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Oust Politicians But Work For Healthier Politics!

Yes, Oust Politicians But Work For Healthier Politics!

John Roughan
24 January 2005

Solomons has been particularly good at tossing politicians out of office. In our last two elections, for instance, voters dismissed more than half of parliament--51% of sitting members in 1997 and a whopping 64% in 2001--were unceremoniously shown the door. Yet, it is fair to say little has really changed in national politics.

Governance remains weak, the economy needs constant overseas supervision and our future grows cloudy. Corruption, incompetence and poor leadership patterns seemed to have grown. In fact, the 32 new members voted into office in 2001--two of them are currently in Rove Prison and more will probably follow before the end of the year--have proven to be less than outstanding. Where, then, have we failed?

It's a policy failure, some claim! What we need are stiffer laws, clearer regulations and a Public Service ready and willing to put strong policy into action. There's merit to such thinking. However, even if the nation was blessed by a good number of dedicated politicians and a robust public service, still our troubles would not go away. These would only slow down a bit! What is called for, however, is a profound change in our political culture.

And this is the hard part because our political turmoil goes much deeper than tossing out a few dozen politicians and cleaning up the Public Service. What really is at stake is how we--you and me--understand, accept and finally act on to make this nation fly once again.

For example, look at people's expectations of their elected members. Once a parliamentarian wins his seat, he is expected to feed, clothe, pay school fees, give substantially to weddings, funerals, return-to-school feasts, meet sea and land transport costs, pay medical expenses and so on. Of course these expectations put impossible burdens on members and so they in turn call for a substantial increase in the Rural Community Development Fund.

When the Mamaloni government started the original CDF fund to skew the 1993 election, the fund was a 'paltry' $100,000 to each member. But members soon convinced themselves that they needed more and voted to raise the amount to $250,000 to distribute over a 12 month period. But still that wasn't enough! Now each member receives $400,000 yearly which, considering what a member faces, they say is much too small. Treasury will soon be hearing that the RCDF must be at least $500,000 and then soon afterwards members won't be satisfied until it's one million dollars for each. As PNG's parliamentarians are already aware, even $1 million has proven insufficient.

Rather than changing the politics of dependence--voters convinced that they are owed these monies--parliament simply demands greater allocations. Dependence is much more comforting. Parliamentarians won't seek change because it makes it easier for them to 'buy' their way back into parliament with increasing RCDF allocations. Voters, also, are happy with the system because they can fill their pockets with someone else's money.

This is a vital area that needs deep cleansing. Members must never act as walk-by banks whose main work is to dole out dollars. People's representatives have more important work to do! They are not voted into office to be personal loans officers! A member should actively work to drive policies that produce more jobs, create the climate for greater self-employment and study ways of attracting investment dollars. These in turn then allow people to work for their own money, earn income through fair paying jobs and not become dependent upon politicians. Because members have been slack in their duty to increase jobs and people desperately need money to keep body and soul together, both sides have taken the easier but destructive path of increasing the RCDF.

The national elections are a year away. Yes, many sitting in parliament must never be allowed to return. But new faces alone will never change our political weakness. Address the damaging politics which have weakened our nation for many years. Vote out poorly perfuming politicians BUT work hard the one year left to us to introduce a healthier kind of politics.


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