Social Concerns Notes – May 2016

More health workers and doctors needed

Post Courier, May 02, 2016

The dire need for doctors and health services in the rural parts Papua New Guinea where the majority live was highlighted in the annual Open Day of Divine Word University in Madang yesterday.

This message came out in the displays and information provided by the pioneer Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS students) plus their peers from other programs in the faculty of medicine and health sciences. The MBBS program was introduced in DWU this year with 29 pioneer students enrolled. The MBBS students were out in force at the Open Day advocating for the program and highlighted the poor health indicators that characterise PNG at this time. According to the 2012 Health Service Delivery Report compiled by the Health Department and World Health Organisation “PNG has low numbers of health professionals per head of population. The report highlights that there were “5.3 nurses/midwives and less than one doctor per 10,000 people,”

Dean of the faculty of medicine and health sciences, Dr Clement Malau said the public demand for doctors and other health care workers will only increase with the growth in population and PNG must plan and prepare to meet the demand.

 

Call for Widows Act

The National, Monday May 2nd, 2016

THE PNG Widows Association wants a Lukautim Widows Act passed by 2017 to give widows a voice. The association, through its awareness and findings in two regions, Highlands and Southern, provided evidence that there were more than half a million such women in the country. “They are facing discrimination in their everyday lives mainly caused by their own family members”, association president Maria Unde said. “Their numbers tend to increase when Papua New Guineans are dying in hundreds nearly every day.” Unde said urgent partnership was required to start drafting a widows national policy as requested by the Department of Community Development, Youth and Religion.

She pointed out that the piece of legislation would be the first in any country, therefore, needed urgent support from partners to address issues of discrimination. Unde suggested that the Government could use the legislation and offer it as a gift to the world by presenting it as an important discussion matter to its world partners who could provide support and consider it as a top issue apart from climate change during the 2018 Apec meeting. “We see infrastructure development taking place in all the districts in rural areas but we see nil support in human development,” she said.

“Widows are the poorest people living on this planet and are not considered useful anymore and are therefore secluded and excluded in all activities and become the planet’s invisible women,” Unde said.

 

Unit lacks resources: Report

The National, Monday May 2nd, 2016

FAMILY and sexual violence units have not been allocated resources in police budgets although there is an increasing demand for their services annually. Ashlee Betteridge, a research officer at the Development Policy Centre in Australia highlighted this in her report published last Tuesday.

She said a recent evaluation of family sexual violence (FSV) units in PNG had painted a grim picture of the operating environment in which they were not allocated resources in police budgets.

The report also indicated that the units were not recognised within official police structures, under-staffed and in some cases under-trained.

Betteridge added that the report had also shown how low the arrest rates were in cases seen by FSV units. “For example, in Lae, Morobe, in the first quarter of 2015, out of 49 cases only two arrests were made,” she said. “In Waigani, out of 411 cases in 2014, there were only seven arrests and no follow-up at all in 109 of those cases.”  She said the evaluation has argued that the low arrests made so far were linked to the fact that most officers involved were female and that they were not in a position to arrest people due to potential threats to their safety.

 

Many difficult challenges face a recovering Bougainville

02 May 2016

http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2016/05/the-leadership-challenges-facing-a-recovering-bougainville.html.  PATRICK NISIRA | Edited extracts

MANY of the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s (ABG) leadership challenges are inherent in the general situation of Bougainville in 2016. In a real sense it is a post-conflict situation – in that Bougainville’s violent, destructive, and deeply divisive nine year civil war ended almost 19 years ago, in mid-1997. It’s hardly surprising that, in the aftermath of such a violent, bitter and divisive conflict, that many opposing factions and divisions exist in Bougainville, and that consequentially, there is still much mistrust. But there are also significant new developments.

While the mainstream former Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and Bougainville Resistance Force (BRF) elements that supported the peace process now largely work well together, at the local level there remain many unresolved divisions where reconciliation is still required. Since about 2010 former combatant organisations have emerged as significant political voices in Bougainville. …

A complicating factor here is the various business and other economic interests of several key former combatant leaders. Some of them use their ex-combatant networks to advance such interests.

