Monday, January 25, 2010

Lae - a story of gross neglect

Potholes along Eighth Street, Lae

A satirical look at Port Moresby and Lae.-From Nasfund Newsletter

Rundown Angau Memorial Hospital, Lae

From Nasfund Newsletter

Living in Port Moresby often means that many of us become too Moresby-focused and we view things through a far rosier prism than we rightly should.

Our media both print and television also suffers from the same Moresby bias.

Even this newsletter can be rightly criticised for being too focused on Port Moresby.

The editorial this month is both sobering and alarming.

It talks about a city in crisis.

Lae is Papua New Guinea’s second largest city and the industrial and manufacturing hub of the country.

It has the largest port facilities and is the gateway to the Highlands.

The Lae gateway and the Highlands Highway is the life line for over 50% of the population of Papua New Guinea who rely on the Port of Lae and Lae town for supplies. Something however is seriously wrong.

The Lae of today suffers from neglect and lack of decisive political leadership due to the inability to work together.

Never have we witnessed such a steady decline of a city than that of Lae.

The heart beat of industry still hums, private sector endures but the decline of infrastructure like roads, water, power and the vital support facilities like the Angau hospital underlie a very serious tale of woe.

The management of Lae city is in a sorry state with a failure to allocate scarce resources in priority areas of road and utility infrastructure.

Political leaders in power prefer the relatively more-lucrative and workable capital of Waigani and when in Lae take refuge in Lae’s “green zone” – two or three comfortable establishments where in air-conditioned comfort; their minders can praise them for their initiatives and tell them what they want to hear over glasses of red wine and cold beer. Outside the green zone a totally different world emerges that should shake the conscience of any one who cares for the city.

Sex workers desperate to etch out a living, bob up and down between the containers that have overflowed on to the old landing strip near town.

If not there, then they can be found under the verandah of Nasfund Haus directly across from the green zone, where lucrative pickings can be! had, from well-heeled hotel guests.

HIV is rife, as it is along the highway right through to the Western Highlands and beyond.

A recent HIV test of workers at one facility found three out of 15 infected.

Young schoolies, whose parents have little, skip classes to join the sex worker throng to buy basics like clothes, food and soap.

Many do it just to ensure they can pay their school fees.

A sophisticated network through mobile phones co ordinate the sex workers with their clients along the Highlands highway including truck drivers and maritime workers from the port.

Through mobile communication, tastes of the clients can be ascertained - whether they use condoms or not, their likes and dislikes, violent, kind or generous – all can be exchanged as part of the workings of this highly visible trade.

Exacerbated by the huge urban drift from the Highlands region, the town cannot absorb the inflow and settlements abound with all the associated ills that such a diaspora brings. Crime from muggings to murder abound and fueled by home brew, grass and alcohol, the hospitals overflow from the rampage of weekend desperation, of disaffected, disengaged youths and communities that have been wearing the brunt of neglect for too long.

Crime is made easy by the collapse in the road system. Not a stretch of road in Lae can be found without potholes, some so deep as to make sections of road impassable.

The two entrances to Lae look more like rural tracks than proud entry points to our second biggest and in some ways our most important city.

The dreadful state of the roads is compounded by the recent “gone missing” of millions allocated to repair a portion of the road system.

The poor state of the roads means that drivers are easy pickings for roadside criminals and ensures that security companies will continue to maintain dominance of the major roads even if it is just to ensure that access to the airport remains unimpeded

Over the last few months security of supply of water and power have both become serious issues.

Water was recently out for three weeks and power remains intermittent.

Once again it begs the question how this has been allowed to develop in what is our manufacturing hub and gateway.

But what is both depressing and beggar’s belief is the cholera camp on the front lawns of Angau Hospital.

Forget the appalling condition of Angau Hospital for a minute; the lack of facilities to treat what in the West would be basic matters; forget the run down wards; or the desperation on the face of women trying to get treatment for breast and cervical cancer. Forget the collapsing hospital infrastructure or the piles of surgical rubbish dumped on a makeshift bonfire to the left of the building.

Let’s just focus on the front lawns - a collection of make shift latrines and tents, a few iron beds in the middle of the lawns and untied black plastic which has failed to hide the camp from road side visibility now flapping in the breeze.

Adults and children lying in tents getting treated for a disease that should not be in Papua New Guinea and certainly not in our second largest city.

