SHEILA LASIBORI pays tribute to the late Henry Kila, a humble yet sterling statesman
NAHA Koitana” (Bihain mi lukim, I’ll see later) was the name of the outboard motor that sailed into Arure bay on Jan 09 taking home the body of the late Henry Raisi Kila to his final resting place on Yule Island in Kairuku, Central province.
Henry Kila, better known as HK was buried on a little hill overlooking Arure Bay, up from the Kila family home where he only a few days ago with close friends and family welcomed the New Year.
Mr Kila succumbed to an acute heart attack brought on by clogged arteries and diabetic condition at the Port Moresby Private Specialist Medical Centre at 2am on Jan 4.
He was 58 and was the president of PNG Business Council and managing director of South Pacific Insurance Advisors Ltd which he founded in 2003.
PNG lost a statesman, its first internationally qualified broker and a leading sports personality and administrator in Mr Kila.
“He was larger than life in PNG; a pioneer come trailblazer; a truly bigman in PNG society yet a very humble down to earth person; firm believer of honesty, integrity; and indeed a unique Papua New Guinean of this era”.
This is how Lae MP and deputy opposition leader Bart Philemon remembered his close friend HK who pioneered the insurance industry leaving behind a 40-year legacy.
“We have lost a true nationalist, an unhailed statesman and definitely an outstanding Papua New Guinean unparalleled in private sector involvement.”
Reading his eulogy Mr Philemon said, “The fact that he was accepted to do matriculation studies in 1967 at UPNG is the first ray of brilliance which would later – for nearly four decades – permeate the insurance industry, business and sports leadership”.
Many that paid tribute to HK remembered his humorous nature that also contributed socially to his popularity.
In the passing of a great man or woman one does not know the path they took to be successful until their eulogy is read at their funeral. Such was the case with Mr Kila who achieved much selflessly without making headlines.
Dignitaries, representatives from the business community and private sector, Government officials, sports personalities and administrators, family members and friends packed the Sioni Kami Memorial Church for his funeral on January 7. This in itself was an indication of his contribution to various spheres of society.
The message by Reverend Willie Moses was one of celebration on the life of Mr Kila and a reminder to those still alive today to reconsider their lives in the Lord.
Mr Kila was PNG’s face in the business community particularly in the insurance profession, a career not many Papua New Guineans are qualified in and also his untold efforts behind PNG and Australia business relations.
He was a member of the APEC Advisory Council representing PNG, and was a founding member (since 1995) of the Business Council of PNG and was president from 2006 till the time of his death.
Mr Kila was a member of PNG Sports Federation/National Olympic Committee/Commonwealth Games Association and South Pacific Games Council from 1988 to 1999 when PNG hosted the 1991 South Pacific Games where he was a member of the organising committee and chief master of ceremony.
He was president for PNGSF/NOC when PNG participated in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
In sporting codes, Mr Kila embraced softball and this included presidency from 1994-1999 and life membership from April 2006. He also served as director for PNG Rugby League in 1995 and PNG Rugby Union Director 1998-1999.
Son Emmanuel remembered him not only as a father and mentor but a friend. But mostly he said, the grandchildren (his and brother Guy’s) would miss HK because simply “HK had a way with kids”.
Guy said: “He was an integral part of the Kila family and the cornerstone of my life. So I will miss him and his wise counsel.”
AusAID’s senior trade commissioner John Brand said via email: “He was a giant of PNG business community”.
Phil Franklin representing the business community said: “I encourage people and organisations to step up and fill the gap left by Henry”.
Mr Kila’s sister Joan Kila Aihi said: “We are proud of Henry’s contribution to PNG. A man of principle and integrity. The loss of our brother is also the loss of the people of Central province and the nation. We will always treasure all that he has done”.
Mr Kila is survived by partner Ruth Savakuma, sons Emmanuel and Guy and their mother Sandy Masau, in-laws Janet and Trinnett, grand children Lawrence, Cassandra-jay and Solomon, his mother Avia, brother Jack and sister Joan, and his in-laws and their children.