How the PNG Hunters united a politically divided nation

Picture by Alexander Rheeney

Coming off the back of an election marred by the deaths of two policemen, several supporters and the destruction of millions of kina worth of property, many Papua New Guineans expressed that they felt misrepresented by their leaders.

Days before, the PNG hunters ran on to the field to take on the Sunshine Coast Falcons, there was news again on the media of the sale of petroleum shares that, according to analysts, had cost the PNG government huge losses.

The dust kicked up by turbulent economic and political time was one aspect of life that many wished would at least settle quickly. While that was ongoing,   Papua New Guineans found clarity in one thing – the PNG Hunter’s prospects of winning the Intrust Super Cup Grand final against the Falcons.

The national sport, rugby league has long been both a uniting and dividing force. ‘The fanaticism for rugby league is rivaled only by that of PNG politics,’ a statement coined by an Australian journalist, still rings true an every sense. With successive losses, over 40 years, many had become skeptical of any success on the international stage.

But this time, the possibility of a win was real.

The hype was building up. Even the NCD Governor, Powes Parkop, was willing to spend K75,000 on subsidizing air travel for those going to Australia for the game.

I was among the many skeptics. Even with the successful run of the PNG Hunters over the last four years, through the hard work of coach Michael Marum, the players and the sponsors, there was still doubt.

By the 75th minute, it was down to PNG’s tenacity and passion. Could the psychologically defeating lead by the Falcons, dampen the spirits of the Hunters?

Everyone watched as the   precious minutes ticked by. The energy wasn’t depleted…Or at least it didn’t show.

The Hunter’s defense was tight.

Then the 78th minute came.   Nobody expected any magic until Ase Boas kicked the ball.

Wapenamanda, Enga province, where Willie Minoga’s   family was watching exploded with celebration as the Freight Train crashed through and landed on the ball.

In Port Moresby, Lae, Mt. Hagen and every major center with television overage, the celebrations were similar. Ethnic, political and economic divisions were all thrown to the ground and stomped on as people celebrated the victory.  All that didn’t matter any more as people came together because of rugby league.

Ase Boas then took over, kicking the ball in between the posts to score the winning conversion.   The Hunters had taken the Intrust Super Cup and a country had been united.

It was all that mattered.





Gabriel Minoga (Willie’s Dad) says thanks to those who made it happen for the Hunters

minogaI went to watch the game at Mark Reto place, the place already full so sat on the floor. Augustin Yama saw me and offered me his seat.
After all the lead up processions the game started and within five minutes two tries were
I felt restless and uncomfortable so I quietly stood up and walked out of the place thinking that the Falcons would win by a runaway score.
The game sea-sawed and it was half time and for the next 35 minutes there were no points from either side.
Stanley Ipia said that Falcons would not win and that the Hunters would still win in the end. Stanley’s  comments encouraged me so I went to a different house to watch the second half. Stanley Ipia is not a player but a very strong  follower. I was wondering why he said that.
The second half is history. The boys played very strongly and if anything, it was their defensive effort that won them the game. The “icing on the cake”  was  delivered by PNG’s  now golden boy in Rugby League Willie Minoga.
I saw Ase Boas on the left hand side of the field with the ball but din’t know where Willie
came from to score that winning try. There were at least three Falcons players shepherding  in that ball.
Like I’ve always said, Rugby League is a team sport and and so many people are involved in the preparation and planning before you can achieve a day like this, today’s result is a result of time and dedication in the sport.
On behalf of Willie Minoga’s  family like to thank some of them.  Thank you to:
● coach and officials of the Hunters team
● PNG Rugby for their foresight
● Sports Minister Justin Tatchenko
● Chairman Sandis Tsaka
● Stanley Tepend
● The Government of PNG
● SNAX Tigers club of Lae
● Action Governor Ipatas
● 17 Hunters Players
● Supporters
● Waimin Sambaiyoko
● all the rest who have contributed one way or the other. 

This is the people day when the sport brings people’s of all languages together as one people and nation and thank you to rugby League.  Let’s celebrate and enjoy when the Cup is brought home to its rightful place Papua New Guinea by the players and rest of the Team.

