Weekly Commentaries

This is Sunday Chronicle's weekly commentaries on various issues of interest affecting the country. All individual commentators are done by elite Papua New Guineans from diverse educational backgrounds.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

PNG Vision 2050

PNG-V2050: Allegiance to PNG vs allegiance to tribal communities

By Dr. Musawe Sinebare


THE PNG-V2050 is the vision of the people of Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guineans from different backgrounds who were tasked to formulate the PNG-V2050 have admirably done their very best to come up with such a plan which helps set the destiny of this nation to become smart, wise, fair, healthy and happy by the year 2050.

We as a nation must unite in our thinking and in our actions in order to align our subsidiary plans or short term plans and strategies to achieve the vision of the PNG-V2050.

The biggest challenge for the citizens of this well-endowed nation is to be united.  In this article I will discuss what I consider to be a very critical ingredient for PNG; that is, to change peoples’ mindset of their allegiance to the nation state of PNG instead of their allegiance to their tribe or clan or even family groupings.  Global trends are heading toward unifications and strategic alliances such as the fall of the Berlin Wall separating East and West Germany, and the European Union movement.

Challenges that threaten PNG

There are many challenges that threaten PNG.  Some of these include: escalating law and order problems, HIV/AIDS, declining and deteriorating socio-economic indicators, organized crime, poverty, shifting the focus of able men from working in the agricultural sector to making false claims in order to defraud the state, rural-urban migration, and weaker governance at many of our institutions and organizations.

The one challenge that I have observed over many years is our tendency to align ourselves to the clan, tribe or our associates when the nation state of PNG does not even get factored into our equation.  Our allegiance is with the clan, tribe or the associate while the state has no place in our hearts.  Misappropriation and misuse of public funds almost always ends with the clansmen, tribesmen, relatives or associates of some nature where allegiance is well and truly cemented and exists to flourish in a mutually reciprocal manner where everyone gains something from someone.  This revolves in a highly organized and closely guarded system of treachery, abuse, fraud, circumventing due processes and debauchery. 

Let me qualify why I think we are aligned more towards the clan or the tribe (inclusive of other associations such as province, regional groupings, ethnic groupings or political affiliations.  Some such cases include:

  • Nearly all appointments to the top bureaucratic posts are almost always based on political affiliations or who you know and not on what the individual is capable of performing as per the job or position description.  That has been the trend since political independence.  It is obvious from these appointment criteria that you must be from a particular region, province or must affiliate with a particular political organization in order to be considered for such high office.  Those who are appointed through these criteria almost always serve the interest of the political master and do not necessarily serve the interest of the nation state of PNG.  Such is the reason for the declining socio-economic indicators and weakening governance at our top bureaucratic positions.  A handful of the appointees have kept their heads above the water in executing their duties and responsibilities but as we have seen to date, we have a daunting task to make amends and change the tide of hogwash in our systems.

  • We know that contracts at national, provincial and district levels are channeled to individuals or entities with questionable backgrounds. It’s a case of the right hand giving to the left hand and vice versa.  Whether these contracts have the potential to have direct or indirect impact on improving our declining socio-economic indicators never raise a finger from anyone.  We know what happens in the boardroom because at the end of the day genuine bidders miss out or even if they are considered they must first meet certain dubious criteria.  These are matters of common knowledge and we have condoned this practice in the name of serving the interests of a particular interest group rather than the nation state of PNG.

  • Look at what is happening in the Lands Department, for example.  Genuine developers with well-documented proposals are given the runaround while ‘proposals’ from questionable individuals or groups get entertained swiftly with the minimum of delay (see ‘PAC query state land allocations’ by H. Joku, Post-Courier, pp1-6, 29/12/09).

  • We are forever enslaved into the so-called wantok system that drives us to serve the interests of friends, relatives and clansmen or tribesmen more than PNG, as a whole.  We have been working towards serving individuals and people of our own kind or those that we associate with rather than those of PNG, as a whole.

  • We have a tendency to attack or fight each other because our views and our expectations are considered to be superior to others.  If we are attacking, robbing, raping, murdering ourselves or inflicting physical and psychological wounds against our own people in good times, how are we to stand up and fight as a nation when we are under external attack? Countries that have gone to war as a nation have a far better sense of allegiance, patriotism and nationalism to their nation than their individual interest groups.  Do we need a war to teach us ‘allegiance’?