Of course, there are other sources of significant division and tension. They include several different Me’ekamui factions, none of which participated in the weapons disposal process under the Bougainville Peace Agreement and so remain in possession of numerous firearms.

Another source of tensions is a group led by former BRA leader, Sam Kauona, who has long had interest in establishing mining operations in association with dual Australian/Canadian citizen Lindsay Semple and who – whenever they fear their mining interests are not sufficiently guaranteed – attacks the ABG as being under the control of Bougainville Copper Ltd and its 53% majority shareholder, Rio Tinto….

The much slower than anticipated progress in transfer of powers has resulted in frustration, and contributed to widespread criticism of the ABG for lack of performance, and failure to meet expectations. …If the ABG is to achieve real autonomy, or to have independence available as a real option in the future, achieving fiscal self-reliance is essential. But the challenges of achieving that goal – so strongly emphasised by the Bougainville Constitution – are immense.

Full version of Mr Nisira’s speech –  Download ‘Challenges facing the Bougainville Government’ by Patrick Nisira

Patrick Nisira is vice-president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

 

Forced marriage a form of human trafficking

The National, Tuesday May 3rd, 2016

FORCED marriage, as it happens quite frequently in PNG, is a form of human trafficking and those responsible can face criminal charges, the International Organisation for Migration says.  The organisation’s chief of mission George Gigauri said: “If a girl is forced into marriage or some one is locked up and forced to work, all that qualify as human trafficking.  “Labour and sexual exploitation is a form of trafficking human beings.”

Gigauri said they were involved with government border agencies to deal with Burmese and Thailand fishermen along the PNG-Indonesian-Australian border last year. “These fishermen came into PNG through the dogleg area in Western Province from the Indonesian side, while  fishing and most the people were victims of trafficking,” he said.

“They were forced to work by the owner of the company and we went in with the PNGDF (Defence Force) and police, got them out and returned them to Burma and Cambodia.

“Our mission there (Burma and Cambodia) helped to integrate them in their families. This is a form of labour exploitation.”

Government budget cut affects church health services

Post Courier, May 04, 2016

Due to the reduction in health funds by the Government the Daru Kiunga Diocese Catholic Health services has minimised their service delivery to the rural areas according to their service budget.

According to Sister Anna Sanginawa, the diocesan health manager in Western Province, the Christian Health Services (CHS) funded the diocese health service K10,000 to carry out its health services in the Church health facilities in North Fly district. The Catholic diocese in Kiunga had to carry out its services delivery within the K10,000 from CHS but Sr Anna said that they are struggling to provide health services to the rural areas in the North Fly district. “We are planning to carry out our pastoral plan in health services however due to shortage of funds we cannot carry out our integrated patrols which will involve doctor services to the rural people, carrying out MCH and MCV testing including HIV and other health outreach programs.” The Christian Health Services draws its membership from 23 different denominations and its services cover 47 per cent of health facilities in the urban and sub-urban areas. Thus, 80 per cent of the rural health services are provided by the churches in which they have reached the most remote areas providing health services and medical care.

 

Online exploitation concern

The National, Thursday May 5th, 2016

AN advocate against child exploitation says digital technology and internet penetration in Papua New Guinea is growing rapidly and children are being easily exposed to harmful contents online.

“There’s been a rapid growth in digital technology which provides incredible opportunities for young children to socialise and network but there are also some risks in children being exposed to harmful contents,” Afrooz Kaviani Johnson said. She said these developments offered a potential for huge benefits and opportunities in the education and development of children.  But the internet and digital technologies can greatly expand girls’ and boys’ opportunities to access information and education, chat and socialise with friends through social networks, and access entertainment. Johnson said at the same time, there was a risk that through their use of the internet and digital technologies, children may be exposed to different forms of risks and new forms of harm – whether it is through the internet, mobile phones, digital TV, or platforms for games and videos. Johnson said children exposed to internet were exposed to a number of risks and potential perpetrators of sexual abuse online.

These include online grooming, live streaming of a child sexual abuse in real time, sexting (texting with sexual content), sex extortion (sextortion), child sexual abuse material or child pornography and many more others.

