Weekly Commentaries

This is Sunday Chronicle's weekly commentaries on various issues of interest affecting the country. All individual commentators are done by elite Papua New Guineans from diverse educational backgrounds.

Monday, March 01, 2010

NEWS ANALYSIS

Basil takes a swipe at government

Compiled by TERENI KENS

'God save Papua New Guinea' is one phrase that any one person would want to say given the country's current situation where government services are non-existent in rural areas and more so when corruption seemed to take precedence.


When we talk about public service delivery, time and time again we refer to the very basic needs of health, education, roads and infrastructure, and law and order.

These are the basis of our very survival and existence as a nation, but when these services are not delivered the way it is, then we tend to question what has gone wrong. More often we have the tendency of blaming the political leaders and bureaucrats of the failure on their part for not delivering the much needed services that we lack.

But can we really blame them for all the failures or should we blame ourselves for doing nothing to get the leaders responsible for their actions. I believe we should blame ourselves, simply because we failed to exercise the "peoples' power" to say "enough is enough, we need service delivery." Could it be better if we as ordinary citizens collectively keep check of our national leaders and the government of the day to make them responsible for their own actions using the peoples' power unless and when they fail to bring services to a particular locality or nation as a whole?   Just for a moment, think about it.

Having stated these, perhaps it is at this juncture we feature a young, vibrant and one of those hardworking first time politicians and Member for Bulolo Sam Basil, who has the country at heart and wants to see change where necessary. Last week Mr Basil in a press conference spoke strongly against the current government's non performance as portrayed by various key government agencies.  

His down to earth criticisms began like this: "I do not speak for the opposition but would like to air some of my views here as a leader in Parliament regarding the government's performances to date as it has been two years in office now and I can really see the performances of the ministers and their key departmental heads which also reflects the type of government led by Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and his deputy Sir Puka Temu. Services in the rural areas in Papua New Guinea are still declining or if not should I say non-existent."

Health

Firstly, the health sector. The health indicators have fallen ever since and drugs are not reaching the rural aid posts. There are no district doctors available even the main centres are struggling to provide health services. There are no health committees or district health boards being appointed or confirmed by the health department leaving the unqualified Health Extension Officers (HEOs) and nurses to run the administration of the health centres to the ground. Even worse, the health department has parked millions of kina waiting for Public Private Partnership (PPP) partners to deliver the hospital care and maintenance programs. The minister, Sasa Zibe since taking office hasn't come clear to all Papua New Guineans on how he and his government intends to resurrect the health sector in PNG, instead the minister continues to attend overseas meetings while forgetting his role as a minister to make sure the health department is providing the much needed services back home. Meanwhile, if a patient needs a heart by-pass, a kidney transplant or other complications he or she cannot afford to go overseas for treatment as there is none available in the country.

Education

Secondly, the education sector has also got its share of criticisms by the MP. The controversial RESI fund which MP Basil said is a joke. He said the education ministry has changed hands over time by several ministers with different priorities, the funds has been depleted ever since with no broader and transparent spending. "I call on the Public Accounts Committee from which I am the member of to investigate the use of RESI funds and also the Ombudsman to do the same. The school fee subsidy that has been released recently, I call on the Minister for Education, James Marape to publish on daily papers the names of schools and the amount destined for each schools."

Correctional Services

Thirdly, the Correctional Service (CS). "While I commend the Prime Minister to take action on the CS issues, I believe that sacking of the minister will not totally solve the problem of the CS. What magic will the new minister deliver to solve the CS issue? The Somare/Temu government must deliver their plan of action to the people of Papua New Guinea before the installation of the new minister, how much money are they willing to pump into the rehabilitation of CS and how are they going to address the issues of the service men/women who sacrifice their lives to protect the convicts in the run down institutions.

Police

Fourth is the police: "The main centres in PNG including Port Moresby and Lae are not safe anymore for the mothers and children to roam freely. Reports have shown that the police hierarchy is in shambles. There's politicking and not much work is done. The criminals' way of executing crimes has now become sophisticated, outclassing the police capabilities. The rural police have lost its extra man power with the slashing of the community and the reserve police programs. Police operational funding has been misspent and I can recall back asking the Prime Minister on several occasions which he promised to deliver answers to my questions, but never did to this day. It is good to hear from the police commissioner to disengage his department from hiring vehicles and plans to buy police vehicles using operational funding. A statement from the Prime Minister on how the law and order situation will be fixed is now due."



