‘Red Soil’ | ACT NOW!
“Is the government’s building our country by destroying it?” That’s the question posed by Sambun, an elderly man in the middle of the Wewak town market, which heated up a discussion that broke out between customers and the venders about what type of development mining bring to our country.
The discussion was sparked after a mother of 5, who was selling greens and tomatoes, questioned what was said on the news she was listening to on a wireless radio phone about the Frieda mine in the East Sepik Province. She asked out loud why the news is always about ‘development’ and yet nothing real happens to improve her peoples’ way of life. I’m tired of listening to all these news people who never come here and find out!” she said in a rather pissed off tone.
This caused another seller to ask why the prices are getting higher in the stores, causing PMV owners as well as everyone else to increase everything else’s fares and prices, while they (fresh produce vendors) are expected to keep the market at an affordable price. Then a customer, another woman called out from one of the market shelters saying;
“They say we will benefit from that Frieda Mine, but I doubt that very much. Do you know what happened in OK Tedi? Their Fly river is dead!”
By now the group had gotten bigger, forming a crowd of elderly people asking questions and trying to make connections while a handful of youths looked on and joined in where they could.
“The thing is, do we accept the consequences of living like this if nothing’s improving our lives?” a youth, another female, called out.
At that moment old Sambun who had walked into the group to be part of the discussion posed that very critical question, of ‘How the government is going to build our country by destroying it’, with regards to mining activities. His talk led to what the Frieda Mine would mean to the Province.
In his own way he explained what he meant, that our forests, our rivers, our seas and everything that we need is just right.
“Why do we have to mess up our land to get money when an industry consisting of the likes of you (fresh food producers) can easily benefit all parties involved both locally and Internationally including yourselves? Too many mines, and Frieda mine is now here!” he said.
“Our Government today is willing to throw our country away for the good of other countries instead of ours. How can all the 109 or maybe more, so called educated members of parliament not see the obvious?” added another woman.
The forum that was heating up by the minutes was suddenly dismissed by a police officer coming into the market from the Police Station that’s located just outside the market gate. The police officer ordered everyone to move and make way for other customers to pass through and do their marketing.
Something’s definitely in the air but hanging, because the people of East Sepik Province can’t really put their fingers on the root cause of all these problems, but from what just happened it seems, they (the people) do know the obvious that involves their day to day livelihoods from A to Z. With more information, confirmation and support, they will see the big picture and not let any false development mess with them and theirs.