LAISA TAGA | Islands Business | Extracts
MISSING from an important Pacific states’ fisheries conference currently being held in Honiara is Sylvester Pokajam, until recently managing director of the Papua New Guinea National Fisheries Authority.
Pokajam was ungraciously dumped from his job by the PNG cabinet.
I was told that Pokajam’s sacking was to create a position for one of the leadership’s cronies. It is also said that his relentless drive upset others in PNG, and he was accused of having too much power and not following ministerial directives. He has been replaced by his former deputy, John Kasu.
“I was in Manila so I did not get a copy of the letter,” Pokajam said of his dismissal. “The prime minister and his fisheries minister simply stated I have been with NFA for too long.
“I feel that staying longer and being productive means stakeholders are more confident and it provides a stable environment for them and investors.
“There is no law or policy in PNG stating that chief executives need to be replaced because they have simply been there for too long. Therefore, I believe my sacking was politically motivated.”
The news sent shockwaves throughout the fisheries sector because the Pacific and PNG has lost a strong voice in terms of sustainable tuna management and the development of fisheries for local employment and better economic gains.
Not many of the Pacific’s leaders have the guts to stand up to Distant Water Fishing Nations like the United States and the European Union at international meetings and negotiations.
You can say Pokajam, an accountant by profession, has been there and done that.
It was only in December last year he told the European Union at the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in Cairns that, if these bodies did not want to recognise the interests of Pacific nations, they should pack up and leave the Pacific.
Pokajam was also instrumental in organising funding for the eight-member Pacific bloc of fisheries nations who own the most tuna stocks in the Pacific.
He ranks as one of the top vocal advocates of tuna in the region.
“I have no plans for the immediate future,” he told Islands business, “but I am seriously looking at entering PNG politics in 2017.”