When I returned to Lae six years ago, one of the first things that confronted me was the bad roads. The roads that needed attention and the large sections of roads in the centre of town that had not been left uncompleted.
It irritated me personally that no real attention had been given to roads in Lae. From July 2012 to December, I focused on road coverage alone. We talked to every one willing to talk about the issue from the late Allan McLay at the Chamber of Commerce to every visiting politician from Port Moresby.
Minister Charles Abel, was the first. A few months the Prime Minister came. He had been keeping track of the events and specifically mentioned Lae roads during a post election briefing for police and other security forces.
Public anger was growing in relation to the roads. It was raised in parliament and then, thanks to the government intervention, things started moving. Roads were fixed.
The Unitech-Bumayong road is the only one that has not been fixed. Ironically, it was the first ever story I did when we opened the EMTV office in Lae.
My point here, is that in a country like Papua New Guinea, we can’t just be observers. We have to be an integral part of the development that is happening. I guess in 2012, I was still finding my way. I was not quite sure weather to be an observer in the form of a journalist or a participant in that development. In my case, I spoke to everyone I could talk to both on and off record.
Those people included the late Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc, who was then Chief Secretary. I spoke to him both in his official capacity and as a friend of my family. Sir Manasupe commissioned an investigation that exposed the corruption in the road contracts and the standards that had not been followed.
I wondered If I was breaching a fine professional line. But the objective was clear: ‘Facilitate discussions to get the roads fixed.’
Then, over the next three years, we reported on the school fights and the sickening murders committed by students against other students.
On social media, where much of the debates happened, many grownups wrote off the students as the lost misguided generation. Again I wondered if it was proper to be not only the observer, reporting on the issues, but become involved as a participant and work towards resolving the issue.
At a meeting organised by the Lae District Administration, I was invited not as a participant but as an ‘observer’ – the media – to report on what was being said.
Lutheran Pastor, Elemas Bakum, along with other stakeholders, had done a study into the groups that existed in the schools – the groups primarily responsible for the violence.
In the meeting, he was explaining the structure..
“They have structures. They have a ‘right hit man’ and a ‘left hit man’…a ‘nature man…’
The descriptions drew jeers and laughter in the room.
Standing behind the camera, I got irritated. Here, were a group of adults who had little idea of the organisation of violent student groups laughing about how the organised the groups were.
I had seen three student deaths so far and so many injuries. One had been stabbed and killed by a screw driver. How could these people laugh?
At that point, I chose to become a participant.
It took some time to get the attention of chairperson, Nelly McLay, and I had to contain my rage as I lambasted the attitude in the room, when she gave me the opportunity to speak.
“How can you laugh about groups that are far better organized than their parents social groups?
“How can we laugh when three students have already died and many more are injured in the violence?”
It was a personal frustration being vented based on my professional experiences over the last three years. I was absolutely sick of the violence.
Today I am a lot wiser and calmer.
I realised, I couldn’t be angry and try to change the world. I had to channel the “anger energy” which is still crucial into positive endeavours.
Last week, Sylvester Gawi and I took the opportunity offered to us to talk to students at Bugandi Secondary school. Gawi had also been at the forefront of reporting on school violence. He made a few enemies along the way with school principals and teachers. But it didn’t mater. The objective was there.
On Friday (March 23) EMTV Lae’s Senior Technician, Maisen Hungito and I went to Bumayong Secondary to speak to students.
At about the same time, I saw Kristoffer Lam post a selfie about his talk at his old School, Lae Secondary.
If we were going to shape a country’s future, we have to think like Papua New Guineans and not be restricted by our professional ‘hats’ and just be observers.
I want to have a positive influence. I want to be in the middle of the chaos and contribute to directing the flow of development in this country.
It is easy to criticise someone taking the lead, however small, or someone trying to make a difference. It is vital to talk about issues and raise awareness. But we must also do!
It is also a lot harder, taking the lead and copping the criticism.
Best thing to do is to is to be in the middle of it….to try… to fail big and fail early so you learn quickly.