By JUNIOR UKAHA
THE small single-engine Cessna made a sudden landing on a narrow airstrip after about 30minutes of uneasy flight from Nadzab Airport.
Looking out the window, I could see scores of people rushing towards the grassy airstrip to get a glimpse of the white plane and its passengers.
It was around 10am but the sun was nowhere to be seen.
It was cold and you could feel the damp, mild mountain air gripping your body.
We were about 1500 to 2000 meters above sea level at the foothills of the rugged Sarawaget Range in the Kabwum district of Morobe.
We had to negotiate rugged mountains, withstand turbulences and eventually find the right angle to land in an airstrip that was surrounded by towering mountains all around.
We touched down at Yalumet government station, one of about half-a-dozen government stations in this isolated district of Morobe.
Kabwum district, home to some 50,000 inhabitants, lies to the north of the province, and is part of the Fisika (Finschafen, Siassi and Kabwum) constituency.
I was there at the invitation of the newly elected MP Patrick Basa for a news story on his ‘home-coming.’
Since his election in July, the MP had not been to his district.
Basa was the only Morobe MP that joined Peter O’Neill and his coalition partners following his election victory.
He was duly awarded with the Fisheries and Marine Resources Ministry, a post that was previously held by fellow Morobean MP Mao Zeming (now ousted).
The former Morobe Governor and Christian Democratic Party (CDP) leader Kelly Naru has also handed over the leadership of CDP to Basa.
Basa hadn’t returned to his people for nearly two months as he was preoccupied with political and ministerial matters in Port Moresby.
The celebrating of the 42nd anniversary of the country’s independence was an opportune time to return to his people, to celebrate.
Yalumet is one of those government stations that time has forgotten.
It has a small airstrip, a primary school, a health centre, a small Local Level Government (LLG) office, a mini-hydro power plant and few trade stores surrounding it.
The station, along with another station, Yus, on the border of Morobe and Madang (Raicoast), are not connected by road to Kabwum station in Selepat LLG where the district headquarter is located.
The only mode of transport outside these two stations is by third-level airlines.
If choosing to walk, (which most of them do), it will take a day or two to arrive at Derim Station depending on their point of departure.
The journey is treacherous and involves climbing rugged mountainous, descending on steep slippery gorges and negotiating fast-flowing rivers.
Derim is connected by road to Kabwum. It also connects by road to the coastal government station of Wasu in Tewai-Siassi, where a jetty is located for sea travel.
Our small entourage had arrived at Yalumet on Friday, 15 Sept, a day ahead of the Minister, where we were met by government officials and people related to the MP, who then took us to a haus man.
Dusk arrived sooner than we expected and we were soon taken to our lodgings for the night.
As we were having breakfast early the next morning, we could work out the distinct sound of a helicopter descending from the Sarawaget Range.
We knew it was the MP arriving as people left what they were doing and made their way towards the airstrip with great joy and excitement.
Not long afterwards, Basa, his wife, a daughter and one of his officers disembarked out of the Manolos Aviation aircraft.
The crowd went into frenzy, shouting and rushing forward to hug their new MP. Some shed tears for the return of their favourite son, brother, cousin and tribesman.
People had travelled to Yalumet from all corners of Kabwum to see the MP. Independence Day celebrations at the station had begun the previous day with activities such as sports and cultural dances taking place.
Basa was escorted to the podium, after a brief break, where he addressed the people.
“I am here to spend time with you, my people,” Basa said.
“I am a simple man, I am here for you,” he said.
“When you appointed me as your MP, I had to make some tough decisions,” Basa said.
“I went to join the government because I want services to reach my people in Kabwum,” he explained.
“I am a MP and not a school boy where other people can push me around,” Basa said.
“I was among the first lot of MPs who went to the Alotau Camp to form government,” he said.
“I was given a senior economic portfolio in the cabinet,” Basa said.
“This is a plus for the people of Kabwum and Morobe,” he said.
“I would like to thank you my people for voting me,” he said.
“I thank Prime Minister Peter O’Neill for giving me this important ministry,” Basa said.
Basa said the election was over and it was time for the people of Kabwum to work together for the development of the district because Kabwum had missed out on a lot of services since Independence.
Basa said he has collected 2,400 votes from Yalumet and that was the reason why he had to come back to thank the people and spend time with them.
The MP had told the people his plans for the district and also advised them of how much funding from this year’s budget was allocated to the various sectors and development programmes for the district.
The icing on the cake was a K100,000 supplement on from their MP to support the event.
More singing, dancing and feasting ensued until afternoon.
People from villages closer to the station left in the afternoon to give them time to reach their villages before nightfall. Those from further away spent the night with friends and relatives at the station.
The MP and his family returned to Lae the next day. Our team had the Sunday to ourselves so spent the day exploring a number of sites around the station.
On Monday, 18 Sept, as our plane was high above the Sarawaget, I peered out the window and marveled at the large span of natural rainforest. I wondered how the people of this rugged, but beautiful place, after 42 years, still are disconnected by road from their provincial headquarters, and the country’s second largest city- Lae.
By JUNIOR UKAHA