The 2012 election in Papua New Guinea is well underway, with polling commencing on 23 June and due to finish at the end of this week. Because of the complexity of party politics in PNG, however, and the high number of candidates and small political parties, the result won't be known until at least the end of July.
When I was in Port Moresby in December last year for the first phase of our leadership mapping project there, I interviewed a number of sitting MPs and aspiring candidates about their careers, leadership roles and thoughts about the plethora of problems that will confront the incoming government. Over the next few weeks, I will excerpt the best of these interviews in an attempt to introduce some of the candidates who might appear in the new government.
Among these fascinating interviews was one with Bartholomew Philemon, Minister for Public Service in the current O'Neill Government. You can see above his frank assessment of the political situation in PNG.
Philemon has survived four PNG elections thus far. No mean feat, given the extraordinarily high turnover of MPs in PNG (around 50%). He has been Minister for Public Service twice, Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Bougainville, and Minister for Finance and Treasury. In a testament to his political skills and durability, he has served as minister under Sir Julius Chan, Sir Mekere Morauta, Sir Michael Somare and Peter O'Neill.
As a young boy, Bart went to a Lutheran missionary school in Lae. He then left home at 11 years of age to attend a boarding school outside Lae, and survived for two years there by relying on his own food garden. In a characteristic understatement, Bart observed that 'this taught me to be independent'.
Encouraged by his teachers at the missionary, he earned a scholarship to St Peter's Lutheran Collage in Brisbane, where he became a prefect and captain of the First XV. It struck him that while he 'got respect as a school kid in Australia', in Australian-administered PNG he was 'discriminated against as a "black kid"'.