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A Test of Truth and Leadership

Updated on May 26, 2018
Romney Tabara profile image

Romney Charles Tabara received an MBA from the University of Papua New Guinea, and has served in government and corporate management.

University of Papua New Guinea for Papua New Guinea

Wednesday the 8th June 2016, another day that will go down in history of Papua New Guinea. Gunshots echoed throughout the streets, police sirens and ambulance sirens wailing in what seemed like a terrorist attack in the heart of Port Moresby.

It all started at about 9am, students from the University of Papua New Guinea all dressed in black had been boycotting classes for the past five weeks now decided to march to parliament in anticipation of a parliament sitting in order see if the issues on their petition to the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil would be addressed.

Members of the Royal PNG Constabulary confronted the students between the Papua New Guinea Institute of Public Administration College (PNGIPA) and Waigani resulting in the shooting of several students and the injury of many more. This then triggered riots throughout the city, looting of shops and various other unconfirmed incidents. Once again brining Papua New Guinea into the world spot light through ABC, Channel Nine, SBS, CNN and all for the wrong reasons.

Flash back 2001 there were similar student protests against the Mekere-Wingti government over privatization and land reforms and ‘Yes’ there were shootings and injuries of several students. Three of which paid the ultimate price giving their lives for the cause.

Now who is to blame for all this? This often the first question posed as everyone points fingers at each other. Is it the students? Is it the police? Is it the politicians? Is it the public (opportunists)? All valid questions with varying perspectives. But to answer all this we must look at the underlying question, what is the truth?

Let us look at this from each of these perspectives at a given point in time. In this case a perspective from each on the 8th June 2016, 9.30 am.

The University student, a young man or woman in his or her early to mid 20’s. The student is told that as a student of the UPNG, he is part of the premier learning Institution in the South Pacific. He or she will one day be Lawyer, Doctor or even the Prime Minister. He or she is an intellectual and a future leader of his or her family, tribe, province, and Nation and the world is full of promise.

He or she writes essays, studies and reads theories on how the world works and where PNG fits into the global context. On this particular morning as the student stands there in the hot sun with his placard saying “UPNG for PNG” the student is thinking my country needs me to speak out about what everyone is thinking. I will march to the parliament and make my voice heard even if I may lose my life while doing so.

On the opposing end about 20 metres away is a Police man in full uniform a tall imposing, muscular figure, a battle hardened veteran in his mid 30’s to early 40’s, a fully loaded AR 15 and bullet proof vest. As a recruit the Police man is subject to an intense and grueling training regime. Two kilometre morning runs at 4.00am no matter the weather; marching drills in the hot sun and the rain; self defence, bush craft and survival training; 1-inch haircuts, shining shoes; barracks inspections at odd hours by trainers; and barrage of daily verbal assaults from instructors reminding him or her that he is or she is only a worthless recruit.

The recruit is broken down physically, mentally and psychologically, he or she is told that you no longer belong to a tribe or province. You now belong to the Royal PNG Constabulary, you will be trained to follow orders without fear or favor, and you belong to a big blue family. You are part of a historic organization more than 200 years old and one of the only eight constabularies that carries the prefix ‘royal’ at the beginning. The Constabulary brought the government to the people, the Constabulary built the nation of Papua New Guinea.

In the words of the Instructors, “for those of you who have degrees when you enter this college you leave your degree at the door! You will go wherever you are posted and you will serve your country without fear or favor.”

On this particular day the Police man stands in the sun looking across at the students and the growing and rowdy crowd behind them. The mission statement of the RPNGC “Securing a Safer Community in Partnership” pasted on the side of a police ten seater vehicle.

The mission statement a vast contradiction from life in the field, as he thinks of his operational orders. “Protect Government Property and Assets and contain the situation with whatever means necessary.” These words ring in his ears as he clutches his firearm and glances across at his comrades and his commanding officer. “I am doing my duty without fear or favor.”

Meanwhile in the Parliament house at Waigani, the elected members enter the chambers and take their seats for the day’s session. Politicians the ‘kings of spin’ ask anyone close to them and they will tell the Honourable member so and so was such an out-standing community role model, a steward businessman, public servant, diplomat, lawyer, pastor, counsellor, a true son of the so and so people, but when he or she entered parliament everything changed.

Now the member lives the life of a celebrity he has a huge house, including one in Cairns, he drives the latest five door with tinted glass, and he has more than one wife. He hardly visits his electorate anymore and he is rumored to have a private company that by some coincidence seems to be getting all the government contracts in his electorate.

The member will argue he wasn’t always this way he came into politics with the best of intentions to honourably serve his people but he is now the victim of a system. A system that makes him powerless, a system with which he must comply or he will be starved of funds for his beloved electorate. A system that has no balance, so you either beat them or join them. Hence, he is trapped in a game to survive and continue or be just another one hit wonder.

