New Enga book coming soon

The Akmana gold prospecting company field party were the first Europeans to set foot in Wabag.

IN early 2020, Paul Kiap Kurai asked me to write a short profile about the work and death of his father.  As I began my research, I soon uncovered fresh information that led to this book.
During our initial conversation, Paul remarked that his father was a man of giant frame and his mother very short. It was an unusual match but he had married her because she was a local chief’s daughter.
It truned out that the local chief was Pingeta, who along with many tribesmen was shot dead by explorer and prospector Michael Leahy in 1934.
When Pingeta died, his young wife fled in terror, abandoning her small children – a boy Waipu and a girl Tukim. Tukim was to become Paul Kiap Kurai’s mother.
Nobody ever knew where Pingeta’s wife went or what her fate was. Maybe she was killed by enemies or drowned in the Lai or Ambum river or maybe took her own life.
Tukim was a brave girl. She could have easily panicked and run. Instead, she half carried and half dragged her small brother, Waipu, to safety.
Tukim, the daughter of Pingeta, eventually married Kurai Tapus and firmly established her position as first wife when she gave birth to a son.
Kurai’s first wife had died without giving him children and some of his relatives opposed his marriage to Tukim because she was short. But Kurai was determined to marry her.
Paul Kiap Kurai, who commissioned this book, was her third son.
The birth of their first son prompted Tukim to compose a victory song from her pulim anda (birth house). She continued to sing that song as three more sons were born to her.
When World War II came, Kurai Tapus, having been appointed a bosboi (supervisor) by the colonial administration, went on an epic journey to rescue nuns trapped in the Sepik and guide them through the mountain ranges to Mt Hagen.

Enga Provincial Administrator, Dr Samson Amean’s father Peter Amean standing right with another aid post orderly with their families at Wabag Haus sik in the 60s. Dr Amean is one of the small children in the pic

It was a dangerous mission and they would have suffered a deadly fate if caught by the Japanese.
One of the kiaps he accompanied was Daniel Leahy, by now a policeman. It was his brother, Michael, who had shot dead Pingeta, Tukim’s father.
The marriage of bosboi Kurai Tapus and Tukim bore a son Paul Kiap Kurai, who brings this book to modern times.
It tells of a brutal past and of how development came to Enga. It features Paul’s own story as a sometimes reckless but always clever man who – despite coming close to ruining his life – learned his lessons well and went on to develop a large modern business conglomerate.
This book also tells the story of how, during his many years in office, the current Enga Governor, Sir Peter Ipatas, has worked to replace destruction with growth and, assisted by people like Paul Kiap Kurai, has sought to maintain the political stability required to accomplish major development for the Enga people.
Ipatas has promoted sport and culture and has been a strong advocate of education, tourism and economic growth. For the first time Enga has become an exporting province with strawberries being shipped to Singapore.  Other important developments have been a multi-million-kina provincial hospital project, the Enga Teachers College and the Enga Nursing College.
The book also talks about the early missionaries, especially the Catholics who came almost at the same time as the kiaps, bringing a message of hope and peace to a people who wasted much of their lives in tribal warfare.
It also reveals strange stories. Such as the time when two supposedly Baptist Church preachers tarnished the efforts of the early missionaries by smuggling guns into the region and storing them in private armouries in their homes in two of the most volatile provinces in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.
I also consider how foreign influences not working in the people’s interest can wreck our country, especially if politicians, bureaucrats and other compromisers cooperate with foreign criminal syndicates, particularly members of drug cartels.
Even as I concluded this book, an Italian man was caught with a load of cocaine on a yacht off Kupiano in Central. Four Papua New Guineans were assisting him smuggle the drug to Australia.
So this book covers much territory but at its core it is the story of a family dynasty experiencing an era of great political and economic change
And it contains a warning – that foreign influence can often be productive and benign but that it can also destroy. What we do not want it to destroy in this modern age is any hope of prime minister James Marape honouring his promise to take back Papua New Guinea for its people.
It includes many photographs too of the days of first contact at Tole in the 1930s and of many events since.
It is a story told from the inside by a man who understands how the past and the future are held together by the present and who knows that the story of the Enga people is in many respects the story of the Papua New Guinea highlands.

  • Daniel Kumbon is a freelance writer.

