Regionalism and its ugly head

13 09 2010

Reprinted below is an editorial from The National newspaper dated 8 September 2010. It pretty much sums up my thoughts as we celebrate 35 years of Independence.

Regionalism and its ugly head

A YOUNG man’s dreams and hopes were snuffed out last Thursday evening when a sharp implement was driven deep into his throat.
The first-year applied science student at the University of Technology was pronounced dead on arrival at the Angau Memorial Hospital in Lae the same evening.
It does not matter what part of this beautiful nation he hailed from. In the final analysis, a young Papua New Guinean died at the prime of youth, killed by other young Papua New Guineans driven by the mistaken belief that, where they come from, constitutes a higher calling; that their allegiance to their tribe, province and region is far greater than that to their nation.
University, they might be at, but such thoughts are baseless, stupid and will never allow them to shrug free from the inhibiting forces of ignorance, shallow and small mindedness which binds them prisoner.
We have seen this ugly face of tribalism and regionalism again and again. Most tragically, it has happened in the tertiary educational institutions of the land, the places where one would think intelligence and common sense ruled over such emotional attachments.
Unfortunately, this nation has not grown up yet. And, sadly, it will not until the tribal instincts, which drive intelligent young people to such blood letting and unthinking acts of extreme violence as happened last week at Unitech, is cauterised from the PNG psyche.
There was far greater nationalism in the early days of PNG’s walk to self-government and independence.
True, there was a common enemy then in the repressive colonial regime of the time. Still, there might have been a far greater excuse for regional tension because people were just drawn up from closely knitted tribal communities, given half-baked education and then introduced to a greater national tribe concept for which they were ill-prepared.
Yet, our founding fathers persevered and delivered independence, which we will celebrate the 35th anniversary of in eight days.
Only days away from the celebration of the concept of national unity, we are faced with ethnic violence, easily the most divisive force in our midst today.
Our fathers coined the expression “unity in diversity” in the hope that, despite all the diverse cultures of the country, PNG was united in the common desire to stand as one nation. It has come to pass that the truer expression is that there would be “unity but for diversity”.
The incident at Unitech gives us, and the rest of the world, a clear message that, however many years may have passed since independence, the basic ingredient for national unity, cooperation and cohesiveness which can drive the nation onward towards progress, prosperity, wealth and developed status eludes us still.
Big money from the LNG project will not buy it for us. It has to take a conscious effort by the people to turn away from petty tribal and regional issues to the broader and bigger national and international picture.
Sadly, too, regionalism survives in the very institutions which have the best chance of getting rid of it: our educational institutions and colleges and universities at that.
It calls for drastic action and the higher education authorities, including the managements and boards of universities and colleges, must take heed.
We can say the first thing that should be dismantled in all educational institutions across the country should
be provincial and
regional student associations and clubs. This should include sporting clubs.
Whatever their use, they have also become hotbeds for regional and provincial sentiments of the kind that leads directly to confrontations with other provincial groupings.
Clubs and associations at such institutions should be formed along course interests and common hobbies.
This will ensure there is far greater cross cultural mixing which will lead to greater friendship and appreciation.
Where regionalism rears its ugly head, it should be stomped upon immediately and decisively by the administration so as to leave no doubt that such tendency will never be tolerated.
Unless drastic actions of this sort are taken, provincial clashes will continue and, in the end, might lead to greater confrontation across the nation which can be debilitating, nationally.

Source: The National, permalink: http://www.thenational.com.pg/?q=node/12387

So I ask what exactly are we celebrating 2 days from today?

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