Chat with a Jimi elder

Weekender

Those who had gone to school in the early 1960s in the remote Jimi District of Jiwaka will remember Kimb Tai. He went on to make a mark in the medical profession emerging from the stoneage era after being educated during the colonial administration.
To those who have worked in the health sector in Eastern Highlands, Chimbu, Western Highlands and Enga, Tai was smart, humble and committed medical officer who feared his expatriate bosses and served faithfully to the best of his ability.
However, not content with his accomplishments as a medical officer in the 1970s and 80s he set his sights on national politics and served as a Member of Parliament from 1992 to 1997.
The name Kimb Tai is quite significant in the Jiwaka vernacular; Kimb means “long” and Tai is the name red-plumed Ragianna Bird of Paradise.
Tai was born to father Tai and mother Pulam in a small village called Kui in the Upper Jimi.
In an interview on Sunday, April 14, Tai said he was the second born in a family of only two children; a sister was born before him. Tai who is now 76, says he started his education as a teenager in a pre-independence school at Kol station in Upper Jimi. At that Lutheran school, Kimb and his classmates were not taught in English but the Kote language of Finschaffen, Morobe.
“Our first class started in 1957 and we were taught to read and write in the Kote language.
“After three years Kote classes, I was transferred to Banz for English classes in 1961.”
Tai said it has been an unfortunate situation and a mission impossible for him and his Jimi mates to master the English class as they had been taught Kote in prepatory and elementary classes.
“Realising our plight, our teacher in-charge, an Australian who was known only as Miss Kess, regrouped us Jimi students for after-school special English lessons and curricular activities to make us catch up with other students.”
After completing grade three at Banz English School in 1962, Tai was transferred to the Asaroka area school in Eastern Highlands – a Lutheran Church-run school – in 1963 where he did his primary and high school studies from grades four to 10. After year 10 Kimb was accepted for health extension officer training at Madang’s Paramedical College.
In 1969 he successfully completed his final year of studies and did his residency at different health facilities in the highlands region including Mt Hagen General Hospital as his base.
In 1973 Kimb was transferred to a new post at Kandep Health Centre in Enga. From Kandep he was recalled for a new assignment to his home district of Jimi where he looked after both Kol and Tabibuga health centres in delivering medical kits, drugs and at the same time providing treatment for the sick.
Being a public servant in an outback and disadvantaged place like his Jimi district, Tai endured all odds in serving his people with dedication. He recounted his days there when he had to walk a distance of about 30km to Kol from Tabibuga. But after some this became a normal part of his duties and he grew accustomed to regular trekking as part of his work as a health extension officer (HEO).
He requested motorcycle from the Western Highlands provincial health office and got it in 1974.
During his service to the Jimi district as HEO, he initiated two self-reliance projects – Olna Health Centre and Foroko (Birimde) airstrip.
Foroko is located near the Ramu River at the border of Madang and Jiwaka. After his two-year stint in serving his own people, he left to take up a tutor’s job at Madang Paramedical College. His job at the college was to oversee and supervise second year students in field practical lessons.
Tai’s six years at the college from 1976 to 1981 warranted him something better and of higher status. He was appointed deputy provincial health extension officer for Western Highlands after serving at Togoba Health Centre for a short time.
Tai rose in his profession and eventually became deputy provincial health officer for Western Highlands and served in that capacity from 1982 to 1987.
He resigned in 1987 to contest national elections where he came second to James Kuru Kupul.
After the election Kimb returned to his remote Kui village for a break of nearly one year but was recalled for a district health officer position at Minj Health Centre in 1989 where he worked for about two years. He then requested for a transfer to his home district and was transfered to Tabibuga to serve there one more time as district health officer.
However, the hunger for politics still lingered in Kimb’s heart so he resigning again to contest the 1992 national elections and this time successfully unseated two-term MP James Kuru Kupul.
Tai said he contested under the National Party and his victory was wonderful news for then party leader, the late Paul Pora and his party executives.
As the new member for Jimi Open after the election results, Kimb teamed up with Paul Pora’s National party during lobbying for the formation of the new government. According to his account of what had transpired on the floor of Parliament, the National Party and other coalition partners tried to elect Sir Rabbie Namaliu for a second term as prime minister but that attempt was unsuccessful and Paias Wingti was elected as PM.
Shortly after the formation of government, Kimb said he approached his party leader and begged for a release so he could team up with the Government to be in a better position to deliver goods and services to his isolated and difficult electorate.
Tai said it was sad to leave one party for another but “I did it for the sake of my electorate and its people.”
He resigned from the National Party and joined Deputy Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan’s People’s Progress Party (PPP) which to him was the better choice than PDM because the man he beat in the election was a candidate of that party.
“Since joining PPP, I remained loyal to it all through my five years in office as the Member for Jimi until the 1997 national election.”
Tai served that single term and lost to another former health worker, Beran Tambi in the 1997 national election.

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