Pacific should take ownership of fight against corruption, says PNG Kassman


Much has been said and deliberated on during the first Pacific Regional Conference on Anti-Corruption hosted by the Government of Kiribas, and despite a declaration endorsed at the end of the conference, still, there is doubt about ending corruption once and for all in the Pacific Region.

Countries need to work together with partners and stakeholders, leaders need to walk the talk and not just commit to signing a piece of paper that collect dust on the shelves or be afraid to own up to corruption.

These were just a few bold statements thrown in during deliberation to emphasize the genuine plea and desperation of others in ensuring that corruption is eliminated from the shores of the Pacific region.

What can be done was the question asked over and over again, and one particular guest speaker Arriene Kassman, Executive Director of Transparency International in Papua New Guinea  did not mix words when she took the floor to present on “The Economic and Social Impact of Corruption on Small Island Economies.”

 “Corruption is not the problem, but the courage or conviction in fighting corruption. Courage even when no one is watching, that is integrity,” she said.

She said there is a need to work together, build a coalition, and strengthen relationships and this conference provides an opportunity to change the game and end impunity.

“The corrupt must be punished and we need to take ownership of the fight against corruption.  We need political will and commitment if we are really serious about tackling corruption,” said Kassman.

The importance of taking ownership means the fight belongs to you and you will ensure that you win the fight, which raises another question, how to make it work.

Kassman believes there are already existing initiatives and policies in place, aimed at improving accountability and transparency and all it needs is to build trust between Government and the people

“We are in a discovery process, trying to figure out where to start and how to do it, and most importantly, who will be involved. There must be an open partnership relationship with the people,” said Kassman. 

She pointed out education and awareness programs must be in place to boost people’s participation and make them aware of what’s happening in their country, they must be better informed to make better and good decisions and have them involved in influencing things such as policies..

“They have to think of the legacy they leave behind and not just for the sake of participating,” said Kassman.

She said there should be more investment in civic education and teach the children at an early age about country constitutions, ethics, and the best way they should act so that they can become people of integrity.

At the end of her presentation, she challenged the leaders that whilst it was all good to attend meetings, sign declarations and make commitments, at the end of the day, it is what is done when they return home that matters.

“Decisions make today determine the future of the next generation, take ownership and stand up against corruption. Corruption can be beaten if we work together,” she said.