The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Feb. 16) - It is difficult to see what benefits would accrue to the population of the nation’s capital under recent proposals put forward by the Opposition Leader.

O’Neill envisages the National Capital District becoming a province, bringing our premier city into line with the nation’s other provinces.

In the event that the NCD became a province, the sitting Regional Member Sir William Skate would have the right to become Governor, if he so chose.

It is important to note that the capital would then be in the same situation as other provinces.

The Governor’s position would automatically come to the regional member, unless he declined.

This would normally only occur if the regional member were to accept a position as minister in the national government of the day.

Sir Peter Barter, who is Regional Member for Madang, is an example of this process.

Having been offered a ministry in the current government, Sir Peter stood aside from the Madang governor’s position in order to accept that appointment, and was replaced by the Member for Rai Coast, James Yali, who is the current Madang Governor.

And it is Sir Peter who, as Minister for Inter-government Relations, has pointed out some of the negatives that could result from O’Neill’s proposal.

Perhaps the most striking of these would be the virtual abolition of Motu-Koitabu influence upon the decision-making processes of the new province.

The Motu-Koitabu Council is not a local level government council and would not have representation.

As Sir Peter says, O’Neill and Sir William would both be well advised to consult with the residents of Elevala, Pari and other villages in the area, and determine the people’s reaction to such a proposal.

The great difference that exists between services and the flow of goods in the provinces, and that applying in the metropolitan capital, is one of the most persuasive reasons to leave the NCDC structure well alone.

The reason for the present status of Port Moresby is an administrative recognition of its pre-eminence among the nation’s cities as the Papua New Guinea capital.

There is nothing unusual about this.

Canberra, as Australia’s capital, is a familiar example of the special regulations and territorial boundaries that apply in many other democratic countries.

Canberra sits in the middle of the Australian Capital Territory, a self-contained administrative area created to emphasize the unique position that city holds within Australia.

And as in PNG, that special situation does not diminish the representation that Canberra has in the Australian Federal Parliament.

We are aware, as are most residents of the capital, that the NCDC has been a less than satisfactory administrative and representational body, not least under Sir William Skate’s previous tenure as Governor.

But the problem appears to lie more with the people within the system, rather than the system itself.

And as with many other areas of our social and administrative fabric, the influence of politicians upon the administration of the NCDC has often been far from benign.

We fear that converting the nation’s capital and environs into a province could put at risk its implied status as a district that belongs to the whole nation.

Port Moresby is everyone’s city, a dazzling amalgam of people drawn from every corner of our country.

That is as it should be, because it is also the site of the nation’s Parliament, which houses the nerve center of PNG’s political structure.

And it is worth mentioning once again that Parliament belongs to all the people of this country, and not to any one political or social group.

What is not yet clear, at least to the general public, are the reasons why the Opposition Leader, who would seem to have many other more important national issues awaiting his attention, wishes to fiddle with the structure of the National Capital district.

We look forward to a detailed explanation by O’Neill outlining the pressing reasons for his proposals.

February 17, 2005

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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