By HELEN TARAWA
YOU are not in my mind, you are all in my heart.
This was the message Forests Minister and Namatanai MP Walter Schnaubelt passionately delivered to the people of Tabar Islands in Sentral Niu Ailan at the launching of Project 79 and development support for schools and churches recently.
Tabar Group of Islands in Namatanai was our final destination to participate in the launching of Project 79, a council ward concept and initiative of the Namatanai District Development Authority (DDA).
Tabar is made up of three islands or commonly known as Three Island, Big Tabar, Simberi and Tatau. The project launching was held at Pakinapai village, Mapua in Ward 4 of the Sentral Niu Ailan Local LLG.
Departing Nokon, the home of Minister Schnaubelt, we arrived at Kadan at about 10am after stopping over at Dalom Guest House for a short tea break.
Waiting on the shores of Kadan were 10 dinghies ready to ferry us over to the islands.
After about two hours of crossing the sea and a lagoon through to the other side of the island, we arrived at Pakinapai where we were greeted by a rousing welcome.
The people of Tabar Islands had waited in anticipation for their leader for about four years and finally he arrived.
They lined up on the shores and sang traditional songs and performed rituals as they welcomed their leader and his delegation.
Schnaubelt had been to Tabar since 2001 on various occasions and this time he was there to deliver much-needed services to the people, Project 79 and funding for schools and churches.
Items delivered at Pakinapai village on Tabar Island on Friday, May 21 included five boats and engines, roofing iron (1,800 pieces), water tanks (30), pig fencing (200 rolls), baking ovens (50), solar lights, a truck for Tatau Landowners Association and a Lucas sawmill for the Tabar constituency.
Belhat Development Project
Schnaubelt said the project was worth over K2.1 million comprising K800,000 for Project 79, K560,000 for schools, K440,000 for churches, K200,000 truck and K70,000 for the sawmill.
He said the Belhat Development project which was part of his 2017 election promises had finally arrived.
“This Belhat Development Project 79 is evidence of the Marape-Basil government’s Take Back PNG initiative and I am happy to be here with you on your island,” Schnaubelt said.
The delegation arrived on the Islands on Thursday, May 20 and participated in the project launching the next day at Pakinapai village.
After the official welcome, there was a big feast the Namatanai way as the communities shared food with Schnaubelt and the delegation.
Accompanying the minister were the LLG presidents for Namatanai, Konoagil, Sentral Niu Ailan, Matalai and Tanir with other Namatanai DDA representatives including District Administrator Neville Tomon and the Network Management Team (NMT) delegation totaling 75 members representing six LLGs.
The programme started at 9am the officials to the podium by a traditional group from Ward 5.
This was followed with the flag raising ceremony by Mapua Primary School students which included the national anthem, the national pledge and New Ireland provincial anthem, Niu Ailan Bilas Peles.
Schnaubelt took that opportunity to explain to the people his reasons for not visiting them in the last three years.
He said being with the Opposition in the last three years he was unable to deliver to his people because he did not have funding support.
National Government support
“From 2017 to 2020 before the change of government and me being installed as minister, I served in the Opposition and never received the full allocation of Namatanai District Services Improvement Programme (DSIP) funding and Lihir royalties for that period and therefore you would be asking, why it took four years to visit the people of Tabar Islands,” Schnaubelt said.
He said with less than 12 months left and given the financial support by the current government, he would deliver on his promises especially for the people of Tabar.
Minister Schnaubelt said the Belhat Development project which was part of his 2017 election promises had finally arrived on Tabar Islands.
The concept of Project 79 was initiated in 2019 where Schnaubelt delivered a range of projects totaling up to 79 recipients per council ward.
“We have launched 53 Project 79s so far and have yet to reach 40 council wards and we plan on covering the remainder in the next 12 months.
“This Belhat Development Project 79 concept is evidence of the Marape-Basil government’s Take Back PNG initiative,” Schnaubelt said.
Konoagil LLG president Isaac Tosel said Project 79 was a very good initiative and his LLG had benefited from it previously.
“Our people are now seeing the delivery of much-needed services that we did not receive for a very long time.
“Our women are benefiting from the Buying Point initiative and they can afford school fees, medicines etc and still have money to save after general family expenses.
“There is transport available for women to travel to sell their produce and we are grateful to our leader for making it possible,” Tosel said.
Namatanai LLG president Joshua Takin Soi acknowledged Schnaubelt for his commitment to his people and the people of Tabar Islands and Sentral Niu Ailan LLG.
“We have seen the heart of our leader that he is keen on bringing development to our district.
“I urge you all to support him so he can continue to deliver the services that we have not seen for over many years until now.
Sentral Niu Ailan LLG president Ben Sakbua acknowledged Schnaubelt for the Project 79 in his LLG and also congratulated the people of Tabar for being the recipients of these projects.
“Let’s put politics aside and go for development.
“We are seeing services coming through Project 79 and much development support for our schools and churches like never before.
“I want to thank Schnaubelt for bringing these services to our people of Tabar Islands who are in my LLG.
“It shows that our leader is with us when he says we are in his heart and not in his mind,” Sakbua said.
Schnaubelt truly has a passion to serve his people. After delivering the project he and the delegation spent five days on the island meeting all five council ward and NMT members to better appreciate the current village situation and improve planning going forward.
We departed on Tuesday, May 25 back to Kadan and after a short stop-over at Dalom Guest House, headed to Kavieng and boarded the flight to Port Moresby.
- Helen Tarawa works with the Office of the Minister for Forests