The National, Thursday July 25th, 2013
PAPUA New Guineans are happy that the Government has assisted the Solomon Islands with a K20 million annual grant when Prime Minister Peter O’Neill led a delegation there in May.
During his presentation in Honiara, O’Neill told his counterpart, Gordon Darcy Lilo, about the important relationship between PNG and the Solomon Islands.
The PNG government has committed a grant of K100 million to be evenly spread over five years.
It is important that PNG plays a role within the region in demonstrating leadership.
Last year, I was with former chief magistrate John Numapo and former education secretary Peter Saki who celebrated PNG’s independence at the Heritage Park Hotel in the Solomons when Ambassador Brian Yombon-Copio told invited guests that PNG has a traditional obligation to assist smaller island nations in the region.
Another remarkable statement he made was that PNG had commenced extending its growing economy into other countries in the region and we see the evidence now in Fiji and the Solomons.
In the Solomons, PNG dominates foreign investments for which the credit goes to Yombon-Copio who is instrumental in increasing PNG’s investments.
Given my special interest in the Solomon Islands due to professional work and familial ties, I have witnessed that PNG has sent five successive heads of missions there since establishing diplomatic ties, but none of them have seriously considered the strategic importance of the relationship between the two countries.
PNG’s standing in the Solomon Islands was poor until the appointment of Yombon-Copio in 2011. He initiated and successfully implemented impact projects such as increasing PNG’s investments and providing permanent employment to Solomon Islanders through an employment training programme.
Foreign Affairs Minister Rimbink Pato made a mistake by revoking the appointment of Yombon-Copio who has been the best-performing head of mission,
His sacking had an impact on the relationship between PNG and the Solomon Islands, PNGVanuatu, PNG’s standing in the Melanesian Spearhead Group, Pacific Leaders Forum, PNG’s involvement with the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) and Forum Fisheries Agency because of the lack of a proactive participant.
The Government should utilise credible people such as Yombon-Copio who has demonstrated visionary leadership.
Our young intellectuals should not just be banished because of someone’s personal reasons.
PNG should have a good succession plan and young people who come out of the new school of thoughts should be encouraged to contribute to the development of this country.
Former RAMSI adviser Via email