WEWAK - The theme of this year’s Independence celebration should be ‘Preserving the positive gains made over the last 45 years of political independence and those made over the last 12 months under PMJM in particular’.
A bit of a mouthful, I know, but it sums up how I’m feeling this Independence Day.
This year as we celebrate 45 years of independence we can feel a renewed sense of nationalism and optimism in the air.
Just yesterday I read a quote from Mathias Kin in Kundiawa that said, “All the vehicles in town carry PNG and Simbu flags. Never really felt this before for our flagging country". Spot on, Mathias.
I suspect this renewed sense of excitement and optimism about the future is directly linked to the decision by PMJM (prime minister James Marape) and the government he leads to take over ownership of the giant Porgera mine and put it in the hands of the people of this country.
The decision on Porgera has generated so much goodwill for PMJM, positioning him above his predecessor Peter O’Neill as the prime minister most likely to take Papua New Guinea to become a middle income economy within the next decade.
His successful handling on Porgera stands in contrast to the failure of past governments in recognising and dealing effectively with the rise of resource nationalism in our country.
This exploded in the Bougainville civil war that centred on the Panguna mine and resulted in an estimated 20,000 deaths.
The Porgera decision represents the symbolic breaking of the yoke of foreign economic domination of our economy and shows the way forward for future negotiations over lease extensions of existing mining projects such as Ramu Nickel and Lihir.
It gives a more confident PMJM and the national negotiating team a better feel to drive a more equitable agreement in favour of PNG in the Wafi Golpu, Frieda and Papua LNG projects.
The most recent announcement by PMJM that an agreement has been reached with Fortescue to revisit the 1973 Purari hydro project goes to show that good business propositions will continue to attract genuine investment dollars.
The naysayers in our country, who continue to doubt our ability to own and manage our own mines and hydro carbon resources, have a long way to go in decolonising their minds.
As we celebrate our 45th anniversary of Independence we recall these same naysayers who said 45 years ago that we were not ready for political independence and that as natives we cannot fly aeroplanes and have universities to train doctors, engineers, lawyers and other professional men and women needed to run a modern nation state.
It was thanks to Sir Michael Somare and the Pangu Pati and our founding fathers that we pushed on to achieve political independence and laid the foundation for the training of our own professionals who today are building and running mines all over the world and now advising another Pangu government to deliver economic independence for our country 45 years on.
There will be fallout from the Porgera decision but such will just a teething problem of a nascent state and will be dealt with as we move to the next chapter of our history. Remember, Rome was not built in a day.
Happy 45th Independence anniversary.