PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill’s Government’s decision to go offshore and ask Australia to lead the investigations into the tragic event of February 2, where the Rabaul Queen, operated by Rabaul Coastal Shipping company, capsized and sank with an unconfirmed number of lives this year has to to be viewed with some apprehension by the Transport Department and the Papua New Guinea National Maritime Safety Authority.
According to the Prime Minister the Government has to go to Australia to ask the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to conduct the investigations “because our own people here, will have to come under investigation as well’’. He wants a “totally independent’’ investigation. It is an interesting choice of words from the Prime Minister but in the nutshell, this is a vote of no confidence in the NMSA and questions its independence.
Could the Government be feeling that those at the helm of the NMSA may have compromised themselves somehow, or that the authority is not competent to carry out the investigations? The sinking of the Rabaul Queen shocked the country. It shocked the region. Hopes are being held out for a few more survivors to be found, but as it is now 11 days after the event, grieving relatives of missing passengers must now begin to accept the grim fact that their missing loved ones may not be found alive.
It is good we are going to conduct this investigation into the sinking of the vessel with the loss of so many lives. It is also good the investigation will put to rest a number of allegations concerning the operating company and the serviceability of its ships. But we urge the Government and through the Transport Department and the NMSA, and the National Disaster and Emergency Services office to start looking at how we position ourselves as a country to deal with such disaster s as the Rabaul Queen sinking.
The country has been struck by so many natural disasters and other emergencies in the past 24 months, its time to invest some serious money to provide Papua New Guineans the security of mind that in an emergency, whether it be at sea, on land and or an airplane crash, help can be only a phone call away.
We need a basic structure in place to respond to emergencies as soon as they happen. We need to look at what pratical options are availabe to us. We are not talking expensive helicopters, planes or ships here. We all know the country is only flyable. So invest in small machines that will help with getting help on the ground as soon as something happens for assessment purposes and thereafter rescue operations planning
Alternatively, why not mobilise the army, give the Defence Force something useful to do by detailing it the responsibility of being responsible for emergencies?
Give it the money it deserves to revive its airwing to use for civil and emergency services. We have a couple thousand of young men and women who are literally being paid for doing nothing and could be used to attend to emergencies and natural disasters.