Concern over south to north PNG road
In PNG a veteran Papuan campaigner continues her push for independence from the northern New Guinea provinces; A week after the sale of liquor was heavily restricted in Port Moresby, the city's governor says it is already having a positive effect.
Dame Judith Abaijah says Papua New Guinea's Papua region should never have been merged with its northern neighbour.
Since before independence in 1975 she has campaigned for the independence of the Papuan provinces - Western, Gulf, Central, Milne Bay and Oro - and for them not to be united with the former German colony of New Guinea.
Port Moresby's plans for a highway through the southern provinces to connect with the north seem to have helped galvanise renewed interest in Papuan independence.
Dame Judith told Don Wiseman why such a road is not wanted by Papuans.
JUDITH ABAIJAH: I think people should look at it from a proper perspective that it just seems to be one way traffic. Now, you don't find Papuans going up there to reside, or to get business, or to do whatever on the New Guinea side. But all of them come down so that's a good opening for them to come by truck, come by road, come by whatever means and they're just opening up so that more of them can come down here, but none of the Papuans can go up there and do business or reside there or something like that.
DON WISEMAN: Why wouldn't the Papuans go into the Highlands?
JA: They won't let us. They won't let us. We go up there, many of our Papuans go up there and they just told them to pack up and come back again.
DW: So they're frightened of going up there?
JA: Yeah, they're not welcome there. Anyway, we live here, why can't we do our own thing here in our own area? We don't get to go to their place? Why do they come down here to our place?
DW: Do you not see any value in the roads at all? One of the problems for Western Province and Gulf and Central is the lack of infrastructure isn't it? So if you had a decent road, wouldn't that help?
JA: I'm not against them constructing roads, I haven't seen any road connecting Western Province to the Gulf province; Gulf province to Central province; Central province to Milne Bay province; or Milne Bay to the Northern province. These are the roads we should be constructing now to bring Papuans together. Why not leave this one as we are? We are so isolated, we have no roads connecting the Papuan areas but yet we can go and do a road to the other side. I don't see any logic in it. It's really a problem for us, we're just sad that Australia has done this thing to us and we feel that Papua has a history and we are just going by the history of what our colonial missionaries have done for us. They wrote about us that Australia should just look after us and prepare us for independence, not to link up with anybody.
DW:That's what the missionaries had always been advocating, that Papua be prepared separately for independence?
JA: Yeah, and what wrong with that? I don't see anything wrong with it.
DW: Now, you held some protest meetings in Port Moresby a few weeks back, what sort of support did you get?
JA: The Papuan people in the streets and the villages support the concept. We are trying to get our leaders in Parliament to see if they can support the people they represent. At the moment we don't see any of them from Parliament. But there are village people and townspeople who are very adamant because they see the problem. You hear about killings at the market, the people talk about violence against women getting worse, violence against children is getting worse, the police are killing people and the people are killing the policemen - it should not be like that. We should try and do something that will bring a halt to these type of activities and let people move around, work and live a life where there is peace and harmony and these are the types of things that the Papuans are looking for. Somebody should give us an opportunity to prove that we are wrong in that manner.
DW: What's been the reaction from the government to your renewed campaign?
JA: They are establishing non-relevance at the moment, but I'm very sure that it's not going to be non-relevance anymore because I told people that I'm going to take the matter outside of Australia and Papua New Guinea seeking an audience with the Governor General here, our Governor General he's procrastinating because it's a huge thing, but the thing is, we shouldn't pretend that the problem is not there. We should try and solve the problem. We should sit down and talk about it properly so that we can make some decisions that are good for everybody. But if they are going to say that it's too big or it's of no relevance or 'it's not my problem', then the people themselves will take the law into their own hands. That's something we're trying to prevent. I've already written to her majesty the Queen, because we are the subject and Australian citizens. But Australians don't want Papuans to be Australian citizens and yet it's in their constitution that Papuans are Australian citizens, but we are not welcome in Australia as Australians. We have learned here, we can survive here and we don't get to go to Australia, but the fact still remains that we are Australian citizens and the subjects. The problem is getting so big that we are now going international and are asking for their support. We've got resources here in Papua, but it's undeveloped.
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