By John Simoi
I think the most important thing is for people to come together and see the real needs in their community, and ask what they can do to change the way they’re living. If there are problems or hardships in their community, to ask what are the best ways that they can address those kinds of problems.
In Papua New Guinea, our land is our life. In everything, we must do it in an environmentally friendly way. We have to think about our future generations – how can we conserve our resources, not exploit everything and leave our future generations to suffer. So that kind of mentality you must have when you’re looking at ways to improve yourself.
A person himself can’t do something: but if several people can mobilise, together they can bring the changes. If they want changes to come into their community, they have to work together.
Some people may be afraid to speak out because their English is no good, or because they think someone will laugh at their idea. Don’t ever stop yourself from saying something – your thinking might be the thought that changes your community.
And other people are just sitting down and waiting for others to come and show them. But when you sit down and wait for others to show you, you will never get anywhere. You have to get on your two feet, you have to go find your friend and discuss the idea with him. Then if you see that he has already thought like you, then you go to another person. And then you go to another person and another and eventually, the group will form. And that’s how you will move. And if you don’t move, then nothing will happen.
People should have this thought in mind, like what Abraham Lincoln said: “It is not what the country can do for you, but what you can for your country.’ And in a smaller way, whether it is in a village or in a very remote area, it’s what you do in your particular area that you can make an impact. And you don’t worry about the government, you don’t worry about anybody – you just go ahead and do it.
So you start with one or two people sitting down talking, then three or four people sitting down talking, and then your group will start mobilising. And as you are moving, you are learning. If you can rise up and do something, definitely you will learn something. You will become wiser, and learn how to protect your environment, your resources, your future generations.
Some Papua New Guineans say, “it’s the money we don’t have that prevents us from doing it”. It’s not the money! We Papua New Guineans are so fortunate that we own the land and we own the resources. And all these things, they are money. We already have money here. The betel nut is money, the coconut is money, the fish is money. You see? The banana is money. The pawpaw is money. Even a single tree is money.
It’s just a matter of us rising up, putting the betel nut together, selling it, getting the money and using it. This is the way to start. It is not the money that will come and make us start, no. It is us. First believe in yourself, then utiliise your resources to begin changing your community. There’s no other way forward. We have everything here, we can do it. Nobody’s stopping us. We have to think positive, we have to believe in ourselves and we have to believe in our future, and protect our future.
You have to stand up and speak for your rights. And you know, when you speak for your rights, you are not talking for yourself only; it is the rights of your children and the right of your children’s children.