Works, Transport and Civil Aviation

"The transport minister recently announced that the government will upgrade the Jacksons International Airport to the tune of K500 million. While it is good news for the elite or rich Papua New Guineans and the international communities, I would like to remind the Somare/Temu government here that most of our rural airports are still closed and some are struggling to survive. Can the Somare/Temu government re-divert this K500 million to fix the rural airstrips by equipping them with manual grass cutters, cone markers, wind socks and possibly through the PPP program buy small one tonner planes for the air service operators and let them operate a subsidized airfares/freight services as repayment. By doing this the dead green revolution dream can be revived by the private sector. It was also good to see the honourable minister for transport who came strongly on the media saying that K30 million cannot fix the nations road, and again I call on the Somare/Temu government to explain to this nation as to why only K30m was allocated for the national highways? And why didn't the minister fight for more funding in his seven years as a cabinet minister? Is he telling the nation that the Somare/Temu's priority is not on the road system and can only respond after nasty accidents? While at this juncture, I would like to remind the Somare/Temu government that it is the national government's function to maintain existing national highways for its citizens and more importantly the investors who come into this country pouring millions of kina into big projects - this include the Pogera Gold Mine and the oil and gas fields in Southern Highlands including the Hidden Valley project in my electorate. These companies and other businesses deserve a better road network system to function effectively, the government revenues also depend heavily on taxes being generated by those companies."

Labour & Employment

"PNG will continue to see foreigners coming into this country and doing jobs that Papua New Guineans can do. I am confidently saying this here because I can recall back then, the Labour Minister's statements during a question time in Parliament that the excavators operated in the Ramu Nickel Mines in Madang province have its operational instructions written in Chinese language and therefore requires a Chinese speaking operator to operate. Till to this day the Somare/Temu government hasn't come up with plans on how to secure jobs for Papua New Guineans. The Labour Minister and the Education Minister have not coordinate themselves as yet to find ways to use our technical education system to bring the first batch welders, drivers, plumbers, operators and carpenters to take on the LNG project development, sadly Papua New Guineans will watch foreigners who will cash  in on all these job opportunities. The work permit processing is still a nightmare with claims of corrupt practices involving the staffs which the Minister hasn't done anything to clean up.

Conclusion

"In conclusion, I can say that the Somare/Temu government has been in power for far too long, political stability has its limits we can say five years is juts enough to measure political stability in Papua New Guinea.

"The longer a regime stays in power the tired they become and often go to sleep and this is evident in the National Alliance led government.

"It is apparent now that the MPs of the ruling party and the coalition partners are lobbying for the ministries just to land themselves into a comfortable lifestyle with power and recognition.

"The ministers spend their precious time travelling overseas, buying houses overseas, seeking medical attention overseas and some go to the extent of sending their families to live overseas without realizing the hardships faced by the very people who mandated them to provide the much needed service . These practices create an insulation where the ministers do not feel and share the pains of the ordinary Papua New Guinean's anymore.

"They don't care if the Port Moresby general hospital, Angau or the rural aidposts have any medicine or procedures available anymore, streets not safe anymore, not enough jobs created by the government from big projects anymore.

"This is what I see in the Somare/Temu led government ministers are not been supervised and disciplined to drive the government's dream and vision.

"In the recent media releases we also see that criminals have named ministers who are involved in supporting criminal activities, I challenged the media to spell out the names so that the people of Papua New Guinea must know who the ministers are. I also challenge the Prime Minister to come clear on this issue as it is a very serious business to be a politician and at the same time promote criminal activities.

"I also call on the Minister for Justice Allan Marat to clarify the application of laws regarding the referral of members of parliament as there are some cases pending with successful orders while recent cases are denied orders to ombudsman and tribunals.

"Are we having three separate laws here? One for the ordinary people, one for the Members of Parliament and one for the very few and powerful members of parliament?

"The Somare/Temu government hasn't done much in the last two years in reducing corruption. We recently saw some more accusations against the planning minister; corruption continues at an alarming rate and involves the very people who are supposed to protect this nation's wealth.

"This year I believe that the placing of PNG on the corruption scale will further decline while MDG, MTDS and the vision 2050 cannot produce positive results as the minister himself who is supposed to make those goals and visions fruitful; is now being accused of corruption.

"The Somare/Temu government has been in power for far too long now there are no new incentives to deliver the much needed services down to the grassroots.

"The PNG LNG projects agenda dominates the government ministers' speeches but the very simple Papua New Guineans are still waiting for their services."

So, are we in a boat without a captain? Make your say and save the country from greed and corruption.

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