Wartoto’s Travel Air and complications before take off

I love business and I especially get excited when its a local business that has done well. Someone or a group of people achieving something against the odds. I guess that’s also what makes Hollywood movies tick.

But it’s always disheartening to learn that perhaps something may have been a bit shady about them for them to get so far ahead. As a media/IT focused sort of person my biggest let down recently has obviously been Rupert Murdoch and his phone hacking scandal that’s engulfing his empire in the UK at the moment. I mean I always knew  he was aggressive but he or his company has certainly gone too far in this instance.

Closer to home, I’ve been personally quite excited about the prospect of a nationally owned and financed airline. Thoughts of a local entrepreneur such as the likes of Richard Branson and Virgin were swirling in my head, I thought Wow, finally some of us PNG’eans are making it big. So the prospect of Eremas Wartoto and his emerging Travel Air company putting PNG business on the map was a story I really hoped would take off without a hitch.

Pic from Bernard Sinai http://bernardsinai.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/a-new-airline-coming-soon/

Then yesterday’s Post Courier comes out with the allegation that parliamentarian Paul Tiensten had assisted with illegally financing the company to the tune of K10 million. Is it a case of the Tall Poppy syndrome or is there something really wrong here with how Travel Air is being financed?

PNG and the pacific in general have so few role models in big business, there are some success stories like Kelly Taureka, Noreo Beangke, Simon Korowa to name a few. But obviously  not enough role models yet to make people realise that you can change your life with simple honest hard work or maybe even by not being Friends with politicians full stop.

*See Travel Air’s website here, http://travelairpng.com

Update 14/07/11

K10m to Wartoto not bogus

By Yehiura Hriehwazi, Post Courier

Kokopo businessman Eremas Wartoto last night confirmed he had received K10 million for his new airline Travel Air but strenuously denied it was received through bogus deals.

Mr Wartoto said it was the Government’s 10 per cent subsidy of his company’s K100 million investment in transport infrastructure which will be based out of Madang.

Speaking from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, by telephone, Mr Wartoto said he had genuinely submitted a project proposal to the Government which was appropriated in the National Budget and the K10m was released in March this year.

He said two aircraft have been bought in Maastricht, Netherlands, and will be delivered next month. Another three aircraft will also be delivered from Malaysia about the same time and in addition, two more will be bought in October this year from Maastricht.

“We are talking about an investment infrastructure of K100 million over the next five years. ln 2010, we applied for a subsidy from the government budget and appropriated this year,” he said. “We appreciate the government’s vision to at least subsidise 10 per cent of that investment.” He said the investment is now being based in Madang replacing the Airlink services.

“My reputation as a PNG businessman has been tarnished by your publicity. I have attached below an email from one of my lenders now declining one of our commercial arrangement due to your unresearched publicity which I will be seeking legal opinion,” Mr Wartoto said.

He also complained that the “K10 million man” page 1 story in yesterday’s edition of the Post-Courier had caused his financier, Bank South Pacific, to review its position on its leasing facilities to his company.

BSP’s corporate banking relationship manager Jason Edwards had sent his company an email saying: “In light of reporting in this morning’s Post-Courier, we will be placing a hold on the approval for the leasing facilities. In the event you can provide evidence that the payment in question has met all required approvals and pending court action is complete, we will review our position.”

The Post-Courier report yesterday did not refer to the K10m to Travel Air as bogus.


25 thoughts on “Wartoto’s Travel Air and complications before take off

  1. Dead right Emmanuel! In fact I was very happy when Wartovo put his hand up in the PC news late last year. I said ‘it’s about time, it’s long overdue’. A local owning a bigger Airline company…that’s it, let’s support him.
    But yesterday’s revelation on in PC changed everything I had for Wartovo. Honesty will always prevail Wartovo. The Bible says that….out of your SWEAT, you will enjoy. NOT out of fishy deals. I’m sorry it doesn’t work that way. We have to climb the ladder; if you want to reach the top by overstepping few steps the result is twofold. Either you strech yourself and harm you leg and although you get up there, you won’t last because you are not in good health to stand up stright. The second outcome is an an immediate disaster where you can’t reach the top with your leap and fall to the ground and apart from breaking an arm or leg, you start from ‘zero balance’
    The way to get to your destination is do it progressively (no short cuts) and with determination.

