By PAUL MAIMA
HE sits at his favourite spot under a rain tree at 6-Mile market, sharing a betel nut and a joke with friends and those who have come to have a yarn. That spot was known in the local circles as “the place,” but it has since had another name which is more up-keeping with the times. People now call it, “the office”.
The office is where John Kaupa meets colleagues and advisers to discuss matters of importance in the electorate. Today, there are more people hanging around here than it usual.
Kaupa was declared Member for Port Moresby North East on July 28, ousting incumbent Labi Amaiu. He was followed closely by another Simbu man, Carl Okuk, who is the son of former firebrand highlands politician Iambakey.
Kaupa’s office under the trees is into the final days of its existence. There are already plans to turn the area into a large commercial market for the residents of 6-Mile. This is one of his first projects as MP and work will begin as soon as the formalities and legal issues surrounding the vacant land are sorted out by the National Capital District Commission. This will be a work of collaboration between Kaupa and NCD Governor Powes Parkop.
Many see Kaupa’s win as a victory for the grassroots people and settlers from all over Papua New Guinea who have made their home in the North East electorate. The election, just past, was his third attempt; twice he finished second – in 2007 and 2012.
Moresby North East electorate has a population of over 200,000 people and covers the areas of 4-Mile, Gordons, 6-Mile, East Boroko, Waigani and ATS. The National Parliament and Jackson International Airport are within this boundary.
There are large settlements in the electorate which are predominantly occupied by people from Chimbu who started moving there as early as in the 1950s.
The Chimbu people were the first highlanders to settle in Port Moresby. Back then, anyone from the highlands was called a Simbu.
Kaupa is among the many successful seeds of Chimbu who currently lives in 6-Mile where the story, journey and success of Simbu begins in the land of the Motu Koitabuans.
He graduated as an accountant from the Divine Word University in Madang in 1992 and has worked in both the private and public sectors. He held a managerial position before starting to pursue a career in politics in 2002.
Together with his Chimbu wife Josephine, they have five children.
Chimbu people have always had an influence in NCD politics. They first united to vote in their first North East MP, David Unagi, who served from 1987-1997.
Kaupa’s victory is seen as a relief for grassroots people in the settlements. For long, they’ve faced problems with land disputes, and lack of proper water, toilet and sanitation facilties. Lawlessness is commonplace
The people have brought to their new MP a shopping list of what they want to see done and while the accountant-cum-politician has his doors open to his constituents, he also reminds them that public funds are guided by the Finance Management Act and he cannot just disburse monies at will and for any purpose.
As the new Housing and Urbanisation Minister, Kaupa has great plans to bring order to the department.
Two of his foremost agendas are a probe into the Duram Farm National Housing Corporation project and stopping to all eviction of occupants of the NHC properties around the country.
He is also concerned with the great number of people moving into Port Moresby and has held talks with executives of PNG Power, Eda Ranu, National Planning, and NCDC physical Planning to discuss the matter and find a way forward.
Lack of proper planning in the past, he said, has resulted in an increase in settlements in and around Port Moresby which have resulted in the abuse of customary land, unemployment, and high crime rate.
Kaupa has lived in settlements and knows the ins and outs of life there.
“Many working class people live in the settlement and go to work both in public and private sector, they pay tax and contribute to the nation’s development. We must ensure their problem is addressed through a proper urbanisation plan, creating suburbs and affordable housing to our entire citizenry,” he said.
“I have one aim and that is to improve our standard of living, so our kids can be educated in better schools, have better access to health facilities, we have better policing, and everyone irrespective of gender and nationality, region or ethnic group, will pursue harmony and happiness.
“We are all living in Port Moresby and it has become our home. I will be working in partnership with the governor of NCD so proper land titles are given to the settlers in consultation with the landowners and Department of Lands, so your residence is converted to a proper suburb for government services to flow.”
During his first year as MP, Kaupa wants to build permanent markets at 6-Mile and 9-Mile, and he also wants to make sure residents at 6-Mile,
9-Mile, Manuti, Wildlife and ATS get proper water connection. He will also be following up with law and order issues as a matter of urgency.
- Paul Maima is executive officer to the Minister for Housing and Urbanisation