By TONY PALME
HE was not well educated in the formal system of schooling but is said to be one of the wisest man to have ever lived in Dei district of Western Highlands.
Parua Kuri was the first MP of Dei when he was elected to the House of Assembly in 1972 and is also remembered by many of his people as the father of lasting peace in his district.
Under his watch, he made pretty sure that members of his Tipka clan, and people in his district, maintained peace. He forbade the use of guns, bush knives or any other forms of weaponry to be used against each other whenever disputes erupted, but allowed fist fights as a way of solving issues. These would sometimes last for hours.
Kuri and his colleague MPs in those days were paid a fortnightly salary of K600 and received a yearly sum of K40,000 as development funds, now called District Services Improvement Programme (DSIP) funds.
After a three-year term, Kuri lost his seat to Melchoir Pep in 1987.
But during his time, he did well with the funding he received. He built roads, bridges, schools, aid posts, airstrips, set up coffee plantations, created economic opportunities for the district, built the district’s council chamber, BSP branch office, and a supermarket (which was set ablaze by his supporters after his defeat).
Kuri was a firebrand politician along with late Sir Peter Lus and others. They were frank and outspoken and rarely required the aid of a microphone.
He was born to Kuri Romti and Numangi in 1925, and at the age of 93, has four wives, 17 children and 29 grandchildren.
“I have always advocated for peace among my people. I always love peace that’s why all my wives have never fought against each other or I have never laid hands on my wives.
“I am calling on young leaders today to teach their people to respect and love one another.
I don’t like tribal fights. We must promote peace at all times,” Kuri said.
Semi-literate, Kuri’s first job was for three years as an interpreter for the kiaps (patrol officers).
At 18, he was accorded the position of ‘luluai’ but preferred to be a ‘bosboi’ or supervisor instead.
He worked without pay and in 1963 was elected councillor.
In the 1968 general election, he ran second and lost. He re-contested in 1972 and won.
“Now, I’m the only first MP still alive in Western Highlands. The others have already died.”
The achievement that he is proudest of is his establishment of lasting peace in Dei district.
Kuri wants to see a university built at Kitip Lutheran Secondary School one day. He wants to see the nine, large rundown coffee plantations, and 19 coffee projects in Dei revived and a coffee processing factory built. The district needs three more police stations, he said.
Having travelled to Australia, Germany, Singapore, England, China, India, Sri Lanka, and to the two Koreas, the man from Munump, near Kotna, now lives quietly with his fourth wife, in his village and continues to receive his fortnightly stipend of K1000 as a former MP.
He is confident of living to be 100 years and that is not empty words from a man who eats only from the land, and who still drives and does physical work such as chopping firewood.
He sends all his children to school. Some have found employment both overseas and in – country.
But, is he still looking out for wife number five?
“I have enough kids now. I won’t look for one more young girl,” he joked.
The bible says blessed are the peacemakers and Kuri indeed is a blessed man.
By TONY PALME