In 1975, Jerry Nalau, became one of the first Papua New Guineans to become a District Commissioner when powers were transferred from the Australian Colonial administration to the new Papua New Guinea government.
The young patrol officer who was then already a veteran in the new administration became one of the few Morobeans sent to Kunidiawa in the Simbu Province as part of the Somare’s administration’s effort to help unite the new country.
“Somare said to me: ‘I want you to go to the highlands.’ And I said: ‘Somare, I’m not the only one! What about the others?’”
By then, Jerry Nalau had already served several years in Bougainville and Rabaul during the turbulent but positive pre-independence period.
Nalau recalls that in typical Somare humor, the Chief Minister responded: “You go to the highlands because you Finchafens took the Word of God to the highlands calling God’s name… Anutu… Anutu…Anutu… I think if you go, they will respect you.”
It was a 13 hour flight on a slow DC3 that eventually took Jerry Nalau from Bougainville to Minj.
“Back then, large planes didn’t land at Kundiawa. We landed at Minj and traveled by road to Kundiawa.”
Now in his mid-seventies, Sir Jerry Nalau, former patrol officer, former Morobe premier, says with hint of mischief, that Chief Minister, Michael Somare, had told him that he could have whatever he asked for, later, if he agreed to take the assignment to the highlands.
So when Independence came and the Charles, the Prince of Wales, representing Queen Elizabeth II, was due to arrive, Jerry Nalau called the soon to be Prime Minister Somare.
“According to the Prince’s itinerary, he was to travel to Manus to Wewak then onward to Goroka. Then drive through Simbu and then rest in Mt. Hagen.”
“I called Somare and I said: ‘Somare, do you remember what you said? You sent me from Bougainville to Simbu and you promised you would give me whatever I wanted later.”
“So I have a small request: I want Prince Charles to sleep in Kundiawa instead of going straight to Hagen.”
According to Sir Jerry, Somare returned his call 15 minutes later.
The new Prime Minister granted his request after going through a lot of trouble. “He said later, ‘Jerry, it was a problem to me but your request is granted.’”
The Prince rested in Kundiawa and was part of the entourage that witnessed the crowning of the Simbu beauty pageant.
Two weeks ago,after suffering symptoms of a writers block, I went out for a walk. Nowherespectacular…just around one block of top town in Lae.
In frontthe pharmacies,I met Cletus Inap from Angoram in East Sepik.He hadin his hands, a small pukpuk.Cletus is a typical Sepik wara guy. Good sense of humor, proud of his heritage and straight shooter.
So what was he doing with theyoung pukpuk in the middle of Lae city?Cletussaid he was trying to sell it. But sofar he had notbeen successful.
Earlier, he wasn’t able to sell the crocs at the 8 mile pukpuk farm becausethe people there wanted salt water crocs only.
The pictures were good. So what the heck… I recorded him on my phone.Cletus told methe pukpuks had been with him for about a year.A year.
How did he bring them to Lae?He laughed.
“Mi putim ol lo bag,” he said. “Mi tokim ol yupla noken sigaut!”
(I put them in a bag and I got on a plane. I told them, don’t make any noise)
But that’s not all.I found out Cletuswas also looking after bigger crocs. I didn’t want to ask where.Thebigger crocs had escaped during two weeks of heavy rain in Lae City.
I askedhim what he was going to do ifthe crocs were not sold.He grinned and as if trying not to let the pukpuks hear him,he madea gesture… no words…that he would eat them.
For those swimming in the Bumbu River (and I’m assuming it’s the Bumbu River) be on the lookout fortwo pukpuks from Angoram on the loose.They know Cletus Inap.
For Commander Peter Tupma, nation building is an important pillar of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.
After 26 years of service, the naval officer, believes there is a lot the PNGDF can do through its naval and engineering capabilities to bring together the nation. These are functions that don’t always come out to the fore when one thinks of the PNGDF.
But a conversation with the Commander, provides a whole different perspective of the PNGDF. One that is not only about combat troops and infantrymen on the ground. But also about important contributions that the army can do for the country, using methods tried and tested in other countries.
“Naval patrols to the most remote islands and coastal areas of Papua New Guinea are crucial. This is how we extend the reach of the government and fly the flag.”
In 1992, while studying mathematics and physics at the University of Papua New Guinea, students went on strike for several weeks. As he was coming out of the university’s physics lab, he was confronted by a group of armed policemen.
“I turned and ran and they shot at me. I think they used buckshot and some of those pellets hit me. It didn’t penetrate. But I was angry with the police and angry that all this had happened.
“I said, this is not the kind of environment I want to live in. I went and joined the military the next day. I waited in the hot sun in a long line until my turn came and I joined.”