    Come on countryman, we are better than that.

    1. I hope he is able to clear himself against the allegations…like you Manu am also excited to see this project up and running and in the likes of our own country man that’s something….I love the slogan…..could’nt have said it better……..rings home the message!!
      !!On another note……we are interested in some of your work could you contact me….I send an email via rokrok.

    2. Here is one school of thought:

      What is the definition difference between a hand-up and a Hand-out?

      If it is the case that the Government has contributed to the healthy establishment of a competitive and nationally owned airline and that it is to the benefit to all, Great. But in the case of the alternative, and that this is another get rich at the expense of the government and PNG people, than something must be done to recoup the money and punish the thieves.
      The tabloids in PNG can ham it up somewhat.
      Some for the good of the General Public and most for the sale of the Newspapers, themselves.

      A lot of what the literate individuals in PNG see in the daily news dictates largely their general perception of the immediate socio-economic state and accordingly, their moods towards the events and persons written about. so at the end of each day that follows; the argument is how the people perceive the airline situation and whether the newspaper articles are written in a academic/ neutral tone or are presented in a sensational, controversial mode, which mostly leads people to a certain feeling. Ultimately, PNG’s are going to be the judges and most don’t even realise that they have already cast their judgment..

      1. From the looks of it, it may very well be a government grant facility for PNG business. I personally would be keen to see how it works in case I am eligible for it. But I’m not sure if the Department of National Planning and District Development is the appropriate government body to be giving out business grants. I would have thought Trade and Industry should do that.

        On a wider private sector development issue, grants like this should be promoted more so as to assist local companies directly and to further force PNG company management to meet international management and accounting standards.

        The biggest driver of economies are SME’s

  2. Transparency and accountability. That is the lesson I take from the TravelAir Saga.
    It is again a reminder that if transparency was a foundational condition for the setup of any business in PNG, Wartoto wouldn’t have anything to worry about. BSP wouldn’t have an issue and neither would the courts.
    I would really like to eventually set up business in PNG (nogat money nau ya!). But I would like to be sure that I can be one of outstanding character and a man of integrity now so that I CAN be transparent when the time finally comes.

    Emmanuel when you find out if your are eligible for the grant or not, plis Toksave!

    1. Will certainly do Franz because as someone pointed out in the Post Courier opiniosn section on Friday we had cases of Nat Kolia in the past who setup an airline then it was 20 years later that Robert Agorobe came along with his own hard work to build Helifix. But none of them had any access to such funding to build their indigenous aviation businesses.

      It’s not a case of sour grapes but more a case of if the govt wants to assist indigenous entrepreneurs, then how did Wartoto qualify and how can I also qualify if I wanted a govt grant as well?

  3. Good comment here from Paul Barker from a discussion on Sharp Talk on Facebook:

    Paul Barker 6:12pm Jul 23
    Yes, or you might as well choose the elementary school upgrade project and use it to build a private business college, for example! Tiensten’s gift to his mate (whatever he calls it)appears to come from a K10 million allocation for rural freight subsidy, which is for all remote areas (around the country) to assist them overcome the obstacles of poor roads and high costs, to freight their produce to market. The CIC has successfully run such a scheme in coffee growing areas, using different 3rd level services, but CIC doesn’t have the funding to maintain the scheme continually. There’s also a water freight subsidy scheme for some areas, supported by the ADB (so harder for the pollies to grab the money. It seems that anything now in the Development Budget is free rein for PT and the members of the kitchen cabinet, whatever the project definition is and was approved by Parliament. We know the DSIP funds are widely diverted (though not by all MPs); these are essential funds for all Districts (most of which are badly underfunded for their basic infrastructure and services); how much benefit do most District obtain…this is what needs to be reviewed closely across the country, by civil society bodies, along with public watchdogs, and especially the local communities themselves (if they can be provided with the basic information on these funds and the correct processes etc…)

