“Speech by New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan during Today’s Extraordinary Provincial Assembly sitting.”
My fellow New Irelanders.
Today I come before you a fit and healthy, but sad man. Today I come before you as a man fearful that everything I have worked for to make the lives of all New Irelanders better for the last fourteen years may be lost, may disappear…
When I came back into Government in 2007, as Governor of New Ireland, I had one goal and one goal only. I wanted to make New Irelanders the most prosperous and healthy people in all of Papua New Guinea.
I wanted to bring benefits to New Irelanders that they had the right to have, but that they had never had under the Governments that came before me.
To reach that goal I had two strategies. First, I wanted to plant what I called a Tree of Development. But that Tree had to be a strong tree, a good tree, a tree that produced good fruit, for all the People of New Ireland. Because, as Matthew said in verse 7:17 – 18, “A good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit”
When I became Governor, the previous Government had planted a corrupt tree. That Government took the People’s money and used it for itself, for its friends, not for the People! To this day, that Government has never accounted for over K64 million – 64 million kina! – it got in royalties from Lihir.
Where did it go? Not into roads – we all know the Boluminski Highway was a bush track, more potholes than pavement. Not into education. School buildings were falling down. Not into health care. No. The Province was falling apart.
That is the fruit you get from a Corrupt Tree.
But I wanted to plant a tree that produced good fruit. I wanted to plant a tree that gave a fruit called good education, a fruit called respecting and caring for our elderly and disabled, a fruit called decent shelter for our people, a fruit called good health care, a fruit called funding ward and village level projects a fruit called good roads and highways. THAT is the Tree of Development I wanted to plant.
Because a Good Tree produces Good Fruit!
So, I created the first system of Free Education in the history of Papua New Guinea, right here in New Ireland. Then I made New Ireland the only Province in PNG to pay for rations for our boarding students.
Three good meals a day, every day, for your children. Then I made New Ireland the only Province that pays an allowance to New Ireland students attending tertiary institutions, whether in PNG or overseas.
And we are the only province that gives a transportation subsidy so you parents don’t have to pay to transport you son or daughter to high school or secondary school.
And schools! In 2007, we had one Secondary School. Today we have eight! And we have built four new High Schools. My friends, New Ireland is the only Province in PNG that has a High School or Secondary School in every LLG!
Some of that was funded under the Tax Credit Scheme, which we found had never been implemented in New Ireland since the mine started in 1995.
The previous Government just didn’t care that New Ireland was losing millions per year! My Government insisted the Tax Credit Scheme be implemented, and since 2011 we have put over K41 million of that into expanding our high and secondary schools.
That means in the last fourteen years we have put over K113 million – one hundred thirteen million kina!! – into education programmes. That is K72 million that has stayed in the pockets of the parents of New Ireland students!!
And there was more good fruit. In 2009, we started the first, and still the only, pension in all of PNG for our elderly and disabled. We started by paying them K360 per year.
We raised that to K500 per year. No other Province does this! In thirteen years we have given our elderly and disabled over K47 million kina. Forty-seven Million Kina!! THAT is showing respect for your elders, for those less fortunate than most of us.
But I didn’t stop there. No. We introduced a program never seen before in PNG, or even in the Pacific. Roof Over Heads. I knew grassroots people did not have enough money to buy kapa for their houses, that they still had to use sak-sak and kunai for their roofs.
So, I decided to become partners with the people to improve their homes. We said that any person in New Ireland who bought three sheets of kapa – just three sheets – would get nine sheets free! And in the last four years we have distributed more than 90,000 sheets of roofing iron at a cost of over K4.4 million.
This makes peoples’ lives better. With kapa, you can collect clean water. The women don’t have to walk for kilometres to the river. And clean water means less illness. Especially for children.
That is a huge forward step, because the number one killer of children under five in PNG is diarrhea and other stomach problems, like dysentery.
But we found out that when villages switched to kapa roofing the number of parents taking their children to health centers and aid posts for diarrhea and dysentery dropped by 75%! Seventy-five percent!! New Ireland children are now the healthiest children in all of Papua New Guinea!
And there was still more good fruit. I knew that all the people, all the politicians and bureaucrats in Kavieng, didn’t really know what was going on in the villages and the hamlets of New Ireland.
I knew one thing for sure. Husat i save lo sindaun lo ples?? Ol manmeri husat i stap lo ples!! It is only the people themselves who know what they need.
