By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK
A FOUNDING father made his last stand during the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare’s funeral after been silent from politics since 1977.
In a way Sir Michael brought out former Northern Regional MP (now known as Governor) the late McKenzie Daugi out to the political limelight before passing away nine months later.
If it was not for the late Sir Michael’s death, Daugi would have passed away in obscurity without the younger generation knowing about his effort in founding this country.
Other lieutenants of Sir Michael like the late Sir Jerry Nalau, Sir Pita Lus and late Sir Paulias Matane have continued their public appearances since the fight to form this nation whereas Daugi disappeared from politics since 1977 and so was never recognised by the Queen or the PNG Government through a Logohu award unlike the other founding fathers.
Let’s say Sir Michael death was a blessing in disguise for Daugi to make a grand public appearance for the last time to remind the younger generation about helping late Sir Michael get independence.
Younger generations who saw him being escorted by Governor Garry Juffa and retired PNG Defence Force colonel Walter Enuma to the podium at the Sir John Guise Indoor Stadium wondered who this frail old man was and his association with late Grand Chief. It was only when he spoke in confidence, that the nation was in awe of his important part in contributing to the national Constitution. He also went to New York to convince the United Nations to approve the nation of PNG.
The late McKenzie Daugi was born into a chieftain family, the third born in a family of three brothers and three sisters in Basabuga Village on the North Coast of Oro Province. Daugi began schooling at Gona Mission School in 1941, but the war disrupted his education. He resumed his education in 1946 after the war at the rebuilt and renamed Holy Cross Mission School, an Anglican Agency school built and named in memory of the wooden cross – a bullet riddled cross, which was the only thing left standing throughout the period of the Battle of the Gona and Buna Beach head.
The upper part of the cross with the bullet holes remains to date. Daugi, continued his education from 1948 to 1950 at the Martyrs Memorial School, Sangara; another Anglican mission school. The school was destroyed in January, 1951 in the Mt Lamington eruptions, in which several staff including the first headmistress, Sister Margaret De’Bibra, students and over 3,000 local people were killed.
Six months after the eruptions, he left on a mission trawler for Dogura, Milne Bay Province, to attend the St Aidan’s Teacher/Evangelists Training College, an Anglican mission-run college. He completed teacher training in 1955 and began his teaching career at the rebuilt Martyrs Memorial School in Ginjiri, Agenehambo, the present location of the school, a few kilometres from the old site. It was while teaching at Martyrs Memorial School when he married his wife, the late Miss Ethel Mary Bougaro of Gagara Village, along the coast, who was training to be a nurse at St Raphael’s Hospital, Gona in 1957.
In 1959, he travelled back to St Aidan’s College, Dogura with his young family to upgrade his teacher qualifications. He resumed teaching at Martyrs Memorial School when he returned from Dogura and in 1964 was posted to Waseta Community School as headmaster.
In 1966 he was sent to Geelong Grammar School, Melbourne, Victoria, for a year to be part of the teaching staff. He was the first and only Papua New Guinean to teach at the school and made history by teaching His Royal Highness Prince Charles, who was there as a student. He returned to Waseta Community School after his stint in Geelong Grammar School in 1967 and was there until he was posted to Resurrection Community School in 1970 as headmaster.
Daugi entered the House of Assembly in 1972 as the first Regional Member of Northern District and was appointed as the Shadow Minister for Education. In that capacity he endorsed the amendments to the National Education Services Act and the Teaching Services Act, 1970 to absorb church-run schools and teachers into the national education system. That arrangement still exists today.
Daugi’s most significant achievement was his appointment as Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Planning Committee, headed by the late Great Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare. Together with the other constitutional fathers they wrote the “home-grown” Constitution of Papua New Guinea.
In order for the new country to gain independence, its Constitution had to be presented and approved by the United Nations General Assembly. Therefore, the Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare appointed Daugi, accompanied by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Sir Albert Maori Kiki to present the Constitution to the United Nations General Assembly. The Constitution was subsequently approved on the August 10, 1974 and was brought back and presented to the House of Assembly to pave the way for Independence in September, 1975.
Some of Daugi’s other achievements during his tenure in politics are as follows: When the provincial Government system was introduced after independence, he as the regional member, through legislative arrangements, established the Oro Provincial Government and adopted the use of the Queen Alexandrae birdwing butterfly on the provincial flag; introduced a private members motion and obtained K6 million to fund the construction of a road to link the hinterlands of Afore to the coast through Oro Bay. The road is called the Arek Highway in memory of the late Ijivitari MP, Paulus Arek who had died whilst in Parliament in 1973; and with assistance from Sir
Michael Somare, Sir Julius Chan, Minister for Finance and Late Sir John Guise, Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, introduced oil palm in Oro Province which today remains a major revenue earner for the government and people of the province.
He didn’t contest the elections in 1977 but was rather appointed by the Anglican Church as its first National Education Secretary, a position he held from 1977 to 1985. He was actively involved in church activities and kept a low profile until he made his final public appearance during the haus krai of Grand Chief Late Sir Michael Thomas Somare in March, 2021 at the Sir John Guise Stadium.
In that last public appearance, he said: “The country has now come 45 years, and the ball is now in your courts to it forward for the next 45 years, in the spirit of the Constitution.”
The late McKenzie Daugi died peacefully, aged 85, on Oct 29, 2021.
- Clifford Faiparik is a freelance journalist