In 2018, one year ago, senior works engineer, Brian Alois was suspended from his job after making a presentation at a National Planning Summit in Lae.
Brian did his job as a senior government engineer. He highlighted what was wrong in the system and he pointed out how it could be fixed.
Brian is a highly qualified civil engineer. He could be working in the private sector, if he chose to. But he found his calling in the service of his country and his people.
Brian knew what was coming when he made that presentation in the presence of the Works Secretary, David Wereh. He spoke, not as a senior officer of the Works Department, but as President of the Institute of Engineers PNG, and as a professional, he had every right to do so.
In summary, this is what Brian Alois covered in his presentation:
PNG’s road construction costs are inflated (for various reasons stated in his presentation)
It currently costs up to K3million kina per kilometer of road
Our education system isn’t producing skilled road builders anymore but focuses on producing engineers with degrees.
The works department is not conducting prior investigations and assessment to establish the actual cost of new roads
Contractors are charging more than what should be charged
The Works Department is underfunded and unable to conduct its duties independently.
If we want to build a strong economy, we have to get our road building right. We cannot inflate costs and steal from the system and then preach about building an economy. Brian simply said the costs are too high and that the costs did not need to be that high.
In the following days, Brian received a letter of suspension. They charged him. But one year on, he still remains suspended without any actual penalty delivered. Nobody has had the guts to admit that the Works Department was wrong in suspending him.
Brian Alois represents the voice of the people. He stated the truth and he was punished for it.
I stand with Brian Alois and I call on the Papua New Guinea government and Prime Minister, James Marape, to reinstate him immediately!
I’m greatful that I’m able to continue in Cabinet as Finance Minister and will do my best to support the PM and the generational change we need.
Couple of suggestions I made to previous PM and current;
1. Create a Ministry for Statistics and elections – generation of timely accurate data, complete NID rollout, upcoming census, common roll, electronic voting (NSO and Civil Registry and support Electoral Commission)
2. Abolish SOE Ministry and return respective state companies to their line ministries. Continue the idea of partial privatisation on a case by case basis. Use BSP as a model.
3. Create a dedicated Ministry for Energy and Electrification (return PNG Power) and Telikom returns to Communication Ministry. (Electrification is so important and with KPH, SOE and Minister for Energy its confusing).
4. The restructure of KPH and establishment of proper Sovereign Wealth Fund, which I’ve commented on in a previous post.
The SOE, IPBC structure was created to facilitate privatisation. This has stalled and we have ended up creating another permanent, expensive organism. Also causes duplicity and inefficiency in policy implementation.
The other elements of the Kumul framework (KPH and KMH) were set up with good intentions but has created another unecessary cash trap. As per previous post – we are borrowing on the one hand to partially fund the budget whilst putting our biggest single revenue source (PNG LNG dividends of $2bn USD since 2014) into a parallel structure with its own investment program).
The new PM has begun a process to address these matters in his Cabinet structure.
This week, marks three years since UPNG students were shot at a public gathering.
Days leading up to the shootings. They were belittled, scorned and told that their opinions did not matter. They coined the hashtag #UPNG4PNG. Girls dressed in black extended the campaign on social media. Many, were uncertain about the outcome. Many were unsure if what they were doing was the right thing by their parents, their families and their country.
The ‘adults’ mocked them. The public servants told them to go back to school and forget about politics because they were ‘not qualified’ to talk about what happened in the seat of power.
UPNG President, Kenneth Rapa, and other student leaders called for the resignation of the Prime Minister. Hercules Palme Jim, travelled with a group of students to the Highlands in a campaign that challenged the status quo when everyone was too afraid to speak out.
On June 8, police shot into the crowd of students injuring some of them. Students were chased and teargassed. NBC journalist Rose Amos was assaulted by police.
The UPNG administration later penalized students for being part of the protest while their comrades lay injured in hospital. Some were told they would not graduate that year.
This is what they campaigned for:
Greater transparency in government
A stop to the overseas borrowing
Resignation of the Prime Minister
They stood up for a democracy when everyone else was too afraid.
