Delivered by Dr Daoni Esorom, National Incident Manager, PNG COVID-19 National Pandemic Response
Thursday December 17, 2020
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the Christmas/end of year party for both the National Control Centre and the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.
As I wear two hats, I felt it best that we combine and do one end of year function only for both organisations.
That is why I have invited from headquarters, the Acting Deputy Commissioner Operations Mr Donald Yamasombi, Acting Deputy Commissioner Administration Joanne Clarkson, all Police Directors from headquarters, Commander Southern Commander NCD/Central ACP Anthony Wagambie, the NCD Metropolitan Superintendent and all the 10 Police Station Commanders within the NCD.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are at war with coronavirus or COVID-19, an unseen enemy that has killed, as of yesterday, a total of 1,618,374 people around the world. Over 71 million people have contracted the disease. Many have recovered and many are currently being treated for the disease.
For us, God has protected us. He has given the wisdom to our leaders to take quick and decisive action to protect the nation for the virus. When the first case was reported the Marape Government immediately shut down the country. A State of Emergency was declared and a mechanism, the National Operations Centre and then the National Control Centre, under the National Pandemic Act 2020 was established to coordinate our national response to COVID-19. The Government appointed me as Police Commissioner to be the Controller of our response.
Let me just make a mention that this has never been done anywhere else in the world and PNG is the first and only country to do so and I am privileged to be tasked with a great responsibility to keep our country safe.
To date I must say we have done extremely well. But the fight is not over. Whilst vaccines are being rolled out, the pandemic is expected to be in place till December 2021.
As the year 2020 draw to a close, I as the Commissioner of Police and Controller of the PNG COVID-19 National Pandemic Response wish to take this time to reflect upon the year and acknowledge triumphs and our challenges, and look ahead into how we will enter into and operate in the immediate future.
I state again that we are a blessed country as we were spared when the COVID-19 pandemic hit our shores with the first case being reported on March 20 this year.
As a developing nation we were challenged to meet the requirements of the World Health Organisation Global Response to the 2019 Coronavirus or better known as COVID-19. Our government and the National Department of Health had to get on board and keep our country safe from harm despite our deteriorating health facilities, lack of knowledge on the threat imposed, coupled with shortage of medicine and manpower, run down facilities with nil-to limited resources including funding.
COVID-19 has been a blessing in disguise for PNG and in particular the health sector as it had the attention of the world and the PNG Government. All were willing to jump in and assist where and when possible.
This global pandemic affected the daily functions of “business as usual” for many Papua New Guineans. Business houses were forced to operate with lesser hours as new restriction measures were imposed to curb the spread of the virus by restricting the movement of people in public areas.
Schools had to close for an indefinite period of time as well as public transport. All domestic and international travels were grounded and borders and ports of entries closed. That saw a decline in the country’s economic activity.
We have learnt a great deal from this pandemic. With an incredible cultural and geographical challenge as diverse as our 800 plus language, we have strived through the difficult times and we will continue to do better as a country moving forward. We remained calm and vigilant during this global pandemic at the domestic level and we will continue to strive to better our lives as we begin to embrace the change in the way we do things come 2021 and beyond.
At this juncture, I would now like to take the opportunity to thank all of your members of the Joint Agency Task Force, and the National Control Centre for standing behind me as your Controller as we rallied to respond to the pandemic. Thank you for your time, support, commitment and sacrifices.
I also thank the 10 million plus people of PNG for their cooperation. We Papua New Guineans are people with big hearts. One will only have to look around and realise that we have survived the worst and we will keep striving to keep our going forward.
As stressful and difficult it has been for those families who lost their jobs, we remained calm as we saw other countries fight each other to bring back normalcy, which was a far cry from being a reality. Even when we declared a lockdown in the capital city it was embraced by every household despite the many critics on social media and other platforms.
I thank everyone for your patience and tolerance in enduring such an unwelcoming ordeal. What the world portrayed through those mediums was far worse than what our own local experts and front liners revealed and with that assurance we have risen above it and you have yourselves to thank for being resilient.
As the Controller of the National Pandemic Response, I say “Boina tuna” – “thank you” for cooperating and supporting the work of the National Control Centre under my leadership as we continue to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and strive not to recover now and build back better for PNG.
I call upon every citizen to stand with me and continue to support our efforts into 2021 and beyond.
I must also commend the Provincial Health Authorities in each region who have stepped up and took charge of the COVID-19 outbreak seriously. That has made our job very easy and bearable on the national level.
I also thank the Marape Government for having the wisdom to immediately impose restriction messages to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The leadership and support displayed by our Prime Minister James Marape is largely responsible for the country having managed to keep our statistics low.
