I WAS MY MOTHER’S ONLY CHILD when Papua New Guinea became an independent nation. The PNG flag was raised for the first time and the Australian flag was lowered for the last time. That was 16 September 1975.
As the years passed, I enrolled to commence my primary education. That was in the 1980s at the Alkena Lutheran Primary School.
Every morning we would assemble, sing the national anthem, raise the flag and shout the national pledge.
“We the people of PNG pledge ourselves, united in one nation, we pledge to build a democratic society based on justice, equality, respect and prosperity for our people, and we pledge to stand together as one people, one nation, and one country.”
I did not understand why we had to do that.
In class, I was taught by my teachers about a country called Papua New Guinea. I learnt about its history, geography, politics and government. I was taught that a man called Michael Somare fought for and gained independence.
As my young brain developed, all these became fascinating stories. They were comparable to fairy tales and the mythical legends my mother would tell me in the dark of night.
That was not the end. My love to explore landed me at a place at Tambul High School. It was about this time that my knowledge of PNG grew. At high school, I came in contact with students from the various tribes of the Western Highlands.
The 1990s were the beginning of a new dawn in my life. The strings of attachment were loosened as I flew out of the Western Highlands to a land my ancestors knew not. It was there that I became nationally conscious. That was at Sogeri National High School.
I met students from all parts of our country. I realised I was no longer confined to my cage of tribalism, provincialism or regionalism. Rather, I belonged to a national family, a vibrant independent nation called Papua New Guinea.
The year 1991 was a memorable year. It was the year the 9th South Pacific Games was staged in Port Moresby. Tears of joy literally ran down my cheeks as my country men and women ran to victory not with ordinary medals but gold medals.
For the first time I could see fellow Papua New Guineans united in one mind freely expressing the spirit of national unity and pride. The support for our participants was overwhelming. Patriotic spectators were waving the golden coloured PNG flag to signal victory at hand.
My love and attachment for this country was given a positive boost when I enrolled for legal studies at the University of Papua New Guinea in the 1990s. Here I met a number of young like-minded Papua New Guineans of my age who shared the same views as I.
We discussed in our daily conversations nothing but issues concerning our country. It was also about this time that the Barike Hit song One Country, One People, One Nation was released. It broke everyone’s heart including mine.
Whilst at university I was accorded the opportunity to travel overseas. My trip took me to Australia. This trip changed my views of my country. At Sydney’s international airport I saw huge planes. In the midst I saw a small plane. It carried the flag of our country. It was a plane operated by Air Niugini. Within me flowed a feeling of smallness. As I imagined how small is our country, tears of patriotism flowed freely.
The same trip took me to Melbourne. I missed the train watching a street man dressed in Scottish attire playing bagpipes. My other colleagues left me. I was lost in that city in the late hours of the afternoon.
Being there for the first time, I did not know where to go, losing all sense of direction and contact with the hotel room we were staying. I planned to sleep on the streets if I could not make it back to the hotel.
From a distance, I heard someone shouting “wantok”. I looked across, the face looked familiar. It was the face of a Tolai. As my eyes met his, red hot tears started falling. We hugged, cried and cried. We did not care we were in another country.
He asked if I could go with him in order that his family meet me. His kids needed to see a PNG uncle. I accepted his invitation. When we arrived at his home, his family gave me a reception I never expected. Though I was a stranger, I was treated more than a brother. I felt at home.
The family played a collection of PNG music including the national anthem. I never felt the feeling of attachment to this country more so than that night with a Tolai family in Melbourne.
A small PNG flag, hanging on the wall meant more than just a laplap printed in PNG colours. One will go overseas to experience what I experienced. If there was anything I gained from that trip, it elevated me to become a national patriot and a nationalist in its true sense.
I realise, this is the kind of feeling that must have led President John F Kennedy to declare “Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country.”
When I returned I felt more Papua New Guinean. To me every person across this nation is my brother under one flag from the far eastern end of Bougainville to the northern tip of Manus, to the border provinces of Western and Sandaun to the far southern ends of Milne Bay.
I don’t care whether you are from the Highlands or Momase, New Guinea Highlands or the Southern regions, you are my countryman. I am proud of you. Together we shall move this nation forward.
Like Martin Luther King I have a dream. It is a national dream. It is a Papua New Guinean Dream.
One day, some day, PNG shall rise. It shall rise to become the focus of world attention. Nations of the earth shall shout. “This is the land.” It is but only a dream.
