PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Feb. 13) - The vandalism of the recently-completed Mt Hagen market which was built with funding from the Australian Government shows how little some people in Papua New Guinea care about the generosity of overseas governments for their own welfare.

The Australian Government through its overseas aid organization AusAID, injected millions of kina into developing that market for the people of Western Highlands so that they can have access to modern facilities to market their garden and farm produce.

There is nowhere else in Papua New Guinea where one can find such a state-of-the-art market and the new Mt Hagen market is an envy of many.

But reports of vandalism of those facilities is a matter of serious concern and the Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Chris Moraitis is perfectly correct in writing to the Western Highlands Governor to express his concern about what is now happening to the market. So far, nothing has been said from the highest leadership echelons of the Western Highlands Province. No one in authority is saying anything about the "new developments" at the market.

It is unacceptable that this should be happening. Local leaders must protect projects funded by overseas governments for their people. That is their responsibility. Whether it is a market in Western Highlands or a classroom in another part of the country, or an aid post in the far remotest part of PNG, the answer must be the same: look after those properties for your own betterment. Local leaders whether they are national, provincial or community leaders all have a responsibility to educate their people about the importance of looking after aid projects donated by overseas governments.

Australia is our largest aid donor and the least we can do in return for the PGK300 million [US$28 million] it gives to us annually is to look after what has been produced for our benefit. We can only hope that authorities in Mt Hagen are taking steps to prevent the construction of an illegal outlet within the new market.

Thousands of ordinary people -- both men and women -- from all parts of the Western Highlands Province are benefiting from the new market. The market is the source of a cash income for those village people who travel long distances to take their produce to the market in Mt Hagen. They are entitled to expect their market will always be there for them.

The last thing they want is for the market to become the center of an unnecessary dispute.

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