Congratulations PNG Hunters for this milestone, this achievement!


Practicing can be addictive | By Jeff

Jam JVPracticing can be addictive. A dangerous and self-perpetuating addiction.

I can quite easily remain on an exercise for 8 hours and not notice the time go by. I am not entirely sure if it is normal to stay so focused for so long on an exercise that consists of just 6 notes but I am guilty of it and I am sure other guitarists are just as guilty. What is more dangerous is the way the mind tends to close down to all other aspects of practice and for the mind to completely hone in on the exercise on hand.

The mind is a creature of habit and whatever is repeated often tends to become entrenched as an automatic response even if it just a mindless repetition of an exercise that (in all probability) is already embedded in muscle memory.

Obviously – this is an entirely inefficient way to practice and invites burnout and other rather unpleasant results of over practice like for example Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (which doctors said couldn’t be healed – except I defied their verdict as I couldn’t bear the thought of never playing again). So what’s the ideal way to approach practice? Well, as rudimentary as it sounds – the best way I know to avoid these issues is to have a practice schedule outlining no more than 15 minutes on any given area of study/practice. This is key – ORGANIZATION.

Another crucial area of practice is knowing when to take breaks and how to ease off on the focus. Too much practice is counter productive. You need to find a balance between focus and rest. This has been my greatest battle with music. There is also another related area to all this and that is to ‘forget’.

There is an old adage that goes something to the effect ‘remember to forget because we forget to remember’. This is an age old technique that is based on one principle: subconscious learning. In order for someone to truly learn a movement at a deep level – the learning has to be left to drop further down into the subconscious mind where it becomes a habit and thereby becomes effortless to play.

We do this by learning something completely new and return to the exercise after a period of about one to two months. After we return – then push past previous speed limits of that exercise. You will find that you will easily surpass prior speed limits.

The death of everything | By Gary Juffa

gjHave you ever lost someone so profoundly intimate that you cried yourself wretched for so long your heart ached and your entire being was so soaked with such misery that you felt you were losing yourself?

And did you ever feel like life was no longer worth living and you cared for nothing at all and there was this silent emptiness in your soul so heavy you could not breath or walk or talk?

I am sure many have been there. I certainly have. Too many times it seemed.

My earliest recollection of such a moment happened at the age of 5. It was when I lost everything. I have often said I was 7 or 8. But I was 5. I stretched my actual age because a part of me refused to believe that I had spent such a short time with Victor Juffa, my beloved Godfather, Grandfather, best friend and everything.

Well there I was, standing by the freshly dug grave and everyone around me weeping.

But I was silent. I stood holding the finger of my Grandmother, that morose and overcast Sunday morning in Kokoda Block 168, my home. A light drizzle caressed all in that epic scene of final farewell for Victor Juffa. Grandmother was of course inconsolable and weeping a river of grief.

I looked around me in awe. Wearing my favorite white sailor suit with blue trimming and sandals, my hair combed and parted as was the style for children born in the 70s. Everyone was weeping. But I was not. I could not. I had no idea what was happening.

No one seemed to know I was there. They were all very busy, crying.

I could not.

Not yet.

I blinked and blinked and felt a terrible sense of foreboding, a cold inexplicable fear. Like the fear you feel when you wake up from a horrible dream and are not sure if it was just a dream or real and do not know if there is anyone there in the dark.

Men and women all familiar faces, writhing in contorted grief, distraught in various poses of dark sorrow, some lying on the fresh red dirt kicking their legs like infants who did not get what they wanted, others squatting and holding their heads between their knees and weeping loudly, rocking back and forth.

There was my Uncle Vincent, watching stony faced his fierce eyes searing through me, his hawks nose defiant and tears streaming down his cheeks. His muscular body looked like it had been hit by a truck and was deflated. He swayed ever so lightly and held my Mother whose face was contorted in agony crying in that silent way that would lock in the sound until it erupted no longer contained, eyes closed tightly shut…I had never seen my Mother cry like this and it disturbed me. I looked away. At their feet my aunty Glen who was also my best friend was clenching fists of dirt and letting them fall and clenching the small piles again and sobbing. “Why?” she kept wailing.


