kick start the process for 2017 elections. A bid process can be advertised with the contract awarded to a consultant company to set up the IT infrastructure for the Electoral Commission to administer, register and process all voter ID cards. The process of the production of voter ID cards will be owned by the Electoral Commission. Once an eligible voter is registered the particulars of the individual will be automatically transmitted to the central system in the headquarters to process the person’s voter ID card.  

 

c) Improvement of Polling Process 
The polling process can be improved with the use of a voter ID card. An eligible voter will be required to produce their voter ID card to a polling official before casting their vote. In the event that a person presents their voter ID card but their name is not on the electoral roll, the person can still vote given the validity, authenticity and authority of the voter ID card. If the person for some reason does not have a voter ID card but their name is on the roll, the person can still vote provided that the person provides a valid and genuine form of identification such as a driver’s license or PNG passport. If the person’s does not have a voter ID card and their name is not on the roll, the person cannot vote. The use of the voter ID card against the roll will help to significantly reduce the number of eligible voters not voting if their names for some reason are not on the common roll as seen in the recent election.  

 

The process by which the indelible ink is used to mark the finger of a person after voting will also be changed. A person will have to dip their finger at least half-way into the ink instead of just a line on the finger tip. An appropriate ink for that purpose will be used and can last up to a month on the finger. This process will eliminate the practice of removing the indelible ink by using acidic fruits, bleach or other chemicals. 

 

d) Improvement of Counting Process 
Given the recent experience with the significant mistrust in the counting processes in the last election that led to a lot of delays, a regional/provincial rotational system of counting officials will be developed whereby counting officials from one region (e.g. New Guinea Islands) will be moved to another region (e.g. Momase region) to take charge of counting. All counting will be undertaken by officials not originally from the province so that the integrity of the process is respected by all parties/candidates of the particular electorate which the counting is taking place. A volunteer registration system can also be developed to recruit individuals in the provinces to be involved in the rotational system of the counting process, provided that these individuals have a neutral standing in the community. These are options that can be considered to improve and instill trust in the counting process.  

 

e) Promoting Minority Rights and Rights of Vulnerable Groups 
An awareness raising campaign would be conducted to promote the political rights of minority groups (women, people living with HIV/AIDS and disables), vulnerable communities (those affected by climate change, natural disaster or ethnic conflicts) including PNG citizens living/working abroad to participate effectively in the elections. The rights of minority and vulnerable groups will be reflected in legislation and/or policy. For the elections to be a truly democratic process, these groups of citizens need to be empowered to participate in the election process. To promote the rights of these groups a Goodwill Envoy who may be a popular international, regional or local musician/band or artist can be selected and sponsored for various awareness events leading up to the elections. 

 

 

MID TO LONG-TERM PRIORITIES 

 

f) Legislative Review 
The Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections is outdated and needs a thorough review to embrace the changes in society, evolving political culture and the needs and issues of this present time. The review will allow the Electoral Commission to effectively administer elections. A legislative review should consider issues such as: (a) political rights of citizens abroad, and minority and vulnerable groups in society; (b) introduction of a biometric and/or basic voter ID Card system; (c) the procedures of postal voting to allow citizens outside of country and those absent during election period from their electorate; (d) clearly defined roles of Returning officers, Assistant Returning Officers, Presiding Officers and Scrutineers; (e) a swift and inexpensive process of decision-making by Courts on election disputes and petitions; (f) enhancing powers of the Electoral Commission and; (g) setting reasonable limits to campaign expenditure. These are few of the major issues but there is a critical need to review the entire legislation so that it reflects the changes in the social, economic and political dynamics of the PNG. The review may also embrace some of the points discussed below in this proposal. 

 

g) Counting and Declaration of Election Results 
This process is proposed to be reflected in the legislative review where after the counting of all ballot boxes the provisional election results will be immediately provided by the Returning Officer to all candidates and political parties in an electorate. The candidates/parties will be given 72 hours to make a claim or appeal against the provisional results. If there are any claims/appeal against the winning candidate or provisional results, a special court much like the Court of Disputed Returns in each province will convene immediately to make a final decision within 7 days subject to evidence provided. After the Court’s decision the final results of the election will be officially tabulated and announced. This process will take not more than a week and the court’s decision is final.  

 

This process will significantly reduce the waste of resources, time, money and effort incurred by the State, aggrieved and declared candidates through the Court of Disputed Returns and allow the winning candidates to assume their mandates and immediately move on with the responsibilities in their electorate, province and at the national level.   

