Speech by Hon. Peter O'Neill CMG MP
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
Independence Day Flag Raising Ceremony
16 September 2015
Speaker of the National Parliament
Chief Justice & Members of the Judiciary
Ministers of State & Distinguished Members of Parliament
Your Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corp
My Fellow citizens
We live in a great nation, an amazing nation, and one that we can all be very proud of – our Papua New Guinea.
Today is a day that we not only celebrate 40 years of independence, but we also celebrate thousands of years of our rich history and our culture – that has made us who we are today.
We celebrate the more than 800 languages and cultures that have developed across our lands.
We are a nation of diversity that is rich and amazing, and we are a united nation.
As a country we have brought together our diversity to create modern Papua New Guinea.
Today we can look back with pride on what we have achieved together.
And we can look forward with confidence to an even better future of our children.
We must all be grateful to the founders of our Nation.
Grateful to the leaders who guided us towards the declaration of independence on 16 September 1975.
We thank them for the progress that we have achieved as one united nation over the last four decades.
This is a time of reflection on what we have achieved together.
It is a time to look at how we can build an even stronger nation based on those achievements, and on the many blessings we enjoy today.
Of course there have been difficulties over the last four decades – but these challenges have made us stronger.
Right now our nation is facing challenges.
They come form outside our borders - but together we have to face up to them with the courage and determination that we are well known for.
The global economy is facing a very uncertain time at the moment.
Unstable commodity prices are placing pressure on many economies and reducing economic growth all around the world.
But in Papua New Guinea we are managing our economy so that we can meet our commitments to our people.
Even with the grey clouds over the global economy, our country still has positive growth.
What this means for our people is that we will see through this challenge in the coming years and our country can grow even stronger.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We also face a further threats that come from changes in climate and weather conditions.
Right now, around our nation – food gardens have been destroyed by frost.
Right now families are worried about where their food will come from in the coming weeks – because they have had no rain.
We have been through this before and we learn from our past experiences.
Your Government has acted decisively by delivering immediate relief.
Food is being distributed as we gather here today.
We are also distributing seed so that when the rains do return – so our people can return to agriculture.
All we ask is that drought and frost is not politicised by people seeking to get attention for themselves.
This is not the time to play politics.
Drought and frost, as well as other extreme weather - and becoming worse because of climate change - is a big problem for our country and our region.
We recently saw the terrible tropical storms and cyclones that killed people.
We, in the Pacific Islands, did not cause climate change – but our people are suffering from it.
Papua New Guinea, and our Pacific partners are taking our message to the global community – that we need action to deal with climate change.
In December at the United Nations climate change conference – the voices of grassroots Papua New Guineans will be heard loud and clear by world leaders.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
No matter what challenge our country faces our people are strong. They stand tall to meet this challenge.
While our nation might be blessed with many natural resources - our greatest resource by far is our people.
You, the men, women and children of our nation are what drives our economy and is the power of our communities.
The commitment I give to you today, as I did four years ago, is that we will build on the foundations we have laid.
We will continue to ensure you and your family have free school education, better healthcare and better community services you are entitled to as our citizens.
We will continue to make communities safer and create more opportunities for you so you can participate in our economy.
The introduction of free school education has been a milestone for our nation. Today 2 million of our children are in school at all levels of education.
But we must build on this.
The next steps include improving teacher training and teacher numbers.
We want our children have a higher standard of education.
We also want more young people to go to university and other study.
Our Government will continue to strengthen technical training in our country.
We are increasing places at Higher learning institutions each year.
And through our vocational schools, we will empower our people with skills to get more jobs in key areas of fisheries, tourism and agriculture.
We will further continue to support the wonderful work of our churches at all levels.
The health of a nation is a vital responsibility to governments at all levels.
While there is much more to be done to improve access to basic health care, we have made substantial progress in rebuilding all our run down health facilities throughout the country.
We, as a Government must give greater opportunity for our youth.
This can be through the development of small to medium enterprises.
Papua New Guineans are great entrepreneurs.
We always want to have our own businesses.
Your Government and your country is there to support you.
We will create more opportunities.
This will be through making it easier to open a business.
Last night, at the Prime Minister's Excellence Awards Ceremony, I met several of these entrepreneurs and community champions.
You might have seen this on television.
They were both young and old.
They were from the highlands to the coast.
They were a demonstration of the inspirational people we have in Papua New Guinea.
I would like to tell you about a few of them.
One is a lady called Betty Higgins from Chimbu.
In the 1970's Betty was an Air New Guinea airhostess.
Now she is a very proud trout fish farmer – with her farm at 2,400 meters above sea level.
Betty and her late husband had dreams and they followed their dream.
Now she serves locally-caught fresh fish in Chimbu.
Let me tell you about Yomas Dosung from Mt Hagen.
Yomas is taking up the fight against climate change and extreme weather conditions like el Niño.
He has been cultivating an African style of yam that withstands el Niño and drought.
The food developed by Yomas is being shared with many communities.
I would also like to talk about Dr Moses Laman
He is our Prime Ministers' Excellence Awards Papua New Guinean of the year
This young doctor from Ambunti in the East Sepik province is already a senior research fellow and respected around the world.
Dr Laman's research will reduce illness and death in underprivileged children in rural Papua New Guinea.
This is an inspiration to all of us.
We need to encourage our own Papua New Guinea entrepreneurs in medicine, tourism, and new economy areas such as communications.
To the people who already own a business in our country, and are already employing Papua New Guineans.
We will continue to encourage you.
By making taxation simpler we will further stimulate the economy and create more jobs.
We are doing more to make Papua New Guinea a great location for investment.
And we have received great support from international businesses and they have confidence in our economy.
This will mean more Papua New Guineans are employed and be in business.
Some of the largest corporations in the world are investing in Papua New Guinea, and this is making an important contribution to our economy.
But I also I want to see the people of our country take greater control in developing our own resources.
This means more investment from our private sector to access our own resources.
I would like to see more or our seafood and agriculture products processed in our country.
As a nation, we must be ambitious and bold when it comes to economic empowerment and improving quality of life for our people.
My fellow citizens, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am proud of the achievements of our nation the regional leadership.
Our country has excellent relations with our immediate neighbours – Australia, Indonesia and Solomon Island.
We are engaging with our partners in a more meaningful way.
We are also a great friend and partner with our Pacific Island nations.
We recently hosted the best Pacific Games ever – where athletes came from around our region to compete at the highest level in our country.
Last week we also hosted the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum.
In 2018 we will bring 20 of the world's Presidents and Prime Ministers to Papua New Guinea for the APEC Leaders Summit.
This will also include more than 10,000 delegates visiting our cities and regional communities throughout 2018.
This will be the most significant international event ever to be held in Papua New Guinea.
These events have brought considerable economic benefits to our country and city areas.
They also lead to the construction of first-class facilities that will be available for long-term community use and benefit.
Through our international government engagement, we would like to expand our knowledge and markets in important areas.
And we are attracting increasing amount of foreign direct investment.
These include minerals, energy, agriculture, fisheries and forestry, and construction creating more jobs for our people.
When you look at our achievements as a nation, there is much we can be proud of and give thanks for.
Ours is a country that has seen a lot of challenge, as a united nation.
There is also much more that we can achieve if we work together as one united democratic and confident nation.
In wishing you, and your family, best wishes for our 40th Anniversary of Independence - I give, you our commitment, as Leaders in this country.
You can be confident that your elected Leaders will work each and every day – to ensure that the dreams we all share for our country and for our children.
May God Bless each and every one of you, and God Bless Papua New Guinea.