Bearded men with streaks of white and wide eyes children sit amongst the crowd that has gathered on a chilly late Friday afternoon at the Mt. Hagen City Market. A young man in a hoodie glances towards the lens of my camera pointed at him. He gives a brief smile then turns to the action in front of him.
On the damp, dirt caked pavement, instructor, Enoch Yapoi goes through a set of kicking and punching drills with a kickboxing student. The crowd is growing and the small ‘arena’ is packed to capacity. A man, high on steam, orders people to get out of the area as Enoch’s student punches the pads held up in front of him.
“I am a fighter myself. This sport is a disciplined sport. We brought these kids in and began training them. We don’t want them to drink, smoke or take drugs that’s why we’re training,” Enoch says.
Enoch is a kickboxer inspired by many others before him including former champion, Stanley Nandex. He stops the drills and begins the class.
“Fighting stance!… Bow!”
The students are a ragtag army of boys and young men. Nearly all of them come from broken families and nearly all of them live and work in the Mt. Hagen City Market.
This is the City Rats Kickboxing Association. It doesn’t look like much. They don’t have a gym to train in and the instructors who are kickboxers themselves, use what little equipment they have to train the group. Usually, the matches happen on Sundays. But the boys agreed to run a training class and two short exhibition matches for us to film.
More than a month ago, it wasn’t as organized. The high level of petty crimes in the markets contributed to regular fistfights between the boys who are now part of this club. At one point, two boys fought bare fisted in this market square. It caught the attention of Hagen based kickboxers and officials.
“Previously, they had street fights. But then we, the two instructors and officials, provided equipment and sporting gear to protect them when they are fighting and we provided proper training. We are raising funds to register as part of the PNG Kickboxing Federation. We will announce a time to launch our organization,” kickboxing official, Anderson Koponu says.
For many outside this growing circle of kickboxers and fans, this is nothing more than a group of hooligans and troublemakers who gather here every weekend to fight. On numerous occasions, they have been chased by police. Market officials don’t agree with the Sunday Matches. But the assistant club instructor, Nixon Samson, says this club is slowly changing attitudes. It is giving the boys goals to achieve and it is enforcing discipline.
“They have to get medical checks. I’ve given them letters which have to be signed by a parent who gives them consent to compete,” Nixon explained.
The association has gone further to control bad behavior outside the kickboxing arena.
“Anyone who fights outside the ring is suspended. Anyone who is reported to be involved in petty crimes… if they rob women, I terminate them from the club.”
Nixon and Enoch have become role models the boys look up to. The club has big dreams. The instructors want to start attending inter-provincial kick boxing matches.
“We want them to be good role models in future. We want them to be leaders in the societies they live in,” Nixon says.
It’s a difficult task ahead of them. Mt. Hagen does not have a stellar reputation. There is high unemployment and a high crime rate. The Mt. Hagen City Hospital has one of the highest number of trauma cases in the country. It is against this backdrop that a group of boys are trying to make it big.
I ask Enoch, who wipes a bead of sweat off his brow with his bandaged hands: “What dreams to you have for this group?”
“I dream that maybe one or two or three or four or five… or maybe all of them cam go overseas to compete…maybe in the UFC,” he says. “So yes… It’s the UFC”
We shake hands and part ways as the sun sets over the distant mountains. I leave with a hope that this martial arts club will grow despite the difficulties and the negativity from those who don’t see the efforts being put into combat sport development in Papua New Guinea.
For the past month, pictures of kickboxing matches at the Mt. Hagen Town Market have made it on to Facebook drawing a lot of comments. Last week, I went to the market to see what actually happens there. We shot some footage for a TV story.
As the new Prime Minister, you have your work cut out for you. You have to try to get a lot of it done within two years before the 2022 elections.
That’s a big job.
Do what is right by the people. Listen to their voices through social media. Not all of it is fake news. Take counsel from those who disagree with you, publicly and privately, in the interest of your 10 million people. Be brave enough to listen to the criticisms and find the threads of truth in them.
Be truthful about the state of Papua New Guinea’s health system. The people of Papua New Guinea deserve a Government that tells the truth. There is a severe shortage of medicine. Puka Temu did a bad job and he did not admit to it as Health Minister. Many of our aid posts are closed and our hospitals don’t have medicine. Yet the media is accused of ‘being political’ when we highlight these ‘open secrets.’
