By STEPHANIE ELIZAH
TEARS flowed freely as the casket with the body of the late Paul Pora was carried by six of his sons into the packed Reverand Sione Kami Memorial church yesterday in Port Moresby.
More than 500 people including the late Pora’s political associates, National Party followers, business associates and friends attended the state-funded memorial service to pay tribute and show support for his family of four wives, 17 children and many grand children.
Sentiments of courage, brilliance, respect and patriotism were among the many memories shared of Pora, 66, who died of asthma last Friday.
The casket with his remains will be transported on a chartered aircraft to Mt Hagen today where he will be laid to rest beside the grave of his late mother at Kum Kona, Dobel village, Western Highlands.
Condolences from across PNG flowed in for the humble former statesman, who was three-time member for Hagen open, the first chairman of Air Niugini and a board executive of PNG Banking Corporation (PNGBC) now Bank South Pacific.
Yamuga Paul Pora, as he was popularly referred to, was, according to his son Allan, a wonderful father and great leader, who loved the simple things in life and was passionate about land.
“We will miss him. He left his family with a legacy of determination, drive and that ‘never say die’ attitude that he has instilled in us. Despite his political aspirations, he always had time for his family,” Allan said and added “I appeal to all fathers and husbands today, hug your wife and babies because one day, we will all go down the same path.”
Tributes from dignitaries, former deputy prime minister Sir Moi Avei and long-time friend and former prime minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu spoke of the Western Highlands icon’s honesty, loyalty and calm demeanor in the midst of PNG’s worst financial crisis in late 1980s when the late Pora was the minister for finance.
Sir Rabbie said he was thankful and humbled to have known a man of such calibre, who proved beyond doubt that he was the ideal man to pull PNG out of financial strife when PNG’s first biggest mining project, the Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), prematurely closed.
“BCL at that time held 36% of the nation’s export earnings and 24% of the national budget income. The task was on the late Pora to immediately design a rescue package for PNG that would minimise the impact of loss of revenue from BCL and stabilise the nation’s economy which he succeeded in achieving,” Sir Rabbie said, adding that the stabilised economic climate enjoyed today is a testimony to the foundations laid by the late Pora.
A long time personal friend, colleague and former school mate Ben Sabumei recollected on the business aspirations of the man who became Western Highland’s first multi-millionaire businessman.
Sabumei said of the late Pora that he was a brilliant strategist and a visionary who forecasted a few years back that PNG politics would change based on the discovery of oil and gas which would influence the political direction of the country.
National Party leader Joe Mek Teine said of the late Pora as a significant man who had made National Party his “baby” and was loyal to the party as member until his death.
“What we need to learn from the legacy of Pora is that we must ensure PNG is free from corruption, that is the hallmark he has left us with,” Mek Teine said.
Pora was honoured also for his many accomplishments including commercialising sweet potato in the highlands and developing a coffee and transport industry.
The late Pora spent the last 10 years in retirement, farming at his Kuriva farm outside of Port Moresby.