 

Constitution under siege. Judiciary to exercise inherent powers to administer the law.

http://www.transparencypng.org.pg/newsroom/view/constitution-under-siege.-judiciary-to-exercise-inherent-powers-to-administDate Posted: 03.05.2016

Members of the Community Coalition Against Corruption (CCAC) met last Friday (29/04/16) concerned that Papua New Guinea is facing a constitutional crisis orchestrated by individuals who seem to think the public offices they hold entitles them to undermine the basic principles of PNG’s democracy. The CCAC, co-chaired by Transparency International PNG and the Media Council, called the meeting in the light of more attempts to prevent investigations of alleged misuse of public office.

The CCAC does not accept the closure of the National Fraud & Anti Corruption Directorate by the Police Commissioner. It cannot be seen as coincidental that, immediately following court decisions regarding the work of senior police officers, action was taken to close down the office and place it under siege by police officers who do not appear to understand the implications of their actions.

The CCAC reminds members of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary at all levels that efforts to obstruct the legal process can result in the Judiciary executing its inherent powers to administer the law and ensure that justice is served for the best interest of the nation. …

Finally, the CCAC appeals to elected leaders to demonstrate moral and ethical leadership and responsibility. It is not acceptable that any public office holder, whether Constitutional Officer holder or holding other executive office of responsibility, should be permitted to use that office to undermine democracy and justice. Yet sackings, defiance of court orders, cynical refusal to face questions concerning illegal payments and many more serious attacks on our institutions appear to be occurring.

Papua New Guinea is being dragged into a constitutional crisis which creates division within society and even within the institutions established to protect the people and their constitution. The CCAC has confidence that public officials can see the danger and their obligations.

Authorized By: Lawrence Stephens & Alexander Rheeny  – CCAC Co-Chairs

 

New Zealand reveals the emperor’s new clothes

May 5 2016 Canberra Times  6.5.2016 http://www.canberratimes.com.au/

The recent decision of the Supreme Court of PNG, and new legal action now being brought by detainees on Manus Island, suggests that Australia’s asylum seeker policy is unravelling under the weight of its own contradictions. Particularly revealing of its underlying logic was the announcement by the federal government last week to again refuse New Zealand’s offer to take 150 asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus Island. According to our Minister for Immigration, the honourable Peter Dutton, Australia rejects this offer because it would encourage the people smugglers “to get back into business.” But does Australia have a legal right to say no? Doesn’t the government insist over and over again – including (with a straight face) before the High Court – that the detention facilities in these places are the responsibility of an independent sovereign country? Earlier this year, the High Court accepted this argument. But the minister has given the lie to the government’s claims. If the matter is truly one for the local authorities, who bear the burden of these refugees, then how come the Minister for Immigration exercises a veto on who can accept them? What is his legal basis for trumping the decision of local authorities as to where certified refugees can be placed? This smacks of meddling, or suggests that the whole arms-length argument was fraudulent and dishonest to begin with.

 

UNHCR calls for immediate transfer of refugees out of Manus Island, Nauru to ‘humane conditions’

Post Courier, May 05, 2016  Story courtesy of ABC Radio Australia

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has called for the immediate transfer of refugees and asylum seekers out of the Australian-run detention camps on both Manus Island and Nauru. A team from the UNHCR was on Nauru when Omid Masoumali, a young Iranian man who died later in a Brisbane hospital, set himself on fire. Days later a 21-year-old Somalian woman set herself alight and remains in a critical condition. “There is no doubt that the current policy of offshore processing and prolonged detention is immensely harmful,” UNHCR said in a statement. “There are approximately 2,000 very vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru [and] despite efforts by the governments of Papua New Guinea and Nauru, arrangements in both countries have proved completely untenable.” It added: “UNHCR’s principal concern today is that these refugees and asylum seekers are immediately moved to humane conditions with adequate support and services.” Over the last few years, the UNHCR has undertaken regular visits to offshore processing sites to monitor the situation of refugees and asylum seekers, including seven separate occasions to Nauru since 2012.

