“Greenpeace is delusional and RH is reckless. What’s new? I did a lot of tree hugging in the past and it didn’t get me anywhere.” Nou Vada, Law student.
When a young kid in law school posts such comments on Facebook, they need to be taken seriously. Nou Vada is the most intelligent and articulate young Papua New Guinean I’ve come across (sic). I don’t know his reasoning behind the comments but they do express a perception and perhaps confusion amongst many Papua New Guineans that Green Groups are anti-development.
This perception arises from the reality that Environmental activists have become synonymous with headline grabbing protest activities. Thus the impression that the public gets is that the greenies just want to stop all sorts of projects.
Indeed, resource exploiters regularly dog-whistle the public with ‘anti-green’ clichés such that many now subscribe to that view that all green groups or Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) want to stop development..
I suppose in any case, both sides may have some merit to their arguments. Personally, I wish to visit the Constitution of Papua New Guinea to find out how it expresses Papua New Guinea’s development agenda. And perhaps a law student like Nou may articulate it better than a buai seller like me.
Papua New Guinea’s development agenda, regardless of what the Greens or the Capitalists say, is set out in its National Goals and Directive Principles as expressed in the Constitution.
In a film by Scott Waide, lawyer Ganjiki Wayne states that the writers of the Constitution weren’t so much interested in physical/structural development as in the integral development of the individual. It was a somewhat spiritual rather that material development that the founders of this nation were interested in.
This concept of development is expressed in the First National Goal and Directive Principles regarding Integral Human Development. The development model envisaged by the Founders of this nation is indeed found in Goal number Five - Papua New Guinean ways. Goal number Five specifically calls for any activity whether social, political or economic, to be consistent with the ways of Papua New Guinean societies.
Thus, if any social, political or economic activity impinges upon the Papua New Guinean way of life, it is against the Spirit of the Constitution. And since it is the Constitution that gives legal authority to the Nation State, the state of the nation should be consistent with the desires of the Constitution as expressed in the National Goals and Directive Principles.
Now the Constitution gets its legitimacy from the citizens of this nation. The Constitution is therefore an expression of the general will of the people of Papua New Guinea. The People, through their Constitution, have expressed their desire that any social, political or economic activity be consistent with Papua New Guinean Ways.
Why was it necessary to explicitly call for all development activity to be consistent with Papua New Guinean Ways? The answer is simple, for over 40 000 years indigenous Papua New Guineans were fully independent people before colonization. It was their Papua New Guinean Ways that made them totally independent.
It is this fullness of political and economic independence that the writers of the Constitution expressed in Goal number Three of the National Goals and Directive Principles – National Sovereignty and Self Reliance. The communal ownership of land and sharing of resources and responsibilities that enabled equality and participation of all members of traditional societies is expressed by Goal Two – Equality and Participation. Goal number Four on Natural Resources and Environment basically reflects the sustainable livelihood of traditional societies and their minimal impact on the environment.
I do not believe these Goals are a rejection of modernity by the writers of the Constitution. Rather, they express a desire to avoid the pitfalls of the greed of western capitalism as witnessed in the current context of global economic crisis. This fear is expressed in this prophetic statement by the Constitutional Planning Committee.
We see the darkness of neon lights.
We see the despair and loneliness in the urban cities.
We see the alienation of (the people) that is the result of the
present machine orientated economy.
We see true social security and (the people’s) happiness being
diminished in the name of economic progress.
We caution therefore that large-scale industries should be pursued only after very careful and thorough consideration of the likely consequences upon the social and spiritual fabric of our people…
There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that a significant number of people who live by the fruits of multi-million dollar multi-national corporations live in misery, loneliness and spiritual poverty.
We believe that since we are a rural people, our strength should be essentially in the land and the use of our innate artistic talents.
(Papua New Guinea Constitutional Planning Committee, 1975)
Fundamentally, the lowest common denominator between all societies in this multi-cultural nation is the relationships people have with their land. It is the land that defines a person. This is expressed in the first question two Papua New Guineans ask each other when they meet for the first time; “where are you from?”
Any social, political or economic activity that displaces people from their land and prevents them from accessing and utilizing their ancestral land is contrary to the Papua New Guinean Way referred to in Goal Number 5. It is therefore not sufficient to just resettle people and pay compensation for the land they have been displaced from.
They will never be accepted by another tribe nor will they accept the new reality. The landlord will restrict their access to gardening and hunting grounds making the settlers feeling very insecure. The settlers will also have lost their sacred sites and traditional resources that used to be acquired from their ancestral land. No amount of money can compensate for the loss of security, culture and identity that is associated with alienation from ancestral land.
What happens next happened on Bougainville on a larger scale but is already expressed in the form of various social problems and disruptions to economic activities. What it means to be Papua New Guinean is to have a connection with the land. That is what give’s one an identity and a sense of social security.
Development with-in the context of Goal number 5 must respect and safe-guard this intimate relationship between the land and it’s people. We don’t own the land, it owns us. We are guardians of the land our fore-fathers fought to protect for our sake. There is no honour in not fighting to protect one’s land.
Any activity that does not subscribe to these Five National Goals and Directive Principles is not development but bagarapment. That is why blood had to be spilt on Bougainville when people revolted against the destruction of the Mekamui – the sacred land, which is the source of everything.