On being a PNG MP

Voters in PNG's Hela Province, 2012 (Commonwealth Secretariat/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Voters in PNG's Hela Province, 2012 (Commonwealth Secretariat/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

There’s a public perception out there that MPs have a lot of money. In Western Province, many assume that MPs and the Governor are supposed to have all the money and goodies to dish out for every personal/family/group request.

Though it’s a fact that what we MPs receive in a fortnight is more compared to the rest of our ordinary citizens, the list of requests we receive is way beyond what our fortnightly pay can offset.

Since I won, there has been a never-ending list of requests that continue to flood my office via my Facebook inbox, Whatsapp, text messages, emails and phone calls.

Many requests that I have received have tagged phrases used to try to squeeze something out of me. Tagged phrases such as “I’m your voter”, “I campaigned for you”, “I gave you my first preference vote”, “I sacrificed my time for you”, “I’m your die-hard supporter since 2012”, “I was your scrutineer”, “I lost my tears for your victory”, “mi hard wok man yah” etc. etc.

You can continue the never-ending “I DID THIS AND THAT FOR YOU” list.

I understand, everyone played a part, one way or the other to contributed to my election victory. However, it was done for a purpose bigger than the personal benefit or the minority group benefits.

One thing that stresses me is that, though I try to assist within my limits, I don’t know how much is enough. For instance, I had to assist a desperate man with a ticket and K2000 when he was in need and called for help.

Though I knew he needed more than what I could assist, I couldn’t do much so I had to give him how much I could. After receiving the little assistance from me, he calls me up and here is what he says,

“YOU GOVERNOR or tool boy lo workshop? Mi-key man yah. You papa blog rich Province na how? Bara You no fit lo painim money lo Mosbi, K2000 em peanut yah. Mi mas wastim taim lo supporting you ya, em orite yumi stap liklik na lukim lo 2022.”

[“Are you the governor or a tool boy (tradesperson/apprentice) in a workshop. I am a key man (influential person/broker etc). You are the father (leader) of a rich province (resource rich province). Brother, you are not fit to look for money in Port Moresby, K2000 is peanuts. I must be wasting my time supporting you. That is ok, let’s wait and see what happens in 2022 (referring to the National elections in 2022)”.]

Many do not appreciate that at least their request has been considered among the many requests.

I’d like to inform my people here that such demands and expectations can drive your leaders down the wrong path, particularly force MPs to do something out of the normal to entertain your request and get into trouble. Later you will join the rest to spoil him/her for the wrongdoing. I have seen it happen and I know such traitors and opportunists do exist.

Unless our people become self-reliant with no or little expectations from the MPs, MPs will continue to have to remain straight and not fall into the trap of trying to do something out of the normal to try to entertain the never-ending list of requests.

Being a son of former politician and having associated with people with perceptions about former politicians in the past, I have also learnt that in Western Province, if you are not able to entertain whatever personal request, even due to the lack of financial and material resources, you are deemed a bad leader by a majority of our illiterate voting population and so you should be replaced in the next election. Such words go around very easily and intending candidates usually capitalise on it to gain favour.

I am not afraid to be replaced but I fear that we will continue to have the political instability in the province and kill the continuity of good policy initiatives simply because of defaming leaders for their lack of capacity to entertain personal request of the illiterate voting population rather than measuring what an MP has delivered.

The implication of this is that it can drive an MP to a corner where he is forced to do something illegal to entertain personal requests and end up being dismissed or jailed as has happened in the past with Western Province leaders.

This post was first published on PNG Blogs.

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Taboi Awi Yoto

Hon. Taboi Awi Yoto is PNG's Governor for the Western Province.


  • For the record the Hon Taboi Awi Yoto was returned as the Governor of Western province in the 2022 election.

    What he speaks of is not a flaw in the people but rather the disconnect between the implied values of the Westminster system and Papua New Guinea culture.

    Traditionally a leader was perceived to be a “father” to those he led. The decision maker, allocator of land and person who could be relied upon to protect the best interests of the clan from external threats. This system has persisted for millennia.

    In 2023 a member of parliament is assumed to represent and speak for thousands of people from multiple communities and clans at district or provincial level. People he or she has no ties to in a traditional sense.

    However, from the perspective of many rural people a member of parliament is still judged by how they fit into the traditional “fatherly” parent role.

    It may have been assumed by the founding fathers of the new nation state in 1975 that with time and increasing access to education these traditional values would be replaced by an understanding of how modern government and governance is expected to work. Nearly half a century later this has not been the case.

    Something in the order of eight of every ten people in Papua New Guinea lives in a rural community on the land their ancestors did. Less than half have access to a functional health facility and their children generally do not go to school beyond grade 3. In reality there has been little or no impetus for the envisioned change.

    And nor should there have been. Modernisation in “western” sense has had a corrosive effect upon traditional communities. It has undermined local authority and driven a decline in law and order.

    Simply put, the system of leadership inherited at independence has emasculated community leadership and replaced it with nothing. There is a very real void between the last levels of public service and the people they are tasked to serve.

    The challenge as I see it is for the inherited Westminster style of leadership to reconnect in a meaningful way to traditional community settings. Not superficially by way of handouts but through greater empowerment at the grass roots level. Empowerment to participate in and own the outcomes for the education, health and law order community building services they desire.

    This presupposes that the current pork barrelling of every member of parliament with an wasteful annual slush fund that sets them up for precisely the demands of which Mr Yoto complains be scrapped and the funds reallocated to accountable public service agencies that are in turn held accountable by those they are supposed to serve for the results they achieve.

    In effect return power for development to the clan level, make communities partners in the changes they desire and allow their traditional leaders to remain accountable to their own people for local outcomes, as they have been for millennia.

  • This trend is getting out of hand.
    Unless the government do something about the perceptions the people have about the voted politicians, there is a growing awareness that politicians must give the voters some sort of material need in order to vote them back into parliament.

  • I live in PNG, and wanted to say thank you for the insight into what goes on behind the scenes. You sound like one of the “good ones”. Hang in there — PNG needs leaders like you.

  • A wise person will not stand for PNG politics; only foolish people goes into PNG politics with the aim to change the system and mindsets.PNG cargo cult mentalities has twisted the hot iron of politics and disfigured the true and pure ideals of politics. Only bloodshed shall bring forth the ideal utopia of politics every soul desires.

  • This is a culture in PNG and I think its a very bad practise by our people and the Hon Member has made it very cleare on this false expectations by our people.

    Good MPs who don’t meet their voters personal and business request get voted out and so long as we have this perceptions and practice this country will remain corrupt. On the other hand, PNG national politics is going from bad to worse. Those MPs who are not on the government side are made to suffer by successive Prime Ministers including Peter O’neill’s regime. For this we will also remain corrupt and have unfair distribution of resources and development funds. Both these practices in PNG politics must stop. The question now is what should we do as a country to stop this trend of money politics.

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