Straight outta Menyamya: Clay pistols, pine needle slides and real people

dsc00216Inspired by artist,  Leban Sakale John’s posts, here is my piece.

Menyama is etched in my mind.

I loved every bit of the place and as a boy growing up in arguably one of the best places in the country, I lapped up every minute of it. My brain soaked up the sweet experiences like a sponge.

It was the best place a kid could grow up.

I love pine trees.  In Menyamya, pine trees were everywhere. Every afternoon I ventured into the patches of pine and walked on the beds of slippery needles. I was a soldier, a warrior, armed with a bamboo bow and a handful of pitpit arrows.   Sometimes when the season was right, the pine needles became excellent slippery slopes down which we spent hours sliding down again and again until the earth became bare.

Just before midday, when the wind would pick up, the pines would whisper as the wind caressed the leaves.  The experience was as real as it was poetic.

Near the German  Bingsu’s house in the primary school,  the sweet smell of ground coffee used to waft through the air when we  passed by to go home in the afternoons.  Almost always, we took detours to where good clay deposits could be found.

Grey clay was everywhere.  Clean. Sticky. Malleable.  You could turn that chunk of clay into anything. You were limited only by your imagination.  Every day, I came home dirty. Sometimes with a clay pistol.  I made a bunch of those too.

The current, Menyama MP, Benjamin Phillip, worked at the Anga Development Company…agency… I can’t remember.

Menyamya is where I met Uncle Moses and Aunty Ronda. They were  a couple from the Hetwara, who eventually ended up staying a while at the Haus Boi at the back of the Haus Kiap where we lived. My dad was the district administrator.  Once when I got annoyed with my baby sister,  Uncle Moses, gave me stern advice in his heavy Hetwara accent about the importance of sisters.  It stuck forever. We still have a picture of them somewhere.

Menyama taught me the importance of agriculture and self-reliance.

We ate duck and chicken eggs every day. Duck eggs were larger.  I think a dozen cost K2-K3 We had honey and chickens.   The government DPI station produced it.  They also grew sheep and a few cows.  Those guys were experts.

I eventually bred Muscovy ducks myself. The ducklings were pretty.  Occasionally, a drake would drop by at the pond a bulldozer had dug in the middle stretch of grass were houses have now been built.

Gewe’s dad was a DPI officer, highly skilled in coffee, cardamom and other cash crops.   Talk about food security and commodities, we had right there.

There is so much to tell. I’m getting a bit nostalgic.  Maybe there will be a part 2. I don’t know.

Lae police use drone to improve policing in Lae City


Lae Police have begun  using a drone as they seek solutions to improve policing with limited resources.

The  drone was tested in the presence of the Lae Metropolitan superintendent, Anthony Wagambie.

It is a small consumer device that is expected to   drastically improve policing in Lae – a City that has seen a marked increase in the number of stolen vehicles and armed robberies.

The device is expected significantly improve the ability of the police to conduct surveillance and assessment missions   over a   wider radius with minimal use of vehicles and manpower.

“With the drone we can survey a large area instead of sending in men and vehicles,” Wagambie said.

The drone takes policing in Lae to a whole new level. About 20 years ago, the RPNGC, began employing the use of the eye in the sky concept  – a police helicopter used for transportation and for surveillance of trouble spots.

The concept cost the National government several millions to buy and maintain the chopper.

The drone used by Lae police costs just above K5000 with negligible maintenance costs.

The use of the drone has come through a partnership with Lae based security firm, Executive Security Systems (ESS) whose owner,  John Rosso, is a long serving   Reserve Chief Sergeant in the RPNGC.

The drone will be used for surveillance during the Morobe Show next week when more than 100 thousand are expected to arrive in Lae.

Fuel shortage forces airlines to cut back on rural flights

Grounded Islander aircraft which uses aviation gas.

A third level airplane operator in Morobe province has had halve its operations due to a severe shortage of aviation gas.

Avgas which is used by the North Coast Aviation (NCA) for its smaller piston engine aircraft has run out forcing the airline to ground its planes.