There they were all covered in clay and mud and dirt.

The rain fell earnestly and heavy now. I moved closer to my Grandmother and she stood one hand holding mine and another on her chest…where her heart beat so loudly even I could hear it.
“Victor, num nam toto deka pamboi…nam deka mona…deka mona…nahau mo..ari em deka oeh?” My Grandmother asked in a hoarse voice, in a cry of anger and grief and outrage and immense sadness all packaged in that one sentence… “Victor, how could you leave me and go ahead… how can I remain now…myself…how can you be doing this..?”

I watched an elderly man I had never seen before act out a pantomime…he was walking off as if on a fishing trip and he would stop and turn around as if to wait for someone who followed…waving with his hand he called out excitedly “Ma useh era ro..o ingono, orike, otahe, seri te eyn eto mera ro, enjo hajo!” a child…beckoning his best friend…to their favorite fishing spot along the pristine river Eiwo so green… “We are so close…the fish are teeming …the ingono and orike and eels and prawns so huge..they wait for us…dear friend come quickly”…a farewell pantomime mimicking childhood moments of happy times…common expressions of farewell that best friends acted out of childhood adventures during funerals in Hunjara custom.

Earlier that week I woke up for the first time to find myself alone. There was not a sound and I suddenly felt very alone. I had no idea the loneliness I would feel later on in life but this was a preview for sure.

This was the day my Grandfather had been admitted to the Kokoda Hospital.

I always awoke at the crack of dawn with my Grandfather Private Number 100, Papuan Infantry Battalion Soldier Victor Jaya Juffa on Block Portion 168, a great man larger than life itself.

We had a routine.

He would prepare his shaving ritual and I would stand by to assist. I would hand him his shaving brush and razor and he would shave his strong jaw, dressed in his white singlet and shorts with suspenders. A leather strap used to keep his razor sharp hung off a small tree branch near the creek, on a cluster of boulders, tin bowl of warm water on a smooth boulder, a white fresh face towel folded and placed next to it, a large towel for me next to it on another boulder. He would be humming some country song. I would tentatively wet my toe humming along and eventually kneeling to wash my face. The cool underground spring would be bubbling along and a child and his Grandfather would start their morning with what were the happiest memories of my life.

Nearby at the kitchen, my Grandmother was surely cooking our breakfast. Dumplings, biscuits, Milo and tinned meat, my favorite, meanwhile Koropu would be prancing about near me and barking as I splashed about gradually gathering the courage to dive into the stream and bath myself.

After bathing, we would have our morning meal together. The meal done, my Grandfather would check me for any sores and dress them if there were any and there were always sores. He had a small first aid kit with everything needed to treat a curious overactive grandchild. As I was such an inquisitive child, I was always falling and getting scratched or bitten by some insect or scraping my knee or palms from some fall as I skipped and hummed munching some snack and following my Grandfather everywhere he went.


We were inseparable. But not always it seemed now.

I was his shadow. If I fell tired he would reach down and hoist me onto his broad shoulders and carryon doing whatever he was with me perched on his shoulders. Eventually I would fall asleep, my head on his head, my small arms wrapped around his head, my heavy, slowly shutting and finally asleep. He would carry me back to my cot next to his giant brass bed and carefully lay me down and tuck me in as he went back to work.

I had a babysitter named Kathy who was the most beautiful and strongest woman besides my mother and Grandmother I had ever known. She would take over and watch over me as she wove a bilum and hummed a song.

Always nearby would be my Grandmother, Kathleen Furi Juffa who was the always busy, gardening, cleaning, blium making, tapa cloth manufacturing, scone baking. She was a machine and life, ahh…life was heaven, life, was bliss in Kokoda Block Portion 168.

I was about to learn a most painful lesson in life. That good times…are always ever great because they are inevitably interrupted by moments of loss and sorrow…the inexplicable science of gain and loss…the balance…day and night…good and bad…night and day…highs and lows…joy and sorrow…

On this day, after what was an unbelievably long stretch of amazing happiness, I was to experience what would be my first pang of real pain.