Jiwaka man sacrifices for community

David Gelu (middle, in singlet), his workmen and visitors in front of the frame of the health sub-centre project at Kulamp village. Picture by TONY PALME KIP

AS I tried to pen this story about a kind-hearted man who put into practice his faith to help his people in need, I was inspired to share a scripture from the Bible.
When you read Matthew 25:35-40, it stresses on how God will reward his faithful servants in the last days based on what they did while on earth.
The faithful are depicted as those that served humanity, especially the poor, sick, old, widows, orphans, prisoners, and the unfortunate members of the community.
In verse 40 it quotes the King replying, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Around midday on Tuesday, Oct 20, after dropping off teachers from the school that I teach at (Waghi Valley Secondary School) at Fatima Secondary and Banz Lutheran Day High to invigilate the Grade 10 examinations, I went on the school truck to a village called Kulamp in the Kendu 1 ward of North Waghi electorate of Dr Fabian Pok.
Fellow teacher Samuel Dos, Tumai, our security man, and our driver Patrick (Patri as we call) and I went there to collect some sewn timber for Patri’s house at his village at Bung.
It could only take us about 30 minutes to load the timber and return but then I realised we spent almost two hours there because something caught my attention.
The person that supplied our driver with the timber was actually building a huge house with his carpenter and some young men when we met them.
I asked what was going on and was told that they were building a community sub-health centre.
I learnt that David Gelu, a local from Kulamp village in the Kumukanem clan of Tsenglap tribe was actually behind the construction of the building.
Around September of 2018, after realising that there was an urgent need for medical services in the area, Gelu converted his newly built family house, just after a month’s use, into a health post.
The devout member of the Evangelical Brotherhood Church (EBC), his wife and five children made the decision for the common good not because someone forced them.
“I have seen the struggles our mothers and sisters faced during pregnancy. From our village to Fatima Catholic Health Centre and Kudjip Nazarene provincial hospital is quite far.
“Our women have died from birth complications. While we carried our sick people, the elderly or those injured on stretchers up to the main road at Dumbola before catching a bus to Fatima or ferrying them across the Waghi River to Kudjip, some had died on the way.
“It really broke my heart to see our people die like this through such struggles since independence.
“I was convicted to do something to help my people so that basic health service are made accessible right at the doorstep,” Gelu tells me.
He has used his own resources like timber to build two other permanent houses which are into their final stages of completion; they would possibly house any health worker posted there.
His efforts caught the attention of the Jiwaka Health Division which recognised the set-up as a level 2 community health post, and a young nurse was posted there but she left in 2019.
This year, a young man by the name of John Bige is working there as an aid post orderly (APO).
“Now, our women are giving birth while those with cuts and injuries also receive treatment right here. Referrals are done for those having cases that need a doctor’s attention,” Gelu explains.
The APO was not there when we arrived but an excited Gelu told us that Sr Kolly Bang, the superintendent for district health services in the province and North Waghi district health officer Nang Boma had visited the community health post and hinted that it could well and truly be elevated into a health sub-centre.
Most notable is the impressive frame that is currently in progress – the construction of a modern health centre that Gelu describes would have a labour ward and outpatient ward. It is most likely to be completed in late 2021.
“It is purely my own initiative. I am just a simple villager but I am proud of where we are heading into,” Gelu adds.
He thanked local MP Dr Pok for a K20,000 support which they received sometime in May.
Gelu is very appreciative of the support accorded this cause by the community in providing labour, especially young men helping out his carpenter Moses Tungan and his aids in building the ward structure, as well as providing lunch.
One of the sacrifices Gelu made was that he decided to forego his son’s education and concentrate on the construction of the health sub-centre.
“My son was supposed to do Grade 11 this year but I told him to stay back so that we finish this building.
“This project would cost us over half a million kina and that’s why we anticipate it to take us some time but we will work slowly with whatever resources we have at hand.
“We will do our best and God will do the rest because with God nothing is impossible.”
This holistic initiative of a village man with strong faith to invest in God’s work to serve fellow human beings will benefit around 15,000 people from the Molka 1, Kuiona 1, Dumbola 1, Tolu 1 and Kendu 1 wards.
Let us pray for divine intervention so that some form of support is given towards this hearty initiative for the common good.
We should take heed of Mathew 6:19-21: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
I hope we find inspiration in what Gelu is doing.

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