No suits or briefcases for PNG’s newest female MP, Loujaya Toni

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28th July, 2012

PORT MORESBY (RADIO AUSTRALIA) —- Counting continues in the PNG elections but it seems just two women so far have been successful. Lae Open was won by Loujaya Toni she had to compete against her grandfather Bart Philemon to win the seat. Loujaya is a former journalist and a great singer and now an MP.

Radio Australia Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Loujaya Toni, MP elect

TONI: I want to see the inheritance of my people maintained, I want to be able to deliver basic services to my people in the Lae district within the expectations of the United Nations 2015 poverty reduction, I want to be able to provide my people with a quality of life so that we are not just surviving day in and day out.

COUTTS: Alright, are you aligned to a political party and I understand that you are going to throw your support behind Peter O’Neill?

TONI: When I put my hand up to run for Lae Open, a political party indigenous people’s party said that they would endorse me and six other women, making us seven women and so we signed up as members of the Indigenous People’s Party whose leader is John Tekway and when we began our campaign, we didn’t get any support logistic wise from John Tecre, leader of IPP. All we got was three banners and 35 posters each and so I ran as an independent and I told the member three times I mean the former member of Sanduan, used to be the governor of Sanduan. I told Mr Tecre three times, I said if I am going to run as an independent even though you’ve endorsed me as IPP, you have not provided logistical support. I said watch my game. I’m coming home and when I come home, I’m going to talk to your party and I’m going to join government.

COUTTS: And so that means that you are throwing your weight behind Peter O’Neill?

TONI: I am, I chose it, I have not got a brief case, I don’t intend to have a brief case. I have come in of my own accord, put my weight behind Peter O’Neill, because when I sat with him in dialogue, the man straight, he doesn’t mince words, he’s very astute, exact, and we’re on the same level with our understanding and I know that I can work with this prime minister, he will support the women’s agenda. I know that development will come through my district. I’m prepared to work hard and he’s prepared to support me with my development plans for my district.

COUTTS: Now, did you talk to Peter O’Neill when you were sitting down with him about the mining and the gas exploration that’s going on and will bring billions into the country. You’ve already mentioned that the wealth isn’t trickling down to grassroots. How are you going to get that to happen in your area in Lae Open?

TONI: My dear, I have a five year development plan because I know that the Lae district is a very strategic location. Any leader now that wants to be prime minister is going to definitely want me in on their team because of the strategic location that Lae is in. Lae is a gateway to the LNG project in the Highlands, it is going to be the biggest port in the Southern Hemisphere. Lae is very vital in its facilitation of services, not only to New Guinea highlands region, Momase but Highlands region and I know that and therefore I have decided to be in government to make sure that whatever monies come out goes spinoff within Lae or LNG project or whatever. Lae has seen to that and I bring it right down to the districts, so that my people enjoy a quality of life that never been seen in the last 37 years.

COUTTS: Corruption is often talked about in Papua New Guinea. How are you going to divorce yourself from that when these big bucks start rolling in?

TONI: I’ve seen the big bucks start rolling. Right now, I’m in Alotau in the PNG camp and I’ve seen these big guns from MA come in and Don Polye’s party come in and PPP and they’re coming in with their shopping list and their demands and this, that and the other. They’re want a portfolios. I’m not going and the money is rolling here and there and they want this and that and it’s not affecting me. I’m not moved by money and brief cases and what not. I can see the corruption and if one person can turn the world upside down, I’m going to turn Lae Open electorate upside down by the implementation of all these development projects, because my aim is to bring a report to card, a positive report card to the United Nations summit, to say that yes Lae we have done something with regards to the monies that we’ve received. Here is our report. We are accountable, we are transparent and if I can start in a small way in my electorate, it’s going to send a big noise out to other people who have said their people have voted them into power. They’re going to be challenged. Bribery and corruption we’ve got to put a stop and somebody has got to make a start. Somebody’s got to put their hand up and say the buck stops here and I’m for change.

COUTTSLoujaya, are you I suppose it’s a two pointed question, are you happy that there are now two women in parliament and for so many years before that there was only Dame Carol Kidu and the other side of that is there are only two women given that so many ran?

TONI: Yes, well you must consider my dear that what message are the women putting out in their campaign? You see you’ve got to win the confidence of the majority of the population. It’s not just women that we are appealing to in our campaign. It is also the men and the men control the men’s house which is parliament. They control the numbers, they play the big bucks, so how do break the male mind setting inside Melanesia, Papua New Guinea, how do you break the male mindset? And Delilah Gore I congratulate my sister there. She’s found a formal house to break the mindset, so she began her race, led all the way and on a high finish. I played my game another way. I played out my ones, twos and threes, so I spread it out and I was able to come out on top at the end. Now you’ve got to understand exactly how to crack that Melanesian male mindset and I think that’s the missing link. Our women need to be educated about how to play the game, with our without money.

COUTTS: Now, I also understand that a close relative, Bart Philemon lost his seat to you. Is there going to be tension there?

TONI: There’s no tension whatsoever. I followed Melanesian protocol during preparation for my campaign. I must admit here but Philemon is my grandfather. He’s brother is the caretaker chief of the clan I belong to and the leadership was supposed to be handed over to a male in my clan who is the rightful chief to Lae, that hadn’t been done for sometime. So when I did my preparations to run, I made sure that the family obligations were met to facilitate for my win.

COUTTS: Well, win you did indeed and I understand that you did the tough way, because women, as we’ve heard right across the Pacific, one of the obstacles and the hurdles preventing them from getting into parliament is the lack of finance, but you didn’t let that stop, you walked everywhere?

TONI: I did, I walked into the 16 wards of Lae Urban and Lae Rural. I touched base with the masses there and you know we have a very large mixed community in Lae, different ethnic groups, so whatever message you give, you drive home to the different ethnic groups has got to be one that will resonate with them…..PACNEWS (PINA)

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