It started with my Grandfather not being in his large brass bed beside me when I awoke.

I rushed outside rubbing my eyes and seeking out my best friend, Godfather and Grandfather Victor Juffa, affectionately called “Nombo” or “namesake”. I heard no response. I thought nothing of it and walked through the corridor of our crude but sound timber home he had built lovingly with his own two strong hands.

I walked down the wooden steps and sat on the last step and the early crisp Kokoda morning greeted my cheeks with its cool mist. Our chickens were already out and about and our red rooster crowed angrily as he intimidated the hens and young roosters to respect him. I watched him and smiled. He was such a character. So scrawny yet so cocky, my Grandmother said he looked like an uncle of hers she grew up with who picked fights with everyone in the village. Our rooster was like that. He picked fights with everyone.

I heard the pigs squealing in their pen, annoyed they were not let out yet to scavenge. I wondered where Grandmother was. She loved the pigs and always let them out to scavenge much to the irritation of Granddad who always admonished her that their complete disregard for anyone as they shit just about everywhere they went was something his sense of order completely disapproved off.

I am sure she ignored him just to irritate him. Grandmother could never be told what to do. Even if it was wrong, she would do it if she was told not to. You had to ask her in a roundabout way. Direct commands never worked with her. “I am not your soldier or cargo carrier!” She would glare at Grandfather if he forgot and ordered her to do something. She would deliberately do the exact opposite or simply ignore him. I was always amazed at her defiance and she would look at me and grin secretly when Grandad would walk off seething.

This morn, I looked around for Koropu Grandfathers favorite dog, a lean and swift wild hunting dog he had been given by a cousin of his who visited him for their monthly hunting trips. Koropu was always by our side as we went about doing whatever. It was always us three that formed a nucleus and then others such as my cousin Elijah or Cynthia or some other unfortunate orphan that Granddad had taken in for a while before they were relocated to another family to take care off. I called but he was nowhere to be seen. He was always waiting at the foot of the steps for Grandfather.

Except today, he was nowhere to be seen.

From where I sat, I looked around our modest homestead my hands tucked under my armpits for warmth and saw people moving about, many people. My Uncle Alex strode towards our kitchen and spoke in a harsh and serious tone to an Aunt of mine. A giant of a man with a thick moustache, Uncle Alex was a heavyset man with a bad temper who was my “Nombo” as well and a close beloved nephew of my Grandfather. He pointed to where I sat and my aunts eyes followed and looked at me and she nodded.

What was going on I wondered?

Alex walked off and my aunt beckoned me to come. I got up off the step and carefully walked down. The cold earth under my bare feet shooed away any sleep left in my tiny frame. I walked towards the kitchen and the already lit fireplace and squatted as close as I could to the fireplace without getting burnt and reach out to warm my hands over the fireplace.

The cast iron wood stove was already burning and there was pot on the heater already bubbling away. I could smell the aroma of dumplings cooking in coconut cream laced with canned mackerel.

My aunt deftly handed me a hot plate of dumplings and a cup of Milo. I ate silently and drank my Milo holding the cup between both hands. I scanned the homestead for Koropu but he was nowhere to be seen.

I continued my meal. Suddenly my jaw dropped and my eyeballs widened.

My Mother was here!

Suddenly! She was rushing with her suitcase through the cocoa trees and she rushed to the house and practically flung her suitcase into the hallway. I stood up still holding my cup of Milo wanting to run to her! I was never told she was coming! Normally it was a major event for me and I would trek to the Kokoda Airport to wait for her with my Grandmother! But here she was! And she didn’t even notice me! I was so torn up that she didn’t say anything to me and rushed off from where she had come! I was confused.

Apparently children are not supposed to know about death and departure and losing a loved one! How arrogant are adults! They imagine that only they feel pain and sorrow and loss. They totally forget that even children, in fact especially children are most hurt by such painful events. Adults always comfort each other and revel in each other’s grief and soak in each other’s emotions and loss and they cry and weep and express themselves and fully expel their emotions and unload their emotional burdens.