 

h) Out of Country and Postal Voting 
The Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections allow for the use of postal voting by PNG citizens living/working abroad however this process has never been implemented since 1964. Postal voting for citizens living abroad will be piloted in at least two countries (Australia and New Zealand) where there are a significant number of PNG citizens residing. Particular Diplomatic Missions of the country abroad can also be identified as regional postal voting locations (e.g. Brussels in Europe, Singapore in Asia, Washington DC in Americas and Canberra in the Pacific) whereby votes of citizens in that region can be sent to these Missions to forward on to the Electoral Commission. The Organic Law on Elections will be reviewed to have specific provisions on the eligibility of citizens abroad, the required proof of citizenship and the electorate by which they will vote for to allow citizens abroad to exercise their democratic and political rights. Electoral Commission will be working closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and PNG Immigration & Citizenship Service Authority to implement this initiative.  

 

Postal voting will be conducted and postal ballots received by the Electoral Commission a week prior to the nation-wide polling schedules. An electoral officer will be seconded to PNG consular offices overseas in the period of postal voting and will be responsible for administering the process. The process of postal voting will also be implemented for those citizens that may be traveling during the election period, those that will be engaged in providing security (e.g. Police and Defence personnel) during elections and those that are sick, disabled or unable to vote in person for reasons beyond their control.    

 

i) Defining the role of election officials 
The Returning Officers, Assistant Returning Officers, Presiding Officers and Scrutineers play a very important role particularly in the counting process and their roles need to be clearly defined in legislation if not in policy. Experience in previous elections as well as the last election has shown that the counting process can be easily hijacked if the roles of these officers and their powers are not clearly defined and demarcated. While scrutineers in particular play a vital role in ensuring that ballot papers are clearly allocated and votes counted they should never overpower the Returning Officers and disrupt continuity of counting process especially in light of timeframes that are set for the declaration of results and return of writs. Nevertheless, clear processes and procedures must be in place for the grievances of scrutineers to be effectively taken into consideration. The legislation and/or policy would be revised to improve a clear coordination and understanding of roles and responsibilities between these officials.  

 

j) Enhancing the enforcement powers of the Electoral Commission 
The legislative review will also take in account and enhance the powers of the Electoral Commissioner to suspend elections or polling and counting processes if there is a critical security risk and widespread violence that affects or prevents citizens from freely, fairly and safely participating in the election process. The people must learn to respect democratic election processes and until they respect that process they will not have a representative in Parliament. The Electoral Commissioner must have the powers to put on hold the election process in an electorate or province indefinitely in the case of widespread violence and electoral fraud until the people come to a compromise to guarantee a free, fair and safe election.  

 

In the elections conducted over the years the Electoral Commission has never taken a strong stance in prosecuting cases of electoral fraud and abuse. Candidates can sign up to the rules of “fair play” and to provide speedy and effective processes for dealing with breaches of electoral laws. Accepting the need for independent scrutiny by the Courts, the Electoral Commission should be able to act as Plaintiff, not just as Defendant, in enforcing electoral law. Consideration will be given to establishing a special “Election Tribunal” with election and legal expertise to consider breaches of the electoral laws during elections. If the Electoral Commission had reliable evidence of a person breaching the campaign laws (for example, bribery) it should apply to remove the Candidate from that election. If the vote had already taken place, the first preference would be removed just as if that candidate had been eliminated, and other preferences re-allocated. The new message needs to be: breaching electoral rules is not to your advantage. The old message effectively was: anything that improved the chances of winning was acceptable. 

  

k) Limits on campaign expenditure 
To prevent domination by only the wealthiest in elections, many countries have reasonably effective limits to campaign expenditure. Without clear rules spelling out acceptable expenditure and banning “traditional gifts”, such limits would be completely unviable in PNG. All politicians and indeed their communities should share an interest in setting effective limits on campaign expenditure. I accept, however, that enforcement is a major problem. But legislation can empower the Electoral Commission to establish such limits by Regulation, when it deems that reasonable enforcement possibilities exist. 

 

l) Candidates to declare assets 
It makes little sense to clean up elections without linkage to corresponding sanctions in public office to stop the cycle of corruption. Obviously there are existing processes in place in this regard, but consideration could be given to requiring all Candidates (not just elected MPs) to submit declarations of assets to the Ombudsman as part of the nomination process, and to provisions which would mean that any false declaration rendered the person ineligible to stand for a defined period. The purpose of the recommendation is firstly educative (in reminding candidates that they embark on a process where their overall integrity is on the line) and secondly to lay the basis for possible later investigation if relevant. Playing by the rules should not be just one option in a game of winning at all costs – it should be a condition for being a candidate or holder of public office. 

