Saturday, 17 February 2007

sitting members

Overview of government in Milne Bay
2002 to 2007

In the period of the parliament now coming to a close, there was no new large-scale development in Milne Bay, no real political commitment to the environment and conservation, and a K15 million donor funded conservation project was allowed to collapse.

Milne Bay Community-based Coastal and Marine Conservation Project

Stage 1 of the Milne Bay Community-based Coastal and Marine Conservation Project, failed. There is no marine conservation in Milne Bay.

US$ 5.26 million in donor funds was largely wasted. The political responsibility for collapse of the project has to be carried by Milne Bay Governor Tim Neville, Titus Tiatabe, the MP for Alotau Open , and Gordon Wesley the MP for Samarai Murua, in whose electorates this waste occurred .

The politicians did not keep the public servants, who had the duty of over-sighting the project, on their toes. The oversight committees at national and provincial level failed, and this neglect allowed project management to waste somewhere between $US800,000 and US$1.4million. The full scope of the disaster will never be known.

The Milne Bay Community-based Coastal and Marine Conservation Project was largely funded through the Global Environment Facility, the birth-right given to the People of Milne Bay, under the Biodiversity Convention, created in Rio de Janeiro 1991.

The frightening aspect of the collapse is the clear indication that both the national and, more importantly, the Milne Bay Provincial Government did not have the managerial ability to implement such a complex project. The project was just too big for Milne Bay, the Provincial Government could not handle it. All that side, much of the responsibility for bad management belongs to the managing contractor Conservation International, the United Nations Development Program, and the Global Environment Facility. Here future politicians and managers need to learn not to rely on over-paid foreign consultants, and international bureaucrats. The lesson to be learnt is to recognise that a project is too big to be controlled, for the benefit of the People. The MBPG did not have the analytical ability to identify a project that was conceptually bad from the beginning.

In those circumstances it is almost unfair, but not quite, that the system of democracy we have, sheets political responsibility to our elected members of parliament. Someone has to take the responsibility for squandering a gift of K15 million, and in an election year, it is the sitting members.

Development Milne Bay 2002-7

The Milne Bay Province during 2002-2007 did not receive any major input in development from the national government. There were no new major Public Expenditure Program projects during that period. Our sitting politicians were unable to bring home the bacon in a meaningful way. There was a flow-on from the initiatives and planning of the previous parliament. The stability and continuity allowed the continued development of the road-system around Alotau. Road sealing from Gumini to Bubuleta, the North-coast road system, increased power-house capacity, strengthening telecommunications progressed.

Environment & conservation in Milne Bay

There is no political consciousness on environmental protection

The Governor of Milne Bay Tim Neville MP.

The main beneficiary of the perception of stability created by Governor Tim Neville was the inflow of private investment. As the Governor's vision of development, is one of private-sector growth, he delivered what he said he would deliver.

As the province, in the past, has been served by some disastrous governors, and development held back, and no concern for the environment, the search for a viable alternative, who would do better, is in the forefront of the electoral mind.

The question of Governor Neville's long absences from the Province, his poor communications management with his constituency and civil society, seems of secondary importance. But it could prove fatal to his chances of re-election, as People are tired of politicians who are bad communicators. With electoral staff paid by the taxpayer, there is no excuse. Governor Neville was never easy to contact by telephone, even through his staff, but acquired an email address in the last year of his office. He had an electoral office throughout the period of the parliament.

At the beginning of the 2002 parliament Governor Neville was close to Prime Minister Somare. But as time past, there was a perception that the Governor kept away, or was held away, from the Somare-led National Alliance. He criticised them in the early days of the parliament for their inaction on corruption.

There were only 2 meetings of the provincial assembly in 2006. the Organic Law says there must be four a year. The excuse that there was insufficient funding to hold 4, is not acceptable. The Organic Law is a constitutional law. It must be obeyed. The neglect to have the constiutionally require meetings of the Provincial Assembly needs to be put into the context of two serious inhibitors of development:

There was only one meeting of the Lands Board in 2006. That is simply not good enough. Development in the province was held back because of lack of secure land availability.

