By DANIEL KUMBON
The book we’ve been waiting for, The Old Man’s Dilemma has arrived. Limited copies are on sale at Ribito Grill and Restaurant at Wagani Central.
I present to you the 23rd chapter of this, my first novel.
Land is the life-blood of all Melanesians. Read how The Old Man grieves for the loss of land and identity of the First nation people of Australia, Melanesians of West Papua and the people of PNG. The island of New Guinea was once connected to the great Sahul land now Australia. Two major causes that separated these dark-skinned people was when the earth’s ice melted causing the sea levels to rise and when foreigners came and forcefully took their land.
You will read more in the actual book. But here, find out what happens next after the Old Man has stopped a rebellion which threatened the very existence of Port Moresby city and the unity of PNG…
AS the crowd dispersed The Old Man met with Fredric Farapo and his people in the middle of Independence Drive and Simon Kerowa drove Governor Bird back to his accommodation at the Ela Beach Hotel.
The Old Man, Kerowa, Farapo and some compatriots who had planned the peaceful outcome would join him for dinner that evening.
The governor felt the spirit of this old hotel. Nearly 50 years ago, Prince Charles had stayed there when Papua New Guinea gained independence. He was representing Queen Elizabeth II.
The Royal Family still heads the Commonwealth and this day Papua New Guinea had come close to experiencing a serious challenge to nearly 50 years as a united nation.
The governor wondered how the royal family would have received the news when it reached Buckingham Palace of another of Her Majesty’s commonwealth member states had fallen. She was aware that leaders would enmesh themselves in corruption, mismanagement and dictatorship.
Although this would always deeply disturb her, the Queen would do nothing. She had no sovereign power over those states. But she understood that leaders often benefited while their people suffered. And she knew that when people revolted mostly the countries never fully recovered.
The governor pondered over how Australia and New Zealand would have reacted. Would they have done anything to assist the struggling PNG Defence force? Would they have lifted a finger if Papua Besena took over the city? Would Papua have been accepted as a seventh state of Australia?
No, he thought. It would have been tricky but they would not have wanted to intervene.
The simple answer was that nobody would have cared that much. The developed world was fed up with third world leaders turning into corrupt tyrants and ruining their countries beyond repair. Papua New Guinea would have been just another one of the many. The world had more to worry about.
The country would have been reduced to poverty, a culture and land plundered of its riches. Look at West Papua. Nobody cared what happened there in the former Dutch colony. Holland and the United Nations did not care when people from the former colony were killed by the Indonesian military. There was genocide and the rest of the world didn’t seem to care either.
The governor shuddered. He was relieved the people themselves had decided to put down their arms to seek redress through peaceful means and through the courts. He knew the people needed good leadership to direct them along the right path so they did not stumble and fall and turn to violence.
Many parts of Papua New Guinea did not change much since the country became independent. People still lived in isolation. They mostly looked after themselves. Living hard and dying young. They needed to be given more. But it was unclear how the leaders would develop to take them to this better place.
Still, the governor felt happy. The people had turned away from violence. They had followed in the footsteps of Sana, the Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare, the great man who led Papua New Guinea to independence.
The governor had done exactly what Somare would have done – given all the time required to address the issue. He felt proud to have been with the people when they chose peace before violence.
Like the Old Man, the governor struggled with the failure of other responsible ministers to attend to the grievances of the people. Leaders had to be more courageous, they had to be more willing to look into the faces of the people, they had to step up and talk with the people – and listen to them.
The governor wished his ministerial colleagues had been there to see the people this day. To see how they desired peace before suffering. The people just had to be treated properly. That was the challenge for the next generation of leaders. They had to take Papua New Guinea somewhere better.
Later that night, over a satisfying meal of seafood harvested from the abundance of the nation’s fisheries – lobsters, prawns, red emperor, sea cucumbers – and all manner of vegetables, the governor, The Old Man, Simon Kerowa, Fredric Farapo and their compatriots reminisced about the day’s events.
They felt the Old Dairy Farm residents would not resort to violence again now that Akali Wakane law firm was taking the matter to court on their behalf. They did not want their city destroyed. They had been disappointed by their government but they were heartened that a group of wise man understood how to take things forward.
Those men knew the problems were not resolved. The courts needed to exercise great wisdom. Papua Besena and the Tommy Baker gang had to be held in check. They presented a continuing threat to unity.
Papuans were a peace-loving people, but the government must understand they would not remain tolerant forever. The government must not be like Japheth in Bumbu. She had forgotten that her husband had a mind and a pair of legs. Port Moresby would always be a sitting duck for an uprising.
