|Subject: NORTH WAGHI MP HAS HEART FOR PEOPLE OF JIWAKA
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Date Posted: 14:29:47 04/15/03 Tue
I like the visions and plans the North Wagih MP, Hon. Mas Kal HAS FOR THE PEOPLE OF WAGHI VALLEY...CONGRATULATIONS TO MR. MAS KAL...
Pursuing Wahgi valley revival
By MAL TAIME
IF there is one immediate achievement which the people from the Wahgi valley of the Western Highlands will remember their new MP for — that will have to be the revival of the Wahgi Mek Plantations.
Michael Mas Kal, 45, has been in Parliament since winning last June’s 2002 general elections but he is making his impact felt. He is not a minister in Parliament. He’s just a plain, simple and down to earth hard worker — someone who persists until he gets what he wants for his people.
This former environmental health inspector-turned-lay church worker and part-time coffee buyer seems to have settled down well in his new role as Member of Parliament for North Wahgi.
He stood against and won the seat from high-profiled former MP Dr Fabian Pok and a field of contestants which included highly educated and powerfully rich Wahgi sons, most of whom live outside Wahgi valley and Western Highlands.
Many people described Mr Kal as a coffee buyer and an uneducated person who stood no chance in winning the North Wahgi seat. But he has proven all his detractors wrong. Mr Kal wasn’t the least bit surprised at his election victory because he believes that his success was planned by God.
The man known as “Spear of Wahgi” was up to the task and romped to victory with comfort. Michael Mas Kal’s entire electoral development strategy is underpinned by a desire to see the provision and maintenance of sound road infrastructure system, agriculture development with particular emphasis on food crops development and coffee plantation rehabilitation.
“I am here to help my people help themselves,” he said matter of fact. The sort of help he is alluding to is to provide the collateral means — roads, bridges, transportation, seedlings, finance — to get his people gainfully engaged in self-development and wealth creation activities. He wants to do his bit as MP and the people will carry out the rest to completion because they will be the direct beneficiaries.
The father of three was educated at Banz Community School and went on to Asaroka Lutheran High School in Eastern Highlands in 1973 where he left after completing Grade 7 to be trained as a an environmental health officer at the College of Allied Health Sciences in Madang.
After graduation, the World Health Organisation employed him to install water supply for rural people in the Highlands region. He resigned from the job in 1984 and returned to his village to plant coffee and unsuccessfully ventured into small business development Then the Lutheran Church re-entered his life again in 1986, when he was called to serve as a church elder — a vocation he pursued loyally until 2000, when under pressure from tribesmen to contest the 2002 elections, he resigned his role with the church.
Mr Kal’s one aim to be a successful agriculture contributor through coffee never left him. In 1991, he started to buy coffee cherry and was also appointed as a councillor for the Lutheran Church in Jiwaka.
It was in 2000 that his people from Sigri, Kimel and Bunum-wo encouraged him to enter politics. He consented to their pressure and resigned as the committee member for CLTC and also as Lutheran Church councillor.
From experience he says a great deal of development needs of rural people are never properly addressed. Every part of the nation has their own unique development needs, he says, because Papua New Guinea is geographically so diverse and different from one mountain rang to another.
He believes the biggest leadership and political agenda is to bring the right type of basic services to the grassroots people.
For his North Wahgi electorate, infrastructure development remains a priority. But first things first, he says. His first significant project was to target the rehabilitation of the rundown Wahgi Mek Plantation.
It’s an ongoing commitment and he wants to make sure of the full revival of the plantation whose downfall came about as a result of differences between a pressure group comprising some landowners and the managing director of WMP Dick Hagon.
Prior to the demise of WMP, the operations of the factory enabled coffee growers from the valley to earn cash through selling their crops and also through spin-off businesses from the establishment.
People living near the factory sold their garden crops to the plantation workers and during the harvesting seasons, they received good premiums for the crop due to the proximity of the plantation.
But when problems began to engulf WMP leading to its collapse, the shareholders weren’t the only people who suffered. The people of the entire valley went down with it.
Wahgi Mek Plantation is not only an economic and agricultural icon of the Wahgi valley people — it is also their pride. That is why Michael Mas Kal instigated ways of having government re-finance the establishment and getting the pride of the Wahgi people productively back on the rails.
His efforts so far have seen the Somare/Marat government approving K2 million as initial refinancing package for the embattled plantation.
Mr Kal believes that when WMP is back on its feet, the lives of people in Wahgi will improve in terms of availability of cash income earning opportunities.
This economic benefit will help ease some of his problems in the electorate and allow him to focus on other pressing electoral issues. He has already delivered a bridge to the people of Kaming in the Nondugl district. He also paid the outstanding K19,000 for the Nondugl police station and further K114,000 outstanding for the Jiwaka district office.
Additionally, Mr Kal has already allocated K90,000 for road maintenance in Kimel and Nondugl.
He said he will not wait and blame the provincial or the National Government for any infrastructure problems in his electorate. “Where there is a problem within the electorate, I will not wait for national or provincial government to come and fix it even if the roads fall under their responsibilities,” Mr Kal said.
“As long as there are funds there, I will expend it on my people’s needs.”
He said when the infrastructure in the districts are operational, the people will be able to receive services either through selling their crops or travelling out for their district for other needs when required.
He said the Somare/Marat government had already planned to revive the economy of the country through increments in exports and his efforts in bringing in infrastructure development complements the Government’s policies.
“My decision is to secure services like roads, health services, bridges and schools for the people,” he said.
Mr Kal said his vision is to modernise his electorate.
He’d like to bring electricity and treated water supply to all remote parts of his electorate.
As for the PNG Defence Force Engineering Battalion base at Kerowil, the MP intends to make the most out of them in terms of utilising them to assist in bringing in major infrastructure programs in his electorate.
He also plans on encouraging his people to grow rice in his electorate, because they have fertile soil to grow different cash crops to earn money.
As a strong Christian, he said he would promote Christian principles in his electorate. Mr Kal said when people know more about God’s word there will be peace in the community.
He said if there are funds available, he will try his best to build a Jiwaka FM radio station at Banz town and install a TV dish so that the people can watch EMTV and have excess to mobile phones.
The little-known parliamentarian said politics may define where his electoral representative responsibility ends or begins but as a leader from the fertile Wahgi area, he will continuously fight to ensure that all the people from this area are well served and prosper.
At the end of the day, he says, the people must be productively engaged in gainful activities that will result in wealth creation for themselves and their community, have access to quality health, education and transport services.
Importantly, though, he wants to ensure that law and order and peace and harmony prevail in the Wahgi valley and for every man, woman and child to have the best opportunity to excel in life.
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