 

Manus Island: Asylum seekers and refugees no longer in detention, PNG authorities say

Post Courier, May 12, 2016

Story courtesy of ABC Radio Australia

Some 900 asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island are no longer in detention, according to PNG authorities who say the men are free leave the centre during the day and can resettle in PNG if they want.  PNG’s Immigration and Citizenship Advisory Service says this means the 898 men are no longer in detention, in compliance with a Supreme Court ruling last month. The detainees on Manus Island say they now have the option to catch one of three buses into the main town each morning, but must sign agreements taking responsibility for their own safety. They are not allowed to walk out of the centre, because it is on a PNG naval base. They also say they may stay at an Immigration-run transit centre overnight.

Refugee Behrouz Boochani said the changes had not allowed true freedom of movement. “They are still controlling us,” he said. “Even when we want to go from Oscar to Delta [internal compounds] we should give our ID cards to the officers. “It means we are not free to walk.” Mr Boochani said the refugees and asylum seekers were still being separated inside the centre and refugees could not visit the compounds where men who were unsuccessful in their refugee applications were housed. The men are only allowed to leave Manus Island if they sign an agreement to be resettled in PNG, and the ABC understands only eight men have done that. Of those, three have returned to Manus Island, saying they had been robbed and threatened when they were resettled in Lae, and did not earn enough money to support themselves. Two of those refugees were arrested upon returning to Manus Island, one for trying to get back into the transit centre for refugees and another for repeatedly asking for a phone and credit to call his family. Another refugee remains in hospital in Lae after being violently robbed twice in two days. Only three men are still working, while a fourth is about to start his new job.


12 criminals bash, rob Catholic nuns
Post Courier, May 11, 2016

FOUR Catholic Sisters and two security guards were brutally bashed and robbed allegedly by 12 armed criminals in full police uniforms in their own house outside of Goroka in Eastern Highlands Province. The incident happened on Sunday night between 9pm and 10pm in Bihute, several kilometres outside of Goroka town where the Catholic Sisters from the institute of PNG and Australia Sisters of Mercy Works reside. They were in their house watching television when 12 armed men in police uniforms entered their premises after badly bashing up the two security guards at the gate.

Sister Maryanne Kolkia, the country program coordinator for Sisters of Mercy, said this was the fourth time criminals have attacked them. Sister Maryanne, who received heavy blows to her nose, lips and other parts of her face said the criminals were after a safe, which the sisters had no idea of.

“There was a knock on the door and I opened the door and saw several policemen so I thought they were regular policemen and opened the door and that is when they came in and demanded that I tell them where the safe for keeping the money was,” Sister Maryanne said. “I told them we are a non profiting NGO and we do not have any money or safe in our house but that explanation provoked them to really beat us up very badly.” The two security guards, who are now at the intensive care unit at the Goroka Hospital, were beaten up and were tied to a tree.

 

Barker links lack of jobs to crime

The National, Wednesday May 11th, 2016

AN economist says the lack of legitimate jobs and the restriction on informal sector income-earning opportunities are the main contributors to crime. Institute of National Affairs executive director Paul Barker said excessive alcohol or other drug consumption also encouraged crime and lawlessness.
“Job growth has not kept pace with population growth or perhaps growth expectations, especially of younger people, in the face of reports of big LNG projects and high reported economic growth rates,” he said.  “Urban areas suffer from extensive poverty, notably driven by the high urban living costs and low household incomes.” He said family and tribal disputes, including domestic violence, were crimes. “But (they) also partly reflect the pressure from inadequate opportunities in the face of population growth from large family sizes and lots of wantoks moving to town and burdening households,” Barker said.  “This is reinforced by the lack of official social protection for children and others (who either stretch the traditional wantok system, or can’t be supported by it). “But it largely comes down to lack of jobs, income-earning and education opportunities to keep individuals (and their dependents) surviving or engaged.” Barker said the restrictions on betel nut sale, a major incomes sources for rural farming households and urban, largely unskilled households, had added pressure on income-earning.