Peter Tupma never told his parents that he was dropping out of university for the military.
This marked the start of a 26 year journey. Peter Tupma served in various capacities after receiving training in the US, Australia and New Zealand. He was previously the former Commanding Officer at the Lombrum Naval base in Manus.
For many years, his role as a soldier wasn’t well defined in his mind until one patrol to a small remote island off the main island of Manus.
“For seven months, the people had no water. They had eaten all the coconuts.”
For the people, there was little possibility of getting help from the mainland without risking a long journey over open seas by canoe. The ship’s crew found out that the village pump, the only one in the area that supplied water to the whole island had broken down.
Commander Tupma sent the ship’s engineer to the village to check on the pump. He found that a relatively minor fault had rendered the pump useless for seven months.
“He fixed the pump. Then we headed to the other part of the island to fix the radio which had also broken down.”
For Peter Tupma, this one incident shone the light on the importance of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force in peacetime.
“The owner of the pump had gone fishing when we fixed the pump. When he came back, he brought a bunch of buai and paddled all the way to meet us.
“He was lost for words. I had not been able to find the satisfaction in my job until that day.”
While there has been a lot of effort in rebuilding the Papua New Guinea Defence Force since the end of the Bougainville Crisis, the force still suffers from funding problems in crucial areas. It is something that many senior PNGDF officers will not openly talk about because of army protocols.
Commander Tupma sees the PNGDF from various perspectives. As an engineering hub of skilled personnel paid by the government, it has the ability to build roads, bridges and key infrastructure into areas that commercial contractors find unprofitable.
Currently, the PNGDF is building a road from Baiyer in the Western Highlands to Madang. It’s a link that provides an economic corridor into an area that has a rich agricultural potential.
In the Sandaun province, the PNGDF is also looking at the possibility of linking Telefomin to Tabubil. By air, it is a 15 flight minute over cliffs and deep gorges. An engineers nightmare and commercially unattractive for civil contractors.
“We call them missing links. The PNGDF could be at the forefront of delivering services in places where government services are unreachable.”
Commander Tupma sees the PNGDF as an important part of the development of the younger generation.
“For those who want to join the PNGDF, it is important to remember that this job is about the service. It’s not about the ranks, or personal achievements.
“We are servants of the state. We do what the government wants us to do for the people of the country.”
Not many Papua New Guineans outside mining circles know about a geologist named Jerry Garry from Simbu.
His contributions have helped resurrect the economies of countries devastated by decades of war. He has implanted Papua New Guinean models of mining legislation in Afghanistan and helped in the building of the largest iron ore mine in Sierra Leone after the civil war.
In South Africa, he gained additional university qualifications as a diamond expert.
He then went on to become the first Papua New Guinean General Manager of a multi-national miner, managing the company’s diamond division which held portfolios in various African countries.
The son of a Seventh Day Adventist missionary, Jerry Garry was born in 1967. After completing high school at Kabiufa, he went on to study geology at the University of Papua New Guinea. His first taste of real mining, like many Papua New Guinean geologists, was at Ok Tedi in 1991.
Post graduate studies took him to the University of Ballarat in Australia. Then he joined a Canadian company, Iriana Resources that operated in Indonesia.
His thirty year career, has been whirlwind of experiences, in eight countries around the world.
Jerry Garry is a trailblazer in his own right. His most important assignment came in 2012. Whilst working in on a European Union funded project in Wau, Morobe Province, a job came up. The World Bank wanted a Deputy Team Leader for a group of mining experts who were to be sent to war-torn Afghanistan.
“After a few emails, I got a call from Germany. At the time I was quite excited. I knew it was going to be exciting and I was looking forward to the challenge”
After all the formalities had been completed. Jerry Garry, landed in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. In 2012, the country was in a period of transition. US-led coalition troops stationed there, had begun the process of handing over security responsibilities to Afghan forces.
But the armed insurgent attacks on the troops and civilians were continuing. It was in this climate that the Simbu geologist arrived in Kabul with his team of international colleagues.
“The first thing I saw when I arrived in Kabul was a sign that said: ‘WELCOME TO THE LAND OF THE BRAVE.’
“As we were driving, there were people weeping on the side of the road. They said a mortar bomb had gone off just before we arrived.
“That gave you a picture of what was happening in the country when we arrived.”
Garry and his team were met by a contingent of German troops who took them to the briefing center. The Germans were in charge of their security from there on.
As Deputy Team Leader, Jerry Garry, was responsible for the safety of the multinational team operating in one of the most dangerous locations in the world. The team worked to develop a capacity building program for the Ministry of Mines of the Government of Afghanistan.
Operating in a non-English speaking country, Garry’s innate skills in Melanesian diplomacy and negotiation was put to the test.
