By Lawrence Fong of the PNG Post-Courier
Papua New Guinea and Australia created another piece of history yesterday when James Marape became the first international leader to address the Australian Federal Parliament since 2020.
In a speech laden with heartfelt gratitude and sentimental recollections of the shared history of both nations, the PNG Prime Minister thanked Australia for all it had done for his country – from giving it independence, to sending missionaries and public servants to help develop the country, to fighting together with Papua New Guineans during World War II, to all the current economic and other assistance.
Marape had said before leaving for Canberra that he would not be asking Australia for any help.
He repeated that in his address yesterday — even though he really shouldn’t have, for help from Australia has, is, and will be constant going into the future.
But he did appeal to the Australians not to forget Papua New Guinea during its current, ongoing challenges.
“Today, I carry the humble and deep, deep gratitude of my people, the thousand tribes. On behalf of my people, I thank Australia for everything you have done and continue to do for us,” Marape said.
“I appreciate all governments of Australia which have assisted our governments since 1975.
‘Crucial role in develoment’
“Thank you for continuing to support us throughout the life of our nationhood. Your assistance in education, health, infrastructure development in ports, roads and telecommunications continue to a play a crucial role in our development as a country.
“I appreciate, also, all Australian investors, who, to date, comprise the biggest pool of investors in Papua New Guinea.
“We realise our success as a nation will be the ultimate payoff for the work put in by many Australians.
“Thus, I commit my generation of Papua New Guineans to augmenting the sanctity of our democracy and progressing our economy.
“We pledge to work hard to ensure that PNG emerges as an economically self-sustaining nation so that we too help keep our region safe, secure and prosperous for our two people and those in our Indo-Pacific family.”
Marape’s address comes during a period of constant domestic and external challenges.
He is facing a potential vote of no confidence on his leadership this month and his government is also dealing with competition for influence from world powers, including China, USA, India, Indonesia, France and Australia.
Australia’s ‘real friend’
But he assured Australia that Papua New Guinea is its “real friend”.
This is despite revelations last week that his government was in talks with China over a potential security deal, a revelation that has worried Australia and the United States.
“In a world of many relations with other nations, nothing will come in between our two nations because we are family and through tears, blood, pain and sacrifice plus our eternal past our nations are constructed today,” he promised.
“These have all been our challenges. But as I visit with you in Australia today, I ask of you please, do not give up hope on Papua New Guinea.
“We have always bounced back from low moments and we will continue to grow,” Marape said.
Republished with permission.