True spirit of Independence


ONE fact was obvious about this year’s independence celebrations.
That was the depth of feeling shared by many Papua New Guineans.
This showed itself in the family celebrations that seem to have become the order of the day in many provinces.
In an average street of small houses, we noticed PNG flags in windows; strings of small pennants fluttered from garden shrubs and along roof guttering.
One house boasted a huge PNG flag, sturdily mounted; the folds of fabric blazed colour in the morning sun.
Children played hopscotched on a cement septic tank cover.
Soft limestone chips from a nearby building site served for chalk.
The National Song had become part of their game, and their leaps and pratfalls were accompanied by burst of the verses.
On the eve of PNG’s 41st Independence Anniversary we got word that one of our reporters and a fellow colleague from NBC were hurt in an ambush at Kuriva outside Central on their way back from an assignment with the Goilala MP William Samb.
And this is not what we expect from fellow Papua New Guineans, especially after 41 years of Independence.
Anyway, we got to the Independence Hill by 5.15am last Friday and the atmosphere was ecstatic seeing families, the young and the old making their way up to the hill just to be with fellow Papua New Guineans and witness the flag being hoisted.
One of the local churches conducted an independence thanksgiving service.
It was well attended, with many children in shirts and blouses made for the occasion, a tide of red, black and gold ebbing and flowing in the open-sided buildings.
Some of the houses hosted family gatherings.
One nearby had been a centre of activity from sunrise, as the father of the family manfully wrestled with a large pig on a spit, turning it as his face sweltered in the blaze of the fire.
In another, elderly couple who live there were visited by their children and their grandchildren, a great wave of youngsters giggling and shrieking and bouncing with a sense of occasion.
We watched these activities, and saw in them the inherent goodness of our people, their simplicity, and their sense of marking a day of importance in their lives.
It seems that we witnessed the development of Independence Day celebrations as a family tradition.
If that observation proves true, then we have the basis for true nationalism – not the noisy chest-thumping of aggression and misplaced pride but the quiet growth of individual and family recognition of the importance of this great day.
To be proud of who we are and to show pride in our achievements has nothing in common with the conceit that will not entertain the smallest criticism nor tolerate anything that stands in the way of empty bluster and pointless bravado.
Later on Independence Day, truckloads of youths arrived at the dusty empty field at the end of the road.
This was not some urban invasion hell-bent on creating havoc.
The youngsters came from adjoining suburbs to play a variety of challenge games.
It was hot.
It was noisy and dusty, and the energy they expended verged on the frenetic.
But it was good-natured, and when the sun began to burn its way over the horizon, the day had passed without any incident in our area.
Family groups reassembled, cooking was the order of the day, and groups of youths wandered the streets cracking jokes, swearing convivially at each other, and breaking into lusty if tuneless songs at the drop of a rap.
It is proper that our leaders mark the day with flag-raisings, speeches and assemblies at Independence Hill.
But to the ordinary people were with last Friday, the special nature of the day was reflected in the unconscious strengthening of family and community bonds.
The people involved come from nearly every province in PNG.
Their easy ability to interact suggested that the strengths of PNG and its people, so often invisible to critics, continue to be expressed throughout the nation.
Some families celebrated the birth of a new family member.
It was a fitting completion to Independence 2016 with all the promises implied by the birth of a new citizen of our nation.

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