Rebecca Kuku: PNG’s Gulf Province, ignored for too long but now I’m back

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Kerema open air market
Kerema market has closed, forcing locals to sell their fresh fish and garden food in an open sports field. Image: Rebecca Kuku

By Rebecca Kuku in Kerema

Gulf Province is only six hours away from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea’s capital city, and is one of the most least developed provinces in the country.

Its main town, Kerema, is in a sad state. The market has closed, forcing locals to sell their fresh fish and garden food in an open sports field. The BSP Bank closed after a robbery, forcing locals to withdraw cash from Chinese shops in town.

I haven’t been to the hospital or the police station yet, but the town is littered with outsiders who have come to town to buy betelnut.

I think its time the town authority sat down and really looked into mapping out the town area and rehabilitating existing infrastructures. There must be laws also governing the influx of betelnut buyers to protect the locals’ interest.

The provincial government should also help find and establish markets for fish with buyers outside of the province, because Gulf definitely has a lot to offer in the fisheries sector. A market for cocoa should also be set up.

Despite having various projects like logging in the province for years, Gulf has little to show in terms of development.

People still walk for kilometres out in the villages to access basic services. There is no sea ambulance, many times pregnant mothers give birth at home – some die, and for them it is an everyday experiance.

No local jail
In terms of law and order, Gulf, despite been a province of its own, doesn’t have a jail. Detainees and remands are transported back to Port Moresby’s Bomana Jail. An expensive exercise.

People take advantage of this, knowing that only the serious cases will be prosecuted.

There are a lot of educated Gulf men and women in the country, yet, we are tolerant. We see, we complain but we do nothing.

Most choose to turn a blind eye to the state of their province and live in luxury in Port Moresby.

I say this, with a lot of shame, because I am honest enough to admit that I have never been home, never written about my province, and today I have come.

And I want to write.

It’s time to tell Gulf stories.

Rebecca Kuku is from Uaripi Village in Papua New Guinea’s Gulf Province. She is an occasional contributor to Asia Pacific Report, a content contributor to The Guardian (Australia) and to the PNG Post-Courier. This article was first published on Scott Waide’s My Land, My Country blog and is republished with permission.

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Scott Waide is the Lae bureau chief of EMTV News and began his career with EMTV in 1997 as a news and sports reporter and anchor and has been a media professional for more than 19 years. He has worked as a producer and researcher for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Port Moresby Bureau. Scott is also a recipient of multiple awards including the Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union Prize in 2005 in Iran for best news feature.

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