By LULU MAGINDE
COMMUNICATIONS engineer, author, retired military officer and long-serving member of the Peace Foundation Melanesia (PFM) James Laki received the Member of the British Empire award recently for his services to the PNG Defence Force, and his work with the PFM.
He served 30 years in the military, reaching the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1997.
“While I was in the defence force, I did a lot of work on conflict resolution.
“Apart from issuing firearms, a change of mind and attitude was one of the key agendas we pushed for.
“We had a lot of meetings, regionally and internationally on gun control, human rights and that’s how I became aware of conflict resolution.”
He is from Ambunti village in East Sepik. He has a son and two daughters aged 34, 31 and 27 respectively.
His wife passed away last year from ovarian cancer. James grew his beard to honour her.
He completed high school in Maprik then attended the PNG University of Technology (Unitech), graduating in 1978.
He began his career as a junior engineer with the military repair and maintenance workshop as a commissioned officer, and platoon commander of the general engineering workshop.
“ While I was in the defence force, I did a lot of work on conflict resolution. Apart from issuing firearms, a change of mind and attitude was one of the key agendas we pushed for.”
In 1986, he was appointed director of communications, and communications adviser, chairman of communications for the National Disaster and Surveillance Committee, liaising with the coast-watch system for ships.
From the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, he held a number of positions in the private and public sector. But he eventually returned to the PNGDF and remained there until 1997 when he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. He later left for Australia to pursue a Masters in Defence Studies degree which he completed in 1999.
He returned home and joined the National Research Institute (NRI) to do research and contribute to the weekly write-up Search line for NRI. It features mostly development issues in the country.
While at the NRI, he also served on the PFM board. He formed his private consultancy firm in 2006.
He eventually left the NRI because he did not have a doctorate.
“I also ended my career in the army. After I left, I became an executive officer of the Peace Foundation Melanesia.”
He successfully negotiated project funding for the PFM from the Government, the Lihir Gold Mine and other foreign partners.
From the mid-2000s to 2012, he participated in a number of consultancy projects with the Law and Justice Sector secretariat to manage and supervise community crime victimisation in various provinces.
“One of the things we’re fighting for at PFM is the ecology of Sepik. Land is one of the strongest resources. If the country fails, then they can resort to land.”
He refers to a project he is currently working on with Ambunti High School in conjunction with the MP, in dealing and working towards conflict resolution. It is all about improving community awareness and project work aimed at reducing violence and crime.
He was at Government House three weeks ago to receive the award from Governor-General Grand Chief Sir Bob Dadae, representing the Queen, accompanied by his youngest daughter. The citation describes his achievements and contributions to his country. Indeed, a medal well-deserved.