I was reading a fellow country man’s article titled “Why the Southern Highlands & Hela Provinces are important to me” and it inspired me to tell this story. It almost brought tears down as I reflected on a similar experience back in 2001 when I was at Gordon’s market in Port Moresby. I was with a young Erave youth; his name is Leme who left his village when he was aged 5 years with his older brother because of a tribal fight that destroyed his entire village and displaced the villagers. He went back to his village after some years but he could not settle in so he drifted to Madang with some “wantoks”. Homeless and wondering around I found him in town and took him in after hearing about his ordeals. He just became part of the family and he even changed his surname to my family name. Anyway we were in Port Moresby trying to locate his older brother who lived somewhere at 5 mile area. As soon as we got off the PMV at Gordons market and walked past some women sitting behind their esky coolers selling ice block, his face suddenly lit up and he smiled. I asked what he was smiling about and he told me, “mi harim tokples ya”. (I can hear my native language being spoken.)
We eventually found some information from the ladies and went to 5 mile where he was reunited with his brother after all these years. He decided to stay with me in Madang instead of with his older brother. He is now married to a lady from Banab, NCR Madang and lives with her in the village.
Anyway, the point of these experience after reading the article by Scott Waide, I made these comments on his blog: “from my point of view we are all Papua New Guineans despite our language barriers and cultures. I am from the coastal region and I don’t know how to speak Erave or Tari languages but that did not stop the brotherhood that developed between Leme and myself. Personally, I disagree with provincial day events and provincial flags. It only separates our unity as Papua New Guineans. I believe we should do away with promoting provinciality as it only stereotypes us into classes. Natural disasters like the Rabaul Volcanic eruptions in 1994, Aitepe Tsuanmi in 1998 and recent disasters at Manam, Kadovar and Mendi have brought back that unity of independence in 1975 despite our Provincial barriers. Learning of how Bougainville supplied aid to the victims of the 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Southern Highlands is a classic example of this story. The bottom line is that we unite in times of disaster and emergency despite our cultural differences is a phenomenon worth considering in reforming our government of the day, its country values and our constitutional rights.”
Scott mentioned in another article that “…in the last 10 years, the monopoly of information has shifted from government to citizens…” and “…in a disaster prone country like Papua New Guinea, it is crucial that we review our processes and use our resources better..” which I totally agree with. There is no civil defense set up in Papua New Guinea unlike most countries. I am not referring to the PNGDF or the National Disaster Center in Port Moresby but non-combatant civilians, volunteers trained in the capacity of providing humanitarian relief work. This can be taught in schools by reforming education curriculums and the national qualification framework to train civilians at all levels of education.
If we really value National Security, as citizens we should not take sides in the political arena while the current sovereignty of our nation and democracy is being manipulated by greed, foreign gain and power. Unity in times of disaster should be the same when it concerns the governance of national security.