Port Moresby was now home to people who represented the diversity of the country. It had to be respected for that, but it also had to respect the rest of the country. They wanted to see the different ethnic groups in the city and the rest of the country to remain united.
And for now, the people of the city had to adhere to orders from the security forces to disperse, to return home. They had to know that any criminal activity would be quickly and harshly suppressed. Normal life had to return. Children had to go to school. Businesses had to open. The government had to resume full operations. The uprising had been a great lesson. The people had spoken and they had to be listened to.
The Old Man had all the information and documents he needed to file an application for a review of the court decision over the Old Dairy Farm settlement land. He had thoroughly prepared his case – even anticipating the questions and other arguments that might be put to him. He believed his advocacy would be strong.
Previous lawyers for the settlers had emphasised human rights issues. The Old Man was going to focus on the original title, its transfer and how that transfer had been appropriated by the State. He had also obtained compelling evidence of fraud. Beyond that, he intended to call upon the Constitution and ask the court to reflect on what it had to say about its ownership and use.
Meanwhile, every part of the country celebrated that peace had been restored to Port Moresby. People everywhere had been anxious about what might happen. But much was their surprise to learn that order had been restored not by the government, but by former diplomat Ambassador Akali Wakane, community leader Fredric Farapo and a young businessman Simon Kerowa.
And the news spread quickly on social media that Akali Wakane, The Old Man, was to make a rare appearance in court in a hearing that might not only assist the Old Dairy Farm settlers but landowners and dispossessed people throughout the country.
The names Wakane, Farapo and Kerowa would enter the history books as the men who had averted a rebellion. The first rebellion in Bougainville in 1989 had triggered a civil war. A mining company had taken traditional land. The colonial government had failed to properly address the people’s concerns.
Now the people were taking their cause forward peacefully through the courts.
In Brisbane, Delisha was relieved that the drama was over. It had made headlines on ABC and in the major newspapers in Australia. She felt proud her husband was in the forefront. She knew The Old Man was a good negotiator and a person who respected the people.
While in Australia, she had got to know her stepson Charles, his wife Miriam and their two children, Charles Akali Wakane Jr and Salome. Miriam was from Kompiam in Enga and had received an Australian scholarship to university when Charles met her.
He had followed in his father’s footsteps and graduated from the UPNG Law School before taking his master’s degree at the University of Queensland. Now he was the corporate lawyer for a multinational company.
Delisa’s second stepson, Felix was married to an Australian Aboriginal woman. He was a mining engineer at a gold mine in western Queensland. He had sent Betty his tjungutjs (wife) to meet Delisa in Brisbane. The couple had a boy, Kombeakali, named after Felix’s maternal grandfather.
Betty’s father was from the Yankunytjatjara tribe who lived near Uluru in the Northern Territory. Her mother had been a Polish mission worker. She was half Jewish. Her parents had migrated to Australia immediately after World War II.
Delisa’s step-daughter, Ruth, was married to an Australian, Mitchel Warwick. They lived in the small suburb of Maylands across the continent in Perth, Western Australia. They did not yet have any children.
Meanwhile, Akali Wakane Law filed an appeal in the Supreme Court on behalf of Fredric Farapo’s people, the aggrieved Old Dairy Farm settlers. He had fought hard for a grueling two months. He needed to rest while they waited for the decision to be handed down. When he was about to leave for Brisbane an excited call came from his first son, Charles.
“Mum’s given birth to identical twins – both boys. They’re all OK. They’re at the Royal Brisbane Hospital. Miriam is with her.”
It seemed to him that the twins were his reward for averting a rebellion. And for volunteering to help the people in court.
Delighted, relieved and a little regretful that he had not been there, The Old Man told Charles he would be with them for the christening shortly, and that Charles should gather the family. He also wanted to visit his daughter Ruth over in Perth.
He asked his son to prepare an itinerary that included Uluru, the ancient red rock in central Australia, where Betty’s parents lived. He also asked Charles to seek permission from the custodians of Uluru for him to touch, just touch, the giant mystical rock.
The Old Man wanted to feel the spiritual legacy of Australia’s Indigenous people. He wanted to hear their old stories. There was much he wanted to know and understand about this ancient people – a people whose land was connected to the island of New Guinea.
And there was something else. He wanted to learn why the Australian government was resisting its indigenous people, its First People, in its constitution.
He believed this might teach him much about the colonial past of his own people.
Survivor, another of Daniel Kumbon’s books. Limited copies of it and
The Old Man’s Dilemma are available at Ribito Grill and Restaurant at Waigani Central.