People of Gulf deserve better

Editorial, Normal

The National, Monday October 28th, 2013

 KEREMA town is well-known throughout Papua New Guinea but mostly for the wrong reasons.

While Gulf musicians like to portray their provincial capital as an oasis of love in their popular songs, Kerema is hardly a sentimental destination.

It is not even a tourist de­s­tination in the mould of beautiful Madang or scenic Rabaul. 

Instead, Kerema became notorious for criminal activities and other social ills.

Decades of dereliction compounded the problems that made the town a hotspot for criminals and other unwanted elements.

Kerema’s notoriety was made infamous by the late William Kapris, who masterminded one the biggest bank robberies in the country’s history several years ago. Kapris and a handful of crooked friends robbed the Kerema branch of Bank South Pacific of almost a million kina, forcing the town’s only bank to close indefinitely.

Since then the people of Gulf have had to tra­vel to Port Moresby to do their banking as BSP refuses to re-open the branch while other commercial banks will not even think about it.

There’s no doubt that since independence this former colonial administration outpost has been neglected by successive national governments and abandoned by its own political leaders.

In fact, there is little tangible development in Kerema and throughout Gulf with hardly any road network, bridges, sea ports and other key infrastructure.

Like neighbouring Western, time seems to have stood still in Gulf with the majority its people continuing to live the way their ancestors did. While Gulf leaders and its educated elite prefer to live under the bright lights of the national capital, their home town and province continues to suffer from lack of government services, infrastructure development and socio-economic growth. 

It is therefore welcome news for the residents of Kerema that they will soon have access to clean and safe drinking water.

This follows the signing of a contract last Friday between state-owned Water PNG and China Jiangsu International Group to undertake the water supply project. The project will be in three stages and will cost K20 million, with much of the funding coming from the state and close monitoring and evaluation by the Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC).

Gulf Governor Havila Ka­vo must be commended for his government’s contribution of K500,000 to help with the feasibility studies in which K1.3 million was spent to drill water bore holes. Kerema residents rely on rain water, which causes significant hardships during the dry season while government institutions and private entities have their own water bores that may be polluted by sewer septic tanks. Stage one of the project will cover transmission and distribution of mains, elevated water storage tank, installation of chlorination treatment facility and stand-by generator, house connections, meters and other appurtenances like valves and fire hydrants. 

Stages two and three will include the construction of sewerage and waste water functions. By September 2014, Kerema residents will enjoy safe,  clean drinking water supplied as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) standard.

As Water PNG acting chief executive Raka Taviri said: “Lives, livelihood and economic activities are taken care of, not only for human life but for economic activities taking place in Kerema and the province of Gulf.” We agree with Taviri that access to clean drinking water is a positive contribution to the lives of the people and will improve the standard of living and stimulate economic growth in the town and province. The water supply project and road upgrading works in Kerema should kick-start infrastructure development in the town and set the stage for the anticipated liquefied natural gas boom in the province.

Kerema town is strategically located within the corridor of LNG development in the Highlands and Southern regions and is expected to become the hub of Gulf LNG, which is touted as the next major project should the potential of InterOil’s Elk and Antelope gas fields be fully realised. 

Indeed, the future looks bright and the opportunities are seemingly enormous but the people of Gulf should not become mere spectators of major resource development in their province.