“As a Papua New Guinean, I was able to go to the people with sincerity and empathize with them. I was able to connect with them without being judgmental.
“And the Afghani, when they realized what I was doing, appreciated this very much and I earned a lot of respect from them.”
After 30 years of constant war and conflict, Afghanistan’s economy was in tatters. Its experts had either been killed or had escaped from the troubled country. It was a massive task for the small team.
“After 30 years, all the understanding and technologies had evolved. They had missed out. We were helping them connect the dots.”
Since ancient times, the country has been embroiled in various conflicts over resources. Afghanistan sits on a rich band of mineral deposits that runs from Europe through to Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and the Himalayas.
Using his own experiences, Garry helped develop legislation that made the Afghanistan Department of Mines the regulator of mining operations in the country – a legislative model like that used in Papua New Guinea.
With Afghanistan struggling with the piece meal approach of aid delivery and funding, the team developed a concept that wove in transport infrastructure development that linked resource rich areas of the country.
“We designed railroads and deployed a ring road that created resource development corridors for the country.
“We developed and built a system that would be sustainable and would help the people of Afghanistan when we left.”
Garry said the media coverage of the country greatly misrepresents the Afghan people. He found the similarities between Papua New Guinea and the Afghanis, striking.
“The country itself is very challenging. In Helmand province, temperatures can rise to 40-50 degrees Celsius and in winter drop below zero. So they are a very strong people.
“They are dependent on each other. Communal living is a critical element of survival. And They are the kindest people I have met.”
Afghanistan wasn’t his first dangerous assignment. Twelve years earlier, Jerry Garry, was in Sierra Leone. The West African country had just come out of a bloody civil war and the government was desperate to rebuild the economy.
“The UN peace keeping force was there. There was no infrastructure. Everything had been destroyed. The GDP had fallen below zero.”
Africa, gave Jerry Garry, a brand new experience. For the first time, he was learning about a rock he as unfamiliar with. In this period, he spent time in South Africa gaining additional qualifications on diamond mining. He became Papua New Guinea’s first diamond expert.
He spent the next seven years, traversing the length and breath of Sierra Leone, looking for new opportunities. But they didn’t come easy. Eventually, the company he worked for opened up Tonkolili, Sierra Leone’s biggest iron ore mine.
Within the first few years of the mine’s operation, the country’s GDP saw a 15 percent jump in its growth.
“You know, to see the economy of a country turn around because you contributed to it… it’s an indescribable feeling.
“It is the pinnacle of career satisfaction. There is nothing like it.”
Despite all his achievements, Jerry Garry, holds his missionary dad and his mum close to his heart.
“My parents were the people who implanted the direction I would take in life.
“My dad was a missionary. He had nothing. But he would walk for miles to spread the gospel. He had a mission to accomplish.
Jerry Garry says the money and the materialism matter very little to him. When he graduated, the challenge was about being the first to do things.
“When people talk about me, they refer to me as the Papua New Guinean geologist. That is when you feel the burden of the country on your shoulders.
Anilo Kusak sits on a chair in a small nurse’s cubicle at the Malahang Urban clinic as we set up for a short interview.
It’s hot. Outside, amidst the din of the patients and nurses in the neighboring rooms, the cries of at least two babies punctuate the already noisy air. It’s like this every day. On average, up to 300 patients come to the Malahang Urban which is one of several clinics like this in Lae city.
For the 23-year-old, nursing had long been the career of choice since childhood. Her mother, Lina is also a nurse in Lae.
“We grew up around hospitals and nurses. When were little and when we didn’t have a bay sitter, we would spend the nights in the hospital wards.”
After completing four years at Lae Secondary School, Ani was accepted into the Lae nursing college.
While college trained her for the job, the real world challenges were a lot different. Text books and lectures told her that the average nurse to patient ratio is one to 25. But each day, she is confronted with figures that challenge what is taught in school.
“In nursing, your have to be mentally, emotionally and physically fit. Everyday, we get up to 300 patients who come.”
Ani is small in stature. At times she has to deal with patients much bigger than her.
“It’s very challenging. When we get a 75kg patient bought in by a guardian, how do you move him when there’s no one around to help?”
The emotional aspect of the job is something many outside the medical professional don’t really understand. Ani says school trains you for the job but doesn’t adequately prepare you to deal with death which happens.
“For me, I don’t want to see a patient die in my care. They must go home alive.”
Going beyond the call of duty, Ani sometimes follows up with her patients during her days off. She goes to Angau hospital, a fair distance away, to check if her patients actually go for further treatment.
“It’s something I do at my own time.”
But not everything runs smoothly at Malahang. The deaths of children have had a significant impact on her life as a nurse.
