THE EDEBAMONA BLOG
I READ WITH INTEREST Motu Koitabu people staring down barrel of a gun by my very good friend Oala Moi. Excellently written but I had some certain reservations about how the story left me feeling.
In 2007 my clan campaigned for Powes Parkop for NCD Regional in the general elections. In 2008 my clan campaigned for Miria Ikupu for the Motu-Koitabu Assembly Elections. Both Powes and Miria have failed us.
As I write this, I risk being quarrelled with in the village by Miria supporters. Well, quarrel all they want but let me say, as an educated Motu-Koitabuan living in the heart of the village of Elevala-Hanuabada (not the classy high covenant houses in the mountains but in the environmental disaster zone), that both Powes Parkop and Miria Ikupu made many promises to the Motu-Koitabu constituents, and by and large both Miria and Parkop have failed us.
When talking about politics in Motu-Koitabu we must be weary of creating heroes out of people who have failed the Motu-Koitabu people. I’ll save this rationale for the last part of this piece.
But there is a danger that the truth about Motu-Koitabu, in this age of information, will be forgotten by grand delusions, and grander still generalisations. You have to be in the village, be in the heat of the buai stall nohobou, to understand where I’m coming from.
Miria Ikupu promised change for Motu-Koitabu in 2008 in his successful effort to be elected chairman of the newly legislated Motu-Koitabu Assembly. I remember that powerful rally, where at the end we all sang Eda Tano, and my heart grew heavy with pride; that this was the time Motu-Koitabu would rise.
We sang the opening line “Papua oi natumu a haodia…” and I could feel tears in my eyes. It was a plea for the people of Papua to awake and arise. Miria Ikupu, we thought, surely Miria Ikupu was the man who would lead the emancipation of Motu-Koitabu.
By 2011 ordinary Motu-Koitabuans had grown sick of what they saw as the arrogance of a Motuan elite, calling the shots as they pleased, to the disdain of Motu-Koitabuans everywhere.
I accept Miria Ikupu’s reasons for running for Moresby North-West. There have been legal arguments made for and against. I did some research and concluded that it was a case of uncertainty against uncertainty, and at the end, it was the grey areas, much to the delight of the legal professionals that were paid handsome sums with the people’s money for their opinions, that skewers the legal arguments in favour of Miria Ikupu.
Right now the man is on leave of absence from a statutorily enacted sub-legislative and executive body; a quasi local-level government. He is on leave from an office he was elected to represent for five years, and he is trying to run for another elected office.
We understand from chatter with members of the Motu-Koitabu Assembly that he will resign the chairmanship as soon as he wins the Moresby North-West seat. If he loses it will be business as usual at MKA for the chairman.
But insofar as MKA’s relationship with the people in the villages goes, it isn’t business as usual. The villagers are being given contracts to clean the villages. MKA middlemen are on the ground urging people to take care of Motu-Koitabu and remember Motu-Koitabu and that it is important to believe in the Motu-Koitabu dream.
Fast forward two months ago, you wouldn’t see these middlemen preaching the Motu-Koitabu gospel with packets of “contract-payouts” to spare.
I will not support Miria Ikupu just because he is a Motu-Koitabuan; indeed from history I have learnt that someone’s being Motu-Koitabuan doesn’t miraculously make him a defender of the Motu-Koitabu people; in fact what I have mostly seen as a Motuan villager is Motu-Koitabuan elites screw their own people over.
A riddle from Abisiri Clan where I live: What’s worse than having your land stolen by a Highlander or an Asian or a corporation? The answer: Having your land stolen by another Motu-Koitabuan.
Governor Parkop is no different. He came in through the carnival that was Governor Wari Vele’s campaign in 2007, and came across as someone sincere and ready to fight for our land rights and to open up business interests. He wasn’t asking us to be the Lakatoi Captain which was Vele’s main plea; he was telling us to think of our little brothers and sisters and our children.
And we did – we ate the cake and the elaborately prepared beef stroganoff from Wari Vele’s 2007 campaign, but we voted for this human rights lawyer who came and campaigned in beat up tip trucks and spoke to the heart of the matter.
Since then, we haven’t seen the agenda that he said he would pursue for us be pursued on the floor of parliament. We saw a giant turtle at Koki, and we saw a recreational park where Lakani Toi prepared to give up his life to protect the first London Missionary Society missionaries from Motuan spears and curses. We haven’t seen a safe future.
I have an agenda. I want the political powers that be to invest in higher education for Motu Koitabu kids. I am the president of the Motu-Koitabu Students Association at the University of Papua New Guinea. There are 50 registered Motu-Koitabu students on campus.
The university has a population of 5,000 students. So the customary landowners only make up about 1% of the population of students at Vaigana (Waigani) campus. That’s what keeps me awake at night.
I have undertaken to push for there to be 150 Motu-Koitabu students at UPNG by 2015. By 2020 I want 300 Motu-Koitabuans at UPNG. These will be our lawyers, doctors, engineers, environmental scientists, people in business and the government.
If Miria Ikupu is prepared to support this cause wholeheartedly then I will support him. If Powes Parkop is prepared to support this cause wholeheartedly then I am prepared to support him
I am privileged to study law in my customary land, where my ancestors hunted wild boroma and magani. But I study alongside Engans. I admire Ipatas. He had a plan. The plan was to flood the government and private sector with Engans. The plan is working.
I wonder if such a plan can be initiated for Motu-Koitabu. Too often the emphasis is placed on land and land alienation and land security. Friends, I tell you the truth – all the land moratoriums and land investigation teams will not fix a people who have accepted that all they will ever be are fishermen in another village’s sea and buai and ice-block sellers.
No land reform policies affecting Gidare and Segani and Kaevaga Claim No12 and Hagara and Idubada and Kinikini will save a people who do not want to be saved. It is my dream to see a lawyer and a doctor and a business manager and a social worker and an environmental scientist in every clan of Hanuabada and other Motu-Koitabu villages.
Professionals who will rise up to defend their people and their village when the Government one day passes a law to suspend our constitutional rights and forcefully remove us in the name of development and progress; the National interest.
My mother is from Gunina and Mavara in Hanuabada. My father is from Abisir-Tanobada in Elevala. My family on both sides keep telling me not to give up on studies because they need a lawyer in the family to protect their lands.
I hear the urgency in their voices and I realise that if the future of the Motu-Koitabu people lie in the future of our land – then surely the fate of the land rests with the educated Motu-Koitabuans of now – and how sincere they are in saving their motherland.
But with all this urgency, the last thing I want is someone coming in to my village, and without even bothering to spend two weeks in the squalor, declare that Hanuabada is in the brink of extinction. Believe me, if anything, we’ve been seeing a prolonged baby-boom in the village.
Maybe the disillusionment makes girls and boys want to procreate? I don’t know. But extinction? Pfft. That is, however, exactly what another dear friend of mine Scott Waide concluded.
Nights at Elevala and Hanuabada now show the advance of social decay in Motu-Koitabu. Kids as young as 10 are courting in public and getting drunk with homebrew, and parents are just happy to rest or gamble Queen or 500 and play into the continuum of defeat.
The cardinal fault, lies not with Miria Ikupu and the MKA, and lies not with Powes Parkop and NCDC. The cardinal fault lies with Motu-Koitabuans, and the structural nature of our own indifference to an impending doom that may or may not be there, depending maybe on how steady the bridge of your clan is.
"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within” - Will Durant
That is how I see it.