Some villages need a better road, some need sewing machines for their women to earn money, some need water tanks. Every village is different! The people in Kavieng have no idea. So, what is the solution?
Community Project Grants. In 2012, I began giving grants of between K30,000 and K40,000 to every ward in New Ireland to use for whatever was their priority!
We gave K30,000 to wards close to the major urban areas – Kavieng and Namatanai and Konos. But we gave K40,000 to the remote wards, because we knew they had been neglected; they had more needs than the areas close to the cities.
Through 2020 we distributed grants worth almost K20 million. Nobody has ever done anything like this in all of PNG, in all of the Pacific!!
And there was still more fruit. I knew the churches in New Ireland delivered a huge amount of health and education services to the People. So, I decided to support that work. So, in 2015 we started Church Partnership Grants. Each year we give over K3 million to our churches to support their work.
Since the program started we have given over K16 million to our churches. And since 2011 we have subsidized the Australian Doctors International, now for K400,000 per year, to provide rural health services and training for rural health workers. Since the program started we have given over K3m to ADI for health services.
And we did more. We put over K75 million of our own money, and K35m of Tax Credit funds into the Boluminski Highway, the West Coast Road, the crossings from west to east, and into ring roads on the offshore islands and the Unity Road in Lavongai.
And we are Lighting Up New Ireland. We have put over 400 solar light units into villages, aid posts, schools and along roads throughout New Ireland. We have spent K3.2m on this in just a couple of years, and we have just begun!
Now are you getting an idea of what we have done in the past 14 years? It is incredible. With all the programs we have implemented since 2008 my Government has been responsible for putting over K316 million into programs that directly help the People!
THAT is development! THAT is getting the money and resources where they belong – to the People on the Ground!! THAT is Partnership!
I believe in Partnership. No one can do the job alone – we must work together!
I have tried now for nearly five years to work with the Open Members from Kavieng and Namatanai. I have asked them over and over to work closely with my Government.
I have pleaded with them to work together with me for the people. We should work as Partners for the good of the People of New Ireland. I believe that if the Provincial Government and the two Districts work together there is almost nothing we can’t do.
The first thing we should do as Partners is to coordinate our budgets. We need to be sure the Provincial Budget and District Budgets are not funding the same things. If our programs overlap, we are wasting money. And we are probably ignoring other areas that need funding.
Every year my Government publishes and publicly distributes its budget for the coming year. You can see where every toea of the money we have goes. Every toea! But you know what? I have never – never in the past five years – even seen a District Budget.
That, to me, is the saddest thing. I want to be a friend to the Open Members, but they will not even take my outstretched hand.
I want to work with them to make New Ireland a better Province, to make the lives of the New Ireland People better. But they will not even talk to me about projects or programs they would like my Government to support.
They do not even attend Provincial Assembly meetings. Neither one has come to a Provincial Assembly meeting for over a year.
These are not Servants of the People. They are Betrayers of the People.
And those Members, the very people who do not even make their budgets public, are now trying to get control of the Lihir Gold Mine royalties.
It is those royalties that have paid for most of the fruit of the Tree of Development that the People have eaten. Good Roads. Free and improved Education, Old Age and Disabled Pension. Roof Over Heads. Ward Projects. Church Partnership Grants. Solar Lighting. And much more.
The Lihir MoA says that 50% of the royalties should go directly to the Provincial Government, and that of that 50%, 20% should be spent in Namatanai District, 20% in Kavieng District and 10% should stay with the Provincial Government for administrative costs.
That is what we have done. Every toea of royalties spent in each District has appeared in the Provincial Budget over the past fourteen years. Every toea!!
But the Open Members are not happy when the money goes to the people in their Districts. No. They do not want the People to get the money, they want the money for themselves.
So, in 2017 they went to the National Court and asked for royalties to be sent directly to the District Treasuries. And the National Court ordered that to be done.
But we knew this was against the Lihir MoA, so we appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.
We said (1) the Districts are not signatories to the MoA so have no authority to change the MoA, and (2) that the New Ireland Government had obeyed the MoA and delivered all the funds due to the two Districts to projects and programs in those two districts.
In September of 2018 the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ruled in favour of the New Ireland Government and set aside the National Court ruling. The full 50% of royalties must go directly to the Provincial Government, which will then follow the directions of the MoA.
My Government gave the Supreme Court full records of the use of royalties from 2008 to 2018. The 50% of royalties the New Ireland Government got over that time totaled K252,256,560.