“Sometimes, mothers are negligent. When they come to the clinic, the babies are already very sick.
“There was a case where a baby was brought in. All the mother told us he had a fever. But later we found out that the baby had not eaten for four days.
“In the end, we couldn’t save him. He died.”
Ani went home and cried.
“I didn’t sleep. My parents tried to talk to me. They said, its life. It’s nursing. But I couldn’t take it.
“I think it lasted for a week and then I had to get over it and come back to work.
Maternal and infant health remains a top priority in her life as a nurse. It is also a serious concern in rural areas of Papua New Guinea where the deaths of children are very common. Even in urban centers like Lae, babies still die of preventable illnesses.
“I don’t want maternal and child health to continue the way it is now,” Ani says. “If I have the opportunity to go for further studies, I would choose maternal and infant health.”
As Papua New Guineans call for tougher action against child rapists and murders, one non-government organization that’s working with victims of gender violence has highlighted the need for reliable data on the rate of violence.
ChildFund Papua New Guinea, started a phone counseling service in 2015 says while there has been some improvement in the work being done, there needs to be more government input.
“There needs to be a more coordinated approach and substantial support given to the issue,” says ChildFund’s Gender advisor, Sally Beadle.
Beadle says ChildFund also shares data collected from the calls it gets though the “1 Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain,” the phone counseling service that is providing an important link between victims of violence and law enforcement.
The number of called received through the call center has doubled in the last 12 months from 2500 to 5000 in 2017. But this is just the tip of a deeply rooted problem in Papua New Guinea society.
“The majority of calls we get are related to intimate partner violence,” says Beadle. “But we do know that children are also affected in the process.”
ChildFund’s work has given a glimpse into the serious problem of gender violence, entrenched in urban and rural communities.
Her father, Steven Gilnig, yesterday called on the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill to enforce the death penalty.
There have also been strong reactions from Facebook users who are also calling for touch action from police and the courts. A prominent member of the New Ireland community said: “Little Rose’s violated and torn body was laid to rest…the day PNG’s 10th Parliament sat without a woman’s voice. Thousands of girls like her in PNG are at risk of such violence.”
In nearly every child rape and murder case, the offenders are people the children know. Many times it’s people they trust.
Every time I talk of rape and murder of children, I am reminded of a case in Kaugere in Port Moresby 15 years ago when the brute raped and killed a grade one student from the Southern Highlands.
His dad cried until he couldn’t cry anymore. He pulled at his hair and dug his fingers into the hard dry ground. Police collected the murder weapon. A large rock bigger than his own head. It was stained with the girl’s blood.
The community retaliated by burning the family home of the rapist. Of course it didn’t change anything, but they did.
In 2015, in East Taraka, Isaac (yes, he had a name too), was killed in the same manner. His small body lay in the thick grass. Those who found him, flattened the bush and waited for police to arrive.
His killer, a neighbor and a person known to his family, had stabbed him in his belly. Isaac’s underwear was pulled over his face. We don’t know, for what reason.
The boy’s killer turned himself into police. He had been high on steam the whole week. The Kaugere killer was also high on marijuana when he killed the girl.
The breakdown of the traditional family structure, the lack of guidance by elders, lack of opportunity, illegal production of home brew and marijuana and access to pornography is a potent recipe for self destruction.
Communities have to take action. We can start by reporting every person who makes and sells home brew. Alcohol and abuse is the biggest contributing factor to serious crime in Papua New Guinea’s urban centers. You can prove it by going through the police occurrence book. I’ve done it myself.
Communities must take action. Police can’t do it alone. In many communities, the people know who the pedophile is. They know who the child rapist and murderer is. Children are raped and fondled and “it’s OK?”
NO! It’s not OK.
Also go educate everyone you can that the sick trend of accepting compensation for the rape of a child is also unacceptable. I’ve heard many arguments from communities around the country that the child didn’t die. So they compensate the parents.
They hide in the community and prey on the weak. We know them but we don’t do anything about it because “it’s somebody’s problem.”
It is sickening that our daughters not yet in their teens are looked at through the filthy lens of an adult’s lustful desires. In their innocence, they know something isn’t not right yet how do they tell us? How do they express that discomfort they feel?
It is disturbing that our boys are turned on by the violence. They are not able to distinguish between consensual sex between adults and the rape of a school mate. How twisted is this society? How will their future be?
Sometimes we joke. “When you have a daughter, buy a gun,” they say. How true is that? Buy a gun for protection or for revenge?
We only act when they touch our own. But we act too late. We act when the child is dead and the parents a grieving. We burn houses for our own selfish satisfaction and revenge.
If we know what they do and where they live, we must isolate them, put them away. They don’t deserve to exist in the same space as your children.