Somare explains why he did not welcome PM

East Sepik Governor Sir Michael Somare refused to welcome Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his entourage to his province because of mismanagement of the country’s economy and unfair distribution of development funding.

O’Neill landed in Wewak yesterday, accompanied by Finance Minister James Marape, Agriculture Minister Tommy Tomscoll, Tourism Minister Tobias Kulang, Health Minister Michael Malabag, Attorney General Ano Pala and Higher Education Minister Francis Marus. They were there to officiate at the launching of the K55 million Sepik Chicken, Grain and Cocoa project in Yangoru-Saussia district.

"I am disappointed that after growing the PNG economy from 2002 until 2011, we are back to the days of not being able to pay public servants; with barely a recurrent budget with a development component due to excessive financial mismanagement of our economy by this regime,” Sir Michael said in a statement.

"It would have been a slap in the face for my people for me to go to the airport today to receive Mr O'Neill and his delegation.

"East Sepik Province is not just made up of Yangoru District and no responsible government should be allowed to behave in such an inappropriate manner as to not distribute funds evenly to all districts and provinces

"Never during my time in office did I deny a single district or province its funds that would have deprived our people of essential government services," Sir Michael said.

But the prime minister, when speaking in Yangoru yesterday, said the future of the country looks bright.

“Somare built the foundation 10 years ago and we are building on that foundation for the last six years.

“We are laying the foundation and the country will benefit in the next generation,” O’Neill said.

He added that in the last four years, the province has been the recipient of K360 million funding from the national government.

Representing the East Sepik Provincial Government on the day was Deputy Governor Ian Samuel, Provincial Administrator Elizabeth Kaprangi, Wewak MP Jim Simatab, Maprik MP John Simon and Yangoru Saussia MP Richard Maru.

Maru is also the minister for Trade, Commerce and Industry.

Charles Yapumi