There are many cases that we could go on listing.  However, the important point to heed is that in almost all of these we have not acted as a nation and have made decisions that are not likely to have greater national impact.  If that is the trend of how we have been operating in the last three decades, how can we refocus and reorient our concerted efforts toward aligning ourselves and our allegiances towards the nation state of PNG? 
The deteriorating socioeconomic indicators are direct outcomes of our misdirected efforts against national interests and national objectives.  The abuse of governance processes in many work places contributes towards this sorry state that we are in.  The new mindset being demanded by the PNG-V2050 is very important if we as a nation swear our allegiance to the nation state of Papua New Guinea and channel our energy, resources, focus, dedication and commitment towards the betterment of the nation instead of our individual interest groups.

Allegiance towards PNG

Many will agree that sport has a huge potential to break our inclinations and allegiance towards our individual interest groups.  Papua New Guineans are very passionate and emotional about their country and when given the opportunity they will naturally support the PNG Kumuls when in their national color of red, black and gold.
The motivation and passion with which Papua New Guineans align themselves with the PNG Kumuls at the international level is the same level of allegiance we must inculcate and nurture in our young generation through sports or whatever means that is necessary to think and act for PNG and its sovereign interests.

There were times when only a few of the cream of the crop from PNG schools were selected to attend premier national high schools such as Sogeri, Kerevat, Passam and Aiyura and were groomed to be the best for the country’s demands.  They were brought from many tribal communities and were groomed and prepared to take their rightful place in nation building at Independence and the years that followed.  These people are now making significant contributions for and on behalf of the nation.  We need more opportunities for our citizens to realign their allegiance towards PNG and its ideals.  We have created systems that only promote and allow sectarian interests to flourish and not national interests.

PNG may need to revisit the idea of schools of excellence in strategic locations throughout the country where the best students are brought in to be synthesized and sensitized towards a sense of nationalism.  The idea of cadets and national service is also critical if we are to change our mindset to think, act and behave with the ideals of PNG in mind.  The PNG-V2050 and its vision and mission can be achieved if there is strong human capital with the right attitude to pursue the ideals espoused by the PNG-V2050.

When we do not have the critical population base with the right attitude and mindset, we are all likely to be heading in different directions and in the process miss the point of working towards achieving our common vision, the PNG-V2050.  Some critics would argue that there is no problem with allegiance to PNG. I wish to differ as there is every indication that we have not been fully united in our thinking as a nation.  Just look at the breakaway moves in the name of autonomy that provinces such as East New Britain and New Ireland are planning and preparing for.  They are arguing that they can better manage their own affairs unlike their counterparts in the Highlands provinces.  In a way they have demonstrated that they can make the limited amount of money spread well to deliver services to their people and they could do that even better if they had some degree of autonomy.  However, PNG is so small we are better off remaining united for as long as it takes.  Disintegrating through such glorified terminologies such as autonomy and decentralization will be more detrimental than beneficial.

In the midst of this potential disintegration, we must find a common subject that will unite PNG’s people from different provinces and regional communities into one formidable nation that we can all be proud of and work towards creating a smart, wise, fair, healthy and happy people who will live in their respective communities in unity by the year 2050.

The PNG-V2050 was proudly developed by Papua New Guineans and the world will be watching PNG closely if what we set out to achieve does materialize within the plan period.  It is up to everyone starting from the political leaders, to the bureaucrats and the public servants, government departments and statutory bodies and civil society organizations to talk openly about the PNG-V2050 and strategize on how we can contribute towards achieving the vision.


Papua New Guinea is still a very fragmented and disunited nation although we have been politically independent for the last 35 years.  Our fragmentation and disunity is evident in how we have operated and managed our country since independence.  We have systematically aligned ourselves with our own kind and have no inkling about our nation state to which we find easy targets to defraud, vandalize, pillage and steal, abuse and eventually strangle it with any means possible to maximize our personal interest because we have no allegiance to the nation state we created called Papua New Guinea.

If we fail to correct this situation by realigning our allegiance to the nation state, we are preparing for worsening socio-economic indicators in PNG and especially when the PNG-V2050 has set high targets or benchmarks to achieve in order to realize its vision of creating a smart, wise, fair, healthy and happy people who will live in their respective communities in unity by the year 2050.

The views, opinions, suggestions and imputations made here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Research Institute and the Sunday Chronicle.  Dr Sinebare is the Deputy Director at the National Research Institute. He was a Technical Advisor to the National Strategic Plan Task Force, for the Institutional Development and Service Delivery pillar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dr Sinabare was a significant player in the development of the PNG Vision 2050. His views are very important, and its is very good to see him putting some of these for public consumption. Many thanks to him