Samaritan Aviation saving lives along Sepik River
Post Courier, May 13, 2016

BLEEDING heavily she quickly described her symptoms to her friend in Australia, suspecting a pregnancy complication, Samaritan Aviation were called in which time she was saved along with her child. This is but one of the many life-saving operations, the aviation organisation has done to save many lives along the mighty Sepik River. It began as a dream by an American teenager in 1994 while on a trip, and by 2010, the first of many flights commenced. Samaritan Aviation president and pilot Mark Palme said lives have been saved and are continuing to be saved not only by the aviation services but by the medicines distributed to the 38 health aid posts along the Sepik River. Since April 2010, 24% of life flights have been for trauma patients, 44% have been patients suffering from diseases and illness while 33% have been women suffering from complications from pregnancy Mr Palme said. “Close to 55,000 kilograms of medical supplies have been delivered to the 38 Aid Posts and Health Centres along the Sepik River and has been saving thousands of lives.” Supporting Mr Palme and his team are the local members of parliament and supporters of the New Samaritan Aviation flights. Along with the plane they have, a new Cessna U206 which have been fitted with floaters to assist with their job.

 

Commodity price falls creating currency volatility, says analyst

12 May 2016 http://www.businessadvantagepng.com/commodity-price-falls-creating-currency-volatility-analyst/

The kina has fallen in value this year, but Papua New Guinea’s dependence on commodity exports means that it can be expected to fall further, says Rohan Fox, Lecturer and Research Fellow at the University of Papua New Guinea’s Division of Economics. He tells Business Advantage PNG that the country faces a difficult task managing the impact of sharp fluctuations in commodity prices.

Fox says this year the kina has depreciated, in some cases further than its competitors. But he believes

‘A lot of the problems associated with Dutch disease exist in PNG.’

‘Accounting for inflation differences is important because these reflect the differences in costs between countries. For example, inflation averages around 5-6 per cent in PNG while it is more like 0-3 per cent in its major trading partners. ‘This means that every year, even if exchange rates were kept exactly the same, PNG’s produce would become some 3 per cent more expensive than its major trading partners. Lowering the PNG exchange rate by 3 per cent per annum would correct for this.’

‘A high exchange rate also affects investment flows.  It makes it more expensive to invest in PNG relative to other countries, and it makes it cheaper to buy a house in Cairns or send one’s children to an overseas school.’

 

Rampant drug & alcohol consumption has PNG on a slippery slope

18 May 2016. http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2016/05/rampant-drug-alcohol-consumption-has-png-on-a-slippery-slope.html#more

IN FAST growing cities such as Port Moresby and Lae, weekends are no longer safe and peaceful.

This is particularly the case for settlement residents. A typical weekend in settlements in major centres around PNG is often characterised by alcohol and drug-fuelled nuisance and violence. In Lae, this dangerous lifestyle sees regular fights among different ethnic groups which have led to the loss of life and destruction of property worth millions of kina. Recent confrontations between Sepiks and Western Highlanders brought the once peaceful Madang to a halt. Port Moresby too has its fair share of problems like recent ethnic tensions that led to the temporary closure of Gordons Market. Yet Port Moresby, unlike the other centres, has benefited from quick intervention by law enforcement agencies. Nevertheless, this does not seem to be enough. Amidst the high rise buildings and freeways, a time bomb is ticking away as drug and alcohol consumption among youth are out of control. ….

Uncontrolled alcohol and drug consumption among youth is now one of the most pressing issues confronting PNG. What is more concerning is the reality that there seems to be no controls which would prevent underage and youth drinking. On the street, many youths can be seen consuming alcohol in broad daylight with no fear of being reprimanded by the authorities. Such acts of open defiance pose a threat to the public and to the future of this country. The thought of having PNG run by drug and alcohol addicts is frightening but looks more ominous as each day goes by. Putting statistics aside, a visit to any urban settlement makes one realise that we are only scratching the surface of a very big problem. In broad daylight, thugs armed with pocket knives or sharp objects prowl the bus stops of the cities in search of victims. In Port Moresby, the Tabari bus stop and Gordons Market are regarded as no-go zones for city residents due to the high frequency of petty crime, harassment and abuse.

