Our Country, Our Resources, Our Responsibility

One Nation, One People, One Country.

On this Independence Day, we celebrate our country's pride, virtues, cultural richness, diversity and history and pay homage to our ancestors. Today we all are here to acknowledge our privilege of being born in a free Papua New Guinea and celebrate the 48th Independence Day of our country.

Independence Day is a cherished occasion that marks the birth of our nation, commemorating the moment when a people’s desire for freedom culminated in the establishment of a sovereign nation. It is a time of national pride, reflection, and gratitude for the liberties and rights that have been sought for and protected. It is the time to say thank you to

Hence, every Independence Day, we not only celebrate our freedom, but we also pay tribute to the ones who fought during WWII for it, to the ones who held a vision for our country, and to the ones who sacrificed themselves for the same.

The idea of being an independent nation, where sovereign power lies with us to determine our future, places a huge responsibility on our shoulders. The significance of its beautiful story is that this nation has gained respect from the world for the democratic route chosen by it. The Psalm 33:12 says: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.” We are and will be blessed if we chose God to be our Lord.

On this occasion, our thoughts turn first to Sir Michael Thomas Somare the father of the nation, the man behind our struggle for freedom. Sir Michael Thomas Somare sought liberty from foreign rule and the indigenous social chains that had long incarcerated our society. Democracy gives us the right to live freely as proud citizens of a country. Today, we are fortunate to live in one due to the vision and our founding fathers.

Thus, as proud citizens of this country, it is our responsibility to sincerely perform our duty and progress together for the growth and development of our country. Keeping the sacrifices of our ancestors in mind, we should take an oath to carve a better future for our motherland. In the letter 1st letter of Peter 2:16 we read: “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil”.

We shall ask ourselves today: What does Independence mean to me as a person and as a nation?

To me, Independence means to have absolute liberty of choice. It means that I can make my desired choices freely, without constraint. When I think of independence as a nation, it is the same thought which translates. Every citizen of an independent nation has the liberty to choose their government, their religion, their desired occupations and careers, and their preferred lifestyle. An independent nation is one where every citizen has access to human rights, is free to pursue different options in education, and is free to express himself/herself in the desired manner. However, we have to keep in our minds what the Bible says:” I have the right to do anything, you say – but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything – but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:23).

Most importantly, 16th of September, for me, is a day to pay my respects to all those who work hard for PNG's independence 48 years ago. Our freedom came at the cost of their hard work, commitment, sacrifices and we must not forget this.

Independence, for me also translates into responsibility and accountability. The freedom to make our individual choices comes with the responsibility to shoulder the consequences of those choices as well.

One cannot exist without the other. Independence and responsibility go hand in hand. As citizens of Papua New Guinea, we have a duty to our homeland which we cannot sideline at any point.

Today we observe and celebrate our 48th Independence Anniversary and we can be proud that we have matured and come a long way as a nation although we still have a number of serious political, economic and social challenges and problems that confront us.

But as we observe and celebrate this historic occasion, we should reflect on one of the major lessons we should have learnt as an independent nation and that is – independence does not automatically bring peace, progress and prosperity.

In fact, it brings new challenges and responsibilities and success as a nation would come depending upon how well we navigate the course of these challenges and responsibilities.

In our case, while we have achieved much, we could have achieved much more had not it been for some unfortunate periods in our health, education, social, economic and political history.

These unfortunate periods in our history denied this country a chance to fully unleash our human and natural resources potential for the socio-economic development and prosperity. But we are still young as a nation and with visionary leadership, quality of education, good health services, political cooperation and patriotic fervour, we could still achieve that burning desire of building a country of peace, progress and prosperity.

We have a relationship with our country and we need to make it stronger. Similarly, we also have a relationship with the natural resources of our country. It is also our prime responsibility to “serve to conserve” these resources to foster the passion and spirit of patriotism. As we all strive to contribute towards the success of the nation through various professions, we can serve the nation through conservation of its resources as well. Judicious use of the natural resources will ensure their sustainability in the long run.

Our youths shall serve the nation in several ways by adopting a profession that best suits them. Nevertheless, children can also serve the nation if they work hard and study diligently; they will be able to increase their knowledge and learn much in the process. This will also reflect the high degree of commitment for excellence in any desired field. We also need to establish a robust intellectual, scientific, technological, innovative skills development programmes matching international standards. We need to graduate Papua New Guineans in the highest standards to be 21st century workforce with high ethical values.

Hard work in any field will bring success and achievement of goals easily. Your hard work and sincerity will earn you recognition and your recognition will in turn earn recognition to the country.

All the physical and biological resources of our country are our own. They belong to all of us. Each one of us must have a sense of ownership so that we can treat all the resources as our own and take care of them.

Wherever we are, the resources of our country are our own and we need to foster this passion to stop considering someone else responsible for it. When we don’t take ownership of our resources, it will lead to environmental damage.

Our founding father Sir Michael Thomas Somare launched for us the vision 2050 by which he challenged us to advance development of our nation to be “smart, wise, fair and a happy society by the year 2050”.

We can achieve those objectives by investing in our children and youth through quality of education offered, improving health services, putting into practice our faith in God by respecting each other, honour our Constitution and demonstrate daily respect for law. We cannot forget where we came from, we cannot forget our ancestors who developed for us rich cultures based on universal Melanesian values which are expressed in partnership, harmonious relationship with each other and great respect for nature and the motherland.

As we celebrate this significant day, it is an opportune moment to delve into the timeless wisdom of the Bible and explore its verses that resonate with the essence about Independence Day. “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

May God bless each one of us, make us wise and responsible for this rich and beautiful Country.

Happy 48th Independence Day.

On behalf of the Ministry and Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology

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