 

m) Abolishing by-elections 
The legislation will be reviewed to as much as possible allow the abolishment of by-elections. Consideration will be given to abolishing by-elections under certain conditions. Under First Past the Post (FPP), “winning” candidates routinely received less than 10% of the overall vote. With three votes under LPV, there is solid evidence that a far wider democratic mandate would have been won by even losing candidates than was often secured under FPP. It would, in my view, be perfectly legitimate to consider requiring the Electoral Commission to complete the count in a manner that would allow the reallocation of votes in the event that a person lost his or her seat. Careful attention to detail would be necessary, including possibly requiring a by-election in the event of the death of an MP or under extraordinary circumstances the voluntary resignation of an MP. Other factors would include situations where a person was removed because of, say, mass multiple voting that threatened the integrity of the ballot, that person’s entire vote would be excluded, including all three preferences (because of the fraud). But in principle, it should be possible to allow the reallocation of votes of a person who lost her or his seat, to establish a successor with the next highest mandate. This alone, would save millions of Kina and allow the Electoral Commission to concentrate on the Roll between elections.

Less Money, Less Vote Buying

By: Political Observer

Reports received from 2017 NGE candidates across the country is that they are running out of money for their campaign. It seems most are wishing and hoping that June 24th arrived so ends the campaigning.

We still have 5 weeks to go and most Political Parties and Candidates have run dry.

Kerengu Kua stated to ABC that this has several implications for PNG democracy.

However, the alternative viewpoints also is that, this will see a test of candidates who heavy rely on “Vote Buying” to change their strategy and start using “development policies” to win votes.

Most candidates dont have a practical Political Platform and the lack of money in spending will put “Spot lights” on alternatives which they can offer rather than “vote buying” and big ceremonies.

Strong Political Platforms will be the Big Winner this election..


Papua New Guinea’s cash crunch saps colour from election campaigns

 

Tough economic times are affecting Papua New Guinea’s normally colourful election campaign.

Candidates and parties are crying poor, and that has meant the normally feverish campaign is more subdued than expected.

The leader of the PNG National Party, Kerenga Kua, said that has implications for PNG’s democracy.

Kua
It’s election season in Papua New Guinea, which means it’s time for colourful campaigns, rallies and outlandish promises by candidates.
“There is less colour, less movement, and that’s not good, because you need to have some level of activity for educational purposes,” he said.

“The messages from candidates need to go out for the people. To do that, they need money and they don’t have money.”
Voters usually expect campaigns to be a period of uncharacteristic generosity from their incumbent politicians and intending candidates.

In the past, many have received inducements to support particular candidates, such as money, food or alcohol.

“They think the candidates will give them money, they will take the money as something they always wanted and they use the money and they cast their votes,” she said.
“They’re not thinking about the future of how they will enjoy the benefits of the government doing some good things for them, because they need money now.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-22/pngs-cash-crunch-saps-colour-from-election-campaigns/8544274?pfmredir=sm

 

 

SO WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?

By: Douveri Henao

The past couple of days, we’ve seen politicians and commentators rushing to the public to remind us that they made these predictions years ago the economy was tanking. They read the signs, saw the writing on the wall and as prophets of old, we did not respond. All true. But the people of Papua New Guinea don’t want reminders, they want solutions and this is the disappointment for the past couple of days.  
The only agreed consensus is kick out the current government and all will be well. Lets entertain the notion, but then what? How do you improve the economy? How do you turn the tide around?  

I’m of the view that any new leadership will be constraint by 2 factors to make meaningful change in the state of the economy in which all governments of PNG suffered. These are the inability for political institutions to reform the age-old patrimonial system and the lack of diversity in political ideology. 

