I NOTICED in the Sydney Morning Herald this week that China is showing her naval powers by sending three warships for a jaunt, through the straits between Java and Sumatra, down between Java and Christmas Island and then back through the straits between Bali and Lombok.
I found this interesting as I know the Australian navy has also been frequently navigating this area during the past few months turning back people smugglers.
During that time I’ve also been trying to see if I could help to solve the problems caused by the issuing of the contract for supplying pharmaceuticals to PNG.
PNG has had a history of having problems with its pharmaceuticals and over the past few years the Australian government has been helping with distribution and suggestions about purchase.
Recently the PNG government decided to demonstrate its independence from this advice and agreed to give the new contract to Borneo Pacific Pharmaceuticals (BPP), a company owned by the Poh family of Malaysia.
A serious consequence was that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which now handles aid, said it would no longer be willing to offer help – or money, a lot of money.
The main reason was that BBP is not an ISO rated company and buys its drugs from companies, including some in North China, which had been found to have sold faulty products.
BPP was chosen as it is a locally owned company, so I assume that the Poh family have become Papua New Guineans. As BPP says on its website – “Today BPP, a 100% local owned PNG Company has grown to be a diversified conglomerate supplying cost effective, quality pharmaceuticals and health care products. “
After talking with many concerned Papua New Guineans on various Facebook sites, I have come to believe that it is likely that elements other than price and quality have been involved in the decision to choose this particular suppler.
As BPP states – “We at BPP have not forgotten Our responsibilities as a good corporate citizen of PNG and have contributed and devoted extensive efforts to various charitable causes, schools and other organizations.”
A number of people have informed me that BPP has given gifts to some politicians and political parties, to people in the Central Supply and Tenders Board, and probably numerous other people with power and authority.
I have recently heard about a person with some inside knowledge who is not willing to become a whistle blower as he has been offered a very enjoyable trip to China.
Meanwhile, the doctors and professors of medicine are trying to warn the government of the possible problems that may lie ahead as a result of their decision to award the contract to BPP.
PNG has had a long history of dealing with poor quality medicines and fake drugs. The doctors feel the government should have heeded the advice of the Australian government and chosen a company with an accredited ISO quality rating to guarantee high standard drugs.
They should have not set the criteria that it had to be a locally owned company as there is obviously no other PNG company at the moment that could do it.
As an Australian who worked in PNG for many years and has built up many good friendships with PNG people, I feel very sorry and annoyed at the action of officials and politicians who have the responsibility to see that the people of PNG, right down to the poorest village person, are given good reliable medicines when they are sick.
To the educated working person in PNG, the fact that these people seem to have somehow benefited from allowing BPP to have the contract means, in their minds, that these people have accepted a bribe, in one form or another.
But the main worry for every thinking person of PNG is that in the future, when they are given medication, will be the concern - Is this tablet going to work or it just rubbish?
If people die after taking such medications, will anyone except their relatives care? Will anything be done? Will the procurement system then be changed?
These fears and doubts could be removed if the PNG government would behave ethically and start listening to the electorate – the people of PNG.