DEFINING PNG’S NATIONAL SECURITY

DEFINING PNG’S NATIONAL SECURITY

By Lt-Col James Laki

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 8) – Pundits who are well-remunerated by foreign multi-national corporations may have a different view about Papua New Guinea’s national security.

However, there are real threats to our sovereignty if foreigners continue to reap the benefits.

National security threats, as seen through the eyes of State politics — as eventuating in a war — may not be real because there are no identified states which pose an external threat to PNG.

However, when the spotlight focuses on other components that contribute to national security, a different scenario could appear. Critics should be aware of the three main "icons" that contribute to State or national security — the Defence Force, which represents military security, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, which represents internal security and many other agencies that assist in preventing situational security threats.

The Parliament, which legislates and forms the political body of our sovereign nation is the ultimate body responsible for national security.

Politicians should steer the country on the right course and lead in the prevention of situational security threats that are predominantly based around the socio-economic conditions which affect the majority of Papua New Guineans.

Others are civil society organisations, including investors and multi-national corporations, that should assist in preventing situational security threats.

Critics of the State and its institutions — mainly foreigners and well-remunerated employees of multi-national corporations who may gain illicitly or otherwise from the demise of State institutions — continue to be critical of the nation’s efforts in managing the state of affairs.

State institutions such as the police and the Defence Force continue to be ridiculed by those critics, despite the need for such institutions.

PNG is undoubtedly vulnerable because of weakening State institutions but those very institutions have been as resilient as the country’s resources allow.

Despite recent criticism, the courts are still respected as the final authority for arbitration, together with the National Constitution which is the binding instrument that has created the various national institutions.

In these cases, the State is needed by the masses. It appears necessary, despite arguments concerning legitimacy — the main one being that the governing elite seem far removed from the majority in the rural areas.

It is a stigma for developing countries when aid donors and donor countries become frustrated by the internal operations of vulnerable states. The government of the day may seem illegitimate if seen in the same context that represents sovereignty.

However, a vibrant democratic system allows political participation without discrimination.

As a result, PNG has seen the return of less than 30 per cent of former parliamentarians in most national elections, thus creating inconsistencies when political party cohesion is being pursued.

The Defence Force, especially, required much deliberation by our constitutional "fathers" as is reflected in the final report of the Constitutional Planning Committee in 1973.

No-one should deny this wisdom as we have relative peace in the world in the absence of superpowers and as middle powers try to influence modern world politics.

The US is a hyperpower that would like to engage with deputies who have similar ideologies.

However, history repeats itself in unusual ways.

Most of all, PNG has international maritime and land boundaries to monitor.

If this "paper tiger" is replaced, who would play the role of the PNG Defence Force?

Also, what about the constitutionally designated responsibilities that engage with international armed forces?

Would another "white elephant" be created as the substitute for the Defence Force and would this new organisation have the necessary capacities?

If the intent is to have a single paramilitary-type organisation, then much consideration of, and debate on, what is the best option is essential.

Papua New Guinea has adopted the "big man" ideology where elected members cater for themselves first with the best and leave the scraps for the small man — much in the same way as the Asian system.

Case studies of some ASEAN countries may be required just as we have associates who prefer an authoritarian style of governing a country.

Alternatively, there could be a State-centric type, similar to the former Soviet Union or North Korea. Even so, would PNG have the capacity to control the masses?

Is Papua New Guinea’s "look north" policy on a rebound from the west or the south?

With the demise of State institutions, one can see many propositions, including corruption, co-optation of clients and corporatisation for financial gains. Simply, PNG has been invaded by foreigners and foreign ways. The evolution of private security companies is essentially a privatisation of State functions.

These companies have created a corporate mentality within the police force, where a user-pay concept applies.

An example of this is the policy in remote timber logging camps, when they "provide services" for logging companies rather than representing the local villages who may have a genuine cause for arbitration.

Another cause for concern is when State institutions, or key persons in institutions, are offered "incentives for the incumbents to perform given tasks".

Such "gestures" could be regarded as inducements.

The patron-client relations between the State and its institutions are visible and basically acceptable but what about the patron-client relations between a business house and a State institution?

The client is expected to deliver some favour, patronising what was created by inducements.

Paying "tips", or "premiums’" or rewarding someone for "assistance" has created a form of money-making incentive and has increasingly become a cause for conflict.

The illegal operation of horse-racing machines is a classic example with the operations being closely guarded in settlements because the suppliers share their takings with the owners of the makeshift clubs and houses.

The importation of spare parts to maintain those operations became a transnational smuggling incident when they were undervalued — falsely declared.

One should admire the work of the Internal Revenue Commission, which is a state institution that has the capacity to generate revenue. Also, it is able to support its customs and excise duty collection operations.

There are no easy security choices for a country with diverse regions, cultures and ethnicity, although many people think it is simplistic.

The masses must build their own societies, based on informed awareness and education. The role of the State in any given situation should be explained to the masses.

Election campaigns, HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns and any other

campaigns should make their objectives very clear. They must also support the State and work with State in achieving their goals.

The State exists to protect individuals and society by the rule of law. The State is essential, dependable and legitimate — and should be supported, despite competing or contradictory views from donors and foreigners.

Lt-Col James Laki is a Senior Research Fellow in the Political and Legal Studies Division at the National Research Institute

December 8, 2004

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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