By PISAI GUMAR
AN old lady, Daluwo Nuwa, in her late 70s, felt a sting of piercing through her heart as she sat beside the fire preparing dinner under her karuka thatched roof in the jungles of Bema in Kaintiba on the border of Gulf and Morobe.
It was an unusual and rather emotional evening for her as she felt waves of tears continuously nagging her heart.
She was unable to hold back tears of agony that poured freely, expressing the pain and struggles that have remained over four decades. Widows like herself and other women and their children have endured many hardships in the Waba wilderness of Kaintiba.
Daluwo felt that the news about the departure of Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare on March 26, 2021 left an enormous gap that leaves far-flung inhabitants in perpetual isolation.
The unfilled dreams of the late Sana to provide remote people with basic services replacing dilapidated colonial facilities is still pending compared to urban centres.
Daluwo and her late husband Nuwa had not had the privilege to meet the late Grand Chief personally in their lives. Yet his colorful political career and legacy is well-known and honoured deep in this border region of forests, mountains and caves along the Owen Stanley Range.
They only felt the presence of the late Sana through services like Kaintiba High School, the health centre and airstrip that were established during his tenure as Prime Minister.
However, these services are currently in dire straits.
A road linking Kaintiba to Menyamya or Kerema will ease people’s socio-economic hardships of four decades.
The only chance for the tribesmen there to feel the presence of Sana is through radio and newspapers, and seeing his portrait on the K50 note.
Daluwo and his late husband, like everyone else, hold the late Sana’s name dearly in their hearts honouring him as “Papa blo kantri,” just like other Kaintiba folks.
The unexpected news spread into this border area like a wild bushfire shocking and rocking many hearts. Many painted themselves in brown clay and cried bitterly on their knees.
It shocked them after a local businessman from Weyawinhi village spread the news along the communities from Akona, Haiyewa, and Poyu down to Bema and Kaintiba areas after returning from Lae.
Daluwo wept bitterly throughout the night with a thought in mind: How she would attend and witness Sana’s casket to pay tribute or attend the funeral service and burial.
As the glittering morning rays penetrated deep into the wilderness with sounds of crickets welcomed a new dawn, she woke up his son Daniel Nuwa and assigned him a mission.
Daniel is tasked to travel to Lae
The mission was purposely to go in search of Sana’s haus krai (mourning house), pay tribute on her behalf, get photographs of events, collect copies of newspaper articles and pictures about the passing of the Grand Chief, return home and confirm to her and the community.
Daluwo then reached out to the roof of the thatched karuka shelter for her purse, a dried bamboo tube and pulled out a K50 note and gave to Daniel.
She pointed to Sana’s face on the K50 note and told her son, saying;
“People have said that this father of ours has died. Get this money, go get on a PMV to Lae and find out where a haus krai is. If you locate it, go attend it on my behalf and convey my condolences. And return with pictures and newspaper articles about his death, funeral and burial.
With a sobbing heart, Daniel packed into the backpack his school documents, Tok Pisin New Testament, few clothes, two roasted sweet potatoes and some water in a bamboo and started the journey.
Daniels’ last visit to Lae was in 2015 while he was in Grade 8 at Kaintiba High School. However, he was terminated in 2017 while in Grade 10 due to incomplete school fee.
“I still do my own studies at home because education is my only hope so back in the village, I dedicate my time for studies and attending church activities,” Daniel said.
Daniel is the last born among his four sisters and four brothers in a family of nine. Their father, Nuwa passed on in 2015.
Daniel learnt about the name Somare when first attending Tawa Primary School. Then his parents rarely showed him a K50 note and said “This is the father of our nation who takes care of Lae and gives us many good things.”
Daniel told his parents “Let me complete my schooling and go to see our father.
It took Daniel a whole day to reach Mt Hikaviaba where he rested for few minutes before continuing to Poyu and slept there when night fell.
He continued the next morning to Haiyewa then Hakona and arrived at Poyu junction along the Menyamya highway at dusk and slept under a makeshift shelter along the roadside.
