Landowners, youths back Chan’s autonomy move

National, Normal

NEW Ireland resource owners and youth groups have thrown in their support for Governor Sir Julius Chan’s push to fast track provincial autonomy.
PNG Land and Resource Owners Federation vice-president Joel Suraka and New Ireland National Alliance party youth representatives say resource owners from Lihir, Simberi and Nautilus are behind
their governor.
“Fifteen years after the Lihir mine started producing gold, there is no change for the better in the socio-economic well-being of our communities,” Mr Suraka said.
“Since then, all the memorandum of agreement funds, equity and royalty, special support grants and other development grants have been withheld in Wagaini.
“There is nothing to show for a province that hosts three gold mines,” he added.
Mr Suraka, who has been advocating for resource owners, said it was time that New Ireland was given financial autonomy to develop itself.
“If the K572 million funds for New Ireland, which are said to be missing in Waigani, were released as agreed, we would be well-off in terms of development,” he said.
Mr Suraka, who is also the liaison officer between Lihir Gold Limited and the landowners, said the people were frustrated with the Government’s failure to provide basic health, education and infrastructure services.
“The schools, health centres and aid posts that have been built by the Germans are still here.
“The villagers are still living under palm-thatched roofs.
“When are we going to see changes despite hosting three gold mines?” he asked.
“On behalf of the youths, churches and resource owners in the province, I want to tell the Government that Sir Julius’ call is the voice of New Ireland,” Mr Suraka said.