By HENZY YAKHAM
HIS mother died when the person in this story was a small boy during the early 1940s and the father re-married a widow who also had a child from her previous marriage.
Rejected by his step mother, his father’s elder sister took custody of the small boy growing up beating all odds to make history.
Little did anyone know then that the boy, who had a fungal skin infection called grille or tinea, would from nowhere grow up to be somebody.
This is the inspiring story of Sir Paulias ToNguna Matane GCL GCMG OBE KstJ, last born son of his missionary father Ilias Matane and mother Elsha Toto.
Sir Paulias was born on Sept 21, 1931 at Viviran village, Toma-Vunadidir local government area of Gazelle district, East New Britain.
The boy Paulias ToNguna did not go to school until he as 17 years old when he enrolled at Toma village school, later renamed Tauran Primary School.
After completing his primary schooling, young Paulias went onto Kerevat high school not too far from Toma.
From Kerevat the education journey in 1956 took him to Sogeri, Central, where he received teacher training with other pioneer PNG national teachers like the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare and Sir Ronald ToVue.
After completing teacher training at Sogeri, Paulias Matane returned to teach in a number of schools in ENB including Toma, Tavui and Kalamanagunan.
He also established what is today Hoskins High School in neighboring West New Britain.
His teaching carrier took Matane to parts of the Highlands region on the mainland PNG including the Southern Highlands.
During 1963 Matane attended Port Moresby Teachers’ College as well as taking school Inspector’s theoretical and practical training in Mendi, SHP.
After his training he worked as an inspector of schools in various parts of then Australia Trust Terriory of Papua and New Guinea.
From 1975-1976 Sir Paulias served as the first Papua New Guinean ambassador to the United States following the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
He was also PNG’s ambassador to the United Nations from 1975 and in 1979 was elected as a vice-president of the General Assembly.
During the mid-1980s Sir Paulias was Secretary of PNG’s Departmen of Foreign Affairs during which he led delegations to Australia to discuss that
From left: Interim ICAC chairman Thomas Eluh, Sir Paulias Matane,
his son Edward Matane, Blendina Dipawa (carer) and Ellison Lutton (driver).
– Picture by HENZY YAKHAM
country’s foreign aid to PNG and negotiated with Indonesia regarding border incursions and refugee problems.
Sir Paulias served as PNG’s eighth governor-general from June 29, 2004 to Dec 13, 2010.
A prolific author, Sir Paulias Matane has written 44 books in which he has deliberately used extremely simple English, focusing in part on his own overseas travels, including three on the State of Israel.
His writing is intended to persuade Papua New Guineans that books are a useful source of information and that they should not regard them as something only for foreigners.
His memoir My Childhood in New Guinea has been on the school curriculum since the 1970s.
As well, he was a long-time contributor and columnist for The National.
Upon his retirement from public life, Sir Paulias has written a book titled From jungle to Government House and back to jungle”
The book, yet to be published, is with Ted Wolfers in Wollongong University and is three parts – childhood, work and return to village.
Sir Paulias Matane was married to Lady Kaludia Matane who served her country with great distinction and passed away on Dec 20, 2016.
They have three children of their own – Edward, Naril and Margaret. As well, they adopted two other children, Doksa from Minj, Jiwaka and Maram a lady from Toma, ENB.
Sir Paulias is a family man who encourages his children and their children to do well in the school and workplace to do themselves proud and good citizens.
Dedicated service to PNG
During his working life as a teacher, school inspector, diplomat, departmental head and governor-general, Sir Paulias was very committed to his work.
Whatever the task, big or small, when he begins work on something he ensures it is done properly and completed.
His is a very time conscious person and does things strictly on time.
During his working life and even today in his retirement he sticks to doing things on a timely manner.
He maintains at all times that time is of great essence and waits for no one and cannot be reversed.
Sir Paulias’ long dedicated service to PNG will not be matched my many.
Obedient, honest, hardworking, courteous and respectful to others and rule the law were his qualities.
