Hela’s better, less told story
By REBECCA KUKU
MANY times when people hear Hela, all they think of is the brutal killings and tribal warfare but Hela is so much more than that. The media focuses on just one side of the story but what they don’t tell you is that Hela is a beautiful young province doing its best to establish itself and stand on its feet.
Governor Philip Undialu and his administration led by William Bando take us on a journey to Hela’s untold story, of determination, courage and hope for the young province.
Early this month, Air Niugini resumed its flights into Hela’s capital, Tari with subsidised airfares to promote tourism in the province.
Whilst signing the enabling memorandum of agreement with Air Niugini CEO Bruce Alabaster, Governor Undialu announced that his government would be subsidising airfares to help promote tourism.
Undialu said a 30 per cent discount would be given to all media personnel and tourists, 40 per cent discount to all Hela people who wish to return home and 40 per cent discount to Hela people living in Port Moresby and want to go home for holidays. Hela people travelling to Port Moresby will also be given discounted fares.
“Only those who have genuine reasons, like for medical referrals, we will subsidise their fares but only upon sighting of medical referral letters from the Hela Provincial Hospital CEO,” he said.
Undialu said that Hela had the potential of becoming a tourism hub and encouraged his people to also start investing in SMEs, building guest houses and other essential services to support tourism in the province.
“Most times we tell only the bad side of the story, this time we hope to tell the untold story of Hela through tourism,” he said.
Alabaster also congratulated Hela saying that the province was ideal for tourism with its cimate, landscape and culture.
“Air Niugini will be doing three flights to the Tari Airport and this will not affect the Komo flights, the Komo flight will also continue,” he said.
The Hela government also signed an agreement with the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority to promote the young province.
Undialu also warned warlords in his province to come forward and surrender themselves and their firearms before the law went for them.
He said that the province has also signed a memorandum of agreement with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force to establish a forward operating base in Tari.
“Since 1997, Hela did not have an established law and order presence and many people have taken advantage of that to become warlords and cause law and order problems. But not anymore, you’re days are now numbered,” he warned.
“The provincial government has started working on building and strengthening the law and order system in the province. With the signing of this MOA, 1,000 defence force officers will be based full time in Hela.
“The Hawa Correctional Service will also be opened this month, and the eight houses for the judiciary staff have all been completed so soon we will come for you,” he said.
Undialu said that his government has given K300,000 to re-configure the old abandoned Hela Technical School ground which will become the New PNGDF forward operating base.
He also thanked the PNGDF for signing the agreement to establish the base in Tari
But that’s not all for Hela; Administrator William Bando said that they were currently carrying out projects to give the province a facelift.
“Current projects include the building of the new National Development Bank branch in Tari, funded 50 per cent each by the provincial government and the bank itself.
“The Tari Airport has also been completed and Air Niugini will be resuming flights into Tari this month.
“The Tari to Ambua Lodge road sealing is completed, the road at Koroba station is also in progress and all roads in Tari are being upgraded and sealed as well.”
Bando said that the province was also rolling out a rural electrification programme.
“Electricity is now connected from Tari town right down to the districts; we are also supplying victims (of the 2016 earthquake and tribal warfare) with roofing iron from our own factory in Margarima. So far, 100 houses have been built under this programme.
“We will also be supplying to schools, churches and health clinics in the province.
“We have also set up an EMTV dish in Tari so that our people can watch the news and know what’s happening around them.”
Bando said that they had also built houses for public servants.
“There will be other interesting developments as well and we invite you all to come and walk with us and witness Hela rising up from all the negativity.”
Bando said that his dream was to see law and order issues addressed in Hela.
“If I can see just one man, one law offender tried in court and locked away at Hawa Correctional Service, then I will retire in peace.
“Because, I will be at peace, knowing that the arm of the law has been established in the province,” he said.
Powering rural Sepik
By EKA HRIEHWAZI
DURING the Apec Summit in 2018, one of the major topics on the agenda for Papua New Guinea was to meet the Medium Term Development Strategic Plan for electrification throughout the country by 2030.
That is a huge undertaking for any government and with so many challenges to realise the strategic plan the deadline is much talked about agenda. Australia, the United States, New Zealand and Japan during the summit have joined together to pledge that they would help PNG meet its target in connecting 70 per cent of the country to electricity by 2030.
Leading partner in the region Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated that the Papua New Guinea Electrification Partnership was intended to focus on the importance of principles-based, sustainable infrastructure development that is transparent, non-discriminatory, environmentally-responsible, promotes fair and open competition, upholds robust standards, meets the genuine needs of the people of Papua New Guinea and avoids unsustainable debt burdens.
Nearly 80 per cent of PNG’s population lives in the rural villages and communities. Communities are isolated by rugged terrains, rivers, swamps, islands and sometimes government services in some circumstances are not heard off or cannot be reached.
The landowner issue is another major contributing factor for the government services to reach the people.
A local small to medium enterprise started in 2013 has been partnering with PNG Power to connect and supply power to rural communities. Its owner a PNG University of Technology Electrical Engineering graduate Timothy Koris has been working silently to achieve the Government’s rural electrification in PNG. He has big plans to power the whole of East and West Sepik provinces.
It takes courage and determination to start up businesses in the technical field of electrification. As a former employee of PNG Power Limited, he used his knowledge and skills to start up the business. He was hired as a graduate trainee engineer with the company’s Regulatory Services and prior to leaving, he was the divisional manager.
His company is Pacific Energy Support Limited which specialises in supply, distribution of power-line hardware and its operations are based in Port Moresby and Wewak. It is also embarking on construction of mini-hydro dam in Passam, East Sepik. The proposed Passam Mini Hydro is estimated to generate 2 megawatts of electricity.
The aim of his company is to be the contractor of choice when it comes to rural electrification.
He has been working closely with PNG Power and the Member for Yangoru-Saussia Richard Maru to plug up Maprik and Yangoru districts. Since 2016, PES has started rural electrification projects in Maprik district and the Moem Barracks power line rehabilitation funded by AusAid in 2018.
The company is now working in the Yangoru area. It has now strung more than 20km of power lines and is anticipating to reach more than 50km by the end of 2021. This Yangoru man is adamant that his company is helping to achieve the Government’s target plan for rural electrification in PNG and it’s a satisfying feeling.
Another project the company is embarking on is the Passam Mini Hydro project. It’s in the feasibility study stages and has been conducted to verify the potential of building a hydro power plant to help power supply along the
Sepik highway with a set up of major government projects. This project is in its final stages to verify the hydrology testing to determine the rainfall in the Passam area.
The Lowy Institute report of 2019 indicates that PNG’s lack of funding, a complicated government and regulatory regime and the difficulty of delivering services with people who live outside the formal economy to pay their electricity customers to make the supply sustainable is a challenge for the government. It stated that per capita, PNG is one of the world’s least-electrified countries. Just 13% of the country’s eight million citizens have the power on, who live in urban centres.
Koris said we live in a modern PNG and, pacific energy support is committed to connecting electricity to villages and government infrastructures in the provinces. Besides all the negativity about connecting communities with rural electrification, PES views itself as a business to partner itself with any district or provincial government to supply and distribute rural electrification to communities.
To supply and distribute quality power-lines and hardware materials, PES orders 90 percent of its equipment from overseas. All the specifications are double checked by PNG Power before construction goes ahead.
Pacific energy support hopes to venture to other districts and provinces to roll out the government’s rural electrification strategy before 2030.
For more information, contact Timothy Koris on phone 7238 0958.
- Eka Hriehwazi is a freelance writer.