Tuesday 29 May 2012, Port Moresby Papua New Guinea:
A helicopter pilot responsible for medical evacuations, disaster response, works, elections, mining and petroleum, health, and education charters, and flying grassroots and VIP passengers to every urban and rural destination in Papua New Guinea over a thirty-four year career is himself now in the race to not only become a lawmaker but to revive Central Province.
Fifty-four year old Captain Simon Naua from Lalaura village in the Abau District of Central Province has seen and heard it all in all the 28,000 hours of flying time accrued. In fact, his career choice has allowed him to connect with a lot of people in PNG and Central Province. Voters or not, he has been privileged to have a simple conversation with Central Province people whether over the intercom with his helicopter passengers; over a betelnut at a coastal or inland village; or seated around a campfire atop one of PNG’s mountaintops after a hard day’s work in the sun constructing or fixing vandalized communication transmitters.
One can say that not only has Simon had a bird’s eye view of the government’s development agenda; he has also had a ground zero appreciation of the situation over three decades. It is not all good news and he wants to have a hand in changing, reforming, and fixing Central Province. He is not in it to try his luck. He has a vision to revive Central Province backed by the province’s agricultural, fisheries, timber, and mining activities, and the LNG Project.
Simon is PNG Party’s candidate for the Central Regional seat after nominating on 22 May at the Boroko offices of the PNG Electoral Commission. He is currently on the campaign trail and has since covered a handful of constituents in Woitape, Aroma, Rigo inland and coast, Mekeo, Kairuku, and Hiri. He has not covered all the villages across the Province’s four districts, and he wants to meet them all even if the days and highway trips get longer. But one thing that is evident every time he concludes a visit with constituents is that the long hours have renewed his admiration and respect for the people of Central. He has met thousands over the past 30 years, and he wants to meet old friends and make new ones in his new role as the next Governor of Central Province. In fact, he wants to share a new vision and breed a new culture so that Central people can begin to see and talk about their province in a positive light.
As he meets constituents in one village and the next, the story is still the same. Central province is a dated government system and set of institutions reeling under a growing, disoriented, and very demanding population.
Simon has reiterated a resounding concern:
“Central Province people are growing tired of a system of government that is indifferent. How can we make the Central Provincial Government and the rest of the Local Level Governments responsive, responsible, and realistic? Not only will a provincial government under my leadership prioritize completion of the Central City; I want the voters to hold me accountable for its completion at the 2017 elections. I will also relocate the Hiri LLG office away from the nation’s capital and bring it back to Central Province. At the end of the day, I wish for all LLGs to be within the provincial boundaries to show that we can take care of our own and we will seek outside help in any event only when we cannot manage it ourselves. And as Central Governor I will program Provincial Executive Council meetings to be hosted by each LLG aside from the provincial headquarters. In this way, we will make and announce government decisions at the doorsteps of the people that matter. My hope is that this will restore our people’s trust in this system of government.”
Something else that irritates Simon is the fact that Central Province still operates as a subset of National Capital District. This is made obvious every day with the number of Central Province passenger trucks entering the nation’s capital to sell local produce to Port Moresby city residents. And with their income, they are giving it all back to National Capital District when they purchase supplies there.
Simon has asked:
“Why are Central Province people helping to build the economy of the National Capital District and not Central Province? It is because successive Central Provincial Governments have failed to grow and manage a healthy economic sector. A provincial government under my leadership will put together a rescue plan to identify and harness impact economic hubs within the province so that we can build or consolidate local towns and services within the Province to absorb Central Province’s cultural, economic, political, social, and other activities. We must create our own opportunities. If we do not, our people will keep on returning to the nation’s capital as they continue to do so every day.”
It is still a fact that Goilala and Abau districts have very few roads, and that only 63% of the Central Province population lives within 5 kilometres of a national road. There are also 3,182 PNG Power consumers in a province which has over 30,000 census households. To illustrate this dilemma, Simon drove into Rigo District’s Kaparoko village over the weekend and became instantly aware of the village’s dire water need; the unsealed feeder road; the absence of electricity supply; and overwhelmed aid post service.
Simon observed that:
“It is sickening to note that in this day and age, our womenfolk at Kaparoko are still carting water from bore water wells located just next to the seashore. The reality is that women have to collect water during the low tide. This means the water source is unavailable during the high tide. This is outrageous!
Simon says that even the Kaparoko aid post is overwhelmed as it continues to serve Kaparoko and other neighbouring villages. This is a management problem that the government and people have tolerated. It cannot be tolerated any longer because without a healthy and accessible provincial population, families are not able to move forward.
Simon will keep on campaigning to share his experience, vision, and plans for a new Central Province. Winning this election is the first challenge that he has to overcome in order to introduce and manage a plan that will deliver a new Central Province. And he wants voters to see him as a leader and a servant that wants to work with the people to revive, to change, to reform, and to fix Central Province.
At the end of the day, Simon Naua wants the people of Central Province to trust that he will deliver them safely to a new Central Province; the same way he has done with all his helicopter trips over the last thirty years.