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By Staff Reporter : PNG Today

Corruption is threat to growth: Should death penalty be imposed for corruption in PNG?

Peter Solo Kinjap

THE critical observation by some of very own intellects, scholars, students, senior state men and former primers on the current level of corruption in the country must receive the same degree of attention from all levels of government, stakeholders, development partners and the society at large. 
Corruption is a double-edged sword that hangs over our head. I wish to raise this grave concern in the following manner.
From the outset, let me establish that it takes generations to change a society from a developing to a developed status. And, by the law of nature in today’s hostile and competitive world, the change is expected to be progressive always with successive generations and not regressive or stagnant. The law is such that the success or failure of the next generation is dependent on the performance of the previous generation.
I have lived and was raised among the rural population for quite a long time and I still live today in my rural village of Tambul-Nebilyer District, Western Highlands Province. I had been traveling to very remote villages in the country. Pureni and Embuli villages in Tari, Southern Highlands Province (now Hela Province) and to the villages in the remotest and rugged mountainous region of the Goilala district in the Central province, Tapini and Waitape villages. Not to mention other villages in the country that I have been visiting. The supporting comment presented here is therefore based mainly on personal encounters from those many visits to the villages and times spent with the people in the rural communities. And living and working in Port Moresby – a growing city with mixed attitudes and cultures is an addition to all my observations. 
It is putting together the two ends of the spectrum, government policies on one end and expected results on the other end, and drawing the conclusion from today’s generation perspective, who by far, form the bulk of the nation’s population.
Regardless of every effort made by successive governments and the workforce over the years, I am afraid I must say we have not built a steady, stable, vibrant and progressive society that should guarantee a prosperous future for every child born today. And this is the nightmare of today’s generation.
Incidentally, I do not think very much was built either for them. They believe they literary scraped through at the early stage of their lives in the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s living off from the left over of the colonial era, so to speak. The seniors today had the best part and replaced little or nothing.
Theirs is a state akin to being nailed in a coffin alive. And I think they are indeed. The following is a brief description of the scenario, which is nothing new to the successive governments and the bureaucracy.
Health Centers and aid posts in the rural areas that provided 80-100% chances of survival for a very sick person 30-40 years ago now provide only 60% or even less. In the worst-case scenario, nothing. Many have been closed; others have been downgraded while a few are surviving on the mercy of some good Samaritans.
Primary, vocational and secondary schools that provided 80-100% chances of successful completion for every child now provide only 60% or even less, whilst the competition leader for entry into tertiary institutions is so slender. 
Vital road infrastructure that provided the impetus for steady economic growth and improved social services in the pre-independence era and at the early stages of the post-colonial era, have been reclaimed by Mother Nature.
There no longer exists a good governance and effective management of the past that ensured every kina spent equaled the amount of work done and achieved the expected results.
Our parents and grandparents were not regular wage earners. But there was always a place and the means to go and sell their copra, cocoa, coffee or garden foods to pay school fees from the earnings. The trees are still there. But we cannot do what they did because the facilities no longer exist. We were privileged to complete our primary and secondary education without having to worry about unpaid or incomplete payment of school fees. The same is not true for many children today; pushing more school aged kids into the streets.
Airfare for a 15-minute flight from the nearest town to a remote outstation has sky rocketed from K27 to K230 in 20 years. Lives are still lost at sea every year for those living in the islands because of such horrendous transport costs.
The gap between the rich and the poor is getting bigger day by day. In a sense, there is really no tomorrow for anyone living or born today. Even today has gone past its expected productivity period without achieving much in tangible terms. We are living on borrowed time.
The country just experienced another level of high corruption taking its toll with the most controversial vote of no confidence to change a corrupt prime minister gone unsuccessful. 
Today we are looking forward to next General Elections. Every candidates, current Member of Parliament (MPs) and new candidates alike, to go out in force telling every eligible voter that they had the answers to poverty, poverty in every sense of the word – politically, socially and economically and to kill corruption. The same words our parents were told in the previous generation.
The same words were repeated to today’s generation. Note that dreams, aspirations and expectations vary with generations. The country’s generation today is better educated and more exposed to the demands of modern lifestyle and the socio-economic issues that come with it. They are more sensitive and hostile compared to their parents. 
With our vast resources, we do have a long promising future. But, corruption is threatening that promising future. Corruption is a disease eating our heart out. We do not want it to eat the children of today’s generation alive.
It has turned many potential young people to crime. It is turning many more to violence. Heed these critical observations seriously. Our short-term development policies for the next three to five years must be targeted at the immediate wellbeing of today’s generation and that of their children. 
Many times we hear people claim and it is true that Papua New Guinea is rich with natural resources. Yet it is facing a very difficult future, as corruption is rife, law and order broken down, violent crimes escalating and the government is struggling to maintain authority.
Should this downward trajectory continues, Papua New Guinea could become a “failed state”. 
Living standards and annual per capita income have barely improved since independence. Mining revenues and generous foreign aid were not invested in roads, schools and health services.
Infant and maternal mortality rates are close to those of sub-Saharan African countries than to the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. Population growth is high and job creation is low.
The rising number of unemployed young people, particularly in urban areas, is demoralizing, feeding crime and civil unrest. The extent of lawlessness scares off investors and tourists, reinforcing a downward spiral. Dependence on borrowed money has enabled Papua New Guinea to live beyond its means. 
Are there any provisions in our constitution that prescribe for embezzlers, fraudsters and thieves of public monies to be sentenced to death? The Chinese law in 1979 on corruption was categorized under the section of offences of encroaching on property. It is now an independent crime category, separated from other property and economic offences. This stipulation reflected a growing recognition among Chinese lawmakers and political leaders of the corruption epidemic. 
The legal definition of corruption is clear – graft and accepting bribes are capital offences under the current law. In recent years, China imposed death sentences on offenders who would have qualified for a suspended death sentence.
For example, a customs inspector chose to abuse his position by accepting millions of Yuan to allow smuggled goods to enter China. The judge reasoned that the officer’s criminal activities had resulted in “countless losses in taxes” had an extremely negative influence on the “organization’s work ethics” and seriously undermined the “integrity of the government”. Despite that the officer voluntarily returned some bribery money and showed remorse, the judge reasoned that the nature of his offence was so grave and its social effects were so negative, the death penalty was the only appropriate punishment in this case to deter and educate the public and to serve justice.
We have so many similar cases in Papua New Guinea. We have had people who held responsible positions and had embezzled millions of kina from the public coffers through dubious means including false claims, misappropriation, bribery, etc.
Yet they were given suspended sentences and set free. Even those who were convicted were not given life sentences. Should not that be a concern?
I am aware that there was a public debate in our country as in many other democratic countries on the death penalty. Many countries, including Australia and Britain, have repealed the death penalty. Papua New Guinea may wish to go down that path. That is a matter for the legislature to consider.
However, I should say at the outset that the constitutional validity of the death penalty for willful theft of millions, fraud and embezzlement be prescribed by death.
Otherwise, we may consider the Islamic justice. The prominent one is hand amputation for theft. So today in Papua New Guinea, corruption is killing our country while theft is injuring it. What do you think? Should death penalty be a measure to wipe out corruption and theft in Papua New Guinea?

Photo: The writer.

Posted by Staff Reporter : PNG Today on 8:49 PM. Filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Share this Article


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