PATRIMONIAL SYSTEM REFORM 
Respected thought leader in political science, Francis Fukuyama, makes the observation that patrimonial systems or in our case, wantok system, continues to undermine the ability for political institutions to grow into efficient organizations. Whereby meritocracy permits the best and brightest to formulate and execute public policy to the best of their abilities.  
The fiscal strategy of the current government has been underpin by the need to finance the patrimony. Over 12 billion kina has been given to sub national governments with limited capacity to absorb its use. While Waigani correctly claims its systems are able to deliver and execute projects of significance, no other government tier has the skills and resources. Therefore, this resource has largely fed the patrimony in an assortment of various schemes that have little impact to the constituency. 
There is also the bulging public service that is unsustainable and at most times, unproductive. It has cost the country 10 billion kina in this session of parliament. Public institutions have become villagers where CEOs have become chiefs and officers from there liking have become nobles and enemies have become commoners. So the nobles and the chief thrive on this healthy state bill to build there kingdoms and along the way, execute meaningful public policy.  
This Prime Minister and those before him have publically spoke of the rot that they have inherited in the public service. They have used various systems to mitigate patrimony and while some have been successful, many have not and its persistency undermines the fact that we need a different strategy.  
The key position is for the new leadership to work towards transitioning the current patrimonial political system to a robust merit based system not in the public service, but in the political system. Its ok to use wantoks, but use wantoks that know their stuff. Instill benchmarks to push productivity and inculcate a climate of vigorous science in building policy. This in turn can assist the public institutions to deliver the desired vision.  
THE NEED FOR DIVERSITY IN POLITICAL IDEOLOGY 

Every Prime Minister and current MPs as well as most political parties have subscribed for a strong socialist left leaning political platform. Big governments to bring social programmes to the masses, big governments to drive commerce, big governments to protect the community and big governments to bring jobs.  
While there is justification in this messianic approach due to market failures that undermine investment beyond Waigani and provincial capitals, it undermines other important players to participate in development. The efficiencies of the private sector and the enthusiasm of the civil society need to coexist and where possible, thrive.  
The new leadership needs to facilitate rather then participate and monopolize development. There are something’s that the public service and political systems isn’t built for and that limitation needs to be recognized.  
BEYOND 2017
We need political systems to be less emotional and more juiced up on the smarts. We need political systems to be more facilitative and less monopolistic.

Woman candidates take Parliament training

By: Roslyn Peter

Parliamentary training for woman candidates interested in contesting the PNG NGE 2017 is a great idea and gives an insight for our woman. This is a concept that would ease the elected woman into her seat in Parliament.

But one thing that should be continuously taught throughout the Parliament is ‘Financial Management, Ethics and Responsibility’

What we have seen time and time is mismanagement of finance and the lack of leadership responsibilities in our elected leaders.

Good leaders are easily lead astray when given power and when put under pressure from their colleagues. This makes their job of governing their electorate much much difficult.

Our mama dated leaders need constant and effective training to help them in their electorates and also help them with their responsibilities.

Getting financial training and management training should be the TOP priority for intending candidates and not just for our woman ..
————

By: Post Courier
FIFTY women candidates who intend to run for the 2017 National Election have been selected to participate in a week of training on parliamentary processes.
In a highly competitive process, participants from 22 provinces were selected from more than 200 applicants and will be trained on critical national policy issues, parliamentary processes and campaign strategies from March 6-13 this year in Port Moresby.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) PNG acting resident representative, Ms Tracy Vienings said UNDP was proud to be supporting the Practice Parliament for the second time in Papua New Guinea.
“We believe it is important to ensure that PNG women have the opportunity and ability to actively participate in politics.
“With only three women MPs out of 111 in Papua New Guinea’s current parliament, women continue to be under-represented as political leaders and elected officials,” she said. 

Highly qualified candidates from doctors to village women and women from other sectors of the community applied for PNG Practice Parliament for Women training, highlighting just how many women are keen to represent PNG and be active in political life.


The program aims to empower intending candidates to prepare themselves in the lead up to upcoming national elections in April 2017.
The program, organised by the UNDP in coordination with the Office of Integrity of Political Parties, National Parliament and Department of Community Development and religion, will culminate with a practice session in the Parliament chamber on March 13.

According to Ms Vienings, this training will develop women candidate’s skills not only in campaigning for elections, but also in engaging with policy issues that are critical to PNG’s future.
“That is the role of an MP, and we want to help women prepare to become elected representatives,” she said.
The 50 participants were selected by a screening committee, and were also cross-checked with the Electoral Commission to ensure each participant filled in a Form 29 to contest the 2017 elections.
The final list of participants is available below and on the Facebook page: “PNG Practice Parliament for Women 2017 <https://www.facebook.com/PNGPracticeParl2017/&gt; .
http://www.postcourier.com.pg/Stories/women-candidates-take-parlt-training/#.WLcwQ8vXef1

HE WHO PLANTS FIRST, REAPS EARLY!

By: Andrew Arthur

The Agriculture Sector is about to get a Major Shakeup!

