By TONY TAMBI JR
EVERY year the CHM Group like most companies, celebrates PNG Independence Day with large flags erected around the building, and within small and miniature ones adorn walls and office desks.
Everyone is dressed in PNG themed shirts, dresses and hats. But as well as all the usual fanfare, CHM also incorporates the annual head office with Mr and Ms PNG contest, encouraging all national staff to come dressed in full traditional attire of their home provinces and villages.
“Over the years the Mr and Ms PNG contest has become more popular, and this year was exclusively popular with a twist,” said Aaron Chin, the fourth generation PNG born division manager and the eldest son of current managing director Raymond Chin, MBE, born and raised in Rabaul, East New Britain.
On Friday, Sept 14, the directors encouraged their expatriate staff to join in the festivities by partnering with PNG staff member, to learn and share the culture from his or her home and village with the entire group of CHM staff.
“We are a PNG company, we’ve been part of this country for four generations now and we’re proud to be here long before Independence Day in 1975 when my great grandfather was here in the early 1900s and started one of the largest hotels in East New Britain,” Chin said.
The Chin family has been in PNG for four generations, all born and raised in Rabaul, East New Britain with the exception of Aaron who was born and raised in Port Moresby. Chin-H-Meen & Sons also known as CHM Group today, is a family business started by his grandfather, Chin Hoi Meen in Rabaul, who was also awarded an MBE and the Kings Medal ‘For Courage in the Cause for Freedom’ in 1946 after WWII during the Japanese invasion in Rabaul.
He was born in Rabaul on January 28, 1917, with World War I still raging in Europe. Meen lived through racism, the depression and wartime terror to become a respected pillar of Papua New Guinea society. His name lives on for the current and future generations through the firm he founded, the standout success in electrical retail trade and the music industry.
He moved to Port Moresby in 1966 and expanded his business with sons, Larry and Raymond. The companies that he established, Oceania (PNG) Limited and Chin Hoi Meen, are still operating and are major players in the consumer goods industry.
Today, both companies are agents for some of the biggest brand names in consumer electronics and has been PNG distributors for brands such as Panasonic (over 40 years) and Sony (over 30 years). The companies continue Chin Hoi Meen’s passion for photography and both provide the country with the best and biggest photo processing service chain, as well as professional photography equipment to other companies. Aaron is well known for his passion in drone photography and videography.
CHM and Sons Ltd today employs more than 250 Papua New Guineans and is a successful enterprise. Managing director Raymond Chin, a third generation Chin and the youngest of the children of Chin Hoi Meen and June Wan, which included Larry, Sonia, Shirley and Lily, together with his wife Grace, has expanded and diversified the business.
The business includes the country’s pioneer music recording label, CHM Supersound Studios, which was established during the late 1970s. It is now the biggest record label in PNG and the South Pacific and now managed by fourth generation Braden Chin, the music division manager for the family business.
The heritage left by Chin Hoi Meen is carried on by his family through the company in shops throughout PNG.
“I am very proud of our history in PNG and what my grandfather did, to risk his life and the whole family’s lives to help the AIB with information. He risked everything, he was a very brave man and because of him we have a proud history in PNG and our roots will forever be ingrained in this country,” Chin said.
This is why PNG Independence Day is celebrated at CHM, the proud legacy, freedom and independence of the Chin family in PNG. The expat staff paired with PNG staff to wear traditional costumes and perform together in front of an elated crowd at the CHM head office.
“We had a big turnout this year with 18 participants, representing all four regions of PNG, it was great. What was even better was seeing our expat staff perform alongside our PNG staff and they did so well together with traditional dancing, singing, talking about the significance of their village and the full costumes, everyone loved it,” Chin said.
Aaron Chin partnered with CHM employee John Tendepaine from Ialibu, Southern Highlands and was dressed in full Ialibu traditional attire.
“I was super excited to partner with John in Ialibu costume, I am fascinated with highland’s tradition and culture”, Chin said.
He said that last year’s Independence day, he asked one of his staff from East Sepik if he could be dressed with traditional Sepik costume and he said yes and brought his boys to dress him from top to toe.
“It was a huge shock for everyone to see me for the first time in full traditional and it felt like a big honour for me to represent Sepik people. I decided to join it and extend this beautiful experience to some of our international staff, they all loved the experience and learned a lot,” Chin said.
Aaron was dressed by a village elder from Southern Highlands which took hours to complete and said it was one of those proud moments for him.
“As I was getting dressed, the village elder was telling me all the stories to each and every part of the costume that I was wearing, including the face paint, to the bird of paradise head dress, it was fascinating and I started to really feel part of Southern Highlands people,” Chin said.
When the master of ceremony announced Aaron and John’s turn, both entered marching side by side, with John singing in his local Ialibu dialect as loud as he could marching through the office then stopping in front of the judges.
“I started reading out some sentences in John’s Ialibu language, welcoming everyone and wishing all a Happy Independence Day, and John spoke about his song and the costume,” Chin said.
In the end there could only be one Mr and Ms PNG winning contestant. John Tendepaine from Southern Highlands won Mr PNG and Salome Genou from Milne Bay won Ms PNG.
There were also prize winners for Best Costume, Best Presentation and Most Authentic awards. Everyone who participated walked away with a prize.
“It was a great day, to really celebrate the diversity of all our staff and share that beautiful culture with everyone was really special,” Chin said.
Aaron and his family are now the third and fourth generations to continue the legacy left behind by Chin Hoi Meen in PNG.
By TONY TAMBI JR