BY HON. BART PHILEMON, MP
MEMBER FOR LAE
AT THE BUSU HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION
9TH NOVEMBER 2006
I AM indeed honored as Member for Lae – and your neighbour from Butibam Village - to have been invited to give the keynote address at the 2006 Busu High School graduation.
My commendations to Principal Mr. Betong Bega, who has been a staff member at Busu since 1992, for keeping the school running in these very difficult times.
I whole-heartedly congratulate you for your first intake of Grade 11 students this year, despite “zero” assistance from the government by way of finance, classrooms or teachers’ houses.
Mr. Bega is still seeking finance for a Grade 12 classroom and a teacher’s house.
Why is this so?
The government has failed miserably in implementing its own policies, including never-ending delays in transmitting grants to provincial governments.
A classic example is the K10 million for inspectors’ houses in a number of districts which was supposed to have been implemented in 2005.
This was carried over to 2006 and to date, we have not seen or heard anything.
We should question the Education Department on what has happened to the fund.
My good people, my heart bleeds and I worry so much for the future of the children of Papua New Guinea.
Recently, K22million was approved by Parliament for the District Treasury Roll-Out Programme, however, there have since been no more roll-outs.
Where has this money gone to?
Now we hear that the government is coming up with another supplementary budget.
According to the Public Finance Management Act, 90 per cent of surplus in a budget should used to retire debts and the current government has not done that.
It should seriously consider doing that in the next supplementary budget.
We know that next budget and supplementary budget will be election budgets; however, there has been no evidence in successive governments that election budgets are implemented due to shortage of time.
I must also tell you people of my electorate that the Department of National Planning is still having a very difficult time trying to implement the much-publicised Medium Term Development Strategy.
Clearly, something is very, very wrong with this government and it is very, very much out of touch with the little people such as you and me who make up this country.
Mr. Bega must be commended for persevering despite the very big “zero” from the government.
I am also not forgetting Mr. Bega’s hard-working teaching staff; ancillary staff; the surrounding community – Malahang, Hanta, Balob, Ampo and Butibam; the local business community such as IFC, Malahang Industrial Centre, Arnotts Biscuits, my good friend Joe Chan; parents; and most importantly, all you graduating and continuing students of this great school.
I am told that apart from the Grade 10s, this will be the last Grade 8 graduation as the school concentrates on Grades 9 to 12.
This is certainly the end of an era as since its inception in the early 1960s, Busu has always had Grade 8.
Since those early days, many hundreds of students have passed through this school.
They are absorbed into different walks of life in our communities.
Some are now occupying top respectable positions in both the government and private sector in the country and overseas.
I appeal to you – the “New Generation” – to continue this great tradition of Busu.
Do not let yourselves be destroyed by the evils of alcohol, drugs, gambling, crime, promiscuous sex, and many others lurking out there.
The future of Papua New Guinea is in the hands of you, the “New Generation”.
Those of you who are not continuing, please do not despair and turn to a life of evil.
There are other avenues to continue your education, otherwise, use what you have learned at Busu to help yourself.
God Almighty has blessed us with every spiritual blessing and an abundance of natural beauty and wealth.
But whilst we live on this earth, we have to make the most of it by living a life of fulfillment, of joy, peace and harmony.
To do so we need good, wise leaders and governments that make decisions that bring maximum positive benefit to their people.
Whilst only a handful of countries enjoy good life, many, including us in Papua New Guinea, struggle from year to year in search of the same, but we never really seem to make it.
I often weep for all the children of this great country.
I wonder what life is like for these children: do they have good homes and access to good health, education, food on the table or money in their pockets?
What will it be like in 20 years from now?
Will they have access to employment in 30 years time?
Will they have access to government services in 50 years from now, when most of us will no longer be here?
Will they have access to adequate health care and security?
Unfortunately for us, as it is now, there is no guarantee, even after 30 years of Independence, of these happening.
According to United Nation’s ratings, Papua New Guinea ranks amongst the lowest or worst in human development index.
Our child mortality rate remains very high with about 70 deaths per 1,000 births; maternal mortality at about 300 deaths per 100,000 births; and life expectancy of a low 58 years.
The sad thing here is that these high mortality rates occur mainly from preventable diseases.
Our literacy rate is also low with many children lacking access to good education.
It is also estimated that around 38 per cent of Papua New Guinea’s population live in poverty.
During the last two years in my former job as Minister for Finance and Treasury I have travelled to many districts in the country to bring financial, banking and postal services to the districts.
I have been forced to weep openly seeing the plight of our mothers and children.
Basic government services have deteriorated to such a state that they can no longer provide the services they are supposed to.