As the campaigning of forming the next Government heats up. Each Political party would want to be seen as the Government for the people and wants to connect to the people. Major policy pushed would be a returned to the Agriculture Sector …

First to fire their Policy is Pangu Party with a funding of K2billion promised for Agriculture! K1 billion to be spent on Coffee and Cocoa as they believe would earn more. The other K1 billion is to be spread across other agriculture sectors.

The reality is…according to FAO, coffee is listed number 22 of the most important and high earning crop and cocoa is not listed in the top 52 at all!

hydroponics-solves-food-security-issue
Hydroponic solves food security issues

Pangu would be guilty of making the same mistake they did in the early 1980’s………..

What this country needs is to invest into the right product…..look at the list attached, pick the Top 30 and invest into that according to priority.

Food Security is what is Needed the Most! Invest into Food Security as oppose to investing into Coffee and Cocoa!

1. Rice
2. Cattle Farming
3. Poultry Farming
4. Piggery
5. Tomatoes, beans, onions etc…

This is where the people in Papua New Guinea want us to invest in….this is what put food on the table

Invest in Food Security!

——————————————————–
Pangu Pati will invest into AGRICULTURE when in Government.

Today PNG’s Economy depends on 80% Non-renewal resources & 20% Agriculture export earnings, it was the other way around when we took independence in 1975.

Pangu Pati plans to invest at least K2b into agriculture with a billion directory into Coffee & Cocoa expansion and extension programs.

Coffee to become MINISTRY of COFFEE while cocoa to be the same as both are currently earning K500m into our economy from export earnings.

The investment into the two leading cash crops will see a 15 to 20 years timeline to increase production to earn over K2b plus into our economy.

Expansion and extension programs will see an annual investment K200m each into coffee and cocoa programs.

Agricuiture Ministry will be the leading ministry once again under Pangu Pati with coffee and cocoa to independently branch out into ministries of their own.

The rural population and business groups will participate more into agricuiture to feed PNG the world.
Agricuiture is sustainable and safe investment that PNG must quickly invest into to reduce our reliance on non-renewals.
The National Pg 7 07/02/17

most-valuable-crop-livestock
Most valuable crops and livestock according to FAO
16473502_10155141976821614_9182958399000375870_n
Pangu wants to invest in Coffee and Cocoa with K1 billion

Can Social Media Transform Papua New Guinea? Reflections and Questions

by Mitchell Rooney

As of July 2012 there just over 100,000 registered facebook users in Papua New Guinea (PNG), most of whom are below the age of 35, and an increasing array of PNG related websites. The explosion in the use of social media by Papua New Guineans is changing the way that they are engaging in politics, business and social activities on the home front. It is also changing the way that the international community is engaging with Papua New Guinea (PNG). In an unprecedented style, resonant with tours made by highly public figures and dignitaries, a young PNG man (Martyn Namorong, prolific blogger, self described betel nut seller and grassroots person) undertook a privately sponsored two week visit to the Australian cities of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra in 2012. This visit entailed an advance announcement and a highly publicised agenda and programme wherein he met with prominent Australian PNG experts, politicians, journalists, ordinary Australian residents and gave seminars to a variety of Australian audiences.

socialmedia

A number of recent articles and radio interviews (Radio Australia, ABC, 4 July 2012;  Radio Australia, ABC, 5th July 2012Rausim! Social media and political protest in Papua New GuineaCatherine Graue of Australia Network) with pioneering social media practitioners reveals some important features of the emergence of social media in PNG. These people include Emmanuel Narakobi (administrator of the Masalai Blog and the facebook forum Sharp talk); Tavurvur who administers the Garamut blog); Martyn NamorongAlexander Rheeney , (PNG journalist and administrator of PNG Perspective); and Nou Vada (law student, blogger and administrator of The Edebamona Blog). In recognition of this emerging form of media Malum Nalu (Journalist and administrator of the Malum Nalu blogspot) was awarded the UNESCO/Divine Word Institute Award for Communication and Development in 2011.

In her paper, Rausim! Social media and political protest in Papua New Guinea, Sarah Logan talks about the use of social media in the recent political gymnastics in PNG. Inter alia, she highlights two roles of social media. The first is the role of social media in facilitating political protest and the second is its facilitation of civil society engagement in the practice of politics. She also highlights that the limitations on the use of social media include the limited numbers of users and the general sense of “political apathy” and “fragmented political identity” associated with PNG politics (Sarah Logan).

