Disaster in Papua New Guinea makes it vulnerable - GulfToday

Disaster in Papua New Guinea makes it vulnerable

Rescue operations continue in the region as many people were also displaced in the region.

Rescue operations continue in the region as many people were also displaced in the region.

A treacherous landslide in a remote part of Papua New Guinea has resulted in thousands of people buried under debris two storeys high. Rescue teams could not reach the place of the disaster because of the treacherous terrain, and hopes were fading of rescuing those trapped under the debris. 

Defence Minister Billy Joseph said that the landslide in the six villages in Maip-Mulitaka in the Enga province occurred when the residents were all asleep. And 150 houses have been destroyed. Resident Evit Kambu said, “I have 18 of my family members being buried under the debris and soil that I am standing on, and a lot more family members in the village I cannot count.”

One of the reasons that rescue could not be reached to the disaster zone is due to tribal warfare in the area. Eight people were killed and 30 houses burnt due to the tribal violence on Saturday. There is chaos among the people because family members are not sure who is alive and who is dead.

The confusion is due to the fact that family members are on the move. “It’s not like everyone is in the same house at the same time, so you have fathers who don’t know where their children are, mothers who don’t know where husbands are, it’s chaotic,” says Matthew Hewitt Tapus, a pastor in Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. His village is near the landslide-affected villages. Rescue operations are underway with the help of the Australian Defence Force, even as the country’s army engineers are working at the disaster site.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Defence Force’s geotechnical team has been requested by the government to assess the possibly unstable land because the use of heavy earth-moving equipment in the area would prove to be dangerous. Defence Minister Joseph said that the government would rebuild the villages, open the highway which connects to the gold mine at Porgera. Australia has announced an initial A$2.5 million ($1.66 million) aid package and also offered technical assistance. China too has offered help.

The irony is that news of the disaster that has struck a remote part of Papua New Guinea is reaching the corners of the globe but it has become hard to reach help to the people who have been affected by the disaster. Physical distances and hurdles remain, and it is not easy to transfer aid material to the area that is not connected well even with the capital of the country. Natural disasters like the landslide are indeed unforeseen, but emergency help cannot reach the affected people which is a bad reflection of the global village that is often proclaimed. Papua New Guinea being a small country is justifiably afraid of the more advanced neighbouring countries like New Zealand, Australia and China because they are not sure if they will be able to retain control of their own resources.

Even at times of natural disaster and the compelling need for humanitarian assistance, geopolitical calculations are always at play. Small nations in the distant Pacific are always on the political radar of big powers, near and far.

Papua New Guinea’s development would come at a price. The countries that would extend assistance to the small country would demand the quid pro quo, and the small aid-receiving countries would be at the mercy of the outside powers. Natural disasters like the one that has occurred would make a small nation like Papua New Guinea more vulnerable to outside pressures.

Though all countries, big and small, are equal in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), it is not so even in the UN Security Council. Papua New Guinea can claim equality with any big power in the world, but it is reduced to a dependent on the country which promises aid and development.


Related articles

Other Articles