There is a risk that organizers of current protests against the O’Namah regime begin to lose credibility if they become too dogmatic about “defending the Constitution”.
This blogger and millions other Papua New Guineans were delighted when the Somare’s fell spectacularly from power in a Parliamentary Coup on the 3rd of August last year. The removal of Somare then was Unconstitutional as was ruled upon later by the Supreme Court in December last year. No one took to the streets to defend the Constitution and bring back Somare then.
Compromise and Consensus are at the heart of Melanesian decision making. The people are very pragmatic and so western idealism about Constitutionality does not define how they view Power and legitimacy.
Traditional forms of Governance are still very relevant and active in most societies. The claim that it is the Constitution that keeps us together is perhaps an overstatement. It denies the existence over thousands of years of trade links between various indigenous Melanesian nations. It also perpetuates the western myth that we are primitives and therefore need a piece of paper to keep us together. It overlooks the great work done by early missionaries, Colonial administrations and traders in bringing indigenous nations together under the modern state.
What keeps us together as a people are a complex web of relationships. Whereas in the west the saying goes that “its nothing personal just business”, for Melanesians everything is personal and about relationships and friendships. The most important investment one can make in Melanesian societies is to build one’s social capital.
As such to be blinded by “protesting to defending the Constitution” risks destroying social capital and goodwill built largely by students of the University of Papua New Guinea. In many ways, today’s protestors have “missed the bus”. Occupy Waigani 1 was the first protest to Morauta Haus pretty much entirely by the University Students. Occupy Waigani 2 was a genuine civil society protest where about 10 000 Port Moresby residents marched and occupied Sir John Guise stadium. Occupy Waigani 1 and 2 have certainly forced the government to slow down on its rhetoric and keep election dates with-in the Constitutional Time-frame.
What seems to happen now with all the other “protest” movements is mere political point scoring in the lead up to the elections. This is why it is important that those who are genuinely concerned about the integrity of the Constitution do not become blinded by the “fight to defend the Constitution” and end up being used by political aspirants.
What should actually be happening now is that a coalition of intending candidates or political parties, civil society organisations, and individuals publicly announce that during the term of the next Parliament they would collectively act to repeal all the Acts created by the O’Namah regime and hold individuals and MPs accountable for breaches to the Constitution. If need be, some people may have to be tried for treason during the term of the next Parliament.
Who will be the next Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea capable of delivering justice to an oppressed people? After 37 years of Independence, the only consistency in the land of the unexpected has been the absence of justice.