Of that, 110 million (21.8%) was spent in Kavieng District and 118 million (23.55%) in Namatanai. My Government retained only K24 million. In other words, each District actually got more than they deserved, but my Government, due 10% of the total, got less than 5%, half of what it deserved.
So, the truth is my Government actually spends more money in each District than it should under the Lihir MoA! I don’t mind doing this – after all, as Regional Member I am an MP for both Districts. And guess what – I take representing the People seriously!
But the Open Members have no respect for the Supreme Court, the highest power in the land.
They ignored the Supreme Court ruling, and went to their corrupt friends in the NEC and got an NEC decision last month that said the 20% of the royalties should be delivered directly to the Districts, and that the two Districts should be made signatories to the MoA.
The NEC does not have the power to change a Supreme Court decision! Nor does the NEC have the power to change the way the Lihir MoA works.
National Government is one of four signatories to the MoA, and if any signatory disagrees with the way the MoA works, they must call a meeting of all signatories under Clause 42 – the Dispute Resolution Clause – of the MoA. National Government never did this.
So, the decision of the NEC is illegal. We are taking this case to the courts right now, and I know the courts will uphold the Supreme Court decision.
But the fact is that Newcrest has decided to follow the instructions of the NEC, even though those instructions are illegal. That means the royalties for February and March, which totaled over K8.47m were distributed as follows: Each District got K3.4m – a total of K6.8m to the District Treasuries – while the Provincial Government only got K1.7 million.
That means my Government does not have any money for all the programs that make up our Tree of Development. And nobody knows where that money has gone! Nobody has even seen a District Budget, so that money has just gone into the District Treasuries and disappeared!
One thing we do know.
The Open Members do not care about education for our children, because no money has gone to the schools for rations or distant transport or subsidies.
They do not care about our elderly and disabled, because no money is going into any account for their pensions. The Open Members do not care about our Churches or Wards or Roof Over Heads, because no money has gone to those programs.
The two Open Members have stolen control of huge sums of money – this money should be used to improve your lives. But have you seen anything from the Open Members? No!! It looks like the only people in New Ireland the Open Members care about is themselves and their friends.
My friends, there is evil afoot. All of New Ireland is suffering. The Open Members are turning the Tree of Development from a good tree that bears good fruit to a corrupt tree that bears evil fruit!
That is why I am sad today. I fear the good we have done in the past fourteen years – for education, for the elderly and disabled, for grass roots people who have received money to carry out the projects that are most important to them, for our churches – is under threat.
I call on all New Irelanders to seek out the two Open Members. I call on all New Irelanders to tell them they must use the millions they are getting for the People of New Ireland, not for themselves, not for their friends. For the People of New Ireland!!
And where has the DSIP – K10m per year for each District – gone?
Both Open Members received K40m each in the past four years in DSIP. Do you know where that money has gone? That money is supposed to finance infrastructure and improved service delivery, but instead seems to be used to buy red trucks to support the political needs of the Open Members.
Both Members refused to sign the Service Agreement that the Department of Provincial and Local Level Government asked all Open MPs to sign. This agreement is designed to make certain all DSIP funds are spent on projects and programs that benefit the People. But the Open MPs refused to sign. Evidently they are not concerned about benefiting the People……..
People of New Ireland! You must stand up! You must demand that the Open Members tell you where that money has gone!! You must insist they tell you what they are doing with that money.
My Brothers and Sisters, to me the choice we have to make is clear.
We can trust the wolves in sheep’s clothing, and if we do we will see the Tree of Development chopped down and used for firewood.
Or we can continue our work. We can continue to be Gardeners in the fertile fields of New Ireland, producing ripe and sustaining fruit year after year for our people.
For now, until the battle in court is won, we have to live in the real world. The real world is that the Provincial Government has no more funds to keep the Tree of Development alive. This Statement today is a trumpet-call to tighten your belts – Stormy and Unpredictable weather is ahead.
So we need to dig deep for strength, and I say today to each of you I say, you have a very simple question to answer. In looking into your heart, which do you choose? Do you choose to continue to show the world how a People can work to improve their lives?
Do you choose to continue to be Gardeners, or do you choose to chop down the Tree of Development and ask the people to eat the ashes of broken promises and betrayal?
We need – all of us – to commit to labouring in the fields. For as Luke said in Luke 10:2 “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore to the Lord of the Harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.”
We, my friends, are those labourers. I, for one, intend to continue as a Gardener for the Tree we have worked so hard to cultivate. And I hope all the People of New Ireland join me to labour in the fields.