Be truthful about the Tuition Fee Free Education (TFF). It’s not working for us. Our schools don’t get the money on time. If we have to pay for school fees, tell that to the people straight as it is. Papua New Guineans are resilient and hard working. They do not deserve to be lied to.
Please appoint an education minister who will find out why teachers continue to have their pays cut when they do not have outstanding loans.
Remove the companies that are benefiting from the cumbersome procurement processed in the health and education at the expense of our people. Investigate and prosecute the kaikaiman and kaikaimeri who suck the systems dry. Send them to jail.
Provide housing for our people.
Fix the National Housing Corporation. It is a hub of corruption that has existed for decades. Papua New Guineans deserve affordable housing not unaffordable rentals meant for fly-in-fly-out company executives. They deserve a government that has the guts to dump the garbage and restore integrity.
Lower the taxes. Our people are suffering. Tax the companies that enjoy tax holidays.
Reduce internet costs. If we are going to empower our millennials, make it easy for them to be independent of their parents. Make it possible for them to own their own homes by providing the means for them to make money from tools they grew up with.
They deserve a government that is able to stand up for them and not kowtow to foreign interests.
We have agreed, as a government, add to the miseries of other human beings by keeping them in a prison camp on Manus in exchange for aid. We cannot continue with that shameful legacy.
Don’t persecute the media. Don’t threaten journalists. It doesn’t do much for your credibility.
There’s a lot to be said and not enough time and space.
One final thing: For goodness sake, sell the Maseratis. Get back our money. It was of no benefit to us in the first place. You were part of a government that bought them during APEC. Please do the right thing by the people and get rid of them.
There was chaos in parliament this afternoon when the Speaker, Job Pomat refused to entertain a motion from Opposition leader, Patrick Pruaitch, to suspend standing orders and entertain a vote to remove him.
Patrick Pruaitch, stood up as soon as the speaker opened up question time and put forward the a request to remove Pomat as speaker.
“I want to ask leave of Parliament… There are a number of motions that I intend to move. One of them is to challenge your position as a speaker of parliament. I seek leave to move that motion.”
Despite the demonstration of numerical strength on the Opposition side, the Speaker told Patrick Pruaitch that he was not going to entertain the motion on grounds that Parliamentary standing orders did not have the provisions that allowed for the removal of the speaker on the floor.
Pomat told the house that the provisions in the standing orders were silent and that it was up to the speaker to decide if such a motion was to be entertained.
“I can show you provisions for the removal of the Governor General. I can show you provisions for the removal of the Prime Minister. But I cannot find the provisions for the removal of the Speaker. So If you can show me the sections under the constitution, then I will entertain it,” Speaker Pomat said.
The house then degenerated into a chaotic shouting match between the beefed up opposition and a heavily depleted Government side. Vanimo-Green MP, Belden Namah shouted at the speaker to entertain the motion.
“We are not here for you to dictate on the floor of Parliament. We are not here for you to be the judge. There is a motion on foot. The vote has to take place. You have to entertain the vote,” Namah said. “You are preempting a motion. If I were you, I would resign.”
The Speaker then referred to the standing orders reading out section 284 to show that he could not be removed through what he called an unprecedented request by the Opposition.
Later, after a lot of persistence, the Speaker recognized Madang MP, Bryan Kramer who accused the him of attempting to hold on to power.
“You quoted section 284: ‘In any matter no provided for, the Speaker shall decide…’ There is a reason for that. It’s because of bias and you have demonstrated that bias. You can’t move against yourself. You won’t accept it. You have to accept [the motion] now,” Kramer said.
Another round of chaos erupted. Tempers flared and MP, Dr. Fabian Pok, hurled abuse at an opposition MP who had interrupted him.
“You…wait! You wait! We are setting a precedence here. We will all not be here in parliament. If we do this, anyone who has the numbers will change the speaker!” Dr. Pok said.
Towards the end of the 45 minute period. The Speaker had lost control of the house. He tried to invoke sections in the standing order to suspend the Parliament to 10am tomorrow. But was later advised to suspend and recall parliament until the ringing of the bell.