Tribal squabbles: How law & order breakdown began
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My Story – From arse tanget to corporate sales executive

Tanya and Corney Alone15 - CORNEY KOROKAN ALONE

IF THERE WAS A COMPETITION for the best arse tanget, I would have taken the prize year after year.

My arse tanget always had the best leaves, shined to perfection, with small pieces of cloth in front. That was the way it was until I received my first pair of shorts in grade 7. The shoes followed in grade 9.

You can be forgiven into thinking that this is a story set in the 1950s or 1960s. But it was between the years 1975 and 1989 when I became old enough to wear tanget just like my father and older brothers.

My childhood was spent in Mulilam Village (situated approximately 22 km north of Wabag town as the crow flies) in the Upper Ambum-Kompiam District of  Enga Province.

The province was opened up to the world by the Leahy brothers in the 1930s. The Edie Creek gold rush had attracted a good number of entrepreneurs from Queensland, some of whom went further inland in search of more Edie Creeks.

But instead they became mesmerised by fertile valleys and high mountains – and warriors with their humble bows and arrows which were soon found to be of no match to the white man’s magic sticks.

I love to recount this time in my life, especially now that I have a jacket and matching trouser that I wear to work in my role as a senior manager with Telikom PNG.

I like to make the point that anything in life is possible. It is not where you came from or how you started out but what you do with what you have that makes you who you are today.

And you can be anyone you choose to be if you set your mind to it, stay clear from a herd mentality and avoid the inferiority complex so common to many Papua New Guineans.

My mother told me that I was born during the daytime – a rare event. Studies show that high proportions of births happen under cover of darkness - an evolutionary adaptation to enable the protection of the female and her offspring from enemies at the time when they are most vulnerable.

I was aptly named Korokan – a man of sunlight in Enga tokples. Perhaps it was the name, perhaps it was the warmth of the sun, but I was born with a will to survive and shine.

I am the fifth of seven children born to Aaron Alone Waion from the Sakalin tribe, Kapupin clan and Tuik sub-clan of the Kupin Local Level Government area.

My mother, Theresa Sampepon, and her people, according to Engan tales, originated from an eagle bird (yaka kambi) – a Kii Kunalin who fought with his brother, Sambe, over a dog neck collar made of dried bamboo stick, left his brother behind at Laiagam and headed to the Ambum valley.

That’s where my great-great-grandfather, Pereyap, settled, raising Enkoy, my great-grand father. Enkoy’s only son, Ipari (my grandfather), looked back to the Lai valley and married Marina Tondopale – a Magin lady from Aiyoklam village.

Ipari’s mother, Tukii (my great-grand mother), is an Ilyope -Kambale lady. Her only sister , Kakii, married into the neighbouring Kea sub-clan of Kepalipos village.

Around the time I was born, the SVD priest (the late Fr Anton Crasi from the great state of Illiois USA) from Londol Catholic Mission, was running the Londol Catholic Mission Station.

Fr Crasi extended the health extension efforts of the government to the upper Ambum Valley which came under its parish. I was named Cornelius after one of the saints when I got baptised into the Catholic faith as an infant.  My uncle Mathias Miukpipae would have some clue on this as he was the local priest’s right hand man at the time.

When I was old enough, I bawled my eyes out to attend school. In retrospect, I probably was allowed to go to school even when quite small - a privilege accorded to me because my father, the late Aaron Alone, initiated the Naiepelam Community School.

Previously my elder brothers had to walk a long distance to attend Londol Community School.  My father saw the need for a school closer to home.

Dad was not a big man, either in status or stature, nor was he a man of many words. He never had a clue about the alphabet either. And he had only one wife.

But he was a man with a vision bigger than the confines of the Ambum Valley. To him gaining an education was a means to a better life. He had to bring education to the village where the people were.

He made his intentions known to an educationist -- a Mr Paul Takila, a Bouganvillean married to a local Loalep lady who had been the headmaster at Londol Community since the late 1970’s. 

Mr Takila liaised with the Catholic Education Agency at Sangurap (Enga’s Catholic Head office where the Bishop sits and oversees missions work in the province), and I remember well, the day my father invited Mr Takila and his whole class at Londol Community school to my village. He killed a pig and made a feast to declare our family garden the site for the community school.

