ROB PARER CMG MBE
BRISBANE – Many years ago at Aitape in pre-independence Papua New Guinea, when the newly established Siau Council was in charge of the Aitape Sub-District, we were amazed at how most things operated - right down to each village having a village water pump.
The bigman in the region was Brere Awol, the first Council president, who, when he became a member of the second House of Assembly in 1968, representing West Sepik.
He handed the reins of the council to Nagot Waina of Yakoi-Tumleo. Nagot continued to run the council so very well.
Back then, Jack McCarthy was a feature article writer for the South Pacific Post newspaper. He was to win Australia’s most prestigious honour for journalism, a Walkley Award.
Jack enjoyed travelling through PNG and called in a few times at Aitape.
He was very impressed with the Siau Council and in his book, 'New Guinea Journeys', he wrote that to have well run councils like Siau, he could see the way of the future in PNG.
He came back some years later and found that since the national government had brought in provincial government the MPs found the councils were a threat to their power, and cut off their finances.
From then on, it was all downhill and councils had insufficient funds to continue their good work.
In addition, the provincial government was not organised enough to take over many council duties, so services went on the slide
It became obvious to me that the middle layer of government must be removed. The thought lingers all these years later.
As Stephen Charteris has written in PNG Attitude:
“It is time for a huge step change to remove several layers of inherited government administration that don’t work.
“The focus must be on the integration of primary services at community level with local participation, control and responsibility for outcomes.”
So very true, Stephen.