By MALUM NALU
WELL-KNOWN Enga businessman Paul Kurai, owner of Ribito Hotel in Wabag, is smiling after the end of the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) meeting between the governments of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea last week.
Not only because his hotel has been booked to capacity for the visit by the large delegation of Bougainvilleans, and PNG officials, but the economic benefits to the town and province have been huge and an image-booster.
Kurai’s company, KayStar Construction, has built some of the infrastructure in Enga which was showcased to the visitors.
Enga and Wabag laid out the red carpet for the Bougainville visitors, the moment they arrived in the province on Saturday, July 3, 2021. Hundreds of people lined up the road from Wapenamenda, where the airport is located, to welcome them.
Over the next few days, until the one-day JSB on Tuesday, July 6, the Bougainvilleans visited Enga and saw for themselves how the province was progressing under ‘Action Governor’ Sir Peter Ipatas.
They had lots of local food to eat and were showered with gifts by the local people.
“I was privileged to have the guys from Bougainville, including the president (Ishmael Toroama) plus 60 people, who flew in all the way from Bougainville, together with the prime minister (James Marape) and his team from Waigani,” Kurai says.
“I was privileged to have hosted the (welcome) dinner for them at Sopas Hospital, together with Enga Provincial Government. I am also privileged to have had the prime minister stay at Ribito Hotel.
“That’s history for the man in charge of 8.5 million people to come and stay at a place called Ribito Hotel. I was privileged to have him here with other VIPs including ministers, governors and members of parliament. This is a historical moment for my company.”
Kurai adds that there were huge spin-off benefits to other businesses in Enga as well.
“Other business houses, like guest houses and all that, accommodated a lot of people and brought in business for the people of Enga,” he says.
“I thank the governor of Enga, the prime minister and the Bougainville president for choosing Enga (to host the JSB).
“We have had a good cash flow to all business houses in Enga.
“We have seen a big impact on Enga.”
Kurai says he has had Bougainvilleans working for his businesses over the years and has a lot of respect for them.
“Having their president and his team come here is a privilege for KayStar Construction and Ribito Hotel,” he adds.
President Toroama and his Bougainville delegation are touched by the warm welcome, hospitality and friendship of the Enga people.
“I would like to say thank you so much for the welcome at the airport since we arrived,” he says at a welcome dinner for his delegation.
“Thank you to Sir Peter Ipatas, assembly members, the people at the roadside who threw flowers.”
Sir Peter welcomes all visitors to his province and thanks PM Marape and President Toroama for choosing Enga as host of the JSB meeting.
“For us, as a province, we are happy to receive you all,” he says.
“As I always say, we are ‘way back’ Enga.
“We were the last to become a province in 1973 before Independence.
“We must all bear in mind, people who are coming from the national agencies, donors, National Government, everybody, that this is the last province.
“We need more help.”
Sir Peter says Enga has progressed in leaps and bounds since those humble beginnings in 1973, including hosting of the giant Porgera gold mine, since 1989, “without a single day of disruption, even though this province is known to be a troublesome province, a ‘way back’ province”.
“This province, and its people, have been able to carry this nation with Porgera mine undisrupted for 30 years,” he adds.
“This is a province that needs recognition.
“The big vision for Enga has been, from day 1 in 1997 up until today and into the future – despite all the problems, all the tribal fights – one of Papua New Guinea’s premier destinations as a medical hub and as an education hub.
“That’s the big vision we’ve been driving for the last 25 years.
“Prime Minister Marape, I want to thank you on behalf of the people of this province, for funding and accelerating our vision to become the nation’s medical and education hub.
“Prime Minister, you cannot make your country rich, if politicians do not want to think big for Papua New Guinea.
“Here in Enga, as a provincial government, we think big.
“We have to be patient.
“We have an agenda.
“We have a government and an administration that are functioning.”
PM Marape thanks President Toroama for leading the Bougainville delegation on the long journey to Enga.
“I thank you all sincerely for having confidence in such a thing as Enga hospitality,” he says.
From the land of the rising sun (Bougainville) to the land of the setting sun (Enga), Enga indeed showed Bougainville, PNG and the world what it is capable of.
- Malum Nalu works with the Office of the Prime Minister