Last week we began a series of posts introducing candidates in the 2012 PNG elections, kicking off with my conversation with the Hon Bart Philemon, PNG's Minister for Public Service and standing for an impressive fifth term of parliament.
The next candidate in our series is Sir Kina Bona KBE, who until this election was Chairman of the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates Commission and Registrar of the Political Parties and Candidates Commission. I interviewed Sir Kina during my research visit to Port Moresby in pursuit of subjects for our leadership mapping survey.
The charter of the Integrity Commission which Sir Kina chaired is to protect national parliamentary elections from outside or hidden influences. One of Sir Kina's roles as Chair was to review the 2001 Organic Law on Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates (OLIPPAC), designed to strengthen the integrity of the PNG political system and government. Since the Supreme Court found key sections of the OLIPPAC unconstitutional in 2010, the law requires a major overhaul. When I interviewed him in December, Sir Kina told me he was in the 'quite drastic' process of redrafting the law.
Like Philemon, Sir Kina completed his senior school education at an Australian private school, the Armidale School in northern New South Wales. He was PNG's High Commissioner to London in the late 90s, and Public Prosecutor before then.
He stood for the last election with former PM Sir Mekere Morauta's party, the PNG Party. Sir Mekere is not standing again, and the party is led by Deputy PM Belden Namah. Namah is a controversial leader in the PNG parliament, having attempted to arrest Supreme Court Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia after the court upheld its 2011 ruling which reinstated Sir Michael Somare as PM. Namah is also notable for his push to delay the current elections, and has been critical of Peter O'Neill and the Australian Government for 'rushing' through the election rather than waiting to tidy up the electoral roll.
It appears, however, that despite the controversies of the last year, Sir Mekere has managed to persuade respected figures like Sir Kina and PNG University of Technology Vice Chancellor Misty Baloiloi to run with the PNG Party. With 88 candidates, it is one of the two largest parties featuring in the election (there are a phenomenal 3428 candidates in total).
Self-effacing in our interview, Sir Kina denied having exhibited any leadership potential at an early age, saying 'I was the worst of the lot...never a leader'.
He is well aware of the vast array of problems facing PNG, some of which we canvas in our PNG video research diary (see above). On return from his posting as High Commissioner to London in 2001, he told me that corruption 'was shocking to me when I returned from London and it was worse, I can feel it in the air'.
Sir Kina is a friend of Australia, having had lengthy experience working with other Commonwealth countries in London on Pacific Island issues. He stresses the importance of developing personal relations between countries. One of the driving forces in his career, he says, is not personal ambition but career satisfaction.
If he wins a seat in this parliament, his country, the region and Australia will be wishing him at least that.