By MALUM NALU in KAVIENG
PAPUA New Guinea has gone backwards since 1975, according to one of the country’s founding fathers and former prime minister, Sir Julius Chan.
Sir Julius said this to graduating students, including the first-ever fisheries and marines resources degree students from the University of Natural Resources and Environment in Kavieng last Friday.
He said all that he and his fellow visionaries had worked towards at the time of independence in 1975 had been destroyed.
“Today, I stand before you 34 years after the creation of our country and say to you that we have not lived up to the promises we made in 1975,” Sir Julius said.
“We have not brought the improvement in the quality of life of our people that we hoped to bring.
“We have not provided the health care, the education, the infrastructure that we should have provided.
“There is no sense in trying to avoid this unpleasant conclusion.
“If we cannot be honest with ourselves, then we have no hope of doing better,” Sir Julius said.
“Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, and I refuse to think we will repeat our mistakes.”
Sir Julius said some people, especially the National Government, continued to insist that PNG had made progress and had become a better place for the people since 1975.
“That is not true,” he said.
“I am here to tell you that we need to do better.
“I am here to tell you the truth so that you – the young people of our country – can do a better job than we have done to this point.
“It is unfortunate but true that since independence, Papua New Guinea has consistently failed to improve the health care of our people.
“According to the World Bank, we have fewer aid posts open today than we did at independence.
“And we know the condition of those that are still open – they have no power, most have no clean water supply, and many have no housing for our healthcare workers.
“Likewise, we have failed to improve access to education for our people.
“We just have to look around us.
“Our primary and elementary schools are falling apart.
“We do not have basic textbooks in the schools, we do not have decent toilets for our children, we do not have decent teachers’ houses, and often we do not even have the teachers because the housing is so bad that they cannot live in it.
“And our infrastructure is not better.
“We used to have roads that we could travel on, but they have not been maintained for the past 10 or 15 or 20 years.
“Our roads have ‘gone bush’ and our people cannot get to market to generate income.
“Our children have to walk so many kilometers every day just to get to school, and when they get there, they have no books, no toilets, and sometimes no teachers.”
Sir Julius said this was the real situation in PNG that the National Government failed to admit.
“We have had huge amounts of wealth taken out of the country,” he said.
“We have had reasonable macroeconomic growth.
“But our people have not benefited, they have actually suffered.
“That is not development.
“That is not progress.
“That is failure, pure and simple.
“It is a failure of our national institutions to provide the basic services that they should have provided.”