Martyn Namorong and Alexander Rheeney highlight (ABC Radio Australia) how PNG society is very community based and many educated and urban based Papua New Guineans remain closely connected with their rural based families. They point out that this means that the current numbers of facebook users represents a significant mass of PNG society whose engagement through social media has the potential of being translated and amplified through various offline networks. The far wider coverage of basic mobile phone services (phone calls and text messages) adds to this amplification effect.

Much of the discussion is focussed on how social media is revolutionising the way in which Papua New Guineans are engaging in the political arena. For example, Narakobi highlights that during the Easter 2012 political protests membership of the sharp talk facebook forum jumped from between 3000 and 4000 to over 6000.

Yet, other questions emerge beyond the potential role of social media in political transformation. Core to these is: How do social, development and political actors (national and international) translate this social revolution into something that matters for those that need it most? In this regard, two questions emerge:

  1. How can society manage the institutions that are created to ensure the principles of democracy – accountability, transparency, fairness, justice and equality – function to protect society as it shifts and responds to new and emerging power actors that are in a position at this point in history to harness the power of social media for a specific agenda?
  2. How can the power of social media facilitate a better engagement between, not only civil society and political actors, but also between civil society and development actors to bring about tangible development outcomes?

Both these questions are particularly important within the PNG context where lack of political will, corruption and lack of implementation capacity are the main impediments to development; violence is an explicit and blatant form of power; literacy rates are below 50%; over 30% of the population live below the poverty line; there are over 700 languages; and systems of law and order and law enforcement are dysfunctional at best. They are also important for development policy where an environment of functioning democracy, political stability and protection of society is the foundation for the achievement of development outcomes.

The following paragraphs are intended to highlight just some of the dynamics emerging in the social media sphere in PNG.

That the above referred social media pioneers have chosen different forms of public representation – real name versus pseudonym – is revealing of the social and political dynamics underpinning the use of social media in PNG. Namorong says that using his real name adds credibility and accountability to his writing. Another advantage is the direct credit that one receives for their contribution via social media. One disadvantage is the security of a person who speaks out on a sensitive issue such as corruption. On the other hand, Tavurur has blogged very successfully (high quality, high number of followers and sustained over a number of years) for several years now. In other cases, such as a facebook forum, the use of a pseudonym poses questions of transparency and accountability on the part of a forum administrator.

In a country where names are often synonymous with ethnicity, family and sometimes political affiliation and in a context where corruption and violence are widespread, it is understandable that some may wish to conceal their real identities when engaging in the public sphere. It is also interesting to see that many people use their real identities and openly write about issues such as corruption and violence. In one example, a woman in a forum of over 1000 people wrote how she did not support a relative who was a candidate in the election. She acknowledged that she might get in trouble with the family for speaking out but felt that she needed to have her say. In another example, in the PNGians against domestic violence forum, which has over 6000 members, women publicly plead for help to deal with violent situations. These examples reveal a civil society that is actively engaging on matters that affect their lives and that social media presents an accessible avenue to do so. Whether it is a safe and free median to engage is yet to be seen.

The table below provides a snapshot of some of the forum profiles and membership figures and reveals a variety of styles. Closed versus open groups; known administrators versus unknown administrators; provincial focus versus national or issue based focus. Membership of groups ranges from anywhere below 100 to over 6000.

 

I conclude by raising some issues for consideration in the hope of stimulating further dialogue.

  1. How does PNG society ensure that this shift in power and voice towards those who master the art of social media is made in a way that new power actors are equally held accountable for what they say and do with their skill in an evolving social context?
  2. How does society protect the rights and security of those who wish to speak up on corruption and violence?
  3. How does society respond to social demands created by the opportunities opened by social media? For example the voices of women who publically seek help in violent situations invoke a joint social responsibility for immediate support but they also create opportunities for those in the policy and development arena to formulate appropriate responses.
  4. Are issues on cyber education and safety, including the protection of children, being integrated into the formal and informal education system? Is funding being made available for organisations to run training courses on cyber safety in all communities?
  5. In terms of public and private partnership, might we see a proliferation of bill boards, TV advertisements, mobile phone alerts akin to donor supported HIV/AIDS and other billboards promoting the safe and responsible use of social media?
  6. Has the PNG Ombudsman Commission created an avenue to enable engagement with civil society through social media?
  7. Has the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary created an avenue to enable engagement with civil society through social media?
  8. Is there an Electoral Commission facilitated forum to enable feedback and election observation through social media?
  9. Some development agencies, including donors, multilateral agencies, international financial institutions and NGOs are already engaging with civil society through social media in some of the countries they work in. Is it time for development partners and donors in PNG to embrace this social revolution in the same way?
  10. Are those tasked with development policy formulation, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation, actively exploring ways of tapping into the opportunities presented by social media to engage with civil society?
  11. Is it possible that in the near future PNG will have an online and social media facilitated “development partner” and “civil society” forum?

