Madang losing ‘beautiful’ tag

Focus, Normal

The National, Thursday 12th July 2012


WHILE contracts for feeder roads and the Madang town roads are being negotiated and awarded to companies with links to provincial heads, the town council has no solution to clean up the town.

Madang, often described as the "Pearl of the Pacific", "Flying Fox town" and "the best tourism destination" by local and overseas visitors, has deteriorated to a shanty eyesore riddled with pothole puddles large enough for five adults to swim in.

District administrator Lawrence Pitor, as head of Madang, has failed the town through his initially gusty hot air clean-up campaign to be held every Saturday.

What started with a good turnout by the town council and Madang district officers fell flat on its face only after two Saturdays of clean-ups.

The "Let’s keep Madang beautiful" awareness float obviously wasted fuel on that day, for both the vehicle and those who spoke.

In an attempt to show their seriousness, the only bus-stop in the centre of town had its roofing pulled down watched by the town manager. No new construction has been done.

In defense, authorities said it was to stop street and buai vending.

But in reality, you can never curb or control illegal buai sales. They are still out there under shady trees and dark corners plying their trade.

The town council has not provided rubbish bins for as long as many can remember, saying that any drums provided simply get "shouldered away". It is anyone’s guess what happens to them.

One look at the town market dump heap will tell you how efficient the town council is.

You will not find this in Kokopo or even Lae.

The inside and outside perimeters of the market fencing area is riddled with fly-infested rubbish which do not get removed for a week. And when it finally does, wiggling maggots are greeted by gloveless workers who just don’t have safety boots supplied.

The issue on spot fines can be forgotten as easily as the betelnut spittle that is emitted from the public at all corners of the town.

Sewer and drainage systems capacity to hold off storm water during the heavy downpours are non-existent. Heavy rain would normally turn them into big pools pouring onto the main roads causing traffic hazards for drivers.

If the Madang Urban Local Level Government lacks the capacity or the skills, then the town manager should explain to its residents. Otherwise, many would view it as a total lack of leadership.

Last year, the MULLG received a funding of K1.5 million for the first time. Residents were quick to point out that the money would be used to pay for utilities and settle debts and bills.

They would not see anything in the form of services.

While the silence at the MULLG is deafening, business is as usual in town and elsewhere. Illegal traders are selling pirated CDs, perfumes, MP3s and the works. And what’s being done? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

While that goes on, the issue of roads is still pending.

Governor James Gau confirmed that he had secured K20 million to fix Madang town roads. Of that amount, K4 million was remitted to the province by the departments of finance and treasury. That money will be paid to successful South Korean SMS Design and Engineering Ltd company currently working on the Yowor bridge in the governor’s own Raicoast electorate.

SMS had won the design and scoping contracts for the town roads.

Works secretary Joel Luma was said to have retained K6 million to have a reputable contractor chosen to do the work.

But Gau, in moves to fast track work on the roads, decided to bring the money back to the provincial works division in part payments of K3 million so that work could begin immediately.

The Provincial Supply and Tenders Board has the power to award the contract to anyone of its own choice.

Board chairman and provincial administrator Ben Lange, works manager Wally Wigbert and two other board members recently agreed to have the town roads worked on by SMS Engineering. A local company was awarded the contract to fix several feeder roads.

No problems with that. But the contract of agreement has three letters purportedly showing expressions of interest from three contractors.

And, interestingly, all three quotations have the same office landline numbers despite showing different company names and logos. The contracts would amount to more than K1 million.

Is that service to the rural populace struggling to earn an honest living eking it out in remote places only to be greeted with a filthy, overgrown bushy murky-looking town daily?

That is the question that the head of the province and the district, and those with delegated responsibilities, need to answer truthfully.

Maybe the province needs new leaders with the foresight and hindsight to restore our lost pride.

Hopefully, this new leader will emerge after the counting in this election.