Peter O’Neill’s 36th Independence Speech

Picture: Ray Strange Source: The Australian

Fellow Citizens …… mothers, fathers and children of Papua New Guinean — I warmly greet you all.
On this special day – the 36th anniversary of our nation’s Independence — my family and I and my people of Ialibu-Pangia electorate join you in celebrating our national day.

Tribute to the Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare
It is fitting that on this occasion, I should first of all pay tribute to my predecessor Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, the founding father I have replaced as our nation’s seventh Prime Minister.

I extend my personal gratitude to Sir Michael for his contribution to our nation’s development. He will always remain an iconic figure in the history of our country.

The Grand Chief returned home almost two weeks ago after undergoing a complicated heart surgery in Singapore. With the change of government we have given Sir Michael the opportunity to recover fully, without, the pressures associated with continuing to govern Papua New Guinea personally or by delegation.

On behalf of my government, and with the grace of God Almighty, I extend to the Grand Chief, our best wishes and prayers for a speedy and full recovery.

Change of Government
In my address to Parliament last month, I set out the reasons why we changed the National Alliance – led government on August 2.

Let me restate here that any Government that loses focus, becomes complacent and reckless, must be replaced, or the nation suffers.

In the last nine years, PNG experienced a period of strong economic growth. There was surplus revenue coming into government from export of our commodities. But if you look around you, there is very little to show for this enormous wealth.

As a nation, we have come a long way after 36 years. But our record is one we cannot be very proud of. Regardless of where you are, if you look around you, our infrastructure like roads and bridges, airports and wharves are in a shamble.

Our health and education facilities are in a deplorable state. Our poor social indicators reflect this, and it’s a shame that we continue to lag behind many of our small pacific neighbours.

After 36 years, the vast majority of our people are still denied the basic services. They remain powerless, and are made to be mere recipients of government handouts. They are not actively
participating in nation-building, and this is a recipe for disaster.

We have recorded rosy economic growth figures annually in recent years, but these are meaningless unless the people contribute directly and become active participants.

We have fallen short of our national goals and principles enshrined in our constitution.

The sum of our budgets in the last three and a half decades shows that we are by no means poor.

We have simply squandered wealth we have been blessed with. This has happened because control of the nation’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of a powerful and reckless few.

A government lacking participation by all means the nation was going to suffer. Change therefore, had to happen, and Parliament voted overwhelmingly for change on August 2.

My Government recognises the tough challenges ahead. With seven months to go before the general elections, time is not on our side. But we will not deviate from our responsibilities. We came into government to do a job, and we intend to do it diligently.

Read the full speech here (PDF)


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