Time for a Fair Go for Fuzzy Wuzzy Descendants

The people of Oro Province, at the northern end of the Kokoda Track in PNG, have been waiting for more than two years for their government to help rebuild the roads, bridges, schools and villages destroyed by Cyclone Guba in November 2007.

Hundreds were killed and tens of thousands lost their homes when Cyclone Guba hit the province. Around 60 bridges and almost 100 schools were lost in the disaster. 

Two years on, and just a handful of temporary bridges have been put in place. Thousands still live under tarpaulins in temporary shelters and kids are being taught in bush lean-tos. Much of the province is still cut off from the main thoroughfare for food and basic supplies – the road to Kokoda from the port of Oro Bay and the town of Popondetta.

Just when you think things couldn’t get worse, two things happen: first, the region suffers more floods during last month’s torrential rain; and second, it now seems the government has lost the funds it committed for the province’s rebuilding.

Yes, that’s right, the Kina 60 million earmarked for the restoration of the province’s infrastructure has apparently disappeared in Port Moresby!

In the latest issue of his PNG Attitude newsletter, respected commentator, Keith Jackson, writes:

“Over K60 million allocated by the PNG Government for relief and restoration efforts after Cyclone Guba devastated Oro Province in 2007 has ‘gone missing’. Provincial authorities briefed Public Services Minister Peter O’Neill of the situation but were not able to say where the money had gone.”

The Province’s administrator, Owen Awaita, was quoted as saying that K11 million had been allocated for restoration work during the state of emergency declared following the disaster and another K50 million had been “parked” at the Treasury Department in Port Moresby. Unbelievably, apparently all this money has disappeared. 

In addition, a further K600,000 committed to land owners in Girua village, north east of Kokoda, allegedly had not been paid, prompting the villagers to ban authorities from their land until the payment is made.

The time has come for the PNG to show some political will and some transparency. Any qualified accountant could trace the missing funds within days.

While this disgraceful abrogation of responsibility continues, the people of Oro – many of whom are the descendants of the beloved Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels – are relying on NGOs like the Kokoda Track Foundation and the Anglican Church for food and water. They are being denied justice and access to basic resources. Their children are being denied a future.

The PNG Government cannot proclaim its success in securing massive gas projects while turning a blind eye to massive fraud and ignoring the plight of so many of its people.