I have written this in response to critics of mine who believe a lot of what I have written previously are lofty political statements that have no tangible benefit. This essay is not a protest manual. Like Clausewitz’s On War it is an exploration of the phenomenon of protest in its tangible, physical, and psychological manifestations.
The conditions that prevail in this country are perfect for some form of kinetic force necessary to effect change. The State is weak and there exists a power vacuum thus the State has become a puppet of commercial interests. The recent land grab under pretext of Special Agriculture Leases, the amendments to Environmental legislation and the disquiet over mineral ownership has generated anger amongst the rural masses. People feel dispossessed, exploited and very frustrated and like dry wood; only need a spark to start the fire.
The penetration of mobile phones throughout the country has been used by Papua New Guinean Activists such as Noel Anjo to get their message across and mobilization of the masses. The lowering of mobile internet rates has seen the increase in the number of people accessing social networking sites.
In recent times, people all over the world have had laptop revolutions powered by social networking sites. Those that have succeeded have done so based on the tactic of taking control of a public area and transforming it into the symbol of power. The Filipinos did this in 1986 with their People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos Regime. In the last decade, the Revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia took place in public squares and this was copied at Tahir Square in Cairo.
This tactic however is not fool proof as events at Tiananmen Square, Tehran and more recently in Syria testify.
However, its application to Papua New Guinea is absolutely relevant. Noel Anjo’s absolute failure lies in the fact that he has not kept sustained pressure for issues, in a very public way. He has not kept a prolonged protest with supporters in the public space or building. He’s tactics were just electric surges and not an absolute power blackout.
The power of a sustained and visible public demonstration such as the recent Tahir Square demonstration lies in the perception it creates. It is psychological warfare in its finest. The fear it generates shuts down schools, offices, and more importantly businesses. There is a blow to investor confidence, markets are volatile and there is capital flight out of the country. Banks are closed and trade grinds to a halt.
As businesses make massive losses each day they start mounting pressure on the puppets they bankrolled into power. The money that finances corruption starts to run dry and it becomes only a matter of time before the strings are cut and the puppets fall from grace.
There is no need to march the streets and burn down shops because all this does is destroy the sources of employment and tax revenue that a new regime would need. Rather, a public gathering in a park, church, school, hospital, etc... accompanied by food, entertainment, church services and debates, etc... is more relevant.
The key here is to involve as many citizens in an act of revolt such that it paralyzes the State. Peaceful inclusive demonstrations that paralyze government and business activities can be very effective.
The use of technology to communicate domestically and internationally will increase awareness of the demands of those seeking change and focus the world’s attention on their cause.
The fact that World Powers have heavily invested billions in the resources sector of Papua New Guinea will raise alarms in Washington, Beijing, Canberra and Tokyo. The Chinese have spent Billions on the Ramu Nickel-Cobalt project while American, Australian and Japanese governments have pumped billions into the PNGLNG Project.
With the eyes of the world focused on this resource rich nation, it would be a spectacle to watch as a weak, unpopular Government is pitted against its people.
The party that prevails is the one that is cohesive, well lead and has clearly defined objectives. I would define some objectives of a hypothetical protest as follows;
- Creation of a Transitional Government of National Unity lead by currently elected members of Parliament from both sides of the House; whom the Public perceive to be less corrupt. The transitional government will lead the nation into the next elections.
- Parliament to repeal recent changes made to the Environment Act
- Setting Up of a Commission of Inquiry into the Special Agricultural Leases
- The enactment of Constitutional Amendments and relevant enabling legislation for the establishment of Hela and Jiwaka Provinces as well as the creation of Reserved Seats for Women
- Review of Natural Resource Legislation and the development of a fairer mechanism of distributing wealth obtained from exploitation of those resources
- The creation of an Independent Commission Against Corruption
- Any other issue that the people consider to be of concern
Such demands for change are aimed at creating a new reality. They’re about establishing a new democratic and accountable Papua New Guinean reality. The Three Arms of Government and the Fourth Estate have failed the people. It is now time for the people to create a new world - a new Papua New Guinean State.
These historic times present a golden opportunity to seize the moment and shape the future directions of the nation. As revenue flows in from the LNG Project, the State will be flushed with cash and like the Saudi Royals be able to dominate and manipulate a weak populace. The State will also be less likely then to respond to calls for change by any internal or external actors.
There are already movements of change in Papua New Guinea. They are activists in government, churches, businesses, Non-governmental organizations, etc... They have networks throughout the country and can be effectively galvanized to bring about the changes they genuinely desire.
As a writer, I am submitting these set of ideas to assist them to effect changes which they rightfully desire. As citizens we have a responsibility to protect the National Interest which has in recent times being tossed aside by puppets whose sole aim is to perpetuate their grip on power.
OVER 200 PEOPLE DIED IN THE WESTERN PROVINCE FOLLOWING AN OUTBREAK OF CHOLERA IN 2010