YESTERDAY the people of Gumine in Simbu Province received prime minister Peter O’Neill with open arms and much fanfare for the opening of a local technical school.
As usual, the sociable Simbu people were most welcoming.
On Monday, Simbu Children Foundation president Jimmy Drekore (pictured here with Keith Jackson), together with his best friend and wife Merlyn, had flown quietly out of Goroka to Port Moresby from where they will fly to the United States next Monday.
In New York on the evening of Thursday 27 October, Jimmy will receive the prestigious ‘World of Children Award for Child Advocacy in Health’ at a gala event at the Roosevelt Hotel.
He will speak as one of the four honourees to more than 450 guests, including, I believe, President Barak Obama, together with other important figures in politics, business and the arts.
Jimmy’s achievement is recognised at a time when Papua New Guinea is getting much coverage in overseas media for the wrong reasons.
It is seen as a country where the majority of citizens are living below the poverty line, where bad governance and endemic corruption among politicians and government bureaucrats has led to near economic collapse, where every girl child born has encountered some form of violence before maturity, and where the spread of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS seems unstoppable.
So in a country with a reputation as muddied and despoiled as PNG, an achievement like Jimmy’s should be a feel-good story for its leaders.
But not in our Papua New Guinea!
News outlets around the world carried a fair coverage of Jimmy’s award as did PNG’s The National and Post-Courier newspapers.
Patriotic Papua New Guineans on social media had also recognised the eminence of the award and had given great praise to Jimmy and Simbu Children Foundation.
On the front page of last Friday’s The National, there was a photo of Peter O’Neill shaking hands with Bishop John Ribal, commending him for his promotion by the Pope to an Archbishop within the Catholic church.
Archbishop Ribat is an upright person and a strong advocate for justice in PNG. We the people of Simbu, as with the other people of PNG, applaud him and his achievements.
But should not Jimmy Drekore and Simbu Children Foundation also receive such an ovation from the prime minister for their momentous achievement for Papua New Guinea?
Peter O’ Neill’s evasion of this opportunity seems stupid and hypocritical.
The ‘Nobel Prize for child advocates’, as Francis Nii has termed it, has never before been awarded to a Papua New Guinean.
Jimmy follows in the footsteps of Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter and other eminent world citizens.
He should have been similarly honoured by his own country – and we must all hope that sometime in the near future he will be.