Next day, he travelled to Lae via Watut and Bulolo. The driver dropped him off at one of the roadside markets at Gabensis.
A family, unknown to Daniel took him home and he spent a night with them. They found out that he was sent on a mission to prove the death of Sana.
Daniel hopped on another PMV the next morning and got dropped off at 5-Mile Moale service station and walked over to the recently built shop owned by one of his Watut tribesmen.
He sat down there in silence observing people going in and out the store, hoping to sight any save pes”.
“Unfortunately, I never went inside and enquired, instead after two hours observation, I walked along the footpath down to 2-Mile” Daniel said.
Then he bumped into an unknown highlander that works for Black Swan security firm.
Sensing that he was a new kid in town, the guard enquired and realised that Daniel had a genuine reason he generously invited him to his home to live and accomplish his mission.
Daniel started his mission the next day wandering along Lae city streets with the hope to possibly sight any haus krai.
On Saturday, March 13, as he walked past Morobe provincial disaster office along the Markham Road, he saw a huge orange banner erected alongside the spike fence in front of Huon Gulf district administration building which drew Daniel’s attention.
The banner with a painting of Sana and words of tribute from MP Ross Seymour and administrator, Moses Wanga drew Daniel much closer.
Daniel stood for a moment and recollect the face of Grand Chief on the K50 note his mother offered to him for the PMV fare.
Beyond his eyes were two similar banners hanging down in front of the administration building and the haus krai decorated with flowers and ferns with people sitting underneath.
A white billboard erected for live streaming Sana’s funeral programmes in Port Moresby and Wewak as well showcasing documentaries during his political career.
With sobbing heart, Daniel entered through the main gate, walked straight to one of the two banners, staring up at Sana’s face and cried bitterly standing there.
Jack Sesiguoc from Mediacrew designed the remarkable banners with words of tribute on behalf of Salamaua, Morobe and Wampar people in 64 wards.
No one among the crowd under the haus krai realised the scruffy looking stranger standing there grieving bitterly.
People under the tarpaulin looked confused staring at each other whispering if anyone among them knew the grieving stranger.
One Tukari Zozingao proceeded to Daniel, comforted him and enquired followed by Abi Gudz.
Gudz then brought a grieving person that returned again on Monday into Seymour’s electoral office and explained the purpose of Daniel’s mission to Lae. Daniel’s faith and courage to struggle through the odds in search of Sana’s haus krai moved Wanga who listened attentively.
Wanga then drew out K50 note from his pocket and offered it to Daniel for bus fare. The K50 note ignited Daniel’s emotion, as he kissed goodbye to Sana’s portrait on the K50 note.
Wanga confirmed to Daniel that the Grand Chief died in Port Moresby on Feb 26 from pancreatic cancer. After completing all State procedures, his body was flown to Wewak on Sunday, March 14 for burial on March 16.
Daniel was privilege to become part of the Huon Gulf haus krai watching on screen the live telecast of the funeral and burial proceedings in Wewak on March 15-16 confirming Wanga’s explanation.
Daniel also enquired about what actually made it possible to bring pictures out onto the screens and hand-held mobile phones for people to watch such live telecasts.
After numerous explanations, Daniel understood, not fully, how modern technology operates to provide citizens such privileges to watch live streams on screen at home and elsewhere.
Daniel was very grateful to media crews especially the TV stations that have done a tremendous task within the two weeks mourning period.
However, Daniel needed some newspaper edition of the two weeks and a banner portraying ana’s tribute messages and photographs to take back home, show his mother and clansmen to confirm the passing on of a legend.
“My old mother and relatives back in Waba are still in haus krai covered in brown clay mourning the death of our Papa whom we only saw his face on K50 note, read about him in newspapers and through radio in the wilderness of Bema in Kaintiba.
“I need newspapers and banners to take home and show to my mother and relatives to confirm the news. We’ll paste the newspaper cuttings and hang the banners on the walls in our village,” Daniel said.
- Pisai Gumar is a freelance journalist