By MALUM NALU
PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has thanked members of Parliament for their unity in passing the Restoration Authority Bill 2018 to rebuild infrastructure damaged by the earthquake in Western, Enga, Southern Highlands and Hela.
“I’m very grateful that it was passed on voices,” he told The National.
“We have to sympathise with our people and try to get the authority into operation as quickly as possible, especially in restoring key infrastructure, particularly schools and health centres.
“It’s something that I want them (authority) to focus on – to get kids back to school and make sure that the sick are being looked after.”
The four provinces have been have been declared “emergency” areas.
The legislation was approved during a special sitting of Parliament yesterday.
- Establishes the Restoration Authority;
- coordinates and supervises restoration in the declared emergency areas of Western, Enga, Southern Highlands and Hela following the 7.5 magnitude earthquake; and,
- Makes provision for the functions and powers of the authority and for related purposes.
The Restoration Authority will also take under its umbrella parts of Gulf and West Sepik affected by the earthquake which hit the provinces on the morning of Feb 26.
It will have wide-ranging powers although its main function is to oversee and coordinate all restoration activities in the affected provinces.
O’Neill said it was one of the most devastating earthquakes in the country’s history which affected the six provinces.
“The earthquake has caused loss of lives, many homes and gardens have been destroyed, many families and people have been displaced, many key social and economic infrastructure have been destroyed,” he said.
“Our Government is acting swiftly to declare a national disaster, and establish a relief supply coordination team to coordinate relief supplies to affected areas in the six provinces.
“This relief operation is still going on with the support of our private sector, our development partners, our bilateral partners including Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, the United States, Israel and many others.
“Given the massive operation including distribution of relief supplies and restoration of social and economic infrastructure, the Government through the National Executive Council (NEC) recommended the declaration of a state of emergency.
“This is simply because Parliament is the only authority that declares a state of emergency.”
Cabinet will now appoint a controller to take charge of the entire operation.
The authority will have a prominent person as chairman, four members of the public service with at least two heads of department, and four members (one each) from the provincial governments of Western, Hela, Enga and Southern Highlands.
Members will be appointed by Cabinet with set terms and conditions.
They will also be entitled (if they are not members of the public service) fixed fees and allowances.