Opinion: ‘the richest black Christian nation on earth’

Welcome,

James Marape, Papua New Guinea’s new Prime Minister, made his maiden address as premier to Parliament today. This is an edited transcript* of his speech, which outlined his aspirations for the country and his new government.

PNG’s new Prime Minister, the Hon. James Marape MP

Let me announce to this Parliament, I’ve just returned from the Government House, the Governor-General was privileged to confirm me his presence and I signed all the instruments for formalities, and today I stand humbled before you Mr Speaker before this House, the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea, before the resigned former Prime Minister and the member for Ialibu-Pangia, and before the people of this country as our country’s eighth Prime Minister.

This is a privilege I don’t take for granted.

This is an honour that I truly and humbly accept and I on behalf of my wife, my children, my tribe the Huli, my people of Tari and Pori, my people of the Hela Province, Southern Highlands and Enga Province, all my friends and associates. Let me say thank you on their behalf for giving this highest honour and privilege to occupy the office of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.

This is a mandate passed to me amongst the house of equals. I look at this House, I am humbled to find amongst us many former Prime Ministers, one of which I succeeded, and two notably figuring: the Right Honourable Sir Julius Chan, the Governor of the New Ireland Province, and the Honourable Governor Wingti of Western Highlands that are still in the House, and I am truly humbled to serve this Parliament amongst them.

Amongst us there are many, many former Deputy Prime Ministers on both sides of the House that served their country well and their presence is still active amongst us and I pay my respect to them.

Many Ministers of State, former Ministers of State, many experienced leaders of the country in their own rights, some first-timers, some second-timers, three of us third-timers, and yesterday myself and the Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Charles Abel, were sitting together and we counted four of us are third-termers now, we belong to the class of 2007.

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Also amongst us, Mr Speaker, you have a pool of experience, wisdom of leadership, that we can draw from and I can draw from having the hindsight of experience.  But, more importantly for me, I am encouraged and strengthened and comforted by the fact that I have the energy, youth and strength and stamina in many first-timers and second-timers who are in this House on both sides of the floor.

Since my resignation as Finance Minister on the 11th of April 2019, I did it for my own reasons. The former Prime Minister doesn’t know it fully, but in our conversations lately he knows exactly why I resigned and some were personal, pertaining to matters affecting my province and district. For instance, infrastructure projects that were due for the people of Hela and Southern Highlands since oil and gas flowed from their land in 1990, matters pertaining to 4.27% that was owed to them, owed to the Central Province, Gulf Province, Western Province, Southern Highlands and Hela. But also matters of how the former Prime Minister […] ran the country. He did his absolute best under trying circumstances ,that I must give credit to him.

When he took office in 2012, the economics in front was quite blurry […] Our Government then—of which I was part—delivered a deliberate deficit Budget plan for a few years, as we saw PNG in 2012.  And so his challenges were great and let me at this time pay my commendation to him.  He held the ship under trying circumstances amidst many challenges—personal challenges as well as national challenge. Yes, along the way we may have differed a little bit, made mistakes a little bit. Mistakes were made and those mistakes are contestable in a competent system to assess mistakes.

But he did his absolute best for our country under trying circumstances and let me pay my greatest respect to him and none can be more greater than what he did yesterday, putting the call of people ahead of his own personal interests. That is testament to the character of the Hon. Peter O’Neill, Member of Ialibu-Pangi.  Soft spoken, humble most times but committed and resolved to do what he sets out to do, and he did exactly what he set out to do yesterday, resigning proudly as a leader of his people and as a leader of our country, and I pay my greatest respect to him. There is no greater love than a man that lays down his own life for his country and for the causes that he believed in.

Having said this, let me pay my commendations to Members on both sides of the House and I saw what unfolded today.  The lessons learned in the last four or five weeks leading up to today, that culminated in the vote that took place today, are lessons that players from all sides will take with us for a long, long time. Politics can come and go, but what we witnessed transcends politics boundaries, transcends ethic divides, transcends cultural divides, transcends religious views.

Today’s passing of the torch to me represents a shift of torch to a younger generation of leadership for our country.  And I want to encourage every young politician here and every young man and woman outside of this House, never doubt your ability to stand up for what is right.

As I take this place, I am encouraged by what took place yesterday, the dynamics of what might have been a vote of no confidence changed yesterday through the announcement of Peter O’Neill then.  He took his recess. […] Myself and the twenty-eight strong men who camped with me at Laguna for almost three to four weeks decided to follow me.  In one bus they went to Grand Papua [Hotel] because that was an independent camp, a separate camp from the Crown camp as well as from the Laguna camp that we helped establish.

They were all in Grand Papua and we were waiting for a call from either the Laguna camp we left behind or the Crown camp—a call that would respect that I had 28 free-thinking leaders of this country who wanted to help change the course of this country.  And personally let me appreciate the Honourable Gary Juffa’s catchcry, ‘taking back PNG,’ and referring to it, giving economic independence to our nation.  We sat in Grand Papua and I am again humbled by the kindness gesture the Hon. Peter O’Neill, the Right Hon. Sir Julius Chan and the Hon. Sam Basil, they had the audacity to walk from Crown to the Grand Papua and met me and my team and proposed that from our team a nominee must emerge.

What encouraged me was the fact that our former Prime Minister had the simplicity to say, ‘you’re not coming back to PNG, you’ve carved out a new identity with the leaders you lead, bring that identity into our camp and take leadership and we will not dilute neither suppress your identity, you maintain your identity as a group of leaders’.

