By CYRIL GARE
IN Lavongai, on New Hanover, New Ireland, 45 houses permanent houses are under construction as you read. Already, 73 of a total of 118 permanent houses have been built. Thanks to, one of a kin, developer, Joinland PNG Limited (JPL) from Malaysia.
Joinland has also built 300 kilometers of roads, three new church buildings, three pastors’ houses, three primary school double classroom buildings, three elementary school buildings, three aid posts, and one community health worker’s house.
JPL is the operator of the multi million kina Central New Hanover Agro Integrated project on New Hanover. Despite its critics (and SABL Inquiry of 2012), this project has created 440 formal jobs for the locals and has generated nearly K250 million in revenue since 2011 when it first started. Most of these monies were paid in royalties, export duties, export levies, forestry levies, of which K23.9 million was been spent on the economy of New Ireland province.
Under this project some 94,000 hectares of land have been utilized; more than two million rubber trees, 560,000 cocoa trees, 15,000 coconut trees, and over 800,000 calophyllum trees (re-afforestation program and carbon trade) have been planted since 2011.
JPL Managing Director Deodatus Hii, said his company will continue to deliver community benefits through its various programs including Luit – house for life, Lamanito – water for life, Sukalito – planting for life, and Selenito – roads and transport programs.
“Deo,” as he is commonly known by the Lavongais, is a man with a great heart. Born on April 1, 1973 in Malaysia from a Christian family, Deo’s love for God and faith has been the guiding light for his success.
After graduating in Civil and Structural Engineering in Singapore, Deo received a scholarship to study in Exeter University in England where he successfully completed a Master’s degree. He had to forego the option to continue with PhD to take up a job with a Malaysian public listing company, so he can support his parents and three younger sisters.
“I come from a poor family so I’ve to work to support my parents and three small sisters,” Deo recapped.
After only three years of his working life, Deo became the group general manager of Pan Pacific. Soon, disaster struck. Deo was diagnosed with a tumor in the brain, on January 10, 2010 (brain hemorrhage).
“Half of my brain was cut off, I lost my memory and my movement was impaired,” Deo recalled. From success, his life became disaster.
“I attempted twice to kill myself by drinking sleeping pills.”
He used to be a skillful artist, a piano player and athlete. These are all no more.
“My faith in God and my young family are the reasons why I am surviving today. My daughter still can’t believe I am alive today.
Being a disabled (person with disability), he was subject to ridicule by friends and people around him.
“My friends in England and overseas laugh at me and say ‘top scholar in engineering. Fit to design multi-storey buildings but wasting his time in New Hanover, New Ireland and PNG.’”
“In Malaysia and Singapore, people look down on most disabled people. They make sarcastic comments even from very close friends.”
“But I am who I am. I am a fighter. I am a Lavongai so I don’t care. In fact, I feel sorry for them. I am handicap in my body but my mind, heart and soul are in very healthy stage.”
“My principle of life is that never put a full stop in life. If you want to always put an exclamation mark (!) or a question mark (?) not a full stop (.).”
He explained that despite people becoming depressed, they can always spring back up and start life all over again. “It is the Lavongai people that keeping telling me to go on in life.”
“I saw tears in their eyes when I woke up from my attempted suicide sleep. When I see this I was touched by the love of the Lavongais.”
“I shouldn’t have done this (suicide). God put me for a purpose. That’s how this project kicked off.”
“Now I have four projects to run here in New Ireland- FCA 16-1 Danfu (cocoa), 16-2 (rubber, New Hanover), 16-3 (oil palm, Konoagil) and rubber and galip nut, Namatanai).
“Because of faith in God and strong determination to beat my disability, I am now able to walk again, I got my memory back. I will never give up.
“Put your faith in the right place call the mighty God’s Kingdom. Always put him first. Then all the blessings will come into your effort, into your work,” Deo said.
Deo has, in fac,t taken up bible studies at the International Theology Centre in Singapore and is a devout Christian.
“I love this place, this place has given me a second life on earth. Customarily, I am a Lavongai. I am a son of Lavongi through the Ianga clan of my father Pedi Anis and Steven Hii through custom. I therefore have every right to stand for my people and do what I am doing for them. I will do more to transform our people’s lives on Lavongai.
Lovangai businessman, Pedi Anis is totally behind Deo. Anis is a former Premier of New Ireland. Since 1995, after leaving politics, Anis planned for major customary land developments on New Hanover and New Ireland.
In 2001, he produced a document Land Development Scheme for New Ireland which became the roadmap through which his company Tutuman Development Limited (TDL) was able to secure JPL for the land utilization and development on New Hanover.
In January 2012, Central New Hanover Agro-forestry Project was launched, signifying an all new beginning for one of New Ireland province’s least developed areas – New Hanover.
Anis said the launching of the Central New Hanover agro-forestry project is one of its major achievements in stimulating socio-economic growth in the area.
“There has been lack of socio-economic development on New Hanover island, notably in Central New Hanover, since the country gained independence, and this agro-forestry project will help build and sustain the economy of the area in the long term,” Anis told PNG Agrinews.
“The agro-forestry project will lead to development of basic infrastructure including roads which in turn will create more opportunities for the villagers to be involved in cash income earning activities.”
“Road accessibility will mean more villagers will take their produce to markets, villagers will have access to government services, and to seek health services, children will be able to attend schools.”
“People who have been involved in making the project become a reality had a dream that people of New Hanover will one day travel around the island in a vehicle, live in permanent houses, have access to good water supply, access to infrastructure like roads, aid posts, schools and markets. They wanted their people to have access to cash income and improve their livelihoods.
“The hard work is just starting. There are bigger challenges along the way to achieving prosperity and I urge the landowners and community to be united and committed in achieving the objectives of the project.
“Normal timber royalties, premiums and other levies are being paid directly to the Incorporated Land Groups (ILGs), however, landowners are been urged to utilize some of these benefits as equity in the development or be involved in spin-off businesses.”
Last week, Agriculture and Livestock Secretary Dr Vele Pat Ila’ava, and Rubber Industry Board Chairlady Josephine Kennie, were in Kavieng and presented a Rubber Exporting License to New Hanover Industries, a landowner company.
Dr. Vele and Kennie also presided over the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for rubber development in the province between the Department of Agriculture and Livestock, the New Ireland Provincial Government, New Hanover Industries Ltd (Landowners) and Joinland PNG Ltd – the developer.
On behalf of the NID Registrar Dickson Kiragi, who was unable to attend the ceremony in Kavieng, Dr. Vele also performed the declarations of the NID registrations for 12 Lovongai villages. Actual NID cards will be presented to around 1,000 villagers who are rubber farmers next week in Kavieng.
Kennie said NID registration of rubber farmers in New Ireland was a benchmark initiative which the board wished to champion across rubber growing regions in PNG in the near future.
Cyril Gare is a freelance writer.