To All The Sepik People of Papua New Guinea, “AreYou Ready?” – Allan Bird.

Sepiks, are you ready?

By Allan Bird
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On this our 44th independence anniversary I know many of you are asking why should we celebrate when there is no development. We have nothing to celebrate. I too used to think that, I too ask myself the same question.

Today for me the answer is clear, I just have to look across the border on our island and when I see our brothers and sisters being oppressed and killed as they too seek freedom and independence. I am thankful my ancestors didn’t shed a single drop of blood for our freedom.

Today we have a contingent of Australian Defense Force personnel in our midst. Their grandparents gave us independence without bloodshed. Let’s show them our appreciation for their benevolence. Today after 44 years Australia is still here supporting us.

Perhaps we attained independence without bloodshed and so we don’t appreciate it as much as we should. It’s like free education and free health care. It is human nature for people to have little or no appreciation for the things in life that are free. We only appreciate the things we had to sacrifice to get.

Perhaps there lies our answer. I realise that for all our problems, for the majority of us, we run to the MP or the LLG president or the Ward member. And in many cases the MP will pay for the funeral, the school fees, the cocoa fermentary, water tank, etc. I believe that is the problem. One MP with K10m a year in DSIP will not solve all the problems in the community. The community also needs to put in.

In Sepik we always say: “Mi no stap lo strong blo yu. Mi no meri man, mi stap lo strong blo mi yet.” Perhaps this attitude needs to be encouraged. More people need to stand on their own feet and not be dependent on the MP.

The greater Sepik region is on the move. When the EU/UN office is set up in Wewak next month, we will commence a work that will have significant potential impact not just in Sepik but in PNG as a whole. I have already had very productive discussions with other donors and private sector about even more support for our region in the next few months. They too are excited by the EU grant and its potential for societal transformation.

We could attract over a billion kina in support over the next few years. This is unprecedented. No other region in the South Pacific has attracted this level of interest before. We are lucky to be on the cusp of a new era in Sepik.

I am very excited because I believe the key to development is not government. It’s the private sector. The largest private sector players are our own people. So Sepiks must be ready to take advantage of these opportunities. We can’t sit back and relax and 2 or 3 years later complain about missing out. You have to get in on the ground floor. Establish yourself and get started. Sepik are you ready for this?

Sepik needs all our public servants to do more. We need all our elected representatives do to more. I ask our ordinary citizens to work your land, your waters: don’t wait. We may not get another opportunity like this again. There may not be similar interest from donor and private investors in the future. This is your opportunity, this is our opportunity.

Papua New Guinea is looking for economic development. We talk about it but we don’t know how to harness our people. So I urge my Sepik people, let’s show our countrymen and women how it’s done.

In 1975 when PNG was afraid of independence, there was a young man from Murik, he wasn’t afraid. He said let’s do it. He was a Sepik. He took us on a path that no one understood. Today we stand in that same place, PNGans are afraid, they don’t know which way to go. Somare is not here with us today, every independence day he is here and we maintain that tradition. It is now our time. Tomorrow the young children will be standing in this place. We must leave a strong foundation for our children to take to the next level. What will we leave for them? Sepik are you ready?

As your governor I ask Sepiks to rise up again, 44 years after independence. PNG is not sure where the road is, let’s show them. Just as another young Sepik showed great courage in 1975, I ask all of you to stand up and do the same now. PNG needs someone to lead, so I volunteer the Sepiks to lead once again. Let us lead from here.

Bougainville, after much bloodshed, anger, pain and deep hurt, will vote for independence this year. Well let’s try and show a better way. That we are stronger together but all of us must work harder, we must do more. And I ask Sepiks to show the way, with all the support we have attracted, let’s build something better.

Next year I want a bigger celebration, let’s eat and feast at this location. Let’s have more events for the community to enjoy. Let’s not do the same thing we have been doing for 44 years. On the 45th year, let’s do something better. Let’s plan early and let’s ensure we truly celebrate a major milestone in our history.

Thank you all for the great turn out today. God bless Sepik and God bless PNG. Maulu na Maulu tumas!

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