    Paul Barker 6:17pm Jul 23
    one has to fear the worse if these guys (or IPBC) got their hands on the Sovereign Wealth Fund..which needs to be run independently and transparently, with BPNG (as a credible organisation) oversight – although the oversight might have slipped a bit of late with letting the K125mill ‘Kokopo” funding slip through… although they’ve taken a firm stand on that since then..which we’ll need to follow….

  4. Last week, the CAA department had a notice calling for objections
    to be lodged within 14 Days in relation to Travel Air. If this is the same
    Company then there are a few problems coming up for this venture.

  5. By Bire Kimesopa

    I refer to Frank Kolma’s Building Blocks article “Go for the skies, Wartoto” (Aug 29).
    I must say that as a seasoned and experienced journalist, the thrust of the article is rather mystifying and bizarre.

    Although he has made considerable effort to justify his purported patriotic stance, it simply is inconceivable that he has attempted to score some brownie points. If this is how to obtain funds from the government, then he has scored a distinction. The article provides an open invitation for people who have political connections to raid the nation’s treasury at anytime they want and often with no moral restraint or legal recourse from the unsuspecting public.

    The media has an important role to play, considering if that episode ever occurred in Australia, both Paul Tiensten and Eremas Wartoto would be brought before an inquiry. Just spare a thought for the public, who are mostly illiterate, living below the poverty line, cannot afford school fees or access state-of-art medical treatment, and unable to hold down a decent job.What does that do for their confidence?

    Furthermore, to advocate a position that is found in some of the Asian economies and especially the one championed by Dr Mahathir Mo¬hamad and his clan of plutocrats in Malaysia is also discomforting. Democracy and good governance must mean something where public monies are concerned. Wealth and prosperity cannot be measured by your membership to a ruling class. Then where does that leave the vast majority of our people who cannot afford to pay for political party membership or make political donations?

    Our people can never wine and dine with the privileged few or afford to provide financial assistance to politicians for kickbacks. This is outright hypocrisy and blatant abuse of journalistic privilege. The article has done considerable harm to the public. By using the same pen, the writer is also morally obligated to explore the relationship of Wartoto and Tiensten.

    Did he investigate the way the grant submission was made and whether the airline industry’s need for financial assistance meets the required public policy expectations for that sector? Did he consider that Air Niugini is in debt to the PNG government for many years operating on a loss? Where is the justification for such a massive payment to an airline operator when the industry is haemorrhaging to death from high operational cost?

    This country is morally bankrupt and public confidence has dissipated into the morass of corrupt regimes of the world. But the media must never refuse to balance personal opinion with objective analysis. The journalistic proficiency and ingenuity of the media is so robust in countries like Australia that the Wartotos of this world will not be able to stick their fingers into the people’s kitty. Remember, one corrupt politician can be changed during an election. So what if Wartoto is a successful businessman with an investment portfolio of K31 million? I can understand the writer’s emotional stand for Wartoto and so he should be; but not with public money, for goodness sake.

    The K10 million could have been better used somewhere else. Please save all of us the K10 million hubris and give us a good dose of common sense. After all, patriotism for the right cause is a worthy cause but when the government takes from poor Jim and gives to rich John and calls it nation-building, it simply stinks.

  6. It is about time Mr. Paul Tiensten explains how the grant is approved. There seems to be millions of kina going to Businessmen in East New Britain. Have we forgotten about the K125 million kina? (In February this year, K125m Nasfund Sovereign Community Infrastructure Treasury Bills Series was organised and disbursed…. Mr Tammur’s office shamelessly forged Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare’s signature and had a notice for the Treasury Bill published in the newspapers in an attempt to legitimise the issue treasury notes, PC 29/06/2011).