Sir Paulias Matane rose in stature as the nation’s vice regal, governor-general, head of state of Papua New Guinea on behalf of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
He maintained a strong stance in the fight against corruption with consistent, consecutive leadership in word and through Transparency International (PNG) Inc annual Walk Against Corruption.
In June 2008, while addressing over 1,000 people who joined a walk against corruption at Port Moresby’s Ela Beach, Sir Paulias urged all Papua New Guineans to get rid of the disease called corruption’
He told that gathering that corruption was the reason why people still went without in such a resource-rich country as PNG.
In April 2009, Sir Paulias expressed his distaste with tardiness, inefficiency and lack of productivity in PNG’s public servants.
“I am totally disappointed and sickened by their work attitudes and inefficiency,” he said launching a Walk Against Corruption at Government House.
“Every public servant should be at work no later than 7.45 am and begin their normal duty at 8 am, working until 4.06 in the afternoon from Monday to Friday.
“Public servants are turning up late for work and sneaking off (early) and having extra hours for lunch and commercial breaks.”
He termed such behaviour as “corruption”, as public servants were not honestly discharging their constitutional roles and duties.
Speaking on the fight against corruption, Sir Paulias said it should not be defined only as stealing money or unlawful acts.
He said unfaithfulness, inefficiency and lack of productivity also count as corruption.
He was sad to see people being turned away by public servants when they go for assistance, telling them to come back the next day. Such attitudes were unbecoming in the public service, he added.
Sir Paulias urged public servants to be proactive and productive in serving the people because that was what they were paid to do.
In April 2016, even after his term as governor general, when addressing the launch of Transparency International PNG exhibition in Kokopo, ENB, Sir Paulias described corruption as a social disease that hinders development of a society.
“I have always seen corruption as a social disease,” he said.
“There are human inter-relational practices that hinder development of a society based on fairness and equality for all in a true sense.”
Sir Paulias told exhibitors that corruption was a social problem that could be effectively tackled if people in the country “stand together” against it.
“It takes a collective effort to make our society a better place for everyone,” he said.
Sir Paulias said traditional values were “very important” as they would keep corruption at bay.
“In the past, our society had no law and order problems, no mismanagement and no misappropriation.
“We did have problems but no corruption issues such as those that we face today,” he said.
“There are two main reasons. Firstly, your family and your clan were everything to you; you would not do anything to shame and bring dishonour to your family and clan. Secondly, respect of others and elders were paramount.
Sir Paulias said these fundamental beliefs were instilled within people from infanthood and became their habits as they grew older.
He said the values gave people the motivation to do what was right because the consequences of their actions would bring honour to their families and clans.
The role model in Sir Paulias Matane
A role model is someone others look to as a good example and who is worthy of imitation.
In another words, a role model is someone who inspires others to imitate his or her good behavior.
Sir Paulias is person of strong faith in Christianity belonging to the United Church.
His strong conviction is that no person is a full human unless he/she takes God in his/her life.
As well, the senior statesmen also emphaises the important of good education as key to success in life.
Coupled with Christian faith, Sir Paulias has been a very strong advocate of upholding the rule of law, following established processes and adherence to rule of law.
He also talks about commitment and perseverance in individuals lives of people – known as “Kankaeidik” in Kuanua language.
In his work life and now in the village Sir Paulias is very courteous, respectful and kind to others.
He makes every attempt to participate in community gatherings even if he is not asked or invited.
He participates is community gathering and activities that help improve the people livelihoods.
Sir Paulias recites what his grandfather ToKanagol (Sir Paulias’ mother’s father) used to tell him that nothing is free in life.
One has to work hard and strive to honestly achieve things in life.
Sir Paulias now lives a quiet life at his Viviran village and commands the greatest of respect from his and neighboring Toma communities and ENB province.
This story can provide a good lesson for primary school children PNG-wide.
On Saturday Aug 7, 2021, the interim chairman of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Thomas Eluh and this writer paid a courtesy visit to Sir Paulias in his Viviran village home.
We wished him the best of health and God’s continued blessings to him and his family.
Suggest other PNG role model persons to email: [email protected] or text message to telephone 76260060.
• Henzy Yakham is a freelance writer.