Put differences aside, serve people

Editorial, Normal

The National, Friday July 24th, 2015

 DO the people of Lae deserve better?

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill certainly thinks so and has made it abundantly clear that the new Lae City Authority (LCA) is the best solution to the city’s woes.

Lae MP Loujaya Kouza, who announced her premature resignation as LCA chairperson last week, has been thrown back into the thick of things and told that she cannot quit under the Lae City Authority Act.

As for Morobe Governor Kelly Naru, who knows what he wants for the people of Lae? 

While the Prime Minister’s Office was clarifying Kouza’s position as chairperson, Naru issued another threat to the O’Neill Government that he would take the LCA to the Supreme Court because the authority was “unconstitutional” and “politically incorrect”.

Interestingly, the governor said this when presenting the 2014 Morobe Provincial Services Improvement Programme (PSIP) funds 

acquittal report to the Department of Rural Development.

Naru seemed content to present the acquittals of the money his provincial government had spent last 

year and at the same time threatened the very government that gave him those funds. 

Isn’t this a case of biting the hand that feeds you?

It’s time the governor allows commonsense to prevail and accept that the new municipal authority is what the doctor ordered for Lae city and its people.

In other words, Naru and his Tutumang (provincial assembly) members should stop playing silly buggers and co-operate with Kouza to get the authority off the ground.

The same goes for the other Morobe MPs, several of whom are senior members of O’Neill’s People’s National Congress Party.

In particular, Fisheries Minister and Tewae-Siassi MP Mao Zeming, Housing Minister and Markham MP Paul Isikiel and Speaker of Parliament and Finshafen MP Theodore Zurenuoc, have been rather silent on the issue from day one.

While it is accepted that the LCA was initiated and spearheaded by the Prime Minister, who has made the necessary media statements to support and defend the authority, there is no harm in deputy PNC leader Zeming, Isikiel and Zurenuouc giving the Lae MP some moral support.

While Kouza has “copped criticism from left, right and centre”, her colleague MPs in Government, especially in PNC, have not uttered a word of support.

Their silence has been deafening, to say the least.

Indeed, that was the gist of the beleaguered chairperson’s decision to step down – the lack of support from the Government.

Kouza claimed she had been getting “the raw end of the deal” since August last year when she vacated the Community Development ministerial portfolio to become chairperson-in-waiting for the proposed LCA. 

However, O’Neill is adamant that Kouza cannot quit now. 

“According to the Lae City Authority Act, the chairperson is the Member of Parliament representing Lae Open,” a spokesman for the Prime Minister said. 

Kouza’s comments are perceived as “disappointing and unconstructive” but O’Neill maintains that much money and time has been put into advancing Lae city and the Government will not back down from getting the LCA off the ground.

O’Neill has always been passionate about Lae city and the LCA is his solution to the problems that have plagued the city for many, many years. 

“That is why we are creating an authority that will take ownership of delivering and management of the municipal services in the greater Lae area,” he after Parliament overwhelmingly passed the LCA Act on June 5.

We agree with the Prime Minister that Lae deserves better and should be given a real opportunity to develop and grow into a modern metropolis.

Unfortunately, Naru and Kouza have not seen eye-to-eye on the LCA since the proposal was floated last year. 

Both leaders should now put aside their differences and work in harmony for the good of their city and province.

Moreover, the governor should reconsider the chairperson’s offer of the olive branch as a first step in mending their relations.

The O’Neill Government is determined to improve conditions for the people of Lae and insists that “elected officials in Lae must stop playing politics”.