PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Mar. 10, 2010) - The dire situation in the villages of the "oil and gas rich’’ province of Hela must ring loud alarm bells for those who have been rubbing their hands at the prospect of billions of kina revenue in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The account from the government officer on our front page is daunting.

Women and children living in the old ways back in the villages, while the menfolk are in almost permanent residence in the capital city!

The men have been living off the money handouts and spreading their wealth among the people of Port Moresby and nearby villages as they live the high life.

It looks as if two types of disease are ravaging the countryside in the natural resources wonderland of Hela: human diseases like HIV/AIDS and plant and pest diseases to ravage their crops.

Government officer Rose Singadan has toured the area with other staff on awareness campaigns in the Southern Highlands, Hela and Gulf provinces.

She says that in these villages, there are women and children who have not seen their partners and protectors for years.

Their protectors are undoubtedly some of the same people who seem to live on the edges of the big city hotels and clubs.

They are also some of the people who lived on daily government "allowances’’ during the protracted months-long dealings at Kokopo to set up the liquefied natural gas project.

Before one metre of pipeline has been laid in the ground, before one concrete post is poured in the ground of Central Province for the processing factory, the landowners of the resource area in, generally speaking, in a mess.

This is not, at this stage, the fault of the developers of the resource. It is to be placed squarely at the feet of the government officers and politicians who have been dealing with the landowners’ leaders and are responsible for the way in which money has been dealt out.

There is a social disaster in the making.

Those family members who are still living the traditional life back in the villages are getting the leftovers from the menfolk who prefer Moresby. They get a few kina to keep them happy, some are getting unwanted diseases from their family members who spend most of their time in undesirable places and they are not getting the full benefits of the resource money.

Will our national leaders have the guts to tackle this social menace before it gets any worse?

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