By ENNIO KUBLE
At a forum held to launch Caritas PNG’s voter education and awareness program in the Catholic Diocese of Kundiawa, stakeholders analyzed practices that are detrimental to good societal, community and family building, and well-being. be individual.
“Your presence can make the difference in the upcoming elections. I will take the pastoral approach to the elections in which the PNG and Solomon Islands Catholic Bishops Conference is concerned about the upcoming elections,” Bishop Paul Sundu said in his opening address to over 30 government officers province of Chimbu. , diocesan priests, diocesan program officers with pastoral workers, community and women’s representatives, persons with disabilities and media officers.
“I will tell you about the ‘National Pastoral Plan’ which has been launched in our Diocese and our own plan which has already been launched and is to be implemented in our Diocese by the parishes,” Bishop Sundu said.
He recently launched the CBC National Pastoral Plan in Kundiawa and subsequently a meeting of pastoral workers was convened for all 19 parishes in the diocese. Each was tasked with developing their pastoral plans based on the National Pastoral Plan theme “Salt and Light; Catholic Church and Society’ at the pastoral center of Mingende.
‘Salt and Light’ based on the Gospel of St Matthew 5:13 challenged Christians to stand out and practice and apply Christian values, sacraments, attitudes and way of life in daily conduct to influence the culture of life.
With regard to national elections, certain practices are rampantly destroying the Christian way of life in society, suppressing human rights, undermining democratic values, setting up campaign houses by candidates and their supporters , mass gatherings and movement of people, double voting, controlled voting, vote buying (tere nendre practice in Simbu), alcohol and drug abuse, all leading to a breakdown of Catholic values and practices.
Bishop Paul said that under the church and society, three programs focusing on elections will be delivered, of which the VEA program is being rolled out, the economy and a person’s social welfare.
He said most of the forum speakers talked about the issues surrounding the “culture of death” that are practiced by communities that should be noted and revamp the way things are done to promote the “culture of life”. with the people.
The presentations highlighted the “culture of the dead” which included the breakdown of marriages, teenage pregnancy, child abuse, wasting time, promoting the cult of political cargo, initiating tribal fights, the waste of resources, unrealistic promises, vote buying, corruption, controlled voting, promoting tribalism, among others.
Chimbu Provincial Police Commander-in-Chief Hugo Buafe stressed that the country houses and the mass movement of people were destructive.
Superintendent Buafe said during his sensitization meeting with the residents of Kerowagi district that an agreement had been reached to remove the country houses. He said mass movement of people would also be discouraged during the appointment period.
Lina Irai, a women’s leader, said she was happy that country houses no longer existed during this NGE.
“There are a lot of problems, like young girls getting pregnant, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the breakdown of marriages, vote buying, laziness and wasting time, double marriages to trick voting and children’s education compromised.
Anna Yambo, an election observer at the Australian National University in the previous elections in Simbu, said PNG’s Elections Act should be reviewed to ensure that certain practices that are already becoming election culture are omitted and bring life to the law with funding. and execution comes first.
Ms. Yambo said the revision of the electoral law should examine all actors and sectors involved in the elections as well as the contribution of the national government to the elections through the Electoral Commission. A senior officer of the Chimbu provincial electoral office, Thomas Muabala, also complied with the issues highlighted in the forum.
He stated that the views and points raised were true and were taken into consideration for the attention of the Chief Electoral Officer.
Mr. Tony Poiye from the Division of Provincial Affairs and Local Government said that inculcating the “culture of life” requires a sectoral approach and that the work of Caritas PNG and the Diocese of Kundiawa is commendable.
He said the problems were known and that there was a need to push policy-oriented campaigns for candidates, to get rid of vote-buying tactics commonly practiced in Simbu and for separate polling booths for men, women and vulnerable people in the community. A presenter from the Simbu Provincial Government Youth Office, Phillip Kai, said the 2022 elections would likely be the last elections to make or break PNG.
He said young people had been used by candidates to hijack the right to vote of the elderly and vulnerable, which was undemocratic.
“Our democratic process is collapsing and compromised. Corruption by bribes normally happens, and I think PNG is the only country where a “longlong” (mentally retarded person) can also run for office or maybe a thief or a criminal can also run for office,” Kai said.
Joe Kunda Naur, former provincial administrator of Chimbu and also former chairman of the Election Steering Committee in the 2017 elections, reflected on his experience saying, “It’s like opening a Pandora’s box. This is not just about voters. Unfortunately, voters are those who cast their vote at the ballot box. What about people who don’t vote?
Mr. Kunda said that all actors in electoral processes must be scrutinized according to their role in the electoral process.
Areas he covered included electoral law and law enforcement by security officers, contested returns tribunal, deployed security personnel, ballot design, funding and resource allocations, updates to common lists, campaigns, voting and the rights and responsibilities of all sectors and individuals.
Mr. Kunda said every aspect of the election needs to be reviewed.
And for the right to equal participation, Clara Titus, President of People Living with Disabilities (PLD) in Simbu, said she was grateful to the forum for putting into perspective how elections are conducted for the right to everyone to vote freely and fairly. “While I am here, I am not like all of you. I am a disabled woman. Give us the opportunity to vote freely and safely,” she said, recalling article 50 of the Constitution. national.
Bishop Paul Sundu then assumed that together, as leaders, everyone should focus on upholding the dignity of every person, man, woman or child. “This is how we will address ourselves as Bishops of PNG and the Solomon Islands,” she said.
“We have ‘Salt and Light’ as our theme. So, during election time, how will we, as individuals and as believers, represent ourselves.
“That is why the bishops chose the theme of the Gospel of Matthew 5:13.
“It means that as individual citizens of this country, we are going to be Salt and Light to address our political situation in order to make a difference in order to avoid the dangers of sin, violence, corruption and abuse.
“How are we going to promote a culture of life during an election period?
“It’s when we promote people, we empower them and improve on what they already have and also respect. All of these things must be applied when we conduct our elections.
“The opposite of the culture of life is the culture of the dead, which most of us express today,” he added. Bishop Sundu said; “Some things I will highlight are the promotion of law and order, our freedoms, fair elections and the discouragement of any form of corruption, greed or violence.”
Bishop Paul said Caritas PNG and Australia are providing support to raise awareness at this level so that every voter makes a difference in people’s lives.
Meanwhile, Caritas PNG coordinator in Kundiawa, Judy Gelua, provided a brief overview of Caritas’ work for the appreciation of forum participants.
She said Caritas is a legal entity of the Catholic Episcopal Conference of PNG and the Solomon Islands, and mandated by the 19 dioceses of PNG.
She said Caritas runs justice, peace, relief and development programs in all dioceses.
Core programs focus on marginalized and disadvantaged people in the diocese. She said that because of the 2022 elections, one of Caritas PNG’s programs is on advocacy.
“That we defend human and constitutional rights to protect democracy. That’s why we have all of our programs integrated into all of the commissions, which are youth, child protection, and family life. All the commissions will integrate their activities into Caritas and we will implement our programs.
Ms. Gelua said the target audiences are Church-based organizations and the 19 parishes with their branches in the diocese.
She said that the materials developed are aimed at young people, women and the general public, including everyone, in all the contexts where awareness-raising will be carried out.
A week later, the Caritas Kundiawa office organized a three-day training program for 20 Caritas and pastoral workers in the parishes of Mingende Pastoral Center for the trainees to carry out advocacy or voter education outreach in the parishes with their branches until the issue of briefs. in April.