By MALUM NALU
REMOTE Tewai-Siassi of Morobe, which Prime Minister James Marape visited last week, is one of the most-difficult districts to manage.
However, with a proactive district development authority (DDA) under the leadership of Pangu MP Dr Kobby Bomareo, Tewai-Siassi is fast emerging in both Morobe and Papua New Guinea.
Tewai-Siassi has three districts, namely, Sialum, Wasu and Siassi across the Vitiaz Strait bordering West New Britain and Madang.
It is a place of breathtaking beauty such as the Unesco World Heritage-listed Huon Terraces of Sialum and unspoiled white sandy beaches; the many islands of Siassi, and the stunning coastline of Wasu.
Paradise Springs Resort at Sialum, until its closure in the 1990s, was world-famous and attracted tourists from around the world.
Tewai-Siassi is abundant with resources. For instance:
- Hundreds of cattle roam around in the grassy hills of Sialum, with the Livestock Development Corporation (LDC) now ‘exporting’ cattle from here to all parts of Papua New Guinea, starting with Central;
- Wasu produces some of the best coffee in the country;
- The Siassi islands are rich in fisheries and forestry, as well as agriculture, but transport and communication remain the major problems. The waters of the Vitiaz Strait separating the Siassi islands from the mainland are known to be treacherous; and
- The massive tourism potential of Tewai-Siassi is untouched.
The LDC now has an established cattle-buying point at Sialum to supply cattle to the whole country and has already built a stock yard, rehabilitated the jetty and will next be looking at building an abattoir in Sialum.
This is in line with the Marape Government’s aim of putting money into the pockets of rural people as well as working towards self-sufficiency in livestock production.
Nothing had been done to help Sialum cattle farmers over the years, until Agriculture and Livestock Minister John Simon made a commitment to buy their cattle during a visit in February 2021.
Customers are already lining up to buy cattle, one of the first being Central Provincial Government, to revive the Launakalana Cattle Ranch in Rigo.
In fact, when I travel to Sialum on Sunday, April 24 with LDC managing director Terry Koim, Dr Bomareo and Morobe Governor Ginson Saonu, Central Provincial Administrator Francis Koaba accompanies us to meet the people and see the cattle for himself.
On Tuesday, April 26, I am at Bunsil Station on Umboi Island, Siassi, with Dr Bomareo awaiting the arrival of PM Marape.
I pull out my mobile phone and am able to call my kids in Port Moresby as well as use the Internet.
“Wow! This is development,” I commend Dr Bomareo, a medical doctor-turned politician.
This is the first time ever for people on this side of the island to have mobile phone and Internet connectivity.
PM Marape says remote parts of the country like the Siassi islands of Morobe are no longer being forgotten under his Government.
He says this at Bunsil station when opening several impact projects of the Tewai-Siassi District Development Authority (DDA) of Pangu MP Dr Bomareo.
The Prime Minister is accompanied by Governor Saonu, Fisheries Minister Lino Tom, Works and Highways Minister Michael Nali, Justice Minister Pila Niningi and Lands and Physical Planning Minister John Rosso.
PM Marape also gives K5 million to the Tewai-Siassi DDA to build a community centre at Bunsil to cater for women, youth, small business training and Flexible Open Distance Education (FODE); and assures the people that his Government will continue work on the Siassi Ring Road until completed.
He urges the Siassi islanders to go more into agriculture and fisheries, as well as develop forestry resources themselves than allowing foreign companies in to continue to exploit this.
Projects the Prime Minister opens include a Telikom tower which enables islanders for the first time ever to have Internet and mobile phone connectivity with the outside world; three police houses and police lock-up; and Siassi sub-district administration.
The tower, particularly, is a big achievement for Siassi as there was previously only one spot at Lablab which islanders walked to or sailed in from miles around to make phone calls and use the internet.
PM Marape says Siassi is developing because of the hard work and commitment of Dr Bomareo since being elected in 2017.
“Reflect back on how life was before 2017 and what has been happening since 2017,” he says.
“Siassi, and the whole country, was travelling along the wrong road until 2019 when we changed government.
“Your MP, Dr Bomareo, was instrumental in this change of government which has led on to the many developments you are seeing now.
“Today, after three years, we are steering the canoe in the right direction which our founding fathers foresaw in 1975 for equal development all over the country.
“Resources must be equally distributed all over the country and not only to one area like Port Moresby. Remote areas of the country like Siassi have been forgotten for far too long. I want the people of Siassi to have hope for a better tomorrow.”
PM Marape says he will take a group back to Siassi for a weekend in the near future.
Back across the Vitiaz Strait, to Wasu, the Prime Minister opens a new police station, court house facility, market facility, police barracks and a brand-new Wasu LLG office complex.
Several new cut roads have been undertaken by the Tewai-Siassi DDA under the Marape Government’s ‘Connect PNG’ programme.
PM Marape commends Dr Bomareo for delivering much-needed basic services and road networks to the three rural LLGs of Siassi, Sialum and Wasu in just under three years.
The National Fisheries Authority makes a commitment to build a new jetty at Wasu for fisheries.
As our chopper leaves Wasu that evening, over the rugged Saruwaged Range, I look back and marvel at Tewai-Siassi: An amazing place in an amazing country with an amazing leader.
- Malum Nalu works for the Office of the Prime Minister