Whatever the answer to these questions, it is clear that there are huge implications for the practice of development in PNG. If social media is to make a difference in PNG beyond its ability to reshape the political arena, it must be utilised as a tool by all actors interested in the development of PNG to translate this new energy into tangible development outcomes.

 

PNG National Elections 2017: Emphasis on Job creation and income generating opportunities is a must

By: Dr. Charles Yala

The journey to the 9th PNG National Parliament has just started.  I take this opportunity of the festive season and the beginning of a new year to reflect on what is in store for 2017 for our beloved PNG.  Festivities for Christmas and New Year are just behind us, but the tempo for more celebrations will rise as we approach the national elections in the middle of the year.

National elections, however, are serious matters that impact on all our lives, and the lives of those yet to be born.  The path to the PNG National Parliament is fraught with costly and difficult challenges.  Nonetheless, parliamentarians will be elected and an executive government formed before 2017 comes to an end. Political life will roll-on in the land of the unexpected, with unexpected consequences. I draw on a book I am now reading and the plight of many unemployed in PNG to give shape to a topic of immense national significance: that of opportunities for income generation.

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Festive Season and Election 2017

I began writing this article on 31 December 2016. It was a very hot day and my family, having earlier watched Moana at the cinema with our neighbours, had been busy preparing for our new year celebration meal of roast lamb, potatoes, salad, and cake for dessert. During the festive season, I began reading (former Australian journalist turned politician) Maxine McKew’s recent book, Tales from the Political Trenches. My thoughts started to process the story line in Moana, our New Year roast and the events described in Maxine’s book. Shaped by these thoughts, I started to write this article.

While the family roast reminded me of the new year parties across the length and breadth of PNG during the festive season leading to an election year, Moana reminded me of the development of traditional leadership skills, and the rise to leadership across the Pacific Islands, including PNG. Maxine McKew’s book provided an account of Australian political life, with McKew having defeated the sitting Prime Minister, John Howard, in the seat of Bennelong in New South Wales. She made Australian political history as only the second person to unseat an incumbent Australian Prime Minister in a national election. Details of her campaign strategy and her appreciation of the role she wanted to play as the local member of parliament were interesting to read.

These three events – my family preparing roast lamb for the New Year’s eve dinner,  Moana finding her place and leadership role, and McKew emerging to be a giant killer in the Australian political scene – reminded me of the kind of events that must be taking place across PNG throughout this festive period, given that 2017 is a  National Election Year.

From personal experience, I have seen aspiring candidates and their supporters use the festive season leading to the election year to  launch election campaigns. This is the period where political interests start to take shape and intending candidates start to convey their interests with their supporters, close friends and families.

I am quite sure several pigs must have lost their lives across the country during this festive season. Likewise, cartons of Coca-Cola must have been consumed, and the telephone services provided by Digicel and Bmobile/Vodafone would have been running hot as conversations turn to politics across this beautiful and diverse nation. This, of course, is just the beginning. There are more pigs to be slaughtered, more cartons of Coca Cola to be traded,  and more mobile phone and social media conversations to be had in the lead-up to the national elections.

This is the PNG version of modern day parliamentary democratic elections. In my humble opinion, Moana’s and Maxine’s strategies have limited relevance in the context of the PNG National Elections. If the past is any indication, it will be a costly and highly divisive process. Lives will be lost, through both direct and indirect election related causes.  On the other hand, elections in PNG are colourful and vibrant affairs, involving traditional dances and partying. Truck loads of people sing and chant. The midnight oil burns as supporters and candidates strategise and plan through the night.

Has election 2017 started?

While election 2017 has not officially started, the campaign has long been underway. The timing and the way Maxine McKew describes her campaign to unseat John Howard is in direct contrast to what I tried to briefly describe above. While both Australia and PNG have adopted the Westminster  system of parliamentary democracy, elections in both countries are distinctly different. The PNG electoral process has a mixture of Moana’s and Maxine’s worlds – the launch of political interests and campaigns under the guise of Christmas celebrations, the clout of cultural exchanges (i.e. cash for votes), and traditional obligations to muscle-in voters.