Currently, its fuel supplies come from Poland and with Papua New Guinea going through a foreign currency crisis, the drop in the Kina value have caused business costs to rise.

The airline is now calling on government to subsidize fuel for rural travel for the planes that use avgas.

Captain Thomas Keindip, Chief Pilot of North Coast Aviation (NCA).

Captain Thomas Keindip, the Chief Pilot of NCA says running the airline has become quite difficult in the current climate.

The former MAF pilot is from Komba in the Kabwum District of Morobe. His family also depends on NCA as a primary means of transport to and from their mountainous local level government area.

There is now a back log of cargo that needs to be transported. The cargo includes food, building materials and school and health supplies.

Yalumet languishing in post-colonial neglect while Port Moresby thrives


On the eve of Papua New Guinea’s 41st Independence Anniversary in September, a   relatively large group of villagers gathered at Yalumet, a government station tucked away in the hinterlands of the of the Kabwum District of the Morobe Province.

They met for a ceremony marking the end of a long running feud between political rivals backed by their clans. Those who facilitated the ceremony came from the Morobe Provincial Government.   For many it was rare for members of the government bureaucracy to visit this isolated community even on the eve of Independence.

Since the 1990s, Independence celebrations have become little more than commemorations of a day when school children raise the flag bearing the gold Kumul and the Southern Cross and sing the noble words of an anthem in a foreign language. Independence day has come to mean little for a people isolated and so far removed from the rest of Papua New Guinea.
As the country’s capital, Port Moresby, grows, evidenced by  new four lane highways and tall concrete buildings, Yalumet has remained   quite the same since the 1970s.

EMTV cameraman, Maisen Hungito, who brought back telling images of the state of affairs of the old government station and its people said in his own words:   “The airstrips were built with ‘man power,’ crowbars spades and digging sticks.”

Airstrips were the initiative of the colonial government and driven by Chief Engam Dumulok who envisioned positive change in the lives of his people.

In 1927, when the first missionary arrived in Yalumet, Dumulok was a 7-year-old boy who saw for the first time, new things that would become part of his adult life.

Dumulok never got a formal education but was a highly skilled, intuitive organizer and leader.   In 1968, he was appointed by a “Kiap” or patrol officer as a representative of his people.

He led the work parties that built the Yalumet airstrip. Later some of those skills and knowledge were passed on to other clans who built the neighboring Kabwum, Satuak and Sapmanga airstrips. In 1975, Engam Dumulok led the independence celebrations in Yalumet as the Prince of Wales witnessed the lowering of the Australian flag in distant Port Moresby. Years later, he would be recognized by the Queen for his services to his community.

Airstrips built by Dumulok’s work parties became a lifeline for the young independent country and a people hopeful of ongoing development. Schools thrived and services trickled down from far off Waigani to the people. Messages were passed through letters sent by plane or by two-way radio.

But by the 1990s, third level airline services began to experience demise when the second biggest operator, Talair, abruptly ended its operations after four decades in the country. Over the next 20 years, flights into Yalumet and other nearby airstrips became irregular and the delivery of government services declined.

Teachers from other provinces who previously lived and taught in remote areas like Yalumet did not want to continue working in those locations as travel costs became unbearable.

In 2008, Engam Dumulok passed away at 88 after having lived through a period that saw the arrival of missionaries, the exit of colonial powers and the arrival of the computer age.

The promising potential of new socio-economic developments Dumulok foresaw in the 1960s appeared to have waned after his death.

Early this month, the only third level airline servicing Yalumet and surrounding areas, North Coast Aviation, announced it was cutting back operations due to a shortage of fuel for its older piston engine aircrafts vital for rural flights.  The fuel shortage coupled with high import and maintenance costs will contribute to the further regression of Yaluet’s economic and social development.

On 16 September 2017, months after a new government takes office, the people of Yalumet will again, gather to see their children raise the Papua New Guinea flag and sing the national anthem in the language of the former colonial power.

One can safety bet that their living conditions will have seen little change unless there is a demonstration of political will strong enough to bring about a transition for the better.