By Oala Moi – Monday 11 June 2012 – Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea:

Constituents of the Motu Koita Assembly in National Capital District are staring down the barrel of a gun. The kind of ‘gun’ that Australian singer John Farnham sings about in his song You’re the Voice. Except for the Motu Koita Assembly, the national and municipal governments are pointing what is by and large an executive and legislative gun.

For most, if not all, this may be the last time because the government is now set to uproot these peoples from their homeland to make way for the city’s expansion plans.

In May this year, the O’Neill-Namah government approved for the port to be relocated from Port Moresby Harbour to Tatana village and Napanapa oil refinery precincts.

In addition, NCD Governor Powes Parkop in a National Gazette declaration in July 2010 ordered the NCD Physical Planning Office to develop local development plans covering both State and Motu Koitabu land. The area covers 11,000 hectares. It covers Kaevaga/Poreporena, Huhunama/Tovabada, Napanapa/Daugo Island, Taurama South, Taurama/Dogura South, and Dogura North. All these areas are slated for inclusion under the draft NCD Urban Development Plan released by the NCD Physical Planning Board in 2007.

The landholding in NCD is unequal. The State holds 60% while 40% still lies under customary ownership. The 2010 National Gazette declaration basically gives the NCDC the right to increase its landholding by way of an instrument called the NCD Urban Development Plan promoted by the NCD Physical Planning Board and Governor Parkop.

Successive Motu Koitabu generations have inherited problems created by bad land alienation policies. Policies grounded on a foreign ideology called Eminent Domain. And the actions of the national and the metropolitan governments are the latest in line of a thread of bad land alienation policies.

If this had occurred in the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea, the outcome would be obvious. But not here in the nation’s capital! Our peace-loving nature has taken the better of us and our eregabes (youths) are becoming restless. Most of them are disoriented, unemployable, and destitute. And they are landless, hungry, and angry.

For most of the NCD’s Motu Koitabu people, Governor Parkop is a chameleon. Before us he says one thing; behind us he says another. In fact, behind us he says something detrimental.

In May this year at the University of Papua New Guinea’s Waigani Campus, he attended a gathering of Motu Koitabu people and admitted before them that he had failed the Motu Koitabu people. This is honourable but it is too little too late. Not many people know that when he visited NCD’s Motu Koitabu voters in 2007, he promised justice for Motu Koitabu people. At the time it was a significant statement coming from a human rights lawyer. And the people bought it hook line and sinker.

According to a candidate presently vying for the NCD Regional seat in the 2012 National Election, Powes Parkop is said to have told non Motu Koitabu people attending a political rally that the Motu Koitabu people fear non Motu Koitabu people. If this statement can be attributed to Governor Parkop, let people know that NCD’s Motu Koitabu people harbour no such fear. The only fear we have is the fear of losing our identity, land, culture, and basically our livelihood. The fear of voting in another government that will not harmonize and implement Motu Koitabu friendly policies.

Based on current estimates, Motu Koitabu constituents represent 10% of NCD’s total voter population. Therefore, Motu Koitabu people alone cannot vote in their own unless that person can canvass both Motu Koitabu and non Motu Koitabu voters.

The Motu Koitabu people may have the Motu Koita Assembly. But as the years go by, it becomes blatantly obvious that the Assembly is fast becoming a political compromise that gives greater political rights and mere lip service. Unlike National Capital District and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, the Motu Koita Assembly is toothless. Why has the National Government co-operated with NCD and Bougainville governments over the years and not Chairman Ikupu?

Motu Koitabu people have been left to guess the answer. One possibility is that the Assembly is not a creature of the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Government. Therefore, it cannot attract the type of funding and respect that is enjoyed by other Provincial Governments and Local Level Governments.

Perhaps this is why Assembly Chairman Miria Ikupu made a bold decision to take this political fight one step higher by running for the Moresby North West seat. Yes! Chairman Ikupu has been granted leave of absence by the Assembly; a decision that aroused controversy. It has been reported that his decision to stand is supported by law, according to legal advice.

In a separate statement, Chairman Ikupu has already explained his reasons for contesting. These are:

  • REASON 1: The Motu Koitabu people in NCD do not have a voice in the National Parliament.
  • REASON 2: The Motu Koita Assembly has not achieved financial and fiscal self-reliance since its establishment by Parliament under the Motu Koita Assembly Act, 2007.  The Assembly is underfunded.
  • REASON 3: The Assembly’s financial position has not improved.  Since this Assembly came into office in July 2008, every possible effort has been made in order to acquire funding or to raise current funding levels, including, legal action against NCDC over the interpretation of section 38 (d) of the Motu Koita Assembly Act 2007 and section 33 of the National Capital District Commission Act 2001 (Amended).
  • REASON 4: Allegations that NCD Governor Powes Parkop and Moresby North West MP Sir Mekere Morauta have been collaborating to stop the Government from paying the Assembly’s outstanding K50million GST dues dating back to 2007.
  • REASON 5: Because of politics, Motu Koita Assembly cannot access land taxes, airport taxes and harbour taxes.
  • REASON 6: The Chairman must fight for the Motu Koitabu people’s rights to get all outstanding monies belonging to the Motu Koitabu people and the Assembly.
  • REASON 7: To become a National representative at the Parliament, enabling him to access direct budgetary allocation for the Assembly from the National Government.
  • REASON 8: To propose amendments to relevant legislation for the purpose of increasing budgetary funding for the Assembly which has been ignored because our Motu Koitabu people do not have representation in the National Parliament, let alone the National Executive Council.
  • REASON 9: The Motu Koitabu people have been marginalized on their land.

Since Chairman Ikupu’s announcement to contest, his detractors have been relentless. Right now they may see the Assembly’s internal politicking as valid. But over time it may be nothing compared to the years of lip service that the Assembly’s constituents have had to endure generation in and generation out. Basically Assembly members have political, financial, and fiscal challenges the lack of which denies their constituents of basic government services. These are challenges that petty squabbling cannot easily fix. These are challenges that need to be cured through legislation and executive decision making; challenges that are within the reach of the Motu Koita Assembly members.

NCD’S Motu Koitabu people need to start talking about and implementing a consolidated political entity proposal. They should be considering such options as an Open Electorate under NCDC or Central Province; or a government akin to the Manus Provincial Government or the Autonomous Bougainville Government. They must do something immediately so that the national and municipal governments can return the proverbial gun to its holster.

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