Visibility from a major road of those suffering shows how little we respect their privacy and their dignity.

A government cheque for K3 million that was release bounced and so very little has occurred except through assistance from AusAID and other donors.

A government that has pledged K13 million to assist in the cholera outbreak, and still to this day not released anything is a national shame beyond comprehension.

In November, the National government announced its 2050 vision of a people happy and prosperous.

One could possibly not but support such an initiative.

However for the long-suffering people of Lae, they desperately cannot wait 40 years to secure and share that vision.

They need a plan for 2010 - one that delivers better roads, safer and secure water supplies, consistent electricity and major upgrades in the area of health and education.

To continue to ignore Lae, as has been done, is a blight on the nation and corrosive to the collective soul.

Will someone please come forward?


  1. bernard oberleuter - Australia9:37 PM

    This is exactly, one of the many reasons why I have no desire to return to PNG, because of the high gross mismanagement, by Politicians, who are binging on material wealth and assets for themselves, and maski the grassroots, they deserve nothing, it is a shame, disgrace to be more approproate, the Provincial and National Governments cannot work together to restore, what Lae use to be like pre self government and independence... if this is what independence brought, God help us all for the 2050 vision, what about the REVISION 1974-2010?? Policians who have misappropriated millions of kina, continue to do so, as if it was their God given right... they squander millions of funds through the various disguised budgets, what about the millions of US Dollars parked overseas in Taiwan and Singapore, what PNG needs is an INDEPENDENT AUDITORS, free from Government and political influence, to get this sorted.. An Independent Crime and MIsconduct Commission, to eradicate those dieseas and parasites that gnaw at the very fabric of society... I hope that God will punish all those who steal from the public purse in the name of the people of Papua New Guinea.

  2. Brian Marthick12:09 PM

    Brian Marthick. SINGAPORE

    Perhaps the people need to be motivated to do something to alleviate this problem. Why allow politicians to do such a thing? Take control (in a non violent way). Change the way of thinking and get back to the prosperity that all people used to enjoy.

  3. I cry every time I go back to my home town in Lae. We can no longer trust or believe politicians and public servants. We must take it upon ourselves to bring back Lae to its former glory.

  4. Anonymous9:04 PM

    Is a dreadful shame what has happened to the "Garden City" and I feel for the many, many wonderful people in Lae now ignored, but always were by the beaurocrats in Moresby. I was in Lae in 1982 to 1986 lived first in 12th street Burns Philp town houses then moved to 4th street second house on left entering the Lae Lodge access off Huon road.Brought with me two young boys from England aged 1 and 2 who have never forgotten the experiences and people of Lae. In fact daughter was borne in Lae delivered by Dr John Garrap, what a fantastic person and character he was and hope still is. I believe a very close friend of mine Steve Phillips and his wife still own the petrol station on Coronation drive next to the Lae International school.
    I have monitored the supposed progress of Lae & PNG for many years and find today's developments worrying and since hearing of a casino being built in Boroko. The MP's have certainly taken their priorities seriously, for themselves only, and the basic principles of education and medical services seem to have been totally ignored. This will come back to haunt them at some point and if not most certainly when they meet their maker. No I am not a missionary but after the experiences of PNG am a humanist and the experience of my ten years there has made myself and my family better people not only for the experience but also for the fabulous people we met and class as our friends. Not sure if you can assist but I have been trying to contact old work friends called Henry Inee and Mary Aisau who lived at 5 mile. I think Henry is Mekeo and Mary from Rabaul. Still remember the Rabaul mangoes she brought into work and the best I have ever tasted without doubt.
    I feel for Angau and the people of Lae and Port Moresby, they deserve better representation and funding from the gas and oil wealth that builds and infrastructure for the future. Instead the money being generated is being filtered obviously into foreign bank accounts for the elite and is utterly shameful. The revenue in question has the potential to MAKE PNG a paradise for it's people and develop the education and health services that it desparately needs. Only through this will course of action will the crime rate drop and people of PNG become self sufficient and develop what it should have and that is an enormously strong tourism base for people that finally opens up the "Land of Paradise" to the rest of the world.
    Malum you take care and if you wish to continue the connection my name is Edward Wrobel and my e mail address is

    best wishes wantok

  5. Anonymous9:07 PM

    Malum are you a relative of Jerry Nalu?