About two to three years later the news came from Sangurap through Londol Catholic Mission, and the school was built at a nearby and more approachable spot – Naiepelam.

The school’s official opening day came two years later in 1982. My father killed a cow, a gift to him from his cousins (from Lyau Tukisanda) to declare the school open.

True to his vision, dad supported the school’s activities, teachers and other government workers like aid post orderlies until his dying day in December 2002.

I was in the second lot of intakes for the new primary school in 1981. I was seven years old when I sat among teenagers and a few adults to get educated. We were attempting to learn English for the first time, most of us did not even speak Tok Pisin yet.

I was the smallest boy in class but an exceptional student - taking out prizes every year from grade 1 to 6 at the Naiepelam Community School, and again from grades 7 to 10 at Anditale High School.

My first shorts and shoes in the late 1980s were given courtesy of the SVD Priest. Since my parents could not afford my school fees after grade 7 in high school, this duty was taken up by my cousin, Leonie Samben. Leonie was a haus girl for the late Fr Anton Crasi. My clothes, pocket money and school fees were from the priest via my cousin Leonie.

The beginning of the 1990s brought a lot of firsts into my life - my first plane ride, my first time to Port Moresby, my first time to sleep in a hotel, first time to use a flush toilet and my first time to go so far from the safety of home.

Keravat National High School was my home from 1991 and 1992. Initially I was nervous because I had heard so many stories about people from this part of the world and their kambang puripuri.

It was during my time at Keravat that I received Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour. We attended Keravat Local Church (a member of the Association of Local Churches of PNG, started by Finnish missionary Kari Harri and others) and got baptised there as well.

Eternal thanks to my Tari brother, Mr Dickson Ango, who encouraged me to make a personal commitment for the Lord. I wrote a letter home to break the news of my new found faith and was met with an upset cousin who stated in the strongest terms that I would incur the wrath of the priest back home for losing my faith.

After that, I shortened my name from Cornelius to Corney.  It was not in defiance of my Catholic roots; rather Corney was shorter and easier to spell. Plus, Cornelius reminded me of my old life, where I had to go through intermediaries to reach out to God.

It was also at Keravat that I befriended the Wartovos (Arthur and Lolo) from Navunaram village in the Gazelle district who became my spiritual parents and provided me with a home away from home during term breaks and at times when I felt sick.

Their continuing commitment (and that of all congregation members at Navunaram local church) was to take care of Pentecostal students from other parts of PNG, pray for them and send them back home as missionaries to reach their own family members and tribesmen for Jesus Christ.

The selflessness of the Wartovos showed me what Christ’s unconditional love was and deepened my newfound faith.  My late father and mother both confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, got baptised and passed on – the greatest satisfaction and fulfilment I cherish in my walk with the Lord.  The relationship with the Wartovos and Navunaram local church is ongoing.

My parents were getting older and I felt a need to get a job that could pay so I could look after them. At the end of grade 12, while the rest of my friends were considering their three choices of tertiary institution, I only had eyes for the Telikom College in Lae.

The college was paying a very good stipend for the City & Guilds Telecommunications cadet training they had started running the previous year.  In retrospect it was quite rash when I put the Telecommunications School as my first, second and third choice.

It was with great elation when I received my acceptance letter to the Telikom College. My training lasted four years. Under the disciplined and brilliant military-like training of Irish gentlemen like James O’Rourke, Bill Hurley and others, I learnt a great deal of all facets of telecommunications before I moved to Port Moresby, specialising in Data Communications & Computer Networking.

I have been here since 1997, with most weekends embracing creamed kalabua banana, fish and tulip leaves.

Together with my siblings, we threw a party for our dad two years before he passed on.  My dad always insisted that his passing should be celebrated with songs and praise to God for his departure to be with his Maker and not be encumbered with traditional mortuary obligations.

We celebrated his life when we hosted his feast which he shared with his family and friends.  I remember the beaming smile he wore that day.

I am sure my dad would have been impressed if I had introduced him to my wife but that did not eventuate, however, my mum did have that honour. I met Tanya Zeriga from the Zia tribe of the Morobe Patrol Post in 2007.

She impressed me so much that I had to claim her before anyone else did. I proposed to her in November 2008 and we got married April 2009 – witnessed by my church pastors and closest and best friends from the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship days at College like Brian Sam and Yando Nimbo. Though she was brought up in a town setting unlike mine, we share similar opinions.