But how about the children?

Why are children never treated as if they matter, they have feelings too! They hurt and feel loss and are most scared at these times!

Instead they are most often bundled off to bed or a meal and hardly ever told what has happened. They are often confused and scared and needing a hug and reassurance and some love.

But that hardly ever happens.

So I stood there stunned watching all these strange happenings and comings and goings and anxious and angry faces, my Milo grew cold in the cup I clutched with both my shivering hands and I looked around to ask someone but there was no one there.

I walked to the stream to check. Maybe Nombo had started to shave without me. Maybe he was there humming his favorite song and I would see his broad back and all would be ok. But only an empty brook and bare stones greeted me.

I splashed water on my small face and wondered if anyone would call my name and ask me if I was okay but there was no one.

They had all rushed off to the hospital. Only my aunty was busying herself in the kitchen cleaning up. She seemed totally not there. I walked back and sat on the steps and waited. My hands between my knees and watching the road, hoping my grandfather would be walking through the cocoa trees, wanting to see him soon.

A wind blew strong and the leaves on my favorite cocoa tree rustled and seemed to be alive. I watched the tree shiver and shake and heard the wind whistling an eerie song. I put my head against the wall of the house next to the steps where I sat and eventually fell asleep.

When I woke up I was in his brass bed. No doubt my aunt had carried me there. It was raining softly and the rain on the tin roof was a gentle lullaby and I dozed off again holding my Grandfathers shirt that had the aroma of Old Spice his favorite cologne to my face.

I never saw my Grandfather again. Such is the cruelty and inconsideration of adults.

So often their feelings and grief overshadows their consideration for children.

I watched a coffin disappear into the earth. It rained hard and heavy. The weeping grew intense as earth was reluctantly placed on the coffin.

My cousin Gibson, my Grandfathers favorite nephew collapsed with the spade and wept bitterly refusing to throw any more earth on his beloved Uncles coffin. Someone else gently pried his fingers open and took the spade and continued, he too weeping.

I did not realize that Victor Juffa Private 100, husband to Kathleen Juffa and father to many children, his and those he took in, neighbor to his fellow soldiers and veterans and everything to me, was gone.
I realized that later at night.

That night, after midnight I was told, I awoke in a fit, the room dim from the yellow light of a hurricane lamp turned low, my Grandmother sitting near me, her feet straight out and her hands weaving a bilum, her eyes cried out.

I had heard something!

The distinct voice of Victor Juffa calling out to me. Softly as he did when I was still asleep and we were to prepare for the day “Nombo..” I rushed towards the door and my Grandmother was there…she held me tight… “ It is not him” she cried gently but I was inconsolable. Why wouldn’t they let me out to see him? I had not seen him for days, I was outraged and angry and bitter and kicked and punched and screamed but I could not overcome my grandmothers strong arms and she held me and she wept softly and it was then…that I realized Victor Juffa was gone forever…and I cried…for so long and so hard and sobbed and wept…and my dreams of a tomorrow by the stream with him in his white singlet, our towels placed folded carefully on the smooth boulders, him shaving and humming and me dipping my feet and then having our breakfast together…faded away to be just that…just a lonely child’s memory of his beloved Grandfather…his everything now gone…only God knows where..

The very next day. I walked to Victor Juffas burial site. I had packed my little suitcase. My Mother told me we would be going away for a while. In my suitcase I had put my Grandfathers favorite shirt and belt. Its all I had of him after the usual destruction of grieving relatives during funerals as was customary for the Hunjara.

Koropu was there at the grave site sitting next to it. He looked up and wagged his tail and smiled at me. I sat next to him and we sat there saying nothing and everything at once.

Leprosy and poverty, Rosa Koian’s thoughts about the return of a deadly disease

Sitting in the vehicle I could see her from a distance running half limping. After a few minutes I got out and moved to the front and waited for her.
As she approached she slowed down but continued towards me. I could see the excitement and understood her hopes. Then within two minutes just as she brought herself to us, she was just about to make a dash for her escape when I grabbed her and held her close to me.

