Lae hosts US envoy

United States of America Ambassador designate to PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, Erin Elizabeth McKee, paid a visit to Lae City on Monday 20th July.

Her first stop for the official visit was at Governor’s Office where she met Morobe Governor Ginson Saonu and held high level talk on education, law and order and security (police), rural electrification, agriculture (coffee, cocoa, vanilla), governance, infrastructure, military options and war memorial.

Governor Saonu reflected on the shared history Morobe Province shares with United States of America from World War II.

“The United States along with the other allied forces fought for Papua New Guinea and their presence were felt all over most parts of Morobe.”

Governor Saonu told McKee that Morobe’s important intervention is in education and requested support to establish Heldsbach Early Childhood Learning College to complement teacher training with the Education Department’s new shift of learning on the 3-6-6 Policy.

“The submission for the teachers college is ready before Education Secretary and Minister to approve and further support is needed to get the project off the ground this year.”

Governor Saonu further queried the status of the Rural Electrification Project that was signed during APEC 2018 in Port Moresby, of which US was a pact alliance signatory.

“I am still waiting for a concerned party to come forward and work with me in Morobe to deliver this vital infrastructure because most areas of my province still lack power, especially the rural schools, aid posts and health facilities and LLG stations.”

Governor Saonu urged the US Ambassador to make Morobe Province the model pilot province to roll out the project, adding Morobe is unique because of its geographical location; having all the natural environment that other provinces lack or possess half of.

“Morobe has many fast flowing rivers that can be utilised for mini-hydro systems to produce power for the remote communities. That is a bonus for the project.”

McKee said the United States are very keen to deliver the rural electrification commitment signing and explained that more dialogue will continue to get the project off ground in Morobe.

Governor Saonu further clarified that his government is keen to find proper markets for commodities such as coffee, cocoa and spice (vanilla, chilli) overseas and there is potential to export directly to the United States.

“We lack basic infrastructure such as roads, bridges with technical expertise and thus production with export volume has not reached its very true potential. Proper interventions are needed to support this primary produce to reach its full economic potential.”

Ambassador McKee responded that American cities, such as Washington DC, crave exotic coffee hence she will look at possibilities to support the accessibility of primary products in Morobe.

Governor Saonu further proposed the setting up of a military base at Finschhafen that can stretch to Siassi Island.

He also advised Ambassador McKee that for good governance mechanisms to prosper under his leadership, he has begun the police reservist intervention program. This will see police personnel trained and dispatched to all 33 LLGs of Morobe to maintain law and order before development can take place.

“We have plans already in progress to build road infrastructure to connect the five border provinces with Morobe. These areas, I call the lost sheep, must have access for all services that have been lacking or forgotten for many years.”

The Amelia Earhart Memorial was further put forward to Ambassador McKee. Governor Saonu clearly emphasised that the Memorial Park, once completed, will signify the memory of the late pilot whose last destination was Lae City.

Governor Saonu highlighted that MPG is keen to support the US Government to build a memorial and that the tourism potential for the site will be a global attraction.

After their dialogue, Ambassador McKee visited Laga Industries, University of Technology, meeting with the Lae Chamber of Commerce and Industry with Lae MP John Rosso, then PNG Ports before leaving for Nadzab Airport to return to Port Moresby.

Press release