Gone without a proper ‘thank you’


FORMER Ambassador Peter Maginde, having served under four different governments from the 1980s to 2011, was an established member of the public service and the Imbongu community. He has contributed tremendously to the development of the country.
Born in Maral village in Imbongu, Southern Highlands, he was the second child in a family of seven and was the first of two boys in the province to study in the United States (US) in the 1970s.
He started primary school at the age of 10, because of the late introduction of the colonial administration to that part of the country but would go on to complete his studies in different parts of the world becoming the only member of his family to do so.
The original dream was to be an engineer but being a spiritual man, he saw it as God’s calling for him to work for his government after he returned from study abroad, since it was the Lord who first brought him to the US.
Upon waiting to graduate from Grade 10 at Mendi High School, the country was gravely affected by El Nino so Maginde was signed up as a volunteer by the colonial administration to distribute food in Muli village.
He was the first Papua New Guinean from Southern Highlands to study at his college in the United States in the early 70s. When he returned after graduating, he taught science in Pabrapuk High School while waiting to hear back from job applications.
In the early years after independence, the public service was heavily recruiting and he easily landed his first job within the Department of Planning, responsible for all the provincial planning functions.
In 1979 he was sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to take part in an eight-month development planning course in Japan, knowledge which he would later apply in his work as a public servant.
He was promoted in 1982 to the Department of Prime Minister and NEC as assistant secretary of economic policy, a newly created position under the National Intelligence Organisation (NIO) and between 1983 and 1984, he was made the flight coordinator for the Government Flying Unit.
While on the payroll as a public servant, he was awarded a scholarship by the Dutch Government in 1984 to pursue a Masters in Public Policy in the Netherlands and would have gone on to do his PhD in France, if it weren’t for the housing discrimination he faced in the late 1980s as a man of colour.
In 1996, he was sent to Wewak in East Sepik, to serve as the provincial administrator for four years until he was called to return to the capital to be part of the campaign team for Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare in gearing up for the 2002 general elections.
As provincial administrator, he was instrumental in initiating and implementing Phase One of the Stormwater project in Wewak, East Sepik in coordination with the Korean government in the late 90s and also in providing relief to those affected by the Aitape tsunami in 1997.
He was chief of staff for Prime Minister Somare in 2002 after which he was appointed high commissioner to Malaysia the following year. He had originally wanted to retire from public service in 2003 but was persuaded by Grand Chief Sir Michael to re-open the mission in Malaysia.
During his time as high commissioner in Malaysia and Ambassador to Belgium, he accomplished a number of achievements for the country. For instance, ensuring PNG’s involvement in the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreement allowing PNG to export tuna to the EU.
During the political impasse of 2011, when the government switched hands, certain opportunists within the Department of Foreign Affairs saw that as an opportunity to repatriate Maginde, because of his ties with the grand chief.
He was notified in 2011 that his term as ambassador had been terminated, without being issued a proper contract to begin with. In 2013, he hired a lawyer to represent his case and the court ruled in his favour.
Maginde’s entitlements dispute which he took up with the Government and won has yet to be settled and was based on the fact that while in Belgium, he paid for the first year of his eldest child’s university fees out of his own pocket. He also was not given a contract to sign, when he was cross-posted to Belgium, which was part of the dispute in court and has been following up with the Department of Personnel Management (DPM).
To whomever he would meet or talk to, he always emphasised the importance of an education and how, if it was God’s will, it would happen.
He had faith and remained to have faith until his last days that DPM would pay him what was owed. He passed away this month, still waiting nine years later, for his entitlements. He was a loving family man, humble servant of God and proud leader of his people.