    On the other hand it is a pity that Mr Wartovo walked free from Boroko cell. Apparantly, he is on K5000 bail. An absolute mockery of PNG law.

    Has Mr. Tammur faced justice? Will Mr. Wartovo face justice? Will justice ever prevail as far as this matter is concerned? The political ally ( Mr. Tiensten) must be investigated inorder to determine whether he has collaborated in this bogus dispersement of public money to his wantoks.

  7. Thanks Bire and AJ. I totally agree with you both. I mean patriotism is good however ‘questionable means’ to get rich in the disguise of Patriotism should not and have no place in our society; it should be utterly condemed.

    There are so many other places that such money can be put in to strengthen their infrastructure.
    Our country is called Papua New Guinea and it has 20 provinces, 4 regions and 89 Districts. So skelim ol samting gut na ol pipol bai hamamas.

    Finally, I encourage Mr Kolma to always stand for intergrity, honesty, transparency; be it patriotism or not.

    GOD bless

    1. Josh,it is absolutely hypocritical, isnt it? Even so, it is shallow to substantiate patriotism whilst negating the beauty of the 3 conerstones you mentioned.

      On that note, I have realised that Beta Somare has a strong affiliation with The National newspaper. She released a photo of Auther & Cheif earlier to The National. Interestingly, a signed statement by the former PM was published by the same newspaper on Friday titled ‘Somare: I am still the PM’.

      This leaves me to ask, why not the Post Courier?


  8. few points to ponder: > this airline helps local people who can not afford by lowering the price. government gets tax. people who work for governt pay comes from company tax so every one think big. service is higher than justice . dk travel air staf

  9. I see big talks about the K10 million. If Mr, Wartoto got the K10 million and no aircrafts and services provided by Mr, Wartoto, then obviously there is a problem.
    Yet I wonder, how much it would cost to own an airline with 4 Fokker 50 aircrafts, a state of the art terminal (Madang), a hanger facility and 200 national staff.
    I think obviously it’s much more than the K10 million. For goodness sack people, the airline is providing service to the ordinary citizens like me, my whole entire family and others like me. Not only that the airline provides employment puts PNG on the map and is adding to the economy of our country like all the other businesses.
    If someone can propose to other airlines to lower their airfares so ordinary citizens like us can afford to travel, than good on you. Otherwise, all we want is service and when we get service we are satisfied.
    All these big talks about politicians and businessmen, is really not something we think about every day of our lives. All we think about is what our family will have for dinner tonight and how we will provide for our family. Every little toea counts for us.
    I would like to salute Mr, Wartoto for the airline Travel Air “Mangi Lo Peles”. Thanks to this airline, some of us can now travel home for holidays and our relatives can now travel to Port Moresby and back from the little they earn by selling coffee beans.
    Mr Wartoto, please commence operation into Goroka, Eastern Highlands as soon as possible.

  10. I salute Eremas Wartoto for his Airline ”Mangi Lo Ples” for providing a good service and a reasonable air fare price to the ordinary Papua New Guineans and also competition among Air Nuigini and Airlines PNG.

    For those who are giving negative comments, what alternative service will you provide to the ordinary png people.

    Wartoto is a business man on his right before going into the Airline business and it’s unfair for him to be treated like this while other people before and now who eats up public purse are not prosecuted.
    This is not fair!!!!!

    As a Papua New Guinean I’am proud because our home grown business man is putting us on the world map.

    Whether you from the Highlands, Momase, NGI or Southern we all need to support each other in terms of business which will create jobs and strengthened our economy for our future generations.


  11. He is helping the natiobn without any fear coz he is doing something that low income earners will benefit from…MP’s get fund and straight into their pockets .Mr Wartoto receive fund and he did make sure the nation is so happy with the classic service.

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