My short statement on Friday to PM, James Marape, on health & education

mediaOn 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.”

Why I joined Government| Allan Bird, East Sepik Governor

birdTo my beloved Sepik people, I make this explanation because I am accountable to you all.

When the events of 2011 came about, I was outspoken against it. Since 2011, the economic climate in PNG has continued to deteriorate at an alarming rate.

ESPG was particularly punished from 2011 – 2017 because of the position taken by Sir Michael Somare. Our grants were cut consistently by more than 80% during that period. This was unjust, uncalled for and vicious way to treat the Sepik people.

I stood against PNC and it’s vindictive and punitive practice and policies in 2017 and won elections on that basis. Over the past two years we fought the PNC government. During the VONC, we tried to depose PNC with the help of the Marape splinter group. We worked hard to remove PNC. Things didn’t work out well but we kept pushing.

After PMJM was installed, our fight with PNC seemed over except that they were still there working in the background.

When I was in the US, I received information of a possibility of another Parliamentary coup to remove Marape and elements within PNC and others were behind it. I objected strongly and said I would not be a part of such a move.

PNC and it’s leaders have now been ejected by PMJM to join the opposition.

When the opportunity to help the country arose for some of us to assist the government, we took it.

My fight was against PNC and it’s repressive policies. I have no argument with the Marape government unlike the O’Neil government.

In opposition we operate as a team, I am sad that we had to split up the team but I didn’t get elected for position or power. I got elected because I wanted to help Sepik and our country ultimately.

One of our MPs has the opportunity to help the country in Treasury, myself and others are in government to help him perform that role. Ultimately, if the country collapses we all pay the price. So if we have the opportunity to work with a good PM and save our country then I want to do that.

It wasn’t an easy thing to do to leave the opposition. My friends are there. But some of my friends are now in government and I want to support the new Treasurer so he can contribute to putting our nation back on track.

Finally, I will remain as Governor because we have much to do at home. We have the massive EU Grant Program and others that are earmarked for us. I want to protect those investments from those who want to derail the good works we intend to do at home.

PMJM wants us to build the economy of Sepik to support the country. His views are consistent with mine and I want to work with him for all our benefit.

Maulu tumas na God bless