Editorial July 24th 2021

Welcome to this week’s editorial, In my nineteen years of growing up in the Territory of Papua New Guinea I heard many promises. First there were the promises made by the Australian Government as they encouraged TPNG to explore independence saying they would always be there. Then came the promises made of upcoming PNG leaders who encouraged Independence and spoke of all the mana and rewards that would come as a result. What the people didn’t realise was that their elected-to-be would be the ones to gain the mana and rewards. After Independence in 1975 the promises steamed in by way of multinationals offering roads, schools and hospitals in return for the mining rights that gave them access to vast riches. But the promises made were not kept and the people were once again fooled. In Bougainville the lies and broken promises resulted in civil war. That wound has not yet healed and the distrust remains. PNG citizens learnt the hard way not to trust in promises and to not expect the outcomes that were laid out as trinkets before them. In PNG a common phrase for someone making broken promises is to say “man giaman, tok tok blong em pekpek wara tasol”. Translated it means “he’s lying, he is talking diarrhoea” When I left to come to Australia my father offered what advice he could to a son leaving his home, and his country, to discover a new land and culture. One of the gems that he offered was “Don’t believe in all that is said or written. Look to what isn’t being said or written. That is where you need to look. Then work out what they aren’t telling you and why.” I had put aside this little gem for the next thirty years until I took a broader interest in the politics of politics. What I discovered was that there was considerable “pekpek wara” being thrown about with promises being made and then broken. The bottom line was that it was hard to establish who to trust. I initially decided it was the politicians that one had to be cautious of. All too soon though it was revealed, by way of example, that the bureaucracy below them was also to be painted with the same broadbrush of caution. The Council elections are coming around in December. There will be candidates that will suggest they will deliver “openness and transparency”. The truth of the matter will be that, if elected, they will have the bureaucracy telling them very clearly that confidentiality must be kept on all matters, from briefings to dispatches, and they will be warned of consequences if they reveal secrets. The councillors will be advised that they will be briefed fully on important issues and that they can rely on such briefings. But from what we know, and what has been revealed, there are major concerns that the councilors are often delivered “pekpek wara” and are unaware that the whole truth is not being revealed. What to do? There has to be a return of allowing an informed media into briefings to act as a dog in the room. And we need councillors switched on enough to do their own research and take advice from others. All of the decisions being made are out of reach of the community. A new bridge in Batemans Bay without any consultation. Even the RMS designers were caught off guard. A new hospital for Eurobodalla but then , overnight, we hear of beds and service deliveries being reduced before the first sod is turned. We learn of a Transport NSW group hellbent on Option Orange for a Moruya bypass ignoring pleas and submissions. Locally there are discussions on opening more land for urban expansion while nurses and teachers protest that they are under-sourced for a population growing at a staggering rate. Yet if we appeal to our “leaders” we hear little more than “pekpek wara” responses, if they bother to respond at all. Across our media we are presented everyday with evidence of lies, blatant corruption, pork barrelling, broken promises, double speak, failed morals and failed examples of the civic leaders we expect, both elected and in public service. Sadly we are so accustomed to it that our faith in leaders has diminished. And everytime we dare to question, or to demand to know what or why, we are given “pekpek wara”. Until next—lei

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