By ROSELYN ELLISON
THE crisis on Bougainville three decades ago prevented Joachim Pitala from attending the funerals of his parents.
Today, the 63-year-old father of five from Rorovana village in Central Bougainville is ready to go back home for good, after having lived away and serving the public for 37 years. Now he will able to visit their graves when he wants to.
Three of his children are adults while two are still schooling.
His mother passed away in 1990 when Joachim was away. He did not know about it until a year later.
“My sister had to sneak off to North Solomon and posted a letter to me saying our mother had passed away the previous year. My sister also described the situation they were going through. I was lost for words and didn’t accept what I heard. But somehow I had to live with it. I wanted to go to the village but the situation there did not allow me to.”
He had to live with the pain of not saying goodbye to her.
He received news of his dad’s passing while away for studies in 2000. Again he was not able to make it home for the funeral because of situations facing home.
“The last time I visited my father was in 1997. I had flown to AROB to pick up my wife and two sons. My last memory of my mother was in 1989. I had to leave her and my family to go to school.”
Joachim has been teaching at the Vudal University of Natural Resources and Environment (UNRE) in East New Britain for the past 14 years. He is resigning this year to return to his village at Rorovana.
He graduated from University of PNG in 1982 with a Bachelor in Agriculture Science. He worked for 10 years as an agronomist with the Department of Agriculture and Livestock based at the Menifo sheep research station in Goroka, Eastern Highlands.
In 1988, he was offered a scholarship to study for a post-graduate degree in agriculture at the University of Technology in Lae.
“ I will share whatever knowledge, skill and new methods I have gained in the past 37 years to my people so that they will know more about agriculture.”
In 1992 he was transferred to Lae to work as a rice agronomist based at Erap.
He then went to Australia to study at the New England University in New South Wales for a masters in agriculture science. He returned and worked as the chief food crop officer at Erap in Lae
Now with his qualifications and experience in agriculture, he plans to involve himself in agricultural activities to help his people. He plans to set up a little family business.
“I will share whatever knowledge, skill and new methods I have gained through my working days in the past 37 years to my people so that they will know more about agriculture.”
He thinks it is time to quit as a public servant.
“I want encourage people still working and are over 50 to resign and return home and enjoy life before it is too late.”
Joachim welcomes the current referendum in Bougainville which he feels will heal a lot of ache and pain for those who had lost loved ones during the crisis.
“I want to support that by going back to my community and contributing meaningfully. I have been working for the government for over 37 years and now I want to resign, go back home and give back to my people.”
Joachim believes the referendum marks a new era for him personally – to forget the past and focus on the future. It will be nice to be back home.