The National, Wednesday 08th Febuary 2012
By ELLEN TIAMU
LEADERS from the New Guinea islands have described last week’s boat accident as the worst the islands has ever known.
Autonomous Region of Bougainville President, John Momis, and Governor of East New Britain, Leo Dion, are in Lae to visit survivors and relatives of missing people in a boat accident that has left more than 180 people still unaccounted for.
The mv Rabaul Queen last Thursday morning sank off the coast of Finschhafen in Morobe with 243 people rescued so far.
Dion said he was concerned at the lawlessness perpetrated by people who should know better – especially in a company that’s been around for long and breaching transport regulations.
He said observing and enforcing the safety of the public was no longer a concern and this should be a challenge for provincial and national governments.
The operator of the shipping company he said had already been cited for breaches but accidents were still happening.
Dion said blame should not be accorded to nature alone.
He said what was needed now was the recovery of bodies and professional help to be made available to survivors and families of those who were missing.
Momis said the tragedy was a wake up call for governments and business people in the country.
“We have the worst shipping service in the whole of the Pacific yet we are supposed to be rich,” he said.
Momis said some of the mishaps could be blamed on public complacency in accepting sub-standard services. He said people and businesses who wanted to provide services must be obligated to put public safety first.
He echoed Dion’s concerns that the shipping company concerned was notorious for breaking maritime rules and regulations.
He said businesses that did not abide by the rules should be severely dealt with.
Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, he said, had better shipping services and it was time for leaders to start listening to their people.
East New Britain is contributing K60,000 towards search and rescue and relief efforts while Manus had also pledged to contribute.
Autonomous Region of Bougainville is paying tuition fees for its surviving students as well as assisting with the care of all their survivors at the Catholic church care centre in Lae.
Dion and Momis commended Morobe for the assistance given to their people.