Edited Version for the Blog: Entry for the 2017 Papua New Guinea Chamber of Mines and Petroleum Essay & Journalism Category by: Carter Pau Jr.
Carter Pau Jr. resides in Goroka, PNG. Together with a like-minded, Carter Pau Jr. started an organization called NEHASA Projects in 2013 and volunteers services in designing churches, classrooms, clinics and teachers houses for free to rural based schools and churches. He has been writing mostly poems as a hobby but has not published anything.
One of my family members contested the Okapa Open seat in the last election in 2012. He was a very hardworking man who made his way up the social ladder from scratch. He dropped out of primary school. But that did not limit his dreams. He employed himself in several projects that enriched his life and that of those around him. He went from being a simple plumber to becoming a millionaire at a young age. He ran his political campaign with money, as is the case of many intending candidates in PNG. I was doing third year at University of Technology, Lae, PNG, when the writs were open in 2012. Despite my pleas for him not to enter politics and concentrate on his business endeavours, he defiantly ignored all my advice and went for it.
2016 is the eve of the election year 2017, and so the election fever grips almost everyone in Okapa. When September 2016 sets in, the people will then be seeing October as the next day and then proclaim with joy that 2017 is just around the corner. From my extensive travels, mostly throughout the rural parts of Okapa, intending candidates are usually hush hush about their objectives. However, their intentions are usually very obvious, even to a non-politically inclined person – it’s embarrassing. These intending candidates usually pop up in almost every tribe. At this stage, no one would make publically known about their desire but one can feel their presence and yearning. One can know who is going to stand for election and also make observations on those who are undecided.
It was an exciting time in Okapa toward the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017. It was a time when the village folks are usually relieved of their monetary burden in fulfilling their traditional obligations. Obligations such as: buying coffins for dead relatives, transporting the coffins, buying lamb flaps or beef cartons for parties and any other obligations seen fit for a leader to shoulder. All these obligations become an intending candidate’s compulsions to fulfil. “Sore em tasol bin karim hevi blo mi ya” is what these intending candidates itching ears want to hear on polling day.
The election season is also an exciting time when miracles happen. Miracles in a sense that: one does not need to work or say a lot of words to earn money. Usually a line such as: “Dadi Bos”, “lida” or “Memba” to an intending candidate is all one has to say. The result of this is that, within minutes ones pocket is filled with money. It is a time of happiness: a time when alcohol is surprisingly free to some, food, expensive gifts like a Samsung S8 or a trip to the Capital Port Moresby is possible to aquire. It is a time for love and love making. It is a time when those who use the magic words on candidates sometimes become sexual victims themselves. For instance, when women, sometimes underage, come to the intending candidates with a naughty smile and say “dadi bos.” All the money in the pocket magically transfers to this young girl and within a minute or two, they are romping in the nearby bush or the kofi gaden, depending on which is close by. Everybody is excited during this time. Sounds of merriment and joy ring throughout the village with drunkards singing into the wee hours of the morning.
I wish I could boast about how my Uncle went on to establish more companies and provide more employment to many Papua New Guineans. I wish I could tell you of his increased wealth so that we all could be proud of ourselves as Okapians who can compete and achieve in the Modern world. But I cannot do that, No I cannot. Unfortunately my uncle “gave” it all away to fellow Okapians. He made direct investments in the people who called him sweet things he wanted to hear. He became a victim of the magic words in 2012.
In Electioneering, one has to be a winner and the rest losers. There is no second price in this race, not even consolation prizes. The winner takes it all. My uncle got nothing.
It is 2017 and now it is the season of the magic words. This is the season to be merry. Everyone forgets about the 4 years of turmoil, hardship, struggles, suffering, adversity and poverty. Everyone forgets about how we struggle to get basic services, “em nomol ya, ba yumi stap osem yet, givim na mi kaikai nau yet, nau yet na bai u kisim vote bilong mi.”
When will we stop entangling ourselves with this bad habit? In the end, nobody benefits out of it. Who will initiate an end to this? Okapa needs change but Okapians are not changing, both villagers and the elites. We are still captivated by the magic words. Open your eyes my fellow Okapians. Let’s stop this cycle when tomorrow comes.