There is a deteriorating crime situation in Milne Bay. The police are out of control. Private sector suffered from armed attacks and looting.

Titus Taitabe MP for Alotau Open

As the member for Alotau Mr. Tiatabe, has virtually no political profile in the town of Alotau.

The main developments, roading, bridges sealing etc, that occurred in his electorate, were in place by 2002.

A number of crucial Alotau-related projects were lost between 2002-2007.

1. the Asian Development Bank Fisheries wharf funding was lost.
2. the Austaid Incentive Fund application for a new Alotau market failed
3. the Water Board withdrew funding for the purchase of land for a sewage farm for Alotau.

These were quite crucial projects that affected development, the environment and conservation. They failed.

Many of the criminal attacks occured in Mr. Taitable's electorate. There was in essence: no policing. He had no profile on deteriorating law and governaance.

He did not invite the Governor to participate on his electoral development committee. His excuse that there was insufficient funding for the regular convening of this committee, is not acceptable. He did not appear to have the political skill to coordinate LLGs within his electorate.

He did not maintain communications with civil society in Alotau. He did not have an email account, office, or an accessible telephone number. He has not maintained a relationship with the MB Chamber of Commerce. He has no public profile of fighting for the upgrading or maintenance of the roads in Alotau, around Milne Bay, or the East Cape Road, the bad state of the Alotau Market, sewage problems in Alotau, and waste-disposal in Alotau.

Mr. Taitabe was strong on the floor of Parliament. He questioned ministers on school fees, and the effect that had on the People in his electorate. He was one of the few MPs to do this. He also challenged the licensing of the "MV Milne Bay", on the basis of the influx of criminals that the ship brought with it.

Mr. Taitabe had no public in-put to the evaluation of the Milne Bay Community-based Coastal and Marine Conservation Project, although that project brought cash into his electorate, it affected his People only at the margin.

Moses Maladina MP Esa'ala Open

Mr. Maladina quickly became Minister for Agriculture and then Deputy Prime Minister. He attempted to get the numbers to take the position of Prime Minister. But failed. He was sacked by the Prime Minister.

He never had a proper residence in his electorate, or Alotau. He lived in Port Moresby and flew-in, flew-out. He now has an electoral office in Alotau. He had very little political profile in the province, and did not keep a regular email contact with civil society. He was not on good terms with the Governor.

He organised Kula-Mai in his electorate, a business of wholesale and retailing. It has been alleged, subject to confirmation, that the Local Level Governments contributed to the capitalisation of this project.

There was no major PEP project in the Esa'ala electorate.

There has been gold mine exploration work on both Normanby and Ferguesson Islands. All of this development carries with it risks of environmental pollution from potential waste-disposal systems.

The general perception in his electorate is that nothing has really changed.

Gordon-Wesely MP. Samarai-Murua Open

There was no major in-put in new development in this constituency between 2002 and 2007.

He did push for a fuel-subsidy to his electorate. The 2007 Budget gave a subsidy in formal terms, but it has been implemented, because it is being blocked by the oil companies.

Some of the small islands in his electorate have been designated "Small Islands In Peril", because of over fishing of shark-fin and bech-de mer. These fisheries will collapse in about 7 years time. In this respect, the Milne Bay Community-based Coastal and Marine Conservation Project was quite crucial to his electorate. But he did not make a public in-put into the final evaluation of Stage 1 of the project.

There has been gold mining exploration on Woodlark Island. There is concern over the effects of alluvial gold mining on Misima. There are plans to give a mining concession to deep-sea mining in this electorate. The environmental effects of deep-seabed mining on marine habitats are unknown. But the operations involve dredging the seabed.

In December 2006, an attempt was made to grant a state lease of about 100,000 ha of land on Woodlanrk Island to a previously unknown Malaysian connected company.

He has an electoral office in Alotau.

Brian Pulaysi MP, Kiriwina Goodenough

There was no major in-put in new development in this constituency between 2002 and 2007. His electorate is an isolated area with high levels of un-development, over population and poverty.

He was for a short-time Minister for Higher Education.

The general perception in his electorate is that nothing has really changed.