New PNG MP Loujaya Toni reflects: “Can I defeat a political giant in the Lae Open?”

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23rd July, 2012

Yesterday afternoon, after a tough struggle against a number of high profile male candidates including sitting member and former minister Bart Philemon, Loujaya won the seat of Lae on the final count. She thus became the second female member to be elected to the new parliament in this election. We reprint here extracts from an article Loujaya wrote for PNGAttitude back in May 2012.

1 Loujaya Toni Indigenous People’s Party 7,364
2 Fred Wak Independent 5,842
3 Bart Philemon New Generation Party Excluded

I AM TAKING ON a formidable opponent in Bart Philemon, who has held the seat for the last 20 years. He is a consummate strategist and will be hard to beat.

Mr Philemon has kept the seat for so long because he has aligned himself with the Lae Chamber of Commerce and business houses in the city.

His base vote comes from public servants and private sector employees in the town.

Mr Philemon opposed the recent parliamentary bill for the 22 reserved seats for women, kept himself distant from the riots in Lae and seems uninterested in land issues involving the Ahi people, the traditional landowners of Lae City. Mr Philemon and I are members of Ahi clans.

My focus in the campaign is the increasing lawlessness and poverty caused by immigration into Lae. My strategy to deal with this involves the creation of ward registries so that those who have overstayed their welcome and need to return to their home provinces can be identified.

A bit drastic perhaps, but the registries will also record statistics which can be used to take stock of our human resource potential.

My campaign slogan is “Knowledge is power to change for a better quality of life”. Poverty alleviation can be achieved when we have the knowledge to make a change. I hope people will catch my vision for change: which begins in the mindset.

I’m well-educated (MA in Communication Studies) and have a long history of community-based work. I contested the 2007 elections in Laeand ended up fifth. This time I hope to win.

In preparation for my tilt at power I attended a four-day training workshop to assist intending women candidates and their campaign managers conducted in March by the Department of Community Development.

There is a tendency in Papua New Guinea for women to vote the same as their men, sometimes unwillingly.

This time women and people with disabilities will be allowed separate polling booths and I am hoping this will give me an edge.

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Taken from Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG ATTITUDE –

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