Kids in this settlement, like any typical kid, long for a happy life. Echoes of laughter can be heard amongst the shabby houses with leaky roofs as kids frolic happily. Their smiles are a breath of fresh air in the humid atmosphere. But with rampant juvenile delinquency a norm in most settlements, you can’t help but wonder when this innocence will be replaced by the harsh realities of life. Even the kids in schools cannot fully develop their innate abilities because of our government’s failure in introducing reforms. A government that thrives on disunity and problems governs not by its conscience but by its ego. PNG is not for the few elites to enjoy but for all of us to take pride in and excel using our innate abilities.

 

Diabetes cases on the increase

Post Courier, May 20, 2016

The number of patients suffering with lifestyle diseases is said to be increasing every week at the Port Moresby General Hospital. This was according to the physician in charge of hemodialysis at the hospital, Dr Steven Bogosia. Dr Bogosia said that in the 1980s, the hospital treats about 20 patients a week. Last week he had to see 80 patients who are suffering with diabetes and kidney failure. He said the minimum that they would get in a week would be at 17 while 20 would be new cases mainly average to low income earners. “In terms of chronic failure cases when they come we know that diabetes is the leading cause of the chronic failure now hypertension at least gives some cases but not as much as diabetes alone,” Dr Bogosia said. He said that PNG is no different from other countries because many of them have these diseases and diabetes leads together with stroke or heart attacks do contribute to the LCD (Low Communicable Diseases). “Statistics that have been put up by the Government show that these LCD leads to about 63 per cent of deaths worldwide and that’s about 38 million people dying every year since 2013 and that’s what we have collected. “They have realised the dilemma that the entire globe is facing now and they have developed programs to help.” Dr Bogosia said that the Accidents and Emergency section of the hospital is the main point of access every night on patients being admitted with LCD. “We get about three to four admissions every night that are related to diabetes or heart attacks and the numbers don’t seem to be decreasing and if we get ten admissions for one night half of the admission will be diabetes cases,” he said. He said it was difficult to treat all the patients because there is lack of resources available at the hospital.

 

 Decline in health services delivery and supplies

Post Courier, May 23, 2016

The National Doctors Association and the Health Sector Unions during the media conference on Wednesday have also expressed their dissatisfaction to the government that had stripped off proper health care service in PNG. Dr. James Naipao said that the government action by slashing the health department budget and expenditure by 30% has greatly affected the health sector. Thus, the government then again introduced the Free Health Care Policy in which there was no prior consultation, preliminary assessment and infrastructure and training that were in place for such services. He added that, almost 80% of the public hospitals are barely surviving due to the insufficient and inadequate medical supplies and consumables, while some hospitals have already reduced some of the core activities in the health services to the public. Since the reduction of health funds, there has been halt in the recruitment of the workers in the public service and have also had an effect on the doctors and health workers that are employed. This has also added stress on the existing work force and those trained work force will not be employed. Mr. Naipao said in his statement that the provision of the health services in the country is a vital essential service in which the government should have not touched or reduced any budget money for the health department and the health sectors. “The government should have used budgetary money which was allocated to non-essential services instead of using the health budget. However, they have spent a lot of money on infrastructure developments, road constructions and other expenditures at the expense of essential services such as the health care provision,” he said.

 

Lack of funding forces school to close

The National, Friday May 27th, 2016

A vocational school in Madang sent home 282 students yesterday because it has no money to continue operating.  St Benedict Danip Vocational School principal John Paul Malangen said the school had no funds to operate anymore, forcing it to send students home and close. Malangen said he sent a letter informing the provincial education office of the issue and students would remain at home for an indefinite period until such time when there is funding available.  He said the school was located outside town and was a boarding school that depended on the Government’s tuition free-fee (TFF) subsidies. Malangen said the school only received K23,000 in TFF money  in the last quarter of last year. “This year we got nothing since the beginning of the year so we cannot continue operations,” he said. Education Minster Nick Kuman announcement in this paper yesterday for K75.6 million term two school subsidies would be released to schools today. Malangen welcomed the announcement but added that his staff were concerned whether their school would be included among the recipients of the TFF funds.

