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Marape, first PM to visit Wasu

BY JANET KARI

Newcomers to remote Wasu station would complain about the sun’s heat, but for the Wasu people it was a remarkable moment to write down in their history as they braved the heat to witness the arrival of the Prime Minister.
The people stood in numbers; locals and visitors we all stood around the airstrip as we all watched the Manolos Aviation helicopter landing on the airstrip, onboard was Prime Minister James Marape and his delegates.
It was a moment where visitors like me became part of an historic event for the Wasu people watching the eighth Prime Minister walking on Wasu soil. It was the first time in 44 years that a prime minister has visited Wasu station.
Wasu is one of the three local level governments (LLG) in the Tewae-Siassi district and serves as the gateway towards the mountainous Kabwum district.
The government station lies next to white sandy beaches and the crystal blue seas where the Siassi courageously sail through the rough seas home to Siassi Island.
Mr Marape’s visit to this remote government station was to launch the district’s five-year development plan and it was a historical event that sunk into the hearts of many locals.
Bami Sorekinec, former Morobe provincial events coordinator and master of the launching ceremony was a small boy in 1973 when the first state delegation visited Wasu, and he recalled clearly on the day he stood and watched the event unfold.
The delegation was led by then minister assisting the chief minister and Morobe regional MP Boyamo Sali, Kagua-Erave MP Yano Belo and Kabwum MP Buaki Singeri for the opening of the Kiyeari Bridge, the first wet crossing in the area.
In 1973 to 1975 Papua New Guinea was under colonial powers and the head of the Australian territorial government of Papua and New Guinea was the Chief Minister.
After independence the post became the Prime Minister of PNG and Sir Michael Somare was the only occupant of the position and remained as prime minister after independence.
When the delegation arrived in 1973 the chief minister was not able to attend the opening of the bridge and little Bami never had the chance to see PNG’s first prime minister. He was only a witness to the first state delegation visit to Wasu.
But after 46 years he stood on the same spot as a 57-year-old man with grey hair as he welcomed PM Marape, and the second state delegation to Wasu.
Like Bami, the local MP was a small boy living next to the Wasu airstrip when the first delegation arrived.
Fast forward to November 2019 he welcomed Mr Marape with Dr Kobby Bomareo as Member for Tewae-Siassi electorate.
Both boys were unaware of what the future held for them when they watched the delegation arrive, and after 40 years they sat with the delegation on the stage recalling where they were in 1973.
The people who arrived that day came from all over the district with many travelling by boat to Wasu.
Wasu is tagged isolated because of transportation into the station where many travel by boat.
The place also lacks basic services like proper water supply, lack of public servants in the area for implementing government services and law and order as one of its major concerns.
Sea transport is common as it is affordable and accessible by many. Unfortunately many lives are lost as people continuously brave the ocean to their villages.
The small airstrip where the PM landed is the only operating airstrip in the district where people travel to and fro Lae. However the North Coast Aviation flies into Wasu on certain days.
Air freight is expensive for schools, businesses, public servants and public, but these high freight and rough sea travels cannot stop operation and competition of trade store businesses.
Cattle’s rising in the district is common including the station where you find cows sleeping on the white sandy beaches. They raise cattle like the highlanders breed pigs.
They are also engaged in farming activities of cocoa, coffee and fish, however, with transportation issue is the setback to getting the crops to the market.
While the station lacks basic services like many remote LLGs in the country, changes are happening and it is part of the local MP, as a local to see that Wasu develops in the next five years.
Plans of a township in Wasu station are under way and funding and honesty from implementers would make basic service delivery possible for the people.

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