Speaking in Maprik recently, Prime Minister James Marape described East Sepik as a potential ‘economic powerhouse’ for Papua New Guinea. Because of this potential, and also to honour the memory of Sir Michael Somare, the Marape announced the next government would be formed in the region.

The prime minister was joined by the Governor of East Sepik, Allan Bird, Angoram MP Salio Waipo, the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock and Maprik MP John Simon, and several party candidates. The ministers present were a mix of National Alliance and Pangu, parties that Sir Michael Somare was instrumental in forming.

“East Sepik has the potential to become the ‘economic powerhouse’ province of our country. This is why I will bring Government formation to here: Firstly, in memory of Sir Michael, and secondly, in memory of Sir Pita Lus,” Marape said.

“This will be the 11th Parliament and the first Parliament without Sir Michael and Sir Pita being alive. This will be symbolic that the nation is now being passed on to the next generation.”

The prime minister said that forming the new government in East Sepik would inspire the next generation of leaders. He hopes they will hold onto the principles and ideals of people like Sir Michael and Sir Pita, the founding fathers of PNG.

Marape said that over the last three years, his government had created significant and far-reaching laws to fight corruption. These include the Whistle Blowers’ Act, the Undisclosed Wealth Act, and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). In addition, he promised Papua New Guineans that after the election, several prominent leaders would be prosecuted.

“What would be the point of Allan Bird and I growing the economy of the country when corruption is still prevalent?” Marape asked. “We have managed to stifle corruption in the big way with passage of the three bills during the last term of Parliament.”

He added, “Over the last three years, we have spent over K56 billion, which has grown the economy by K30 billion.”

According to the prime minister, agriculture gave East Sepik the potential to become an economic powerhouse in the country. The Sepik Plains could grow vast amounts of rice, reducing the K900 million bill for rice imports.

Marape said, “Over the next few years, and into the future, we want to grow our own rice for domestic consumption as well as export to Philippines, Indonesia and the rest of the region.

“Sir Michael, before his passing, said he had helped groom me up and asked me not to forget East Sepik into the future. The way to achieve this is through economic independence.

“I want every Papua New Guinean to have money in their pockets: Grow rice, grow cocoa, grow vanilla, look after cattle, bring in tourists, stop consumption of homebrew, stop marijuana and other bad habits. We are ready to take the country to the next level.

“I want East Sepik to be an economic powerhouse no longer dependent on Waigani. This is why I ask the people of East Sepik to send Allan Bird, John Simon, Salio Waipo and my Wosera-Gawi candidate Ronald Asik, Ambunti-Dreikikier candidate Richard Rafa and Wewak candidate Jim Simitab to Parliament.”