We can still do better


THE Independence festivities have come and gone with Papua New Guinea clocking 46 years of freedom yesterday.
As in past years, wherever people gathered to celebrate, there was a spectacular show of unity in a diversity of colour, song and dance.
Credit should be given especially to schools and colleges where thousands of young Papua New Guineans staged their own events to mark the day.
Most of the young people were not around that Tuesday, Sept 16, 46 years ago, when Australia lowered its flag for the last time and the newly-independent PNG hoisted its own in its place.
But these school children and youth needed no encouragement and nudging to join the older generations mark this day, and in some cases, they took the lead.
In the mood for celebrations, the thousands who attended the many gatherings may have forgotten the speeches delivered on Independence Day, some broadcast over the airwaves.
It was of course no time for any serious reminder of how far we have come and what should be done to see PNG progress to be among the list of emerging economies and democracies.
Yet, there was some very relevant food for thought in some of those addresses.
Prime Minister James Marape paid homage to the founding national father, the Great Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare, who passed away in February.
Marape paid home homage to the fifth prime minister and first indigenous Finance secretary in Sir Mekere Morauta as well.
“We, the children of today, owe the Somare generation our forever gratitude. Lest we forget. We will always remain grateful to Somare and his generation of leaders,” he said.
Marape urged Papua New Guineans to respect each other.
In Bougainville, President Ishmael Toroama observed the country’s Independence as he paid tribute to Sir Michael, but at the same time, remembered the friendships forged between the Bougainville leaders and Sir Michael.
In Imbonggu, local MP and Inter-Government Relations Minister Pila Niningi hosted his district’s second show and proudly told of how the people of Imbonggu and Southern Highlands were privileged to have the country’s first prime minister, Sir Michael Somare at the first show in 2019.
The sea of red black and gold on Independence Day and the few days prior and after was a great sight to behold.
It evoked fresh floods of emotive national pride.
It would have been a nice patriotic feeling to wear a good quality shirt or cap made from imported material but designed, sewn, printed or embroidered right here in PNG.
Yet, almost all of the Independence paraphernalia was manufactured elsewhere.
Small point that may be, but it eloquently underlines a big dream – that of economic independence.
The thousands of men, women and especially children in the national colours was a sight to behold and to be proud of for being born Papua New Guinean.
And, if you did the mathematics, it would have been a lucrative business in those few days leading up to the big day all fed by a pervading sense of national pride.
Someone other than a Papua New Guinean may have had the loudest laugh, not that the money grew wings and disappeared instead of keeping Papua New Guineans employed.
It’s been 46 years and we have not gotten some basic things right when other nations had made remarkable achievements when at our age.
Maybe we should have a better story to tell on Independence Day next year.