By SAM BASIL
|Tekadu villagers welcoming MPs Basil and Nolam to a fire-making demonstration.|
They do not really know where their hearts lies when deciding on which electorate they belong to.
Being caught in between Bulolo electorate of Morobe province and Kerema electorate of Gulf province, the Tekadu people have not seen any air services for the past nine years.
Other essential services are non-existent.
Children growing up to be nine years old do not have any formal education and have not see any planes landing at their rundown strip.
Let us not forget the unfortunate children who have lost their lives through birth and other diseases.
Like many other airstrips in Papua New Guinea, it is sad to see the Transport Minister Don Polye, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, trying to spend K1.4 billion on Jacksons Airport while neglecting such small rural airstrips.
We are also seeing the same in health with Health Minister Sasa Zibe trying to spend K500 million on the Bautama City Super-Hospital while the rural health facilities are neglected.
In my visit to Tekadu last week, I asked the government to properly allocate the 2011 budget including the 2010 budget surpluses (K800m-plus) estimated to be totaling over K10b, to rebuild aging infrastructures such as rural airstrips, national highways, rural health services, and district road systems to make the lives of rural dwellers easy because they make up over 85% of PNG’s population.
Almost 90% of Members of Parliament represents rural electorates one way or another and must have rural people included in all their planning.
The Bulolo district joint district planning and budget priorities committee (JDP&BPC) in December 2009 installed a VSAT communication apparatus in Tekadu which has opened up communications in and out of Tekadu for almost a year now.
The reestablishment of air services through North Coast Aviation (NCA) is just a follow-up service to complement the communication installation.
Revival of essential services will automatically ride on those two very-important services: communication and transportation.
A charter was negotiated and paid for a trip every month at the cost of K110, 000.
The inbound flights will bring in government workers, building materials and medicine while return flights will carry sick and pregnant mothers, as well as buai (betelnut) bags.
It is estimated that 600 to 700kg of buai can fetch close to K6, 000-7, 000 for those rural farmers.
Buai is the only cash crop in the Tekadu while alluvial gold panning is in its infancy stages.
Accessing Bulolo and Wau from Tekadu is very hard compared to using the Bulldog Trail for Port Moresby.
Its takes almost a whole day’s walk into Nukewa followed by dinghy or dugout canoe trip from Nukewa into Malalaua the next day, then a PMV into Port Moresby if they are lucky, or wait another day so its takes about three days in total.
The costs are as follow K100 boat fare K60 PMV far, totalling K160 one way or K320 both ways per person.
So the buai they sell must recoup the fares and pay for porters.
The launching was well attended by all on Monday, Oct 18, while the team took the Bulldog Trail the next day.
The team was accompanied by Queensland State Minister for Transport Rachael Nolam and Max Willies of Australian High Commission.
Nolam took the honors to deliver ducklings to Tekadu villagers under the agriculture programme
Bulolo district administration was represented by the Wau rural LLG manager Judy Pokana, Mumeng LLG manager Amon and Waria LLG manager.
LLG presidents included Wau Rural LLG’ John Yawa, Mumeng LLG’s Mathias Phillip, and Buang LLG’s Steven Sep while Waria was represented by its deputy president.
The Bulolo team, including the MP, used the walk to see for themselves the hardship and the obstacles the locals encounter while also collecting data for headquarters in Bulolo upon their return.
The people of the Gulf village, Nukewa, had a brief meeting with me and reminded me that I was the first MP to trek into their village.
They told me of their lack of services and asked me to help revived them.
I reminded them that I am the MP representing Bulolo electorate and would bring their concerns to their local Kerema MP, Pitom Bombom.
I will, in fact, invite him and will accompany him there to also address the Bulolo people’s concerns in relation to the usage of the track and share some responsibilities for the wellbeing of Bulolo travellers.
Saying goodbye before taking on the Bulldog Trail for Nukewa village, Malalaua, Gulf province
The trip from Nukewa took nine hours along the river system and another five hours into Port Moresby, with a press conference and tour of Parliament House.
I housed half of the Bulolo team while the other half was accommodated in a guest house in Port Moresby.
The team returned into back into the electorate on Friday, Oct 22.