Schools, aid posts and health centres, roads and bridges, police and prison services and general administration have all broken down.
I have seen an alarming contrast.
On the one hand we are a nation of great beauty with immense natural resources.
Unlike many other countries, we have rich mineral deposits, vast timber reserves, teeming fisheries and rich soils, rich and diverse cultures.
And yet while we have been so richly blessed we are so poor.
I see poorly educated children, I see run down buildings, I see news headlines every day about fraud and corruption within our society.
In large urban centres like Lae, Port Moresby and Mount Hagen, I see the social effects of poverty expressed in crime and violence.
So how can a nation of people so richly blessed with such wealth of natural resources suffer in the way that so many of our country men do?
Where is the wealth that we have been so richly given going?
Clearly, much of the people’s natural wealth has not filtered through to the people.
I believe that these past and current failures are as much failures in our leadership and management as they are failures of any other kind.
It is not an absence of wealth that we suffer – it is the absence of the effective leadership and management of that wealth that we suffer.
We must never allow ourselves to underestimate the linkages between good leadership and management and the wellbeing of our communities.
Good leadership and management are not something we can hold up as some vague notion or distant goal – it is something that is essential, something non negotiable, something that we must doggedly pursue regardless of personal cost, regardless of barriers and regardless of set backs difficulties and frustrations – for without good leadership and management the people suffer.
There is an insightful saying that goes like this:
“Sow a thought, reap an action; Sow an action, reap a habit;
Sow a habit, reap a character; Sow a character, reap a destiny.”
I would like to also suggest that the long term destiny of this nation will be ultimately determined by getting the basics right.
We have to go back to the basics, and that means going back to the districts and going back to the people.
Today, as I speak to you graduating students, staff, parents and friends, I believe it is the actions we take, or avoid today, that will determine - in no small measure - what life for you will be like.
We have to make the “New Generation” our priority by having good honest leadership in government that will make the decisions that will ultimately in the best interest of our children, their children and their children.
We, leaders and governments, have to ensure that the future of every man women and child alive in this country today is as bright and prosperous as possible.
It says in the Bible, and is inscribed at the entrance of Parliament House, that:
“When the wicked rule the people suffer, when the just rule, the people rejoice.”
Let me tell you - without good leadership and management the people suffer.
Without good leadership and management our taxes go in servicing foreign debt, our physical infrastructure is not maintained, and our capacity to provide basic services to the community is depleted.
Without good leadership and management babies don’t receive the medical care they need, school children don’t receive the education they are entitled to, fathers can’t find employment and can’t support their families.
Without strong leadership and management, opportunities to grow our economy and attract foreign investment will be limited.
Without strong leadership and management, we lose the confidence of the markets, our development partners, and lenders.
Without good leadership and management, we waste the very money that should be being used to strengthen the infrastructure and programs essential to achieve the aspirations of the people.
So to me, good leadership and management is not an option – it is an absolute necessity and it is one that I have committed myself to and will continue to commit myself to wholeheartedly.
But that commitment must also come from you, the voters.
You must make wise decisions when selecting your leaders.
You know, the kind of leadership that forms government is the kind of leadership you choose.
You can choose to have wicked leaders that make you suffer or you can choose to elected just leaders that make you rejoice.
The choice is entirely yours because that choice you make will determine the destiny of your children and grand children.
The type of government and leadership I want to be a part of will also work in partnership with all the people of Papua New Guinea.
A new political Party – “New Generation Party” will emerge in the 2007 general elections and we believe it has a spiritual connotation to it.
It reminds us of the children of Israel led by Moses on their way to the “Promised Land” filled with milk and honey.
Unfortunately, the old generation of people led by Moses had to die in the wilderness, including Moses, and God had to raise a new generation of people under the leadership of Joshua to enter the Promised Land after 40 years
“God willing”, a new government under the leadership of the New Generation Party will ensure that our people benefit from the services they have been deprived of for the last 31 years.
Papua New Guinea has had 31 years of Independence and we have absolutely no doubt that “God willing”, a new generation of leadership under the New Generation Party will drive PNG into a nation that God had intended it to be.
It is time now aim high and to set our course on the right path and relentlessly set our goals high and steadfastly pursue these goals to build a nation and lift the economic, social, and cultural well-being of all Papua New Guineans.
When this is done, Papua New Guinea will then truly be one nation and one people, harnessing and unleashing all energies together to build a brighter future and better future for the current and future generations.
My heart-felt congratulations to all you young people graduating today, and remember that you are the “New Generation” who will one day run this country.
Thank you and God Bless!