The National, Monday October 14th, 2013
By MALUM NALU
THE Siassi Islands, in Morobe, are literally falling apart because of the lack of services, acting provincial administrator Geoving Bilong has admitted.
He said Lutheran Shipping no longer serviced Siassi, third-level airlines no longer flew there, with the two airstrips on the main island of Umboi now covered in bush, and teachers were reluctant to go there resulting in Siassi Lutheran High School being closed down earlier this year.
Islanders are facing the risk of having to travel in outboard powered canoes known as mon to cross the treacherous Vitiaz Strait to access basic services health and education services. The main road servicing Umboi is no longer accessible and a culture of homebrew and marijuana is said to be rampant among young people as the church influence continue to fade.
Siassi is not the only area affected by the collapse of Lutheran Shipping as Wasu and Finschhafen are feeling the pinch, although not as hard because they are on the mainland.
“For the past 100 years, we’ve been depending on the church to provide the basic transport system,” Bilong said.
“That service is not available anymore. The services to Siassi are badly affected.
“The Lutheran Shipping that used to go is not going anymore. It affects even government services, which depend on other services such as transport.
“When Lutheran Shipping was going, there were government officers, private entrepreneurs and teachers travelling in.
“Now, with no shipping services, things have basically fallen apart.
“Transport services are the key, but at the moment in Morobe, shipping services are down and air services are also affected.
“There’s only one third-level airline operator, North Coast Aviation, which is continuing to operate out of Nadzab with only two planes.
“You can see the difficulties. Together with that, we have difficulties in maintaining our airstrips, because of low levels of funding. That makes it even harder.”
Bilong said he had no no idea what sort of problem Lutheran Shipping, which has been besieged by management problems, had.
“What is happening is that services are no longer like they used to be five years ago. Kabwum is serviced by Wasu, but now Wasu is affected. Goods and services to Wasu are not reduced. The people from Wasu and Kabwum can’t bring their coffee in.
“That affects their income and the amount of money that goes into the area.”