Late Jenelyn Kennedy’s murder in Port Moresby by her husband Bohsip Kaiwi sparked an outrage on the streets and online which saw citizens staging peaceful protests demanding justice and calling on the government to address the issue of Gender Base Violence in PNG. In the light of it all, a website was also set up by few advocates to allow Papua New Guineans to send to members of PNG’s parliament requests and demands for the government to address the prevalent issue of GBV. The website contains the demands and ideas for the government to take into consideration when the parliament sits on the next parliament on 25th-28th of August 2020.
The website also provides email addresses and phone numbers of members of parliament by provinces and districts. This is to enable people to email directly the members their demands and ideas.
Visit the website: http://www.gbvinpng.org/
The establishment of the website has given all access to the people to email MPs directly demanding change, while a few MPs responded favorably, others are somewhat annoyed and have lashed out at the people telling them to stop bombarding their emails with the demands to address the GBV issue. Those who lashed out are Kavieng MP and Treasury Minister Ian Ling Stuckey and Kandrian- Gloucester MP Joesph Lelang.
Joseph Lelang in his reply said, “If you want to lobby on an issue, there are better strategic approaches to pursue to get PNG leadership attention”.
Lelang goes on to say, “Bombarding MPs with the same messages, in my case 20 times is bloody annoying and gets a negative reaction”.
This is one of the many reasons why the voices of the people are not heard, because our MPs have developed a trait of reacting negatively to public outcry. They do not want to listen to the people’s cries and demands for change. Papua New Guineans from my view have a tart relationship with their elected members, tart in the sense that our relationship with our MPs is sour. MPs have a history of not airing their people’s voices on the floor of parliament. As representatives of the people, they have failed miserably in representing the people in parliament.
Lelang finishes off with “You think this is effective but I’m telling you, it’s not so stop this email bombardment”
This website providing full access to MPs emails allowing us to email them directly is very effective, it is a very effective way of bringing our issues to our MPs attention and have them address it. The minister thinks it is not very effective because of his negative reaction to the bombardment of his email. Lelang’s frustrated reply using explicit language shows how immature and childish he is in his approach to the people’s demand for change.
Member for Kavieng Ian Ling Stuckey, a senior minister in the Marape-Davis government seem to have forgotten that he is occupying a public office belonging to the eight plus million people of this country and is therefore accountable to them. His response to the emails sent to him shows the type of leadership we have in this country. Leaders who do not take into consideration the grievances of the people, hence the decisions they make on the floor of the parliament do not encompass the people.
In Ling Stuckey’s rather annoyed reply to the demands, he said, “All you will do is end up driving us away from what is an important cause”. A minister who approaches demands of the people with a negative approach stating it will only drive away from an important cause is everything that is wrong with this country’s leadership.
Those in position of power with the absolute power to make decisions in the decision making arena for the betterment of this nation are somewhat as they claim, “driven away” from addressing an important issue because of the continuous demands of the people. It is a childish reply from a senior Minister in the government. The citizens as the owners of the public office he is occupying have every right under the sun to nag him until he and every other MP in power address the issues brought before them by the people.
Ling-Stuckey, as a senior minister in James Marape’s government seem to forget, or in this instance, he is not the person to support his Prime Minister’s vision and dream of making PNG a “better and safer” place for our women.
Deputy Prime Minister and Attorney General’s reply also shows he has not taken the time to read the emails sent to him, the emails in their entirety contain the petitions as well as the demands and the agendas.
While the MPs expressed frustrations of receiving countless emails a day, I say it is nothing compared to how annoyed we are at the government inability to address the issue.
Alexandria in a comment regarding MPs being annoyed receiving countless emails a day said, “What happens when women have been tortured and taught to be silent about their pain for decades under your leaders noses with NOTHING DONE and NO LAWS AMENDED to protect them? Naturally, you’re furious because it seems that your life doesn’t matter until you are dead so you send emails DEMANDING for the change that is LONG OVERDUE!
I think you need to realize that when you sign up for this job, you sign up for everything that comes with this job including upholding the leadership code.
50x emails per day is NOTHING compared to decades of torture with NOTHING being done by people that have the power to amend and change laws to protect their women.”
The responses of Lelang and Stuckey shines the light on the type of politicians we have voted in to represent us at the national level of decision-making. Their response to the issue presented to them tells us that they will not listen to the people, for the continuous demands of the people only drive them away from the important issues as they claim.
The voices of the people have long been suppressed, and blotted out by our politicians non-sense ramblings, and cheap attacks thrown at each other like little monkeys chattering fighting for food on treetops. This country will not progress at the hands of such politicians.
One the few politicians who from time to time listens to his people and makes their voices at the national level on the floor of parliament is the Governor of East Sepik, Hon. Allan Bird and Oro Governor Hon. Gary Juffa.
Martin Luther King said “ Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed”]. In the same manner, Change must be demanded. The people have protested, presented petitions but the government has done nothing.