Together, our motto has been, if not me then who? That’s why we founded the Renbo Smile Club – a family club that collects smiles of thanksgiving as an offering to God. We do charity exclusively for health-related cases. We mostly choose people who cannot repay us so that the only thing the recipients will naturally do is to thank God for His unrequited mercy and grace.

And yes, I grew up a Catholic, converted to a Hallelujah singing Pentecostal believer and am married to a grand-daughter of one of the pioneer Morobean Lutheran Missionaries to the Highlands, the late Basawec Zeriga.

My campaign against the Outcome-Based Education system (OBE) was fuelled by my experience.  I am who I am with the education that I received. It worked well for me but OBE is watering down the standard of reading, writing, problem-solving and maths. Education also needs a bend towards moral-ethical uprightness and radar for compassion and sensitivity towards community needs.

My take was that OBE was a convoluted and resource-intensive system. It lasted much longer in PNG than it deserved. Both the southern and the northern hemispheres who tried OBE were dropping it faster than hot cakes and moving on with proven and workable approaches to creating a knowledgeable and intelligent workforce to find their niche in the borderless 21st century workplace. I felt vindicated and elated when the O’Neill- Namah government decided to scrap OBE in 2011.

My life so far has been good and I am thankful to God for my success. I owe my beginnings to my parents, especially my dad and his unwavering support to education and books – even if I was reading a scrap of newspaper, dad encouraged me and my brothers.

I also owe my beginnings to countless people along the way. Mrs Maria Lakain, my grade 7 English teacher at Anditale high school –who was a brilliant and smart. My Sepik-Morobe brother and colleague at Telikom, Mr Brian Sam, who others came to realise we’re like the thunder and rain brothers – inseparable over the last 20 years.

Mr Kone Kula who injected business acumen into me and who encouraged me with continuous coaching and mentoring to become a high-flying, commercially savvy technocrat. There are also many Pastors and missionaries throughout the country who have encouraged me greatly. God be praised for these great men and women.

I acknowledge my faith in a fair and just God who still performs miracles when least expected.  I live my life daily always with expectation that there is something good just around the corner if I just remain optimistic; keeping an open eye for opportunities in challenges.

In my spare time, I make use of the internet to educate myself about the world and its leaders. I am an avid supporter of soccer – an intelligent game.  I root for the Gunners (Arsenal) in the English Premier League. I am interested in world politics and am an Obama fan and am even on Obama’s email list.  Probably a green card is not too far off.

Comments

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Garry Roche

Corney, I only came to read your story here recently. You mention a Fr Anton Krasi. I remember him well. The correct spelling of his family name is Krajci.

I mention this just in case you or anyone is looking for more detail about him. Anthony Krajci was originally from Chicago, USA.

You also refer to a James O’Rourke whom you encountered at the Telikom College in Lae.

I have met him several years ago back in Ireland, and more recently after reading his name on your account I was talking to him on mobile phone. He remembered you and has very happy memories of Lae.

Lindsay F Bond

Befits the 'Dom' use of the word 'imperative".

In 2013 I had not seen this presentation by Corney Alone. Worthy saluting then and now.

Philip Kai Morre

Corney, even though I like the story, deserting the Church that laid the foundation of your education is a mistake.

Many Pentecostals have gone against the Catholic Church but without them most of us are uneducated.

Benjamin Moses

I am honoured to read the success story of a humble Papua New Guinean, Corney Korokan Alone, who has fulfilled his potential in life as many are yet to do.

May God be the glory to raise such a man to create this legacy. I am privileged to come across a man with such vast experience in all aspects of life.

Mathias Kin

Very inspiring account of a humble beginning of a successful Papua New Guinean. Corney, monea mi ridim stori blong yu na mi tingim mi yet.

I grew up in rural Salt Nomane in Simbu and I am moved to the extent I had watery eyes.

I will make copies of your story to share with the students of the schools we visit on our SWA secondary school visits. Thank you again for sharing.

John Kaupa Kamasua

Impressive yet a candid and unpretentious recollection of your life!

I particularly admire your thankful spirit.

Bomai D Witne

Bro Corney, I just read this great piece of your journey from birth to where you are. It is a good story for your children and grandchildren to connect to their past.

