Who is the king of cocoa in Sepik?

by Margaret Kuira

In order to understand the current stalemate between East Sepik Governor Allan Bird and Member for Yangoru Saussia Richard Maru, let us retrace our steps back in history a little.

During the reign of the Former Member for Yangoru Saussia who was also Governor of ESP, Peter Wararu Waranaka, ESPG made funds available (K0.5 million for cocoa growers in the province). These funds were parked with the National Development Bank of which Richard Maru was Managing Director. These funds were placed under the management and care of the current Member for Wewak Open Kevin Isifu.
Wararu approved the funds to be used to assist cocoa farmers setting up cocoa fermenteries throughout the province in order to implement and grow SME's in the province. Now don't forget Richard is a champion of SME's, so he got instant approval from Wararu.

Richard then did a backbiter on Wararu. He used the money to do his early campaigning. He dished out the money and informed people to vote for him in 2012. Many small businesses obtained other agricultural/small loans from NDB all in the name of SME. Which bids me to ask the question, wasn't there some talk back then about people from Yangoru Saussia unable to pay their loan back? What is the progress of NDB now since Richard Maru left?

2012 NGE Richard Maru challenged Wararu and won the Yangoru Saussia Open seat. RM secured the SSEZ grant through Former Prime Minister Peter O'Neil. RM quickly got landowners and LLG's to register their land and give the titles over to Sepik Agro a company totally owned by RM. What has happened to Sepik Agro now? In 2017 Melisha Yafoi of Post Courier reported a huge cocoa plantation on the Sepik plains. Well, I was in the village all of 2017, I never sighted one such plantation. Sepik Agro was also supposed to build a large cocoa nursery for the Sepik region and provide cocoa seedlings to Madang, Morobe and Enga a proposal championed by Maru.

Speaking of cocoa, throughout all this time, rose another figure,.. Isaiah Sanduma. Sanduma carried out research into hybrid cocoa. He has successfully distributed his hybrid cocoa seedlings throughout the province. Another question; seeing Sanduma being very successful with his hybrid cocoa, why can't Richard Maru use the SSEZ funds available to him to assist Sanduma to expand? The answer, Politics.

Maru used Wararu's goodwill to backbite him. Maru is scared if he assisted Sanduma, Sanduma might gain popularity and oust him in the next NGE, seeing Sanduma's hybrid cocoa is already popular. Sanduma did challenge Richard Maru in the 2017 NGE. The three top placed were Richard Maru, Wararu and Sanduma.

But did Richard Maru win cleanly in 2017 though? No. Maru never won with a clear absolute majority. Examination of the Electoral Commission's Form 66B showed deliberate double elimination to quickly bring the absolute majority down quickly for Richard Maru to declare him. If the EC staff had not cheated, Sanduma's votes should have been distributed to declare a true winner.
Another question, are Yangoru Saussia people dumb to keep voting him back? Answer; No. Well it's not rocket science. How many received funds for their cocoa fermentery through Maru when he was MD of NDB? How many purchased their PMV truck through Maru? How many of them had their loans written off. How many of them still owe NDB?

Back to my question; who is the king of cocoa in ESP? Let's make some clear distinctions here. The people know; Wararu will have their interest at heart, no doubt about that. Sanduma will go one step further to assist them with research-backed cocoa for greater yields,...greater yields mean more money.

Then comes along Governor Allan Bird. Governor Bird is another version of Wararu. A selfless soldier who rather sweat for the good of the colony than himself. Maru is very self-centred, who would rather use the institutions to benefit himself. If Governor Birds gets this EU grant and help the people, he becomes the new king of cocoa.

Currently, Maru pulls the strings on votes in the electorate, but if he approves the EU grant for Governor Bird, people like Sanduma will benefit from it. NA wins the people's favour overall and Richard Maru loses his popularity. And what will happen to SSEZ? What about that dream of a mega nursery? ALL JUST A SINKHOLE!!! Maru's downfall. Ouch!

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