Last month, we saw uprisings in the US demanding justice for the murder of George Floyd, the US government’s response to the protests led to riots. The government in its power suppressed the people, sending military in to put down the riots. The government has to take proactive approaches to issues to solve them before the citizens take other approaches to.
Lelang’s reply asking the people to take strategic approaches is childish, as far as I am concerned. The approach taken to bring to attention the issue and the demands for the government to consider is a strategic one; in that it is an elaborate plan of action, which includes agendas and petition for the government to address.
In a democratic state, the politicians must remember whom they work for. Quoting Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth”. The politicians must not forget who put them into power and why they are there. Only when the politicians recognize this will they start doing the right thing, which is following the wishes and aspirations of the people.
Demanding for change and to fight GBV now not only rests on civil societies but on every citizen of this country. The citizens must now demand change. The website has given us that channel to directly push our demands to the MPs.
Positive Response from MPs
While other MPs have responded negatively showing their frustrations of receiving countless demands from the people via emails, a few have responded positively. This gives us assurance that our demands will not go unheard and our voices not suppressed.
NCD Governor Honorable Powes Parkop in his email reply acknowledged the issue at hand, the petition and gave his support to fight GBV in the country. Hon. Parkop is a human rights lawyer and a strong advocate of GBV, thus his response shows the type of leader he is, a leader who is willing to listen to the people and take their demands into consideration, an also have their voices heard in parliament.
A few MPs have also condemned GBV and are willing to see change are Hon. Allan Bird who spoke out against GBV on his Facebook page. Bird said, “I don’t want my daughters to live in a society where beating of women is acceptable and normal.”
He furthermore said “In a nation where violence is fast approaching pandemic proportions, it is important that we make a stand somewhere and try to build a decent society where we can all live free of violence. I hope we can do that at home and I call on all Sepiks to help us build a violence-free society.”
This is a call to all our MPs to make the stand, like Parkop, Juffa, and Bird. To address the issue instead of shying away from it. This country will progress in the hands of good politicians who call out issues and work to address them.
I wonder how many MPs actually took time to read the emails and visited the website.
Jenelyn Kenedy: A catalyst for Change
The brutal murder of Jenelyn Kenedy saw Papua New Guineans rising and fighting for change, to end GBV in the country. Movements have sprouted to combat GBV and address it at a national level. Among those movement is, “PNG Man UP”, which calls for men to stand up alongside the women and fight GBV. The movement in their PNG Man Up Pledge have stated that a number of groups have presented petitions which now collect dust.
This is a call to every Papua New Guinean out there to visit the GBV website and email the MPs, the petitions so they can act upon it. Too many petitions are collecting dust, this one will not be shelved, we will stick it right in their faces and see to it that it is address.
A Voice of Change
Speaking up against violence and exposing it is very dangerous for a woman, one of the many reasons why woman in abusive relationships do not speak up. However, someone is speaking for them.
Alexandria Tahirih is a fearless and bold advocate of GBV and Change; she is at the forefront of the movement to get the people’s demands to MPs to address the issue of GBV. The website was set up by her sister Samira Saunders’s brother.
She provided me with the screenshots from emails when I asked her. I also got her views about the replies from the MPs, challenges she faces, and the threats she received for speaking up for the victims of GBV.
Regarding the replies from the MPs, Tahirih said ‘some MPs approached the demands in a respective way, and understood why there were so many emails coming in asking for the change that is long overdue. However, others seemed like it just hurt their ego, being told how to do their job. But as a public servant, you have to listen to the people; it is your duty’.
One of the biggest challenges she has faced in this fight is silence and ignorance from our fellow Papua New Guinean citizens and leaders. She stated that ‘we are tired of this cycle repeating: everyone tends to be silent only until any one of us dies. And the cycle repeats all over again’.
Tahirih has received threats for speaking up for the victims of GBV but she says will not succumb to the threats. She said ‘If I am receiving death threats it means I’m doing something right. I will not give anyone the power to intimidate me or move me. I am not going to be another women that runs. I want to break the cycle. Therefore, I am here and I will be here to stay until I see change. I will continue to speak on behalf of the voiceless and I will continue to advocate for this cause despite whoever wanting to silence me. I will never give them that power.
Tahirih is unmoved by the threats and will not stop until the government addresses the issue of GBV and makes PNG safer for the womenfolk.
According to Tahirih, the support she is receiving is overwhelming. She said, ‘I have received messages from people across the country and world sharing their stories and strength. Women are speaking up and holding space for each other to grow from the pain that was inflicted on them and the system that failed them. It’s beautiful to see the people realize there is power in their voice and there is power in coming together. Unity is a beautiful thing, especially when everyone comes together to fight for their women’s human rights.
This generation will be different. We are no longer going to sit around and watch as our people are being stripped away of their basic human rights.’
So Papua New Guinea, these are your MPs. As of today, I now ask you all to refrain from using the title “Honorable” when addressing these dishonorable men who lack integrity. I finish with the line,
IF THERE IS NO JUSTICE FOR THE PEOPLE, LET THERE BE NO PEACE FOR THE GOVERNMENT!