By PNG Echo.
The failed state of PNG
proclaimed the headline of Australian ’boutique’ publication The Saturday Paper, (its author, Mike Seccombe)
This is opinion and, in my opinion, it is tainted opinion.
It’s a melange of the same old sources, saying the same old thing, displaying a nostalgic longing for a time passed when Papua New Guinea was ‘get rich and get out’ country unimpeded by governments who were far more malleable than this one.
Take the headline – incorrect: the very first indication of a failed state is when the government loses control of its disciplinary forces. That hasn’t happened – nor will it. O’Neill is still the Supreme Commander of the PNG armed forces and O’Neill appointee, Chief of Police, Gary Baki, is doing a sterling job of maintaining discipline even with a few court-backed rogue police as thorns in his side.
Ironically, the article was brought to my attention on the Facebook page of Gary Juffa, Governor of Oro and the politician who is spearheading a campaign to #takebackpng# – it was republished with just a small comment by the Honourable Governor “It has come to this..” It was ‘shared’ by dozens of his Facebook friends.
I don’t know what the Governor means: It’s come to what?
But certainly if PNG is going to be taken back then perhaps overseas reports, such as this, should be exposed for what they are: highly inflammatory, bordering on libellous, focused on Australian interests and quite often wrong.
The author and his ‘sources’
Last November, in The Australian ‘Media Watch Dog‘, Gerard Henderson named Mike Seccombe “Media fool of the week” for his front-page article on Cardinal Pell.
Henderson points out that “…”Smirk” Seccombe’s sources – for want of a better word,” are hardly impeccable and are most often nameless, such as “Cardinal Pell’s “most trenchant critics,” and “Pell’s anonymous critics” and even “some influential figures in the church” – and while Seccombe in his article about Papua New Guinea does name some of his sources, he fails to point out the ‘elephants in the room.’
However Papua New Guinean lawyer, Ms Tiffany Twivey who counts amongst her clients the Prime Minister and who was recently arrested by the aforementioned rogue police operating outside of the purview of Chief of Police in very controversial circumstances, has no such qualms writing:
That terrible article [Seccombe’s on PNG] – quotes Paul Flanagan, an Australian – who is failed former PNG treasury employee who has been writing “the sky is falling” economic forecasts for PNG since he was sacked. Then there are the team from development policy at ANU – where people go if they can’t get a job actually in development.
She goes on:
As for Lawrence Stephens – well he was working for PNGSDP when the government took over OK Tedi – lost his job. Former catholic Secretary General for PNG who has made a career out of pointing out problems in PNG but never actually helps to solve them.
For my part, my particular fascination is with Seccombe’s source that couldn’t be named “for good reason” – but we’re told he is a former senior Australian government official – and as such I can’t imagine why he needs to hide his identity – only people with something to lose need to do that – and maybe that’s the nail hit squarely on the head, especially when we read later:
You have to be careful about putting your name to criticism these days if you ever hope to get back into PNG. Hence the reluctance of our old hand, quoted above.
Now I understand. Is this “old hand” hoping to get a lucrative government job in PNG to cushion his retirement? The government’s policy of dispensing with overseas ‘consultants’ would not have suited many with such plans and they’d be understandably bitter.
Seccombe, even in quoting Dr Ron May (emeritus fellow to the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program at ANU), only gives some basic widely known and understood context – handy for an ignorant Australian audience but unnecessary for a Papua New Guinean one.
And that’s the crux: Australian’s are Seccombe’s audience. It’s written from their point of view and with their best interests in mind and with Australians giving their ‘expert’ opinions on Papua New Guinea to other Australians.
So why is a PNG audience on the social media, who describe themselves as ‘elite’, taking so much notice?
Every Australian article that I read about Papua New Guinea recycles the same old ‘experts’ who carry the same old trite views. Invariably they are Australians who have had lucrative careers as ‘consultants’ to Papua New Guinea and are clearly missing the ‘good old days’ where Papua New Guinea was more easily exploited and are alarmed at the rapidly changing landscape.
It’s becoming a habit.
It was just in January, this year that I wrote about the article by Bill Standish (also associated with the Development Policy Centre – about which Ms Twivey is so scathing) making the same observations about its useful contribution to Papua New Guinea (as opposed to Australian interests)
Standish makes many of the same assumptions that Seccombe does, especially about Task Force Sweep.
While Standish talks of “several” convictions of the agency, Seccombe talks of their “40 high-profile arrests.” Nowhere in either article could be found the figures that illustrate the abysmal failure of the agency:
In the figures that Sam Koim (ITFS Chainman) provided the PNG public recently he claimed to have registered 350 cases – 93 that were ITFS initiated of which 12 were successful.
Those figures neither take into consideration that the conviction of MP Francis Potape (one of the only two major convictions of ITFS – the other being MP Paul Tiensten – twice) was successfully overturned on appeal nor that some have mooted that this may be the fate of other convictions.
For now, it stands at 11 out of 93, or 11.83% success rate! Based on the cases registered (350), the success rate comes out at 3.1%. Indeed, a full 50% of ITFS cases have not made it past committal. (My emphasis)
To support their shaky thesis they have also needed to overlook the fact that Koim is embroiled in his own allegations with a charge of Contempt of Court dogging him along with the question of who is funding him. When this question can be answered then Koim may be further discredited. Another elephant in the room ignored.
Lying can be as successfully achieved by omission as by commission.
Just for good measure, the anonymous “old hand” and Professor Stephen Howes (yes, another source from that Development Policy Centre) – are in agreement that the court system in PNG is probably the last bastion of democracy and the only PNG government institution that can be trusted to function effectively.
This notwithstanding, Howes does mention a couple of appointees (though not by name) who seem to have been corrupted but is eager to point out that it isn’t the ‘white’ judge, Justice Terry Higgins, who was a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of the ACT. No it wouldn’t be the Australian, would it?
While I have also not seen any evidence that Justice Higgins is anything but impeccable and ditto other ‘non-white’ Papua New Guinean judges, nevertheless, in my close observations of the courts lately, I have seen some extraordinarily illogical decisions handed down by some and have remarked on them
See http://www.pngecho.com/2016/04/26/political-shenanigans-in-png-could-the-chief-justice-be-involved/ http://www.pngecho.com/2016/04/19/is-the-judiciary-overstepping-its-jurisdiction-the-damaru-case/ http://www.pngecho.com/2016/03/30/the-png-judiciary-the-power-and-the-glory-part-two/ http://www.pngecho.com/2016/03/29/the-reformation-of-the-court-system-in-papua-new-guinea/
Yet Seccombe tells us:
Others spoken to for this story say likewise: the government might be crook but not the courts.
Another of Seccombe’s immpeccable sources: “Others spoken to.”
With all this in mind, does this give Seccombe the qualification to gratuitously call the government of Papua New Guinea variably, corrupt, crook and greedy?
My advice, #takebackpng# – start listening to people who are talking to you – not those talking to the vested interests (that aren’t yours).