I also make a mention and personally thank the PNG Defence Force and the PNG Correctional Services for coming on board remaining steadfast with the RPNGC to ensure public safety, peace and harmony was maintained at all times during the pandemic.
Records show PNG has done extremely well under COVID-19. We were the first to declare a State of Emergency, a path many other countries feared going down as not to disrupt its economy, but we did and we have come out on top of it.
In saying this I would also like to note that we are the first country to have a National Pandemic Act in place. This is a milestone in itself and again, we must give credit where it’s due. The Marape Government in its wisdom saw fit to pass a bill that will benefit not only this generation, but those of our children, their children and the future generation to come after us.
As the Controller, I take my hat off to the hard-working staff of the National Control Centre who wake up every morning to leave the comfort of their homes to attend to the affairs of the nation in a far as COVID-19 is concerned.
Staff of the NCC have been working long hours and finishing late into the night, even committing their family time on the weekends for the last 11 months, to ensure people are safe at their homes. They have ensured that the correct information on COVID-19 was passed to the people. As a signatory to the International Health Regulation we had a duty and obligation to keep up with the global response and that includes informing and educating our people.
I also extend my gratitude to the National Department of Health and team for doing their part in the fight against Covid-19. The combined efforts with all the Provincial Health Authorities (PHA’s) to assist nationwide has been a success. To date our record indicates we have fared much better than other developed countries. The management and efforts of the front liners only proves how serious they took their jobs and I stand a proud man and can confidently say our recovery rate stands well above 90% as of this time.
Economically PNG has performed well in 2020 under extreme stress compared to other countries. We have managed to keep our airlines afloat while others closed shop. Shipping has not been as badly affected instead it remained steady and is set to increase in the new year.
We as a nation under the SOE and then the National Pandemic Act 2020 have delivered on many expectations dictated in the recently concluded in the resolutions of the 73rd Assembly of the World Health Organisation.
COVID-19 has not only challenged and tested the economy of any country but it has put to the test the measure of any leadership, be it political and at all levels of our government bureaucracy and corporate business world, as well as all other stakeholders involved.
A National Summit on COVID-19 is scheduled for early 2021 which the NCC anticipates will be attended by both public and private organisations to chart a way forward to living with the new normal or “Niupla Pasin.”
I may be bold in saying that our positive response to COVID-19 may have contributed to the favourable view of donor agencies such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) which came to our aid with US$250 million to boost PNG’s COVID-19 response.
To compliment the support of the ADB moving forward we will ensure that the COVID-19 measures are economically friendly and strive to strike a balance between a holistic health response and sustainable economic recovery. The focus being a holistic health response and sustainable economic recovery because ADB’s priority in PNG right now is transport, infrastructure, renewable energy, finance and health service.
COVID-19 has tested our ability as a country to respond to national emergencies. It has challenged government departments, agencies and organisations as to their relevance in these changing times and has taught us a lot of lessons. Going forward we intend to learn from the experiences of 2020 to build the foundation for a better PNG in 2021 and beyond.
To all my policemen and women throughout the country I thank you for your efforts during the pandemic. Your tireless undivided loyalty is appreciated by myself as the Commissioner and also by the people of PNG.
It is my humble request to you all to continue to serve without fear or favour the 10 million people of Papua New Guinea. You have to remember that ours is a noble profession. We have been in existence in PNG for the last 138 years and we will continue to be here. When you wear the uniform and go out, always bear this in mind, we have a proud legacy that must be maintained. So, I call upon each of you to do your job professionally without fear or favour.
As commander you must lead by example. Be disciplined and demand nothing less from your subordinates.
As your Commissioner, I will do my utmost best to provide the leadership and support you require to do your jobs.
Ladies and gentlemen, Christmas is a time for family, a time for joy and laughter and a time to be together. As Christians we symbolise the birth of Jesus. I call upon every Papua New Guinea to stop and reflect on the year that has gone and make a personal assessment and make resolutions to be a better person in the New Year and beyond.
Finally, in conclusion, it will be remiss of me not to acknowledge those people who have made this afternoon possible so that we can get together and close what has been a very challenging year for the country and for all of us.
First of all I wish to thank our caterer, Pyramid Investments, who decided to throw us this party in appreciation for the business we have given them. But this was a mutual arrangement. We were in a pandemic. People working here are making sacrifices. The least I could do was to provide them lunch and dinner for those who stayed and worked late. Pyramid Investments has not disappointed us in the timely delivery of food that I am sure all of the staff of the NCC enjoyed.
Thank you also to Boroko Motors, Island Mobile Hire Cars, Chlovan Hire Cars and Pacifica Limited for your contributions towards this end of year function as well.
With those few words I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.
Thank you and God bless us all.