So on this particular day at about 10am in the chambers of parliament, a few members are vocal and ignite a debate about the situation which is unfolding somewhere between the University Waigani campus and the PNG Institute of Public Administration campus. While what comes as no surprise the majority remain silent.

The public or more particularly the opportunists, who are this particular group of people. Port Moresby city an ethnic mix from every regional group in Papua New Guinea. The majority of which reside in the squatter settlements mostly located on the outskirts of the city. These are best described as urban villages, made up of people every province most of whom flock to the city in search of a better life.

Most work in semi-skilled and unskilled jobs or are either self-employed or un-employed , they are your drivers, construction labourers, carpenters, baby sitters, house meris, cleaners, PMV bus drivers, buai sellers, street vendors, security guards, petty thieves, car jackers and drug dealers.

On this particular day around 9.45 am a mother and house wife at Morata hears gun shots echo. It sounds like they’re coming from nearby probably Waigani or Gerehu. Then all of sudden she is horrified as she sees a group of youths all from different provinces running in her direction all dressed in black, they trip and fall over each other some covered in blood, t-shirts torn, tears and intense fear in their eyes. One young man looks familiar he yells out in what sounds like her local dialect.

“Mama o! plis o! ol polis bai kilim mi! Mama o! mi ting mi kam lo skul but nogat mi bai indai lo hia olsem wanpela dok!”

“Oh Mother, the police will kill me! Oh Mother! I thought I came here to school but I will die here like a dog on the street!”

Tears well in her eyes as she instantly begins to wail,” Aiyo pikinini blo mi o! Hau ol mekim olsem lo yu!”

Oh my child, why have they done this to you!

“Ol mangi we? bai yu lusim ol mekim olsem lo ol barata blo yu o!” She shouts to a group of her tribe’s men playing cards in a house nearby.

Boys where are you? Are you going to let them do this to your brother!

“Mama olsem wanem!” they shout back.

“Mother, what is wrong!”

“Ol polisman kilim ol uni sumatin stap!” With that they pick up bush knives, bottles, stones and whatever they can find and head out to attack the nearest police post or policeman they can find.

“Policeman are attacking University students”

Four different perspectives each justified with their own frame of reasoning.

Firstly to the student I am voicing my view which I believe and I also believe is the common view of the majority of Papua New Guineans.

Secondly the Policeman I am here to protect government assets and property. I am here to maintain order and ensure this situation does not escalate.

Thirdly the Politician I am here to serve my people, even if I have to comply with the majority in power to serve my people I will do so.

Finally the public or opportunist. “You hurt my child so I will hurt you too.”

Four different groups each with conflicting perspectives, each clinging to their views. However, what can one conclude from this. It is difficult to say at this stage each individual would have their own view.

But there is one thing for certain the ‘Truth’ is missing from this equation. What is truth? A question asked the world over and throughout history. This I find best analyzed and defined by Christian Apologist Dr Ravi Zaharias who commented to define truth you must first note what truth is not.

  • Truth is not simply whatever works.
  • Truth is not simply what is coherent or understood.
  • Truth is not what makes people feel good.
  • Truth is not what the majority says to be true
  • Truth is not what is comprehensive or detailed.
  • Truth is not what is intended.
  • Truth is not how we know
  • Truth is not simply what is believed
  • Truth is not what is publicly proved.

Truth in essence is a complicated concept and must be examined at its roots. The Greek word for truth is aletheia, which means to un-hide or hiding nothing. The Hebrew word for truth which corresponds to the Christian view of truth is the word ‘emeth” which means firmness, constancy and duration implying an everlasting substance that can be relied on.

What does all this mean? Basically it will be difficult to get to the truth with 800 different languages and cultures all in one country. That would imply 800 different definitions and views of the truth.

As a leader you must find the truth. This a test of true leadership how you do it is up to you. Wisdom teaches us to look at the past in order to learn and prepare for the future.

The truth will always prevail and history has shown this to us time and time again. Hitler and the Jews, Mandela’s imprisonment and apathy; the crucifixion of Christ and the spread of the Gospel. No matter the circumstance the truth will prevail.

And the first step must always come from the leader regardless whether it is up, down, backward or to the side. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “The truth is the most powerful weapon concealed by a body guard of lies.”

Three phrases come to mind when taking about the truth that are so hard to say out aloud. “I love you”, “I am sorry” and “Thank you.”

This calls for wisdom and true leadership, the ball is in your court leaders and future leaders, whether you are a student, an opportunist, a policeman or a politician, raise up and stand up for Papua New Guinea this nation needs you to live and lead in the truth.

© 2018 Romney Charles Tabara


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