By KELVIN JOE
GEORGE Puu was ready to begin his education with other 10-year-old children in the village when his father told him: No!
He was instead to be groomed as a village chief, learning the cultural systems and rituals associated with a traditional leader’s role.
“I was enrolled for Standard One in 1957 but my father did not like the idea of me being educated and leaving the village. So he did not allow me to go to school.”
Now 74-year-old George, married to Pim with seven children and many grandchildren, has been awarded the Order of Lohogu for maintaining peace among his people and neighbouring tribes over many decades.
“I did not have any formal education but I am thankful to the Lord for His grace and guidance in leading me to serve the Government and people over the years. I am honored to receive the award from Governor-General Grand Chief Sir Bob Dadae.”
George is from Kwia village in Wamin (Shark Valley), Wapenamada, Enga. His life has been mostly committed to maintaining peace and law and order in the notorious Shark Valley for more than three decades.
But before that, during his late teen years, he travelled away from his village to work for companies in Port Moresby and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville as a helper and security officer.
He was one of the workers who built the Rouna hydro-power station in 1967, generating electricity for Port Moresby. He left after being diagnosed with malaria.
“ I did not have any formal education but I am thankful to the Lord for His grace and guidance in leading me to serve the Government and people over the years.”
In 1971, he went to Bougainville to work in the new Paguna copper mine as a security officer for about 20 years before returning to the village.”
He reached a position where he was supervising more than 600 security workers looking after the mine’s properties and employees before the Bougainville crisis hit.
“I was promoted because I followed government and company policies.”
He even became the chairman of a security workers union and highlands welfare association during the mine’s operation until 1989. The mine management asked him to manage the security operations during the crisis.
“I was asked to stay back and assist police and soldiers make peace with the landowners and keep the mine operational. But we were unable to control the situation. I had many friends in Bougainville who I tried to convince to calm down the situation but we were over-powered.”
He returned home to Enga in 1990 to contest the provincial government election which he lost.
His defeat motivated him to do more community work, in particular addressing law and order issues affecting the people of Kwia and neighbouring communities.
He was appointed chairman of the village court and the law and order/peace committee in 1996. He still holds that position today.
He was also the chairman of the Kwia primary school and Christian unity group made up of nine denominations.
The people of Wamin call him Chief George. They respect him for his humility, patience and courage to resolve tribal conflicts and calming down tense situations in Shark Valley.
Chief George became the man the people and even authorities turn to when differences arose between clans. His composure, coolness and courage in tense situations have always been respected and admired.
That demeanour and special peace-keeping skills had defused many tribal conflicts and helped maintain peace and law and order in the violence-prone area.
Although he was deprived of the opportunity to go to school, Chief George loves to promote the importance of education among young people.
At 74, Chief George is not done yet. There is still work to be done for the people, especially the children of Kwia village in Shark Valley, Enga.
“Blessed are the peacemakers (like Chief George) for they shall be called the sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)