The relations between indigenous and western leadership systems at the local level in the contemporary governance systems of Papua New Guinea

Leadership Government Papua New Guinea

The philosophy of the 'Melanesian Way' was strongly reflected in the report of the Constitution Planning Committee (CPC), which provides the basis for PNG's independence constitution.A section in the final report (1974) titled: Papua New Guinea Ways, endorses:"those practices of participation, of consultation, and consensus and sacrifice for the common good which attribute to traditional societies".Papua New Guinea should take pride in promoting its indigenous leadership systems, sense of identity, culture and purpose in nation building.Many former colonies of the European empires adopted Western leadership and governance systems after becoming independent, claiming that these systems were appropriate to enhance and facilitate growth and development in their countries. However, the relationship between indigenous leadership and adopted Western leadership systems is not well understood in the leadership literature, particularly its implications on the development process. This study was conducted in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to explore the relationship between indigenous leadership systems (tribal leadership) and the adopted Western leadership and governance systems (European structures and institutions) in the development process of PNG's contemporary governance systems. PNG is one of those countries that had been colonised by European imperial powers. Its current government systems are based on European structures and institutions which the country adopted after becoming independent, while village social structures, in which the majority of the population live, are based on local tribal leadership systems. The aim of the study is to understand the problem of unstable leadership in the current governance systems in the Western Province of PNG. Unstable leadership is a problem affecting good governance and development and seems to be a common issue throughout PNG since independence. Leadership and good governance are important issues in all three levels of the governance systems in PNG, the national, provincial, and district level. This study focuses on the district level where the development policies are implemented. It argues that unstable leadership is the result of tensions between indigenous and Western leadership systems when leaders in the current governance systems fail to perform to the expectations of the people, which are based on traditional values.This study also argues that the Western leadership system of electing leaders through a district-wide election process is not appropriate for local governance systems in PNG, because it is contributing to the decline of the authority and influence of tribal leaders. This results in lack of effective community mobilisation, involvement and participation in the development process. The election process also causes tensions, conflicts and tribal warfare when people elect their leaders based on tribal social structures in Western leadership systems. The current governance system based on Western structure is failing to enhance effective and efficient leadership at the village and local level thus resulting in a lack of effective development. To solve these problems, this study suggests that local level governance systems in PNG should be based on indigenous leadership structures which enable tribal leaders and the people to be actively involved and participate in the development process. The involvement of tribal leaders would provide influential leadership at the village and community level in the development process, something that which is lacking.

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