Apulin Akem

A true strong story from a real gentleman. Keep moving forward brother.

Melford Ipata

Truely an inspirational story you have told uncovering every chapter in your life.. Keep shining bro..

Allan J Inapi

This is truly a marvelous life story Corney.. Keep going on in life doing what other's say is unachievable.

Darren Talyaga

A great story of success - from humble beginnnings of your village boy life and in line with that of our country's development - from a rural past to a modern life - stories of true changes.

A good story that you had shared.

Kapupin Korokan

Thank you for putting the Kapupins on the map.

Your brothers, Cornelius kakale, Clement Tare, Peter Nupi and the rest will be proud of you.

Paipin Poko

Kaim. Excellent Job. No authority wants to know Ambum but out of Ambum came the likes of yourself out of sheer hard work and determination.

The Lord of Heaven is a fair God.

I believe we both share similar sentiments. Keep going buddy.

Tom Kukhang

Kaimeo, well done, your story is a recollection of the past, some of us had to go through.

By the Grace of God we walked that path; we did so that today we could be more richer to fulfil God's purpose.

Thank you for your testimony and your marriage to Tanya is a blessing to a PNG united in diversity.

Meck J Minnala

Kaimi, I am passionately touched by the recount of the journey you travelled.

Yes, our Ambum valley is an unlikely place but you did otherwise. Your story is inspiring.

We must always acknowledge our parents - they were the cornerstones of our pursuits and of course God's Word is always a light unto our paths.

I have a lot of respect for my father too because he only got a teaching certificate in the early 1980s and started teaching (thanks to the SDA Mission school in his village) but he always reminded me to go a step further than the miles he travelled.

Now I have completed my post graduate work and am passing on the challenge to my son that he has to go further than me.

From smoky huts (infested with dog lice) to furnished floors and air conditioning is not a simple journey. It is indeed a journey of guts and the current band of school kids in back in Enga should not take education for granted amidts the free education atmosphere.

Kaimi, I am also happy that you tied the knot with Tanya - she is an amazing lady and I was proud that she was married to Enga when I first met her on our trip to Samoa in 2010 for the Emergeing Pacific Leaders (EPLD) Conference.

She relates well to everyone and I am sure she is the icing on the cake on your life's journey.

God Bless you brother!

Stephen Schmidt

I can relate to this story because for the first few years of my life from 1969-75 I was running around ass-nating in the village in Porgera.

We have come a long way, not only as individuals but as a country.

Ninning Jal

Wow. Awesome story, thank you for sharing. Will pass on to as many friends and family to be inspired and motivated. God Bless.

Jaana Pitkänen

I grew up in Rabaul we lived in Kerevat for a time and lived with Kari Harri.

Bel blo mi stap yet long PNG. God bless you and family brother. Thank you for sharing a beacon of light.

Reginald Renagi

What a great inspiring life story of Corney Alone...thank you for sharing Corney.

John M Sasa

From a simple and humble beginning, to where you are now; a great story that still has more inspiring chapters to come Tambu. God bless you and Tanya always.

Emma Wakpi

Hi Corney, enjoyed getting to know you more. Thank you for the the work you and your wife do for our people. God bless and may the next 40 years of your life be filled with just as much excitement, joy and love.

Jimmy Weo

Very inspiring story kaim. Having come from the same district/province, I am proud to have someone like you.

You have done well and keep the Engan flag flying high with the Lord's Blessing.

Marcus Mapen

Bro Korakan - Thank you for your wonderful story. Our life stories are not that different, no wonder you are a Obama fan because I am too (I love the man). If Obama was an Engan he'd be arse tanget too (just joking).

I'm not a business executive but I'm educated enough to look after my self, which is what my daddy struggled for and desired. I'm doing the same for my kids - to go one more step (or even further) than me.

Mavis Jimbudo

Very inspiring story,wish you and Tee God's blessings in the years to come.

Jerry Marai | Bradford, UK

Corney - I am really impressed with your life story.

Of course you are absolutely right. I remember all this facts you have mentioned. Even the time we used to play marble snooker when you returned from Andital high school.

I was in primary education that time. Memories recalled.

Lillian Bago

Very inspiring story... God bless you and my beautiful sister, Tanya :)

Mary Koisen

Wow Corney, absolutely enjoyed reading your story! Great, great story.