Rebecca is a 15-year-old girl on the outskirts of Port Moresby who is spending her early years living in shame because of her condition. Growing up with leprosy she could see how she is losing her two feet and her right hand. Like all young girls she is worrying, a part of her is being deformed. She understands the many implications of this deformation and continues to live in shame.

Leprosy and poverty are like the left and right hands of the poor. One feeds off the other. In places where leprosy cases are high and stigma is an issue many recede to unbearable poverty levels. Where there is leprosy it is not hard to see disabilities but in leprosy you see these disabilities in the eyes, the hands and the feet.

If Papua New Guinea is listed as one of the poorest countries than it is not hard to find people living with leprosy in these statistics. In the eyes of the world as Papua New Guinea boasts modern infrastructure development, there is a group of people who will never have the opportunity to enjoy these services. They will never bring themselves to the centre because of their physical conditions. These people continue to live without proper nutrition, without water let alone clean water, and in crowded conditions – the factors leading to the re-emergence of leprosy.

In Papua New Guinea leprosy was successfully eliminated in 2000 however, in recent years it has re-emerged in Western Province, Gulf, Central, Sandaun Provinces and the National Capital District. World Health Organisation reports that at the end of the first quarter of 2017 356 new leprosy cases were recorded. Off this 140 are women and 89 children.

If not treated leprosy will cause disability in the hands, the feet and the eyes. The good thing for Papua New Guinea is that leprosy medicine is available in country and is free. However, not all people are aware of this disease and those who have been diagnosed often do not take their medicines. In many cases a K1 for a clinic book or a bus ride to the nearest health centre is a burden as that K1 is buying a meal for them. 

For Rebecca even though she wants to go to school she has not been able to for a number of reasons. In Port Moresby all schools demand school uniforms completed with shoes. It is asking a lot for orphans like Rebecca who must find the money to first feed herself and then to pay for her way to the Port Moresby General Hospital for checks. She has dutifully completed her treatment however the scar is there already and as she limps her way back to the river, she waves with ‘I hope you come back’. 

The Sustainable Development Goals lists ‘No Poverty’ as its number one priority and while a health approach has worked, the persisting leprosy presence in communities demand other approaches as well to help rid this disease and prevent disability. Better health, nutrition and sanitation practices are needed to help steer Papua New Guinea towards a healthier nation.

Steven Sukot: The Red, Black and Gold

sukotWhen I see the flag, red, black and gold dancing in the wind, I can’t hide my feelings and emotions, this is my identity.

MV PNG sailing through 42 years. Encountering rough and grueling economic conditions yet we are dancing in the storm to the rhythm of the confronting conditions.

Times are tough, funds are limited, taxes have gone up, adding extra burden on on the masses, yet the simple guy on the street is still smiling doing his routine. The villager seems to have no money, yet has enough for himself and enough to share.

Who are we, PNG?
Why do we mourn and dance at the same time? Why are the rich have little to share while the those classified as living below the poverty line in the jungles of Kaintiba, Koinambe, Josephstaal, Menyama, Karamui, Baining etc… have more than enough to feed themselves and share with those in need?

When it comes to money, only 10% of the population can find employment, 2% can make their own money and 15% or so in the towns do various activities to earn money to survive. However more than 75% of PNG are self reliant, they don’t earn an income, but they grow their own food from their land, they don’t need Eda Ranu or Water PNG, they drink from the fresh creeks, streams and Rivers. They don’t have the electricity, but are thankful for the stars and moon.

42 years on MV PNG, what is your secret?
I see something and it is painted in Red, Black and Gold…

RED reminds of blood. PNG we have very strong believe in families, relatives, wantoks, clans and tribes connected by blood. We are always willing to help and protect our blood.

Black reminds me of the rich fertile lands, customary owned, where over 75% is fending itself from.

GOLD reminds of two things.
1. Royalty….We are a country who believes in God. God protects and provides for this nation.

2. We are blessed with natural resources. Gold, copper, oil and gas, marine and forest resources.

Fly high my country, fly high my flag…I love my PNG. GOD bless my beautiful Papua New Guinea.