And so today I stand before this nation and this Honourable House, humbled but also burdened, knowing that the challenge before us as a nation is not easy.  I’ve been Finance Minister several years. I know that our economy is bleeding and struggling.

We will do a diagnostic into how our economy is right now – one of the first businesses of our Government.  After we’ve assembled our team of Ministers in the coalition that we have, we will do a holistic diagnostic about the status of our economy.

The team of leaders I lead, encouraged by some of the encouragements that I’ve received in Laguna mingling with members on the other side, are all about doing what is right for our nation, taking back our economy, looking to resource laws.  At the moment, our resource laws are dated.  We do not intend to chase away our investors—they’re here to stay, we encourage them—but we will look into maximising gain from what God has given this country from our natural resources.

This leadership is all about placing this country in the right place and taking back our economy.  Our forestry: we don’t need no more foreigners to come in and export our forestry sector. Those players currently playing in this country: your time is now to go into downstream [processing] and not round-log export.  We are all about maximising resources for our country.

The fishing sector, for instance. The provincial government must get involved in these sort of industries and this sort of space.

When you talk about autonomy to our provincial governments, we must go beyond just transferring functions but the ability to raise revenues at their levels also, Mr Speaker.  So we will look closer, not only in the oil and gas sector and the mining sector which some of us predominantly patient about but the greater propensity and potential of our country in all range of economic [sectors] this country’s blessed with.

Today, when I went to the Government House, there were sounds of jubilation along the streets, and I feel burdened because I knew that right now I don’t have the magic pill, neither do all of us have the magic pill to unlock and give them what they want: better services, quality health, quality education, good infrastructure, modern communication.

They must be empowered, businessmen and business women, they’ve been struggling to pay off their loans. I feel for them. I play golf with a few of them.  Seven years ago, eight years ago, nine years ago, ten years ago they possibly had smiles.  Not to say one is to be blamed, but the economy totally. […]

1975 is a long, long time ago ladies and gentlemen, Members of this House, today I rally young, free, world-thinking politicians like me. Fear not the past, learn from it, and let’s move on and step up to the future!

Who says one conglomerate from outside will come and tell me I can’t change the law for my country?  I have every right to tweak and turn resource laws for my country that really empower my citizens with wealth.

And so I rally the talents found in this House. I call from talents from outside who are public servants and I speak to you.  Every fortnight this country pays 150 million Kina to our public servants and you work your guts out for your country.  I want you to earn your honest pay, and I pay my commendations to the public servants in the far-flung areas of this country.

80% of this country is still locked in enclaves of rural entrapment, but those of us in the cities are enjoying life and I commend the PSIP and DSIP structure and policy proposal that our government—the former Government—has put in place, that will continue but in a manner in which services reach our people.

[We need] a clear definition of what provincial government needs so that they too play a relevant but, more important, an anchoring role in maintenance of the fabric of our society, and [to] ensure that public service structures we have in Port Moresby [are] lean, clean and are shifted to provinces and districts. That is what I envisage, and that is what many of the twenty-eight, and many of the other young generation leaders that I am privileged to associate myself with, they continue to inspire me.

I am not multi-talented, I am the first to admit this. I am neither a saint.  I will make mistakes, that I can promise you, but I will make honest mistakes and not deliberate mistakes.

In my lack of total talent and knowledge I will draw from every one of you. I was privileged to address the Government Caucus this morning, and I [observed] to myself that it’s possibly [like] a choir master or conductor in a choir.  You know the choir master alone will not sing.  It is really the singers in the choir who sing the song and I beg everyone of you on both sides of the House, I am nothing but just a conductor.  You are the singers.

Let us start this journey, a new journey as we stand in the face of 2020s, moving into fifty years of our independence. I will conduct and try my absolute best, and every one of you can sing your parts.  Some of you will sing the bass part, some of you will sing the soprano, the alto, the melody.  Combined, we can make the song that our children surely deserve in this country. No child must be left behind.

Every child must pick up, and I look forward […] years from now, I truly want this country to be the richest black Christian nation on planet earth.

Editor’s note. Every attempt has been made to make this transcript as accurate as possible, while retaining the off-the-cuff nature of the Prime Minister’s speech. We welcome any corrections if you note an inaccuracy or error.

Comments

  1. Well stated PM Marape !After this speech citizens will be expecting the fruits of the speech. We are already rich due to the fact that this nation is endowed with diverse species of organisms and the land is full to its capacity houses minerals and resources that can positively impact our economy. However , I think the government should now look into the the rural population as they were the very people that has been neglected since independence in 1975. We cannot denied the fact that there were few developments from the efforts of the previous governments that were in power but these is inadequate. Why developing the nations capital with multi billion infrastructures and so forth is Port Moresby New Guinea or the other provinces are part of PNG too? We cannot show the other nations that were like this from the picture of one particular province.Thus its is a great concerned that the rural population were neglected in many aspect of their lives , health care , education , transportation and communication to name a few. I really want fair distribution of resources into the rural communities that were neglected. New government under your leadership ,new perspective of delivering services with satisfactory results.

  2. Lucy B says

    Fine, let us see how social, economic, and legal issues currently impacting political mismanagement are reversed by PM Marape’s governance. And, by the way, how about the richest “Melanesian” nation rather than ‘black christian’ nation? To differentiate, it would be more proper to say Melanesian country, as we are neither Africans nor Afro-Americans. Also, my opinion of a christian nation is that: the law and order is upheld, that social justice is evidenced in the livelihood of the nation’s people, and corruption is unheard of… Then and only then, one can say, the nation (PNG) reverence the God of the universe by submitting to christian principles. Aside, let us look forward with positive expectation of new beginnings for our country under PM Marape.

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