SURVIVAL OF DEMOCRACY A MAJOR FEAT: PNG PM SIR MEKERE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 16, 2000 – Post-Courier)---The survival of democracy in Papua New Guinea for 25 years since Independence has been hailed a significant achievement.

It has stood the test of time and functioned, a proud Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta said when launching the Silver Jubilee logo in Port Moresby yesterday.

"We do have good reason to celebrate," he told a gathering which witnessed the launch of the logo in the national colors of red, black and gold on an Air Niugini F28 aircraft.

Sir Mekere said while in those 25 years PNG faced many challenges; it did also make significant achievements.

"The system of government we established 25 years ago has largely stood the test of time. It has functioned," he said.

"Bougainville, Sandline, votes of no-confidence in governments, these have tested the very fabric of our democracy. It has proved resilient, and that is a very positive achievement."

Sir Mekere said the changes of government had been made through democratic and peaceful means.

"We should be proud of that, and we should remind ourselves of its value, especially with the current unrest in some of our neighboring countries," he said.

"We had a crisis with Sandline. We overcame that, in a democratic manner.

"We had a civil war for almost 10 years. We are resolving that conflict through peaceful means. I have every confidence that the National Government and Bougainville leaders will reach agreement on a form of government for Bougainville, within the state of Papua New Guinea. That is our aim, and our prayer. And it will be a cause for great celebration when it happens."

Sir Mekere said also that in those 25 years PNG had, in some critical areas, not developed or advanced as well as it should have.

Economic and employment growth have been lower and not as broadly spread as they should have been, he said.

The provision of basic services, especially in rural areas, has not kept pace with demand or with population growth, and the quality of health, education and extension services has in many areas declined, he said. Recalling the comments of Sir John Crowford, an Australian friend in the formative 1970s, Sir Mekere said it was true that while the country started well, compared with other developing countries, the problem was keeping up and sustaining the good policies.

"And he was absolutely right," Sir Mekere said. "Our systems and processes of government are showing signs of wear and tear.

"Too much is spent on supporting the structures of government, instead of on providing services."

Sir Mekere said PNG should the take the opportunity of her Silver Jubilee to re-lay the foundation, to admit failures, and take the challenge of doing the necessary repair work.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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