You obviously loved your parents who encouraged you and paved the way for a successful future.

It is a pleasure working with and for you here at Telikom.

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

Corney K. Alone

Thanks everyone for the kind words of encouragement.
All of you are newsmakers in your own right. Fan that flame that God has put in your hearts.

Barbara - Yes, I landed in the "Yauro country" (my third home) when the fresh wine was still flowing, got myself drowned and the effects of that has been infectious!

Mum and dad were some of the first "casualties" of this and the whole tribe back home. God's Kingdom is being expanded and on the move.

Robin - I am reaching 40 this August and I am excited with the phenomenon that life really starts around this time – how doubly exciting it is when my beloved country is also nearing the same period in her nationhood.

Joe – Kaim, I am grounded in my Engan roots and also embody a mindset of a patriotic son of PNG who value the inclusive and united belief and vision penned down by our founding fathers.

My upbringing and new relationships forged along the way puts me into a microcosm that resembles a small Papua New Guinea in my family.

To my friends at DWU – Keep up the excellent work in literature and scholarly pursuits.

To the rest of my PNG Attitude family - Those who have taken their time to comment and those that have read but are shy of making any comment, you can follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter (@acorney300_50). I value your friendship.

Maureen Wari

Yes, we need more PNGns like you in DC!

Michael Dom

A full and entertaining life story, Corney. Thank you for sharing your wit and wisdom.

Cheers!

Joe Wasia

I first met you in POM in 2011 during the Crocodile Prize award event organised by Keith, Phil and the team. I thought you were a "boi Apo" - an Eastern Highlander.

If Keith had offered this opportunity, My Story, before we met in Moresby I would have thrown some "Engan tokples" on you, ahaha!

I know you speak fluent Enga as you grew up in a village like I did. Brother keep smiling and shining till the end of your breath.

Francis Nii

Great life story bro. Keep shining for the Lord and continue to be a blessing to others.

Joe Wasia

Waneo kaimio, you traveled a long journey from a dark end of the world to the light.

You grew up in the "smoke-filled kunai" house in one of the Enga’s remotest place to where you are now. It’s a greatest achievement in life. I take my hats off to you "kaminig".

This story really inspires me to continue to strive in life. I have similar story to tell.

The part of your story “It is not where you came from or how you started out but what you do with what you have that makes you who you are today” is a powerful phrase indeed.

The story itself is a direction for many Papua New Guineans who are from the same background. Continue to be a blessing to others.

Bernard Yegiora

Thank you Corney. A powerful story of another ordinary Papua New Guinean.

This blog is like another world of its own where you get to interact and learn more about people you have never met before.

I am glad I got the opportunity to meet you in person last year at the Crocodile Prize presentation.

Zenitram Dee

An interesting article. It will motivate the group of PNGeans who sometimes are discouraged by their background in comparison to others because each individual is unique and can achieve their goals in life if and only they walk with great determination and make right decisions and take the right direction despite obstacles in life.

May God bless you in your career as you contribute towards the development of this country.

Rosanda Papaol

Wonderful and inspiring story.

Stories like yours must be shared widely so that they inspire the many young people who have lost their way in life.

God Bless you and Tanya as you continue to be a blessing to others.

Note to editor:

Hi Keith,

I'm a regular reader of PNG Attitude although I cannot remember ever commenting.

But this article is such a great story and compelling enough for a first comment :-)

From me to you and team "Fantastic job - Hats off to all of you!

Cheers

Robin Lillicrapp

An interesting and informative story, Corney.
And the journey has just begun...

Leonard Roka

Great. Great life story! You got in everything for me to taste it oven fresh. Thanks.

Mrs Barbara Short

It's great to get to know you better, Corney. Now I can understand your unusual, thought-provoking name.

I was at Keravat in the 1970-80s when the Finnish missionaries brought this Pentecostal "new wine" to the Rabaul area.

Helping to shepherd the Scripture Union group meant that I came to know many of them and saw the problems it created within the United Church. But we had some wonderful SU rallies during those times.

I am glad that you were looked after by the Wartovos and it is good to hear about the way you and Tanya have been nurtured along your paths by God through the various mission influences in PNG.

I wonder where He will lead you next. God bless you both.

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