 

Crisis book

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B25wfD71-PY9ZXFwV0NlbjVBZnhpRWJNb3MteHVPazJ0VUww/view

Summary of Analysis of PNG Financial situation by Sir Mekere Morauta

http://www.pngblogs.com/2016/05/morautas-indepth-assessment-of-png.html

 

 

Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands

Statement: Christian faith, values, and principles in parliamentary Elections

Papua New Guinea proclaims itself to be a Christian Country.  It is manifest in the Constitution, in the National Anthem and the National Pledge.  Important Government officers make their oath of office on the Bible. However, are we really a Christian nation?

When the time for general and local level elections comes, the candidates may invoke their faith and pray for God’s blessing upon the country but, for many, Christian faith, values, and principles are practically put aside. The citizens who will exercise their right to cast their vote and elect candidates of their choice may have a similar attitude.

It is the duty of the Church to guide the moral conscience of Christian citizens. We, the Catholic Bishops of Papua New Guinea, would like to appeal to the faith of the people of PNG, and to their conscience, to use those Christian values when it comes time to cast their vote and elect leaders that will represent not only their interests, but the common good of all citizens. Pope Francis, in his Pastoral letter The Joy of the Gospel, said: “An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal—always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it”. No 183

What are the qualities of a good leader who will truly represent people’s expectations and lead the country forward?  We can name some of those qualities.  First, the country needs competent leaders who are able to fulfil their duties, people who have proved themselves already in serving the community successfully.  A second quality is the personal integrity of the candidate. They should be God fearing, God loving and honest. Honesty means first of all an absolute commitment to uphold the human rights and freedom of others and be accountable for the assets of the country and the provinces and all public funds.   Honest leaders will not let themselves be dragged into corrupt dealings. They are leaders that people can trust. These qualities are fundamental for good leadership.  Then there are also other characteristics of good leaders that are to be considered: someone who has a vision for a better future for their people and put the common   good of all the people first.

During the election campaign candidates make many promises: delivery of services, better living conditions for the people, better roads and communication and so on.  Voters at this time must consider carefully the words and actions of the candidates.  They must try to discern what is true and what is just. They must know where the candidate stands in regard of certain issues that for the Church are not negotiable: respect for human life, education for the love of truth, health and other social services, preservation of the natural environment, and many other issues that affect the life of the people.

During the election campaign many immoral, corrupt and dishonest practices take place.  Many candidates “buy” votes with cash or goods. By doing this and many other dishonest practices they compromise their integrity and credibility. They may gain supporters but they lose respect; they show that they are entering into the cycle of corruption that is prevalent in our country.

It is the same for the voters who accept a bribe of cash or good or favours.  He or she enters in the same cycle of corruption, accepting a little money or rice but at the same time selling their souls and the future of the nation in exchange for his/her vote.

Another factor that adversely affects a free and fair democratic election is the “wantok system”. The “wantok system” is part of the culture of Papua New Guinea. If it had great value in the past, it is not so today because it is often abused for selfish motives.  Unfortunately, the practice has spread into high places and has serious consequences in our society.  Again, when it comes to voting and electing leaders, people often vote for a wantok even if this candidate does not have the qualities to lead. People who cast their votes should do so free of any undue pressure, internal or external.  Everyone should be able to vote in conscience for the candidate they consider the best servant leader.

The 2017 Elections are crucial for the future of Papua New Guinea. The conduct of a free, fair and safe election within the boundaries of the law is central to establishing a healthy democratic society in PNG.   Let the Christian principles and values of honesty, respect and integrity be our guides during this coming election.  It is time to get rid of the cycle of corruption through improper and illegal means of soliciting votes and underhanded political practices.

We, the Catholic Bishops of Papua New Guinea wish by this letter to appeal to the consciences of all citizens of Papua New Guinea. The honest vote of each citizen is important for the future of this country. All people have a moral responsibility to make this nation a great nation and a truly Christian nation.

 

Bishop Arnold Orowae

President of CBC-PNG/SI

15 April 2016

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