I am an exceedingly proud Papua New Guinean, when I look back on the 20 years that we have just been through, and likewise, without an inkling of hesitation, I can say with strong personal conviction that we can only look to the future with determined hope and confidence. That, in a nutshell, is perhaps the simplest way to sum up my feelings about Papua New Guinea’s achievements and the prospect of taking on the challenges that await us ahead.
The past two decades certainly represent a period of great change and achievement for us as a modern-day nation-state of Papua New Guinea. For myself, having devoted the past 27 years to an uninterrupted parliamentary career in this country, the past 20 years have been exciting and fulfilling. I wish I were 20 years younger, so that I could contribute another 20 equally vigorous years of service to a potentially great country. We have had our ups and downs, and will continue to do so into the future. That is the inevitable fact of life. No person or nation can experience change without some pain, and achievements can not occur unless there is some honest sweat. And by any measure at all, Papua New Guinea has indeed experienced pain and expended honest sweat. More pain and more sweat will be needed if we are to meet the challenges on hand and fulfil the aspirations of our people. The task is even more challenging, given the geographic nature and the multiplicity of the language and ethno-cultural groups we have in this country.
The Bougainville secessionists movement and the pain and the many hardships that it has inflicted on Papua New Guinea is perhaps the biggest test ever for our national unity, resilience and sensibility. I am confident, however, that with renewed commitment, tact and sense of purpose, we will be able to achieve total peace and normalcy in the province soon. Our domestic problems aside, Papua New Guinea is also firmly committed to the principles of creating a more peaceful, harmonious and prosperous region in the South Pacific. We, therefore, in defence of our future will continue to vehemently deplore and oppose in any way possible, any form of military, political and economic oppression and exploitation of our peoples and our environment. We are by no means in dire danger, but it would be grossly foolish to say that all is well with our society, our economy, and particularly our attitudes. It is the latter area where, I think, we possibly face the greatest danger.
We tell ourselves we are a country rich in natural resources, but we fool each other, if we think that those resources represent tangible wealth when they stand still on the land or lie idle in the ground. Of course we are a potentially rich nation, but we will never realise that potential, unless we exploit what nature has given us and harvest it in a sustainable manner.
We have an equally rich cultural heritage. We tell ourselves that we have many fine traditions and customs, forming an unique and proud Papua New Guinean culture. But we would be naive, if we continue to retain certain negative aspects of our traditions and sit by comfortably and idly, wishing and hoping that we can be part of a modern and increasingly international world economy. Culture is a living creature, but if it is allowed to stagnate, then we may as well drop out of the rest of the world and be content to deteriorate into a Third World backwater.
Having said that, I am confident that Papua New Guinea is back on the right track again. We must, however, be ready to accept some more pain and should not expect miracles to happen overnight. Above all else we must agree that there is more room for change and adjustment. To achieve this, complacency and greed must be thrown out the window.
There was a tremendous sense of achievement when we proclaimed our independence back in September 1975. We have come a long way since. Although it has sometimes been a case of three steps forward and two steps backwards or sideways, we are nevertheless ahead. And only when we are able to overcome the major problems facing the country at present, will we be able to stand tall under the sun once again and claim our rightful place among the nations of the world. But it must be through our own efforts that we must get there. And I know that, together, we can take the country through the path of success to the year 2000 and beyond!
Destination Papua New Guinea is, therefore, our way of informing all potential overseas investors and extending our hand of friendship to warmly welcome them when they choose to make our country a haven for their investments. You are most welcome!
The Rt. Hon. Sir Julius Chan GCMG KBE MP
Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade