Plea by MP for PNG not to neglect Rabaul
The MP for Papua New Guinea's Rabaul district has issued a plea for the country not to turn its back on the historic town. He says the town remains an important hub for economic and health services, despite being written off by many after destructuve volcanic eruptions in 1994.
The MP for Rabaul in Papua New Guinea says the town still holds great importance for both its province and region, and that the country shouldn't abandon it.
Allan Marat has fended off criticism that he is not doing enough to rebuild the once thriving town which was largely destroyed after twin eruptions by nearby volcanoes in 1994.
Dr Marat told Johnny Blades that part of the problem is that he is still chasing up PNG's Finance Department for complete payment of last year's installment of $10 million kina in district funds committed annually to each electorate.
ALLAN MARAT: They've assured me that they will look into that extra $1 million kina, and they will provide that also. There is a system in place, the system of governance, and how the funds are distributed to the various projects that the joint district planning and budget priorities committee decide on.
JOHNNY BLADES: Is it because you're a member of the opposition that it is harder to get the funds that are owed to your electorate in a timely fashion?
AM: I think that was the reason. The District Services Improvement Programme funds, the budget for that was passed in 2012 overwhelmingly. All members of the opposition also supported it. Yes it was a problem but then we took legal action because the constitution prohibits discrimination in terms of distribution of funds that have been budgeted for and approved by parliament.
JB: A couple of people [in Rabaul] mentioned they hoped that you as MP would have done more to build the town up again...
AM: The town is picking up again, in my view. What is preventing what I would call rapid expansion after the twin volcanic eruption is really the uncertainty over Mt Tavurvur. No one can tell us that it's stopped erupting for the next fifty years. There's no certainty about that. And while all our people in the villages are trying to replant their cocoa, the dust when it falls on the new seedlings that have been planted, it just kills them off, and that's one of the discouraging things about life in the village in Rabaul district. And whoever is saying I should do more... hey, business houses are leaving Rabaul for Kokopo, for Kerevat, for other areas, because of the volcanic dust. The Governor, the Deputy Prime Minister and others, they keep referring to this, saying 'we cannot inject a lot of money into Rabaul', they say 'people are leaving'. Well, the population is increasing, you cannot just turn away from them. If you want them out, provide land for them, but they are not. We are saying, 'where will we run to?'
JB: Isn't Rabaul just so important to the country because of its history?
AM: You're right. Rabaul has a lot of history, in terms of its colonisation by the Germans, and then the second world war, the Japanese. The harbour itself, it's a natural harbour. Who can find that type of harbour in Kokopo? No. And at the moment a lot of the goods that are supplying Kerevat and Kokopo, they come through Rabaul harbour. I mean, look at Nongo hospital in Rabaul district - that's a referral hospital - people from Kokopo still take their sick patients to Nongo hospital. It's very difficult for people to leave, to run away from Rabaul.
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