Democracy is a very powerful word that gives effect to freedom in sovereign nations like Papua New Guinea. It opens up the barriers of cultures, races, religion and brings together different classes of people to openly share the beauty of life and freedom of expression.
The recent series of events in PNG has brought the country’s democracy into question. The continuous actions by the police to stop public demonstrations and peaceful gatherings have poured more salt to the wound inflicted by an allegedly corrupt regime.
University students excising their democratic rights to protest over the state of affairs of the country have been restrained with court orders and using the brutality enforcers (police force) to deviate from the rule of law.
There seems to be double standards when our constitution calls for equality and fair treatment for all citizens.
The students’ call was for Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to step down was for him to go in for questioning by the National Fraud and Anti- corruption unit on allegations allowing millions of Kina to be paid to a law firm. Their call was mainly for the PM to respect the integrity of the Office of the Prime Minister, which he (O’Neill) is the occupant.
For him (O’Neill) to step aside doesn’t mean he is convicted of any charges, but it’s only a process which is applicable to every citizen of PNG. That is to be questioned over allegations and if there’s adequate and concrete evidence then he would be convicted accordingly by the Supreme Court.
The Prime Minister in his response says he has followed legal procedures and has given the ultimate response to the students’ petition. He says he will only step down only if there are substantial evidences provided to prove his guilty.
On the morning of Wednesday 8th June 2016, students from the University of Papua New Guinea staged a peaceful walk. Armed with their provincial flags and a loudhailer, they were heading for the National Parliament House for the parliament session. That same day a vote of no confidence motion against the Prime Minister was to be tabled by the PNG Opposition bench.
The Motion of No confidence Vote will determine the effect of their boycott of classes and the awareness carried out in their home provinces the previous weeks when their classes were suspended. It would be testing time for most of the Members of Parliament in the government faction to decide on the petitions given to them by the students.
Unfortunately police officers stopped the students from continuing their walk, a confrontation started and police were trying to get hold of the UPNG SRC president. Gun shots were fired and several students including members of the public were wounded by bullet pellets.
The attack by police triggered a nationwide unrest as students at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology joined in to protest against the police. A government vehicle was set alight inside the UNITECH campus as police maintained heavy security presence out the gate.
Several shops and government offices were stoned in Mt Hagen as the tension spreads across the Highlands region.
All these events reported outside of the capital Port Moresby is a clear picture that the people are beginning to lose confidence in Peter O’Neill and his regime. The sarcastic reaction from members in the government is an indication that government MPs do not care about the cries of the people.
Many people now feel that their freedom of expression and their right to protest against the government is no longer there. The police were following orders and where that order comes from lies with the Police Commissioner.
The world has been made aware through foreign media and Facebook that PNG as a democratic nation has no allowed let its own people exercise that right. “PNG Police opened fire on students protesting for the PM Peter O’Neill to step down” has been a common phrase on all news agencies both locally and internationally.
All voices of hope have been sub-ceded with a “big man” law known as Vetting Process and soon our economy would be mortgage for the millions of outstanding overseas loans.
Simply put, our DEMOCRACY is threatened and it is likely to be traded to bail PNG out of the chaos of law and order, financial crisis and the falling global prices on commodities.