On Friday morning, the Prime Minister, James Marape called members of the media and the public relations practitioners to a breakfast meeting in Port Moresby. It was the first time in which the media was allowed to interact with the PM outside of our usual operations.
Below is a short transcription of what I conveyed to him after an address by Neville Choi, EMTV’s Head of News & Media Council President.
“Prime Minister, thank you for this opportunity to talk to you directly.
“I want to raise a few issues that we have raised and continue to raise. I want to also points out a blockages that need to be addressed.
“First on health and education… The Free Education policy has failed our people. There are still many, many schools that do not receive funds on time. Many more do not receive it at all. Our teachers have been intimidated and threatened by provincial and school administrations to not speak out.
“The problem continue to linger because people are too afraid to speak out.
“For health…The people tasked to deliver medicines to our hospitals and clinics continue to fail. You don’t have to go far to see those failures. In our five urban clinics in Lae, there are shortages of anti-malarial drugs, antibiotics, TB drugs and family planning drugs.
“Even the consumables needed for health workers to do their jobs are in short supply. The gloves, needles and other supplies. If urban clinics have shortages, what about rural clinics?
“Our health workers are also being intimidated and told to shut up. What we need, Prime Minister, is an admission that there is a problem. Not a cover up! We don’t need department secretaries who are too afraid to face the facts and admit publicly in the media that there is a problem. Many are too timid.
“I want you to use the information that the media has available during natural disasters. Use the information available. Journalists are specialists in information gathering and dissemination. Use that mechanism that is available free of charge.
“We were in Tari during the earthquake in 2018. You were in the conference room when we walked in. We were putting out information and making it available. And while the death toll stood at 63, the government mechanism chose to ignore the first hand information and were quoting a figure of 100 plus.
“We need aircraft for our defense force for disaster operations. I’ve spoken to the senior members of the PNGDF Air Transport Wing, there is an aircraft that is sitting idle because it needs a gearbox replacement that will cost K2 million.
“…there are many in government who have been unhappy with the recent coverage that has been embarrassing for them. But I want you to know that We will continue to challenge you and the government on the issues that matter.”