Moana’s world is no different to the subsistence way of life found in the PNG rural setting. Maxine’s world in the seat of Bennelong was far away from the realities of PNG’s cities and towns. Our country finds itself caught between the two extremes. It is in this space, where tradition and modernity clash, that the 2017 elections will take place.

Whether we choose to count in Kina, pork, four-wheel drives, or unfortunately even in terms of  human lives, elections in PNG are expensive.  By August 2017, only 111 winners of parliamentary seats will emerge from the thousands of aspirants to represent the seven or so million people of a vastly diverse and geographically  fragmented nation. Our new leaders will not just live in Moana’s world of sea farers or subsistence farmers. They will also compete with Maxine McKew’s Australia and others in a globalised community of nations. These 111 will be national leaders representing and shaping the present and future lives of the PNG people.

What should candidates, political parties and the electorate focus on in Election 2017 ?

What are the real issues and policies that the candidates and the political parties should focus on in the lead up to the elections? Similarly, what should the electorate demand from the candidates and political parties?

While pondering on such questions, I am also mindful that service delivery may not be an expectation from some segments of the community. Likewise, candidates may be lining up to get their share of the cake from the exploitation of the country’s natural resources. The motivations and interests of candidates and voters are more than likely to differ across the country.

As a PNG citizen who has navigated his way out of Moana’s world into McKew’s world, living  and working in Port Moresby, and as the director of the country’s only public funded think tank, I see it as my duty to ask these difficult yet pertinent questions.  My hope is that others will join in raising the level of debate in the lead-up to the  national election. The PNG NRI, as part of its contribution to the 2017 national elections, will be encouraging informed national debate.

Looking beyond the political rhetoric of candidates, political parties and the electorate, the main issue for me is jobs and income generating opportunities. Survival on subsistence farming, which is a reality for more than 80 percent of the country’s population, is a slow and painful path towards destitution through poverty. Promises of improved rural service delivery are, as I have described in few of my earlier writings, a fallacy.  The fallacy has been perpetuated as part of the  ‘feel good’ political rhetoric of many politicians and their supporters, repeated in mobilising votes, and then forgotten soon afterwards. This political rhetoric has been recited at each and every election since independence. I will be surprised if the same does not happen in the current elections.

What the electorate should demand, and the candidates should commit to the people of PNG, both now and into the future, are jobs, jobs, more jobs and income generating opportunities.  It is critical that elected leaders create opportunities for jobs and income generating activities. The electorate should demand this of them. Creating job and income generating opportunities is critical to empowering citizens to have a fulfilling life. Jobs and income generating opportunities will have direct impact on the family (food, clothing, home and education), directly impact on businesses (demand for goods and services creates more businesses), and tax revenue for the state at all levels (national, provincial and municipalities). This will in turn be useful for the apparatuses of the state to provide core public goods.

To place this argument in perspective, we should note the growing number of young people coming out of the education system who need jobs. The bulk of these graduates remain within their village communities. They need meaningful employment and income generating opportunities, rather than leaving them behind to subsist on whatever they can find. Similarly, those living in the expanding squatter settlements around the cities and towns need genuine jobs and income generating opportunities.

Creating jobs, more jobs and income generating opportunities should be the focus of every candidate and political party contesting the national elections in 2017. The electorate should pay attention to the strategies and policies of each candidate and political parties on job creation and income generating opportunities.  Promising rural service delivery and cargo in the form of Coca-Cola, four wheel drive vehicles, banana boats, and roads and bridges that lead to nowhere, will continue to leave the majority of our people on the path to poverty and destitution.

PNG and the people of this great country deserve better. It is incumbent on national leaders elected to deliver on this expectation, and it is the responsibility of each and every voter to demand the best for them from their aspiring representatives.

Conclusion

In 2017, the electorate must demand jobs, more jobs and income generating opportunities. We should refrain from being sold out with cargo. The electorate should know that you cannot have both – cargo and jobs/income generating opportunities. You can only have one and that should be jobs and income generating opportunities.

On this note, for those who make it to the 8th National Parliament, you will be called upon to serve our nation. Your electorate will be an integral part of a nation. A prosperous and cohesive  nation will be a blessing to your electorate. Thinking creatively about job creation and income generating opportunities for the country will be a benefit to your voters in your electorate. In creating jobs for your electorate you will be strengthening the case for your job as the representative of the people.

https://pngnri.org/png-national-elections-2017/#