by Paul Hellard
With unanimous support, in January the Asia-Pacific Greens Federation (APGF) welcomed its newest Associate Member – the Papua New Guinea Greens. After years of organising, and the recent decision of government MP Hon. Richard Masere to join the PNG Greens, the party is poised to change the political landscape in Papua New Guinea in this year’s parliamentary elections.
Papua New Guinea is one of the most biodiverse countries on earth, boasting rich ecosystems the envy of many across the world. But, after gaining its independence in 1975 after almost a century of colonial rule, the country continues to face the ever-present threat of multinational resource extraction that enriches international shareholders while doing little to improve the lives of PNG’s people.
The PNG Greens General Secretary, Andrew Kutapae, tells me that fighting for a fair share of profits from extractive industries for the people of Papua New Guinea will be a key focus of the upcoming election campaign, along with asserting sovereignty over the country’s natural resources and fighting the corruption that has stymied the country’s sustainable development.
That campaign will be championed by Hon. Richard Masere, who joined the PNG Greens last year after finding its vision for the country’s future more compelling than that offered by his former party. He has continued in his role as Vice-Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Foreign Investment Matters, giving him a unique insight – and input – into PNG’s current and future relationships with international companies wanting to do business in PNG. Since Independence in 1975, all PNG Governments have been formed by a coalition of parties because no one party has ever won enough seats to form a Government alone. It is in this context that the PNG Greens have a positive working relationship with the current Government, to the extent that the Prime Minister, James Marape, and the Minister for the Environment, Conservation and Climate Change, Wera Mori were invited to attend and speak at the PNG Greens National Convention1 in December.
But with parliamentary elections earmarked for 24 July this year set to decide who will lead the country for the next five years, the PNG Greens are deep in preparations for their campaign. One week may be a long time in politics, but five months from the election the party is doing everything it can to ensure its members and supporters are ready, represented, and having their voice heard. Its 26 January National Executive meeting solidified the PNG Greens election strategy, focussing on 10 seats that could make all the difference to the balance of power in parliament and Government.
Asked about the party’s foreign affairs agenda and the status of West Papua, PNG Greens General Secretary Andrew Kutapae was unequivocal: “West Papua independence is a human rights issue and we also support them in their struggle,” he explains. “We want them to be fully represented at the Asia Pacific Forum. These issues are front and centre on our agenda, to be rectified when we win a few seats and get into government, come the next election.”
However, despite the strength of their policies, commitment to global Green values, and the support they are receiving across Papua New Guinea, funding an election campaign remains a challenge. In the PNG Elections, political parties usually sponsor all their candidates, “but at the moment, the money we raise, is not enough quite honestly,” says Kutapae. He emphasises the importance of fundraising ahead of the next poll as critical to the PNG Greens’ campaign success. “This will assist greatly in sponsorships of future candidates,” he says while noting that the party is also considering crowdfunding and other fundraising efforts that will not conflict with Green values.
The result of the July parliamentary elections will set the stage for the future of Papua New Guinea, and APGF is proud to support the PNG Greens’ campaign for a fairer, ecologically informed future. We are delighted to welcome the PNG Greens as the newest member of the Asia-Pacific Greens Federation and look forward to working closely with the Party as they seek to transform their vision into meaningful social and environmental change.
1. The PNG Greens would like to thank the Australian Greens International Development Committee for their assistance in the delivery of the Party’s December 2021 National Convention