I have nothing but a dream. One day, some day, law and order will be restored in this land. Men of all ages will take drugs and beer no more. Women old and young shall freely walk the streets of Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen.
The effects will be felt in all hamlets, from the misty mountains to the stormy seas and from village communities to urban settlements, until it reaches every corner of this nation. It is but a dream.
I have nothing but a dream. Mothers shall cry no more. Tribal fights shall cease forever. Attitudes of men shall change. Enemies shall walk hand in hand in a brotherly fashion. Justice will be restored, equality observed and corruption no more. It is but a dream.
I have nothing but a dream. A day is coming when man shall not be judged by his wealth, but by his reputation, character and integrity. It is coming when the poor shall say, “I am rich” and the rich shall say, “I am poor.” It is but a dream.
I have nothing but a dream. I dream of that day when the volcanic ashes of Rabaul shall settle. The dying frangipani shall bloom. From the blooming flowers shall come forth sweet fragrance.
A fragrance that will cover the island of Manus and overflow to the border town of Vanimo and all the way to the gold fields of Porgera, the gas fields of Hela and the tea fields of Jiwaka. The effects will be felt in the maritime provinces of Milne Bay, Oro, and Western. It is but a dream.
I have nothing but a dream. A wind of change is blowing. It is blowing from the peaks of Mt. Giluwe. It is sweeping across the nation from the mighty plains of the Waghi Valley, to the muddy waters of the Sepik.
More than that, it is moving from the Owen Stanley Ranges, penetrating the Rockies of Simbu to the oily waters of the Gulf and to the grasslands of Central. It is shaking the foundations of this nation. It is felt in the troubled island of Bougainville, the mighty Markham valley and the far corners of Enga. It is but a dream.
Chains are breaking. Change is coming. Light is emerging. Darkness no more. Goroka jumps in surprise. Kimbe bows in silence. Wewak stands at ease. Popondetta rises in confusion. Kavieng watches in amazement. Madang salutes. Mendi celebrates. PNG rises to world attention. It is but a dream.
I have nothing but a dream. I dream of that day when every boy, girl, man and woman shall joyfully proclaim: “Port Moresby is my political Capital, Lae is my industrial capital, Mt Hagen is my financial capital and PNG is my country.” It is but a dream.
When that day comes, the nations of the world shall flock to this land of old and share in its blessings. They shall know why God the Creator gave a thousand tongues, a thousand nations within a nation -Papua New Guinea unity in diversity. At last my dream last night stands fulfilled.
Thank you Western Highlands, thank you Papua New Guinea
The year 2012 has come and gone. It was a year that will go down the history books of PNG. It was the year that saw the foundations of this nation shaken. It was the year PNG went to the polls. It was the year, Parliament united to give Peter O’Neill the mandate to form a unity government. It was the year of reconciliation.
In the Western Highlands, many outstanding personalities put up their hands to be given the mandate to rule. Danny Gonnol was one such man.
The political dust has now settled. Many people have gone about minding their own business. On this occasion I take this opportunity to thank the people of Western Highlands in Hagen Central, Mul/Baiyer, Dei Council and Tambul/Nebilyer who believed I could become their Governor and also to provide leadership at the national level.
I must state, from the depths of my heart, I thank the 13,000 plus voters who gave me their first preference. I also thank the 80,000 plus voters who gave me their second and third preferences. Last but not the least I thank the tens of thousands of voters who felt I was their choice but for reasons only known to themselves could not vote for me. Thank you for giving your hearts to me.
I stood to become a leader based on good principles combined with a good character and reputation. I wanted to raise the country’s leadership to the next level. The votes I got are clean. I bribed no one. I used no intimidation and threat. I spoke against no candidate. People of all walks of life came forward and willingly voted for me.
The people of Western Highlands spoke: “Your time has not come.” They did not give me the mandate to govern. I did not win, but the principles I stood for were not defeated. I am down but not out. Some fine day the principles I stood for will rise. They will rise like an eagle in flight.
God bless Papua New Guinea!
The writer is the principal of Danny Gonnol Lawyers and Consultants. He can be contacted on phone 7034 5142 / 542 2925 or fax 5423398 or email:firstname.lastname@example.org
|Danny Gonnol - Human Rights Lawyer and Consultants|
Source: Keith Jackson & Friends - PNG Attitude