The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Mar. 2) - The Morobe Governor has again indulged in one of his oratorical outbursts, this time targeting the handful of Australian advisors slated to take up advisory roles in his Papua New Guinea province. 

Precisely what has led the Morobean politician to savage Australia and Australians will probably forever remain a matter of conjecture.

His remarks, if taken at face value, would have left his listeners in no doubt of his antagonism towards Australia and its people, and in equal part towards the Somare government.

But based on previous examples of the Governor's more forceful public addresses, this harangue, delivered to a crowd of some 2,000 people, was nothing more than old-fashioned political grandstanding.

Certainly, few will want to give such a piece of arrant rabble-rousing one whit more credence than it deserves, and that in our opinion is precious little.

There are so many obvious flaws in Governor Wenge's line of reasoning that his speech would not normally warrant more than a line or two of comment.

But given that he has chosen to speak at the moment when Australians will be moving to PNG to take-up their advisory positions here, it is perhaps necessary to examine what he has to say in more detail.

The most confronting of Governor Wenge's remarks is a direct threat to the physical well-being of these visiting advisors.

Mr Wenge has urged Morobeans to enter the offices where these people are working, and chase them away.

This kind of drum-beating is reminiscent of the posturing associated with the heady days of immediate post-independence, when our country briefly hosted a number of idiosyncratic members of doubtful benefit to their electors.

Their tenure in office was generally brief, as their voters rapidly tired of their windy rhetoric unmatched by any lasting achievements.

Few today can even remember their names.

It now appears that the lineage is not quite extinct.

Nobody needs reminding of the Morobe Governor's well-publicised threat to cut the bolts at Buimo jail and release prisoners into the community.

Nor have we forgotten the near-riotous scenes complete with flourished weaponry at the Morobe Tutumang involving supporters of Mr Wenge and Mr Andrew Baing, Member for Markham.

This approach to politics has long become obsolete in PNG, and the latest outburst from Mr Wenge must be a source of real embarrassment to the peaceful and intelligent people of Morobe.

In particular, the coming generation of young Morobean leaders will certainly distance themselves from this old-fashioned and dictatorial approach to leadership.

Threats to remove Morobe from the PNG State and create some sort of independent unit are nothing but hollow play-acting, signifying nothing, and are a direct insult to the people of that province, who have always been staunchly supportive of our country's national identity and unity.

And it is at the very least ironic that a handful of people in positions of power iterate again and again that PNG has the educated, skilled and fully-trained manpower to look after itself.

The importation of expertise from overseas is therefore unnecessary, the theory goes.

Bluntly, if that is so, why for the past 28 years has PNG been unable to marshal this indigenous talent and why has our nation languished for so many years in the doldrums?

That weary old furphy about Australian "boomerang" aid deserves no response from us.

It has long ago been utterly discredited.

And it is plainly ridiculous and patently untrue to suggest, as Governor Wenge has, that Australian advice has been to down-size PNG health and education in order to keep us dependent on our southern neighbor.

We are certain that nothing would please Australia more than to be able to honorably close the door on PNG, and re-direct the huge sums it lavishes on this country to other needy recipients.

And to suggest that Sir Michael Somare, one of the chief fighters for PNG independence, is now attempting to reverse that process and give the country back to Australia is simply preposterous.

Australians can rest assured that a significant majority of our people welcomes both the aid and the advice that their people can offer us. 

We, as a proud and independent nation, are honored to call the government and people of Australia our friends. 

March 3, 2004

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