OUR big Melanesian brother Papua New Guinea celebrated its 42nd Independence Anniversary on Saturday.
PNG became self-governing in December 1973 and achieved independence on September 16, 1975.
As a nation they’ve come a long way over the last 42 years. The journey has not been easy for them, they have overcome many challenges.
They’re a nation of a thousand tribes, and over 840 languages, diversified, yet united as one people, one country.
PNG can stand tall because they have shown that their democracy is strong and resilient. It has stood the test of time over the last 42 years and they continue as a strong democracy into the future.
The 16th of September is the very special day in the history of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. It was the date PNG was born.
As Solomon Islanders we have the reason to joined PNG community in Honiara to celebrate their Independence Anniversary, because our nation did not endure sustained struggle for Independence, just like Papua New Guinea, as it was unfortunate case for many countries.
It was given to us as a token on a golden plate.
PNG – SI, we were given our independence in the most peaceful and dignified way. Our independence was not a war of enemies, but a parting of friends.
Now, Solomon Islands, 39 years on we can claim some achievements, but we have failed to realise the true potential of our nation. Solomon Islands blessed with an abundance of natural resources.
We have Gold, Nickel, forests and fisheries. We have everything God could have blessed us with, but still our people are not benefiting as they should.
Our national leaders need to think about it. With all the wealth that flows out of our country, we are still not financially independent. We are not self-reliant; we still depend on foreign assistance.
At the international front, PNG and Solomon Islands have established a formal diplomatic relations on 17 August 1978. PNG values Solomon Islands as a special neighbour given its closer proximity and common cultural similarities.
This is indicated by close intermarriage and other socials interactions apart from having formal bilateral relations.
PNG currently has a residing population of more than 5000 people both working and those who have familial ties.
The bilateral relationship between the two countries is growing with expanded ties for long term benefits.
To date currently there are 52 PNG companies operating in Solomon Islands with an investment portfolio of SBD$2 billion per annum and provide more than 5,000 employment to citizens.
PNG’s aim is to make these companies is to provide a source for engine of economic growth in Solomon Islands.
The PNG companies heavily invest in capital expenditure projects and improve in their service delivery and roll out services to the rural population is to fulfil the host Government’s Community Services Obligation.
The primary reason for taking this approach is PNG has a traditional obligation to assist Solomon Islands.
Further given PNG’s increase in role and higher shift in position within the region, PNG has assumed leadership role with its assistance programs with smaller island countries like Solomon Islands and others.
PNG’s Contribution to Socio-economic Development is significant in view of its traditional obligation, PNG has assisted and is continuing to assist Solomon Islands with development program with a recent commitment made by the Peter O’Neill Government with K100 million to be evenly spread over a period of five years commencing in 2012.
In terms of education, PNG has contributed a lot in building the capacity and developing the needs of the human resources in Solomon Islands for the last 42years.
Under the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), Solomon Islands have seen the expansion of trade investment by PNG companies through the MSG Trade Agreement to other countries in Melanesia and beyond the Pacific.
We have seen PNG operating its Air Nuigini with shares from Air Vanuatu, Solomon Islands to service the air route between Port Moresby, Honiara and Port Villa.
They have had their fair share of challenges but their diversity has proven to be the uniting factor for them.
Today’s Papua New Guinea successful stories after 42 years on economic , human resource and infrastructure developments has speak volume for Solomon Islands as a nation need to emulate.
“This is a clear testament of empowering their human resources with accurate skills and knowledge to work in the industrial sector”
PNG’s independence in 1975, three years ahead of Solomon Islands and PNG is leading, in terms of human resource that cope with today’s world of science and technology.
Our relevant education authorities need to strategically rethink on how we developed our human resources in engaging them to attaining relevant knowledge and skills that would empower them to utilise their skills to venture into manufacturing industries.
I believed our private sector need to be strengthened, by injecting of adequate financial resources; hence they could go into multiple streams to engage in manufacturing our raw materials.
The country is investing into future problems if there is no meaningful investment in education. “A country that does not invest in its human resources is limiting its ability to grow and worst still is investing in future problems.”
“We don’t need to look beyond the borders of Solomon Islands to prove the significance of this policy issue”
The role of education here would be to instil an attitude of tolerance, respect and acceptance amongst our people, especially with our academics.
Let us look back and see SI 39th years of Independence but the country is still depending on export of primary products to sustain our efforts to improve our competiveness.
Future governments should prioritise, developing of human resources is the most sustainable of all the factors of production scored very low in its use and worst still we are not producing enough human resources with relevant skills to cope with the demands of investors in a drastically changing world that is driven by science and technology.
Solomon Islands 39 years of existence as a nation only 4.4 percent of the proportion aged 12 and older have tertiary education and only 1 percent has vocational and professional qualification. Of the same group only 56.8 percent have primary education and 18.9 percent have secondary education.
“This is a statistics that we should be proud of. It shows that we are not taking sustainable investment in our future seriously.”
Solomon Islands must in the next ten to fifteen years have a pool of human resources that can meet the challenging needs of investments and development in the 21st Century.
I believe our aim is to graduate this country from suppliers of raw materials to producers of goods and services and exporters of trained human resources.
“Talking about coping with the demands of development in the 21st Century and beyond, Solomon Islands has and will continue to face a huge challenge in training our human resources to a point where we can be proud of as a meaningful factor of production compared with other small countries.”
We need to add some spark to the diplomatic relationship we have with Papua New Guinea, possibly by exploring possible areas of cooperation in development, trade and investment to the next level.
However, whatever circumstances, anniversary is a time to reflect, savour the good times and plan for more good things to come in the future.
Now is our time to rise up, and that was underpinned in the Melanesian Sphere Head Group that.
The time for Melanesia to rise is now.
By ELLIOT DAWEA
Divine Word University
Madang, Papua New Guinea