Update – 1st April, 2011:
As it turned out the initial moderator for the night pulled out so I was asked to step in to assist the flow of discussion for the night.
The panellists that turned up were:
- Catalina Koleala – Youth Democracy Camp, School Captain St. Josephs International Catholic College.
- Claire Asi – The Voice, 2nd Year Political Science student
- Clyde Nonisa – The Voice, 2nd Year English Communication student
- Felicia Gigi – Youth Democracy Camp, student at Port Moresby Grammer School
- Joel Masahimu – The Voice, 3rd Year Law Student
- Nicholas Pohonhelan – Youth Democracy Camp, Student at Port Moresby Grammer School
- Ganjiki Wayne – Director, Patriots PNG
- Henry Osembo – President, Patriots PNG
Guest Commentators present were:
- David Conn – Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Kevin Marai – NBC/Kundu2
- Reginald Renagi – Social Commentor
- Richard Kassman – Director of Transparency International, PNG
- Peter Aitsi – Strongim Pipol Strongim Nesen
- Peter Donigi – former Ambassador, Lawyer and social commentator
- Sarah Garap – Meri I Kirap Sapotim, 2007 election candidate
You will note that everyone on that panel was under the age of 30, which was intentional to have a more representative voice of what our youth are thinking and planning to do. We also had Kundu2 film most of the night, so I’ll check with Kevin Marai about some footage from that.
Obviously with these sorts of discussions time limits are a factor so we had the discussion weave around four themes in light of what will be different in 2012. They were:
- Youth Perceptions of politics and their current activities to make change
- Gender issues and womens issues in elections
- The influence of technology on the next elections
- PNG’s voting culture and its development (or lack of) over the years
Not suprisingly all the panelists were very sceptical about politicians. They stated that political parties to them were not important and that on the day of voting they would be assessing each candidate on their own merits and not on what party they came from. They all agreed also that if they could not see any candidate that they liked, they would not vote.
The majority of them are involved in political awareness on some level with their own organisations. The main thrust of what they have been trying to do is to get people to know themselves and their personal value systems so that they can understand that they are able to and have the power to make a difference if they think about who will actually service them appropriately for the next 5 years.
In terms of their awareness efforts there seemed to be two contrasting attitudes to technology. On the one hand you had the likes of Nicholas Pohonhelan who has started his own cyber parliament website where he discusses current political issues with his friends with the proposed outcome of producing a letter to the media wrapping up their discussions. Nics efforts were applauded as to the benefits of technology. On the other hand you had Ganjiki Wayne who didn’t think technology would improve anything, in the sense that there’s good information and bad information and technology only enhances each one. So his arguement was that you still had to focus on the individual.
On women in politics we had comments from Sarah Garap and Janet Sape, both candidates in the last elections. They reaffirmed the obstalces of our traditional culture down playing the importance of female input. This was mirrored even by the young panellists like Felicia Gigi who explained her obstacles as a female in high school. But an interesting comment by Richard Kassman in his closing comments was that although we are focusing on women getting in and being informed, you should not forget that you also have to work on changing men to allow acceptance of greater female political participation.
The other major issue arising from the discussions was just simply names on the common roll. A young lady from the audience told us about the last elections when she turned 19 and she was all excited about her first vote only to find that her name wasn’t there. Reginald Renagi added later on that the Electoral Commission had to be more innovative in ways to enable people to vote using technology. Kevin Marai also made an interesting comment that perhaps there should be seperate polling booths for young people and in my mind I was thinking maybe for women as well. Reginald also added that because the working class and students were tied up in their activities the majority of people that had time to wait in line all day to vote would be the unemployed, meaning that the people who do all the talking about what is right and wrong etc eventually dont even get to vote.
As we all know there are many aspects to the elections and what can be done to improve it. Its not something that can be dicussed in an hour or two alone. But more importantly we need action and for interest groups to start articulating exactly how we can achieve some results through appropriate logistics. This was the crux of David Con’s closing remarks, where he said he admired the passion and energy from the panellists but he wanted to know beyond the rhetoric and talk what they actually planned to do in 2012. I think its a good challenge and lets hope and see if any of these young leaders will rise to occasion. David went as far as saying that if you need help then come see me and lets talk about what you want to do and how we can help.
This event was only meant to be a one off, but there was talk among the guest commentaors and panellists that perhaps we need several more of these. If it happens then I’ll let you all know and I’ll also chase Kevin Marai at NBC to see what they will be doing with their video footage.