By DANIEL KUMBON
IF there is anything Enga Governor Sir Peter Ipatas wants to see happen in his province is to see his people prosper in a peaceful environment.
He would like many tourists to come annually to events like next Friday’s Enga Cultural Show or to major sporting events like the recent rugby match between Easts Tigers and PNG Hunters in the Queensland Intrust Super Cup completion.
On many occasions the governor has personally involved himself in bringing in visitors like birdwatchers and people who wanted to see how traditional salt was made at Mulisos Yokonda Salt ponds near Sirunki.
Sir Peter Ipatas said he was forced to resign from Peter O’Neill’s PNC-led government three months ago because he felt the government was not serious to address the dire law and order situation in the country.
Now, he is satisfied Prime Minister James Marape appointed a most capable police Minister in Bryan Kramer who he believes will transform the police force to support the new government’s pledge to take back PNG.
Sir Peter had shocked many people when he joined an unprecedented exodus of members and senior ministers who resigned especially when many impact projects had been established in Enga province by the O’Neill-Abel government.
Enga College of Nursing, Enga Provincial Hospital, Sirunki Agro Project, Wapenamanda Airport, Tsak Road, Philikambi Sub-district office, Tuition Free Education policy, the upgrading of the Togoba-Wabag road were among some of these million kina projects.
Peter O’Neill had regularly visited Enga province to officiate at groundbreaking ceremonies or open completed projects like the main administration building at Enga Teachers College which was named after him.
‘Yes, O’Neill’s service to Enga was A1 but I resigned to take back PNG and promote peace and unity in my province’, Sir Ipatas told an energetic crowd of over 500 UPNG Enga students on Monday night, May 20 May a couple days before James Marape was elected the eighth prime minister of PNG.
‘Enga is a volatile province where law and order should be the number one priority of any government.
‘Many people die every year in gun battles, cold blooded killings, armed hold-ups and other serious crime which impeded development.
‘Any government can build multibillion kina projects but if underlying social problems like law and order are not tackled head on, the reality is that these projects can be reduced to ashes and the funds and time spent becomes wasted effort,’ he said.
He said the Royal PNG Police Constabulary was weak, under-resourced and the police personal poorly trained to conduct proper investigations to track down criminals and effectively prosecute the perpetrators.
Even as he was speaking in Port Moresby, the Highlands Lutheran International School, one of Enga’s iconic educational institutions was smoldering in ruins after a series of attacks perpetrated by unknown arsonists.
On May 5, the Highlands Lutheran International School lost the Grades 1 and 2 classroom in a fire believed to be deliberately lit by arsonists.
Two days later on May 7, the principal’s residence got burnt down at 2.30 am. The principal and her children who were fast asleep at that hour were rescued unhurt but in total shock.
After that on Tuesday, May 14, the girls’ dormitory was set ablaze at midday.
Boarding students from the Enga Teachers College who also resided there lost everything they owned and left only with the clothing they wore and the books and pens they held in their hands.
Last year on Oct 16 the school lost the main office complex, adjourning classrooms and the library was razed by a fire
In addition to all these acts of wanton destruction, the HLIS had lost its very first main administration building complex which had been built by American Lutheran missionaries over 50 years ago.
It is very hard to put a monetary figure to all the destruction HLIS has incurred over many years.
Sir Peter was concerned not one single suspect was ever arrested by police for all these arson attacks at Engas’s oldest and only international school where important people like the Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika sent his children to receive an education.
He said he had to make a move to install a new government to save PNG from total disaster, safeguard the livelihood of ordinary people and secure the future of all students as future leaders of PNG.
‘If elected leaders did nothing to ‘take back PNG’ from corporate theft, poor governance, tribal warfare and deep-rooted corruption then PNG as we know it will never be the same,’ he said
Sir Peter said Peter O’Neill had habitually failed to listen to his advice on how to address serious national issues like law and order so prevalent in the country.
He said two years ago, he had advised Peter O’Neill to make formal requests to the Australian Government so their federal police could come and help us control the escalating law and order situation in the country.
He claimed our own policemen wanted allowances first before they could do anything and were of no help in the fight against crime.
He felt his 21 years of hard work in building infrastructure and other development in Enga would go down in one day of tribal war in which people used high-powered guns to kill each other and destroyed properties.
Last year, police did not arrest any suspect in a tribal war which saw over 10 men killed and destruction to property worth millions of kina which occurred right in the heart of Kandep town.
The Enga Provincial Government allocated enough funds but the police had failed miserably to make any arrests – the cause of which was over a woman who had been seeing two men.
‘Who in PNG will fix our law and order problems if we politicians turn a blind eye on the biggest threat to development and peace – law and order. We do not have freedom so we have to address this issue and allow our people to live peacefully,’ he said.
Sir Peter Ipatas has been a politician all his life – 18 years in local level government and 22 years in provincial and national level politics.
He has the experience to clearly see that law and problems can very easily wipe out everything the government or individuals have accomplished.
He said one way to safeguard lives and properties was to ensure government departments like police and statutory bodies like the Ombudsman Commission were allowed to operate independently from political influence.
The Government will have to strengthen these institutions by allocating more funds and resources to enable them to effectively uphold the rule of law.
“I am happy I played a part to install the new Marape-Davis government which already seems to be wining the confidence of the people. I know Enga will gradually change. More visitors will come when there is peace and unity among the people.”
- Daniel Kumbon is a freelance writer.