By BENJAMIN KOITAKA
LEADERS and empires rise and fall but what people will never forget are true legacies they leave behind.
The people of Tambul-Nebilyer in the Western Highlands are mourning one of their better known politicians and leaders in this country.
The sad story of Tambul-Nebilyer is there are only two living former MPs to tell the tales of the district’s history to the younger ones as “dead men tell no stories.”
Tambul-Nebilyer will never hear from their past political giants and pioneers.
The death of former State Enterprises Minister and one time acting Prime Minister Vincent Auali two weeks ago was shocking news for his family, tribe, electorate and province and the country.
His contributions to this county are immense.
Today’s Tambul-Nebilyer electorate is now 56 years old, 12 years older than the whole independent PNG.
While not many constituencies in the country were being formed and given political status, Tambul-Nebilyer was amongst the few in the highlands to send the first representatives into the House of Assembly then.
It was the father of Tambul-Nebilyer, the late Sir Koitaga Mano, who was appointed by white kiaps to represent the “Great Kaguel and Nebilyer Valley” in 1963.
Sir Koitaga, as a young energetic man, had the privilege to represent his people in the colonial era. He was appointed as a translator and eventually to the House of Assembly in Port Moresby.
Sir Koitaga never went to school and was illiterate but with the help of God, he successfully represented his electorate for three successive terms before being ousted in 1975 by Puluwe Mapike.
Sir Koitaga who was in his 30s, not only represented Tambul-Nebilyer; he also represented two other electorates of Southern highlands and Enga.
He was a man without formal education but used God-given wisdom to lead those electorates before they became separated after self-government and independence.
Sir Koitaga was also the only MP that represented his electorate in three terms (1963- 67, 1967- 71, 1971-75).
Sir Koitaga was knighted in 2008 by for his services in politics and the general growth of the nation.
An example to others
Tambul Nebilyer experienced and participated in 12 successful national elections since 1963. And a most important example the electorate showed to the rest was that the results of those elections have never been challenged in the Court for the Disputed Returns.
But the sad fact is that there is no pioneer leader living today to mentor and direct the next crop of leaders coming up.
The late Auali rose to prominence from humble beginnings.
Auali was the first born in a family of five brothers and a sister to proud parents Aruru and Mandiamb. He was a village boy taught by his dad how to fight and hunt in the virgin forest of Mt Giluwe.
While the population was low and tribal fighting was the norm in the Highlands, his father Aruru was a great warrior in his Sipaka clan.
But things changed when the first missionaries entered the Highlands and obviously Tambul-Nebilyer was not far from Rebiamul in Mt Hagen where the first Catholic missionaries settled.
Missionaries settle Kaguel Valley
Missionaries started venturing into Kaguel Valley in Tambul and when his father heard that there were some missionaries coming to Kaguel Valley, without knowing what he was doing he took the missionaries and gave his land for a settlement. Aruru’s decision was not a mistake, the Catholic missionaries then turned the land into profitable use.
They built a school and a health facility bringing in social vital services apart from the Gospel.
And today the place that his father gave to the missionaries has become the home of thousands of Tambul-Nebilyer elites and businessmen. The Kiripia Catholic Mission now stands as the giant of Tambul-Nebilyer because of its early settlement and education.
When Auali turned 12, he started his education in his village. He then went on to complete grade seven (form 1) at Fatima in Jiwaka province.
His father’s choice of accepting the Good News and God into his community of Sipaka saw Auali reaping the blessings of that decision.
Auali completed high school and was enrolled at the PNG Institute of Public Administration in 1975.
He served as kiap in Morobe and then moved to Chimbu and worked there for three years.
However, his desire to stay close to his family forced him to leave Chimbu and return home.
His return home also kindled a desire to try politics. Auali was appointed as the assistant secretary of Department of Provincial and Local Level government Affairs and held several other senior positions before being appointed as the deputy secretary of WHP and then first secretary of WHP until 1992.
Drawn to politics
While being involved in politics and working in political affairs, his experiences and involvement had shed some light and finally in 1992 he made his intensions known to contest the Tambul-Nebilyer seat. Auali unseated Thomas Negints who was then fisheries minister and minister assisting the Prime Minister.
Auali entered the fifth parliament in 1992 and joined the People’s Democratic Movement party. Under former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta, he was given the ministerial portfolio of Transport and Civil Aviation.
Auali also served as deputy chairman of the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission (CLRC), and Leader of Government Business.
He was vocal and direct. He was service-oriented and brought many changes to his electorate. His first priority was to link all roads from Tambul Nebilyer and he did that. In his time, the DSIP fund was just K500,000 but he managed to make a mark in the electorate. He was re-elected in 1997 and in his second term was already a senior politician in the hausman.
While political lobbying was at its peak, he joined the government where he retained his ministerial portfolio.
Champion of corporatisation
He was appointed as the Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation under the Morauta government before being the first minister to oversee the Independent Public Business Corporation.
The Independent Public Business Corporation was later placed under a separate new ministry called State Enterprises.
Auali lost his seat in 2002 election to late Mark Anis and Anis served for only one term from 2002- 2007, and lost to former Minister for Labour and Industrial Relations Benjamin Poponawa.
However, he never quit in what he believed in. He contested unsuccessfully in the 2007, 2012 and 2017 elections.
The late Poponawa served two terms from 2007 to 2017 before he lost the seat to current MP and Vice Minister for Treasury Win Bakri Daki.
The only surviving former MPs are Puluwe Maipkton (1975-77) and Thomas Negints (1987-92).
All pioneers have gone.
Former MP Mark Anis passed away in 2014, while the first leader Sir Koitaga Mano followed in 2016.
Then former MP and Labour and Industrial Relations Minister Benjamin Poponawa s died in his residence in Port Moresby in 2018.
While Tambul-Nebilyer was still in shock, nature didn’t allow another former MP and state minister Vincent Auali to live another year.
Auali passed away on Thursday, July 11 at Port Moresby General Hospital after a short illness.
It was grate loss of Komola-Sipaka-Kepaka tribes and the people of Tambul Nebilyer.
Auali, known as Tata (great) to many will never be seen again.
Speaking during the funeral held in 2-Mile at his residence, only surviving former MP Thomas Negints said Auali was one leader who had demonstrated true leadership and served both the Government and country with respect and dignity.
“He was very vocal on privatisation and successfully converted PNG Power Ltd, PNG Ports, Air Niugini and other state-owned entities into government corporations. He did that under his ministry of State Enterprises,” Negints said.
Current MP Win Bakri applauded Auali’s work.
“During Auali’s term, he was a vibrant leader who talked a lot in the parliament.
“Thank you for what you have done to the country, province and our electorate and we will remember you when we see the trademarks you put in Tambul-Nebilyer district,” the Vice Minister for Treasury said.
At this time of loss and sorrow, my thoughts are with you all Tambul-Nebilyer people around the country.
It all God’s call. Tata will be remembered by many.
- lBenjamin Koitaka is a freelance writer.