Feature Articles

Welcome to this week's feature stories. The stories are from various Papua New Guinean writers. The main highlight this week is the story on .....

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dr Gelu and his political insight on PNG

A SCHOLARLY book titled Pacific Ways: Government and Politics in the Pacific Islands which was recently published by the Victoria University Press (2009) has been highly recommended for use in Papua New Guinea schools and higher learning institutions. 

One of the contributors from PNG is Dr Alphonse Gelu. Dr Gelu who was at the University of Papua New Guinea (now at the National Research Institute) was invited by Dr Stephen Levine, Professor of Political Science at the Victoria University of Wellington in 2006 to contribute a chapter on the politics of Papua New Guinea.

The chapter on Papua New Guinea looked at the system of government; elections and political parties; the constitution; and provincial governments. The chapter looked at each of these processes and institutions and how they have evolved over time. The information on Papua New Guinea is useful for those who are interested in gaining some knowledge on the politics of Papua New Guinea since 1975.

Dr Gelu who has always had a keen interest on the politics of Pacific Islands states teaches a course at the University of Papua New Guinea called South Pacific Politics for more than 10 years. Many of his former students (including Solomon Islands) now work in the public service, some in areas of foreign relations and security and they benefited from the materials and subjects covered in the course.

He also assisted to teach a course called The Political Economy of the South Pacific with Dr Tupeni Baba, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education in Fiji at the Pacific Center at the University of Auckland in 2002. Dr Gelu himself has a wide knowledge about the politics of each island states apart from Papua New Guinea.

In giving an overview of the book, Professor Levine wrote that the literature on the politics of the Pacific islands remains much slimmer than for other regions. The number of island states and territories, and their distance not only from one another but also from Europe, Asia, and the Americas, are obstacles to an ongoing familiarity with political developments or a basic knowledge of government institutions. It is perhaps not flattering to Australia and New Zealand sensibilities to note, furthermore, that ignorance about the politics of these two countries is not much less widespread than for other Pacific Island countries.

The book aims to redress this balance by providing the kind of information for the Pacific that is readily available for nations in other parts of the globe. This volume provides expert chapters examining the politics of each Pacific Island state and territory, discussing its historical background and colonial experience, its constitutional framework, political institutions, political parties, elections and electoral systems, and problems and prospects. The book is comprehensive, covering all regions - Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia - and all countries, irrespective of their size or political status. The states and territories range in size from Australia and Papua New Guinea on the one hand, to Tokelau, Rapa Nui? Easter Island, and Pitcairn on the other.

The region comprises 16 independent states, each a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum. These countries include: Australia and New Zealand; Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji - members, as well, of the Melanesian Spearhead Group; Tonga, Samoa and Tuvalu; Niue, and the Cook Islands, self governing in free association with New Zealand; Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau (Belau), independent in free association with the United States; Kiribati and Nauru. French Territories are also include; French Polynesia (Tahiti), Wallis and Futuna and New Caledonia. United States territories are also included American Samoa, Guam Northern Marianas and other smaller islands which include Pitcairn, Easter Island/Rapa Nui and Tokelau.

The Pacific remains an interesting region of the world moving away from that label of being a paradise with coconut threes and beautiful women swaying with their grass skirts to a region that has a part to contribute to the changing global environment. The process of globalization has made the world smaller and the Pacific is now an integral part of the globalised world.

It was the purpose and ambition of this book for there to be a chapter written about the politics and the institutions of government of each states and territories, and this has been achieved. The authors, individually and as a group, are well qualified to describe, discuss and analyse the government and politics of each of these countries. Each has had extensive experience with their subject matter, either personally or professionally.

Most of the authors are scholars, from a range of disciplines including political science, law, history, and anthropology. Not all of the authors are academics; the group includes diplomats, politicians, public servants (and part-time advisors) and a journalist. Some were born in the Pacific; others have lived or worked in the region, on particular islands, for considerable period.

The book would be an important text for students in undergraduate and graduate courses dealing with the Pacific region - its politics and international relations. The information on the politics and political institutions of the Pacific will also be useful to Pacific policy makers and to others with professional interests in the island states and territories of the Pacific.

The result of this book is an informative and useful set of analyses of Pacific political experience - political institutions, constitutional processes and electoral systems - providing a basis for evaluating the quality of governance, and the durability of commitments to constitutionalism and democratic values. There may once have been a singular Pacific way - or at least the ideal one.

As the chapters in this book demonstrate, however, the details of governance around the Pacific are perhaps now better described as Pacific ways, diverse approaches to the fundamental problems, common to all nations, of how a society is to be organized for the purposes of responsive, representative government.

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