PNG needs more like Philip Vaki

Editorial, Normal

The National, Friday October 2nd, 2015

 PHILLIP Vaki is godsend.

The former notorious criminal cum evangelist and motivational speaker is a breath of fresh air to many young people, especially high school and tertiary students, in the National Capital District (NCD).

Since Vaki was freed on parole from Bomana Prison in 2012, he has been on a crusade to rescue young people from falling into the sinkholes of alcohol and drug abuse as well as serious crime.

Vaki is the founder and director of “Operation Food for Life” and with his 

most ardent supporter, 

wife Maureen, have been visiting high schools and tertiary institutions in the NCD and inspiring students to lead good and crime-free lives.

He has made motivational speeches and presentations to many schools, including Gordons, Tokarara and De La Salle secondary schools, Don Bosco Technical High School and the Pacific Adventist University.

His most recent address was to students of Gerehu Secondary School during the 40th Independence anniversary celebrations last month. 

Prior to introducing himself as a missionary/evangelist and a law and order advocate, Vaki pulled on his old Bomana Prison uniform and revealed to the shocked audience that he was a former PNG Defence Force soldier who had taken the wrong turn in the prime of his life and ended up as a prisoner of state for 14 years after being convicted of armed robbery and willful murder.

Vaki stated rather matter-of-factly that he had just graduated from the Bomana “school of hard-knocks”.

Whether the Gerehu Secondary School students fully comprehended the meaning of his statement or thought it was a joke, Vaki certainly got their attention. 

“My vision and mission is to use my experience to help schools to curb lawlessness and to motivate students to take their education seriously. 

“I am fully aware and understand the problems that schools like Gerehu Secondary face with unruly behaviour of its students that result in regular fights among your students and with students from other schools.

“I believe my speeches will inspire and motivate students to change their attitudes to education and life in general as well as their relationship with fellow students and their teaching staff. 

“Furthermore, I believe my presentation will be of equal benefit to the students of Gerehu Secondary School who face the same problems and issues.”

Vaki told the students that they were going through a transition period in their lives and they should concentrate on their studies and not be distracted by unnecessary extra-curricular activities.

He advised them to avoid alcohol and drug abuse and not to get involved in school fights, violence and other lawless activities, which would ruin their prospects of further studies in universities and other tertiary institutions.

Most of all, Vaki warned the students not to get into strife with the law and 

end up in prisons like Bomana.

“Been there, done that” was his crystal clear message to the students to avoid the pitfalls of lawlessness and crime.

Indeed, it would be wise of the students to adhere to Vaki’s good advice and stern warning while they still have the time and opportunity to do so.

As the saying goes, tomorrow may be too late.

Gerehu Secondary School has been synonymous with fights with other schools and violence among its students, which occurred almost weekly in the first half of this year. 

Although there are less incidents now, parents and guardians are still concerned that the school administration has little or no control over the unruly behaviour of many of their students. 

It was therefore a great relief for the school to snatch Vaki as guest speaker during its Independence anniversary celebrations. 

It is encouraging to note that the school plans to bring him back for a motivational presentation to drive the message home.

Vaki is one of a kind, an orator who leaves little or no doubt in the minds of his audiences that crime doesn’t pay and reckless behaviour is the root cause of personal and family problems.

Papua New Guinea would indeed be a better place if we have more Phillip Vakis to inspire and motivate our young people.