I send my heartfelt sympathies to our people of Hela, Southern Highlands, Enga and Western Provinces who have been affected by the earthquake and condolences to those who lost their loved ones.  May God comfort you through this ordeal.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Michael Leach via Facebook.

At 3:44 am on Monday, 26 February 2018, the biggest earthquake in PNG of 7.5 magnitude hit the Hela and Southern Highlands region.  To date, over 100 people lost their lives and the damage to public infrastructure, economic assets and the people’s land, villages and essentially their way of life have been shattered, most probably for good.

This was just a month following the Kadovar volcanic eruption in East Sepik that displaced over 700 people from their island.  In between, there was anthrax outbreak or scare in Madang.

The PNG Government’s lack of capacity, capability and preparedness for natural disasters and disease outbreak is very worrying.

For the earthquake, a State-of-Emergency was declared and the Government swiftly approved a budget of K 450 Million for the disaster.  Was there proper assessment and planning?  We aren’t doing well financially.  So I’m wondering about the financing source.

The US$19 billion PNG LNG facility was shut down.  PNGLNG exports 8 million tonnes of natural gas per year.  So a shut down of 8 weeks, and could possibly be more than that, is like turning off the cash tap for PNG.  My thoughts for the thousands of PNGeans who are directly employed in the sector who will be affected.

During this critical time, the National Disaster Office, the command and control centre for the disastrer operations, also got locked up by the landlord due to non-payment of office rentals by the Government.

I’m angry about the whole thing – more about the long-term aspect of collaboration between the National and Provincial Governments in assisting the affected people.  Are there any national disaster framework for dealing with the longterm aspects of disasters?

A good example of no proper longterm plan is my family who were displaced by the Manam volcanic eruption and have been living in Care Centres for 14 donkey years!  Whilst we faced unimaginable hardships for that long, the Government prioritized the welfare of some ungrateful foreign refugees who had a nice roof over their heards, fed three times a day and had access to clean safe water, yet complain about living conditions.

Okay!  I’m carrying on so I’ll stop.  I acknowledge the efforts by the Minister for Inter Government Relations Hon. Kevin Isifu who has prioritized the Manam agenda, as reported in the media.  I also thank the O’Neill Government for finally passing the Manam Resettlement Authority Act in 2016.  Thank you!

My way forward thought is for the Government and it’s institutions to:

  1. Build the capacity and capability of the National Disaster Office, both at Head Quarters and the provinces (LLGs and Wards).  Most preferrably, reestablish as a statutory authority with a Board to oversee;
  2. Adequately fund the disaster management insitution;
  3. Have a National Disaster Managerment Framework and policy;
  4. Set aside emergency funding that a reputable fund manager can manage according to set guidelines.  Alternatively, establish the Sovereign Wealth Fund and set aside this emergency funding.

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