The National , Monday, May 30, 2011
FORMER prime minister and New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan has bluntly told the people of Papua New Guinea to throw out their respective members of parliament in the 2012 general election if they are not willing to provide free education.
Sir Julius and his government have lead the way in providing free elementary and primary education through to Grade 8 since 2008, subsidising 75% of fees for Grades 9 to 12, providing K1,200 per year for all provincial students in tertiary institutions and providing four post-graduate scholarships at K50,000 per annum for specially selected faculties like mining engineering, environment, fisheries and agriculture.
He told parliament last Friday that the people of PNG should demand the national government do what the province had already done and provide free education for all children.
“The grassroots people of this country are hurting and the LNG project has done them no good – it has only forced the prices of rice, bread, tinned fish, rental and other costs to double and triple,” he said.
“The rich are getting richer and the poor are suffering.”
Sir Julius said if the government wanted to help the people of this country, “help the future of this country, they should provide free education now”.
He said free education not only ensure a bright future for children but it would put thousands of kina in the pockets of hard working mothers and fathers.
Sir Julius said the government had talked about universal primary education for years, “but they have done nothing”.
“This is unforgiveable, look at the billions of kina of wealth coming out of ‘mama and papa graun’ and where does it go?
“It should go, first and foremost, towards the future of our country, towards providing education for all our young people and towards putting some kina in the pockets of their mothers and fathers.”
He said his province spent K12 million every year for free education.
“We constantly hear about how strong our economy is, about the 8% growth and about how great the LNG project is and about how much money we are earning from high gold and copper and oil prices.
“But none of this seems to get to the people on the ground.”
Sir Julius said the people should demand that “government provide free elementary and primary education in the 2012 national budget, and that they extend this to at least 50% subsidised secondary education in the 2013 national budget”.
“It is time for the people to take control of their government. And it is very simple. Every NGO, every community-based organisation, every women’s group, every village planning committee, ward development committee, LLG and province, every man and woman in this country should write, phone or talk to their national MP and demand; demand that they support free education in the 2012 budget.
“And they should make it clear if their MP does not support free education, he will be thrown out of office at the 2012 elections and replaced with someone who will.”
He said if the people spoke with one voice, politicians would have no choice but to finally become the servants of the people instead of being the masters.