Why are the churches empty? Is it modernisation or just laziness?
I’d die for something

Till we reach Honiara

Leonard Fong Roka, October 2014 H&SLEONARD FONG ROKA

An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Government Award for Short Stories

‘MY son, Parisii, your baby is partially out but it’s under life threatening circumstances,’ the bush nurse Kerekere whispered. ‘Alert the young men and try bringing the mother and the child to Honiara.’

The father peeped into the semi-darkness of the makeshift shelter and shed tears witnessing a tiny innocent blood stained hand protruding through the birth canal begging for fatherly help.

The whimpering Kerekere staggered from shelter to shelter calling on each family to help contribute something.

‘Yes, my people,’ she said to a gathering in the first shelter, ‘one of us is in danger. Your sister Doomi is in need with the baby you see in her belly. Give her some money so the BRA can help her cross the sea to Taro and beyond to Honiara to get some medical help now or we forget them both.’

Dirty coins and banknotes—few in Papua New Guinea currency and most in the Solomon Island money—rained with the donors pleading for god’s mercy on the mother and the child. 

Dasinang. Ovorin’e biranke muri-ba nie oaka enoko Bougainville [Thank you. God will bless us and our Bougainville],’ Kerekere complimented every goodwill donation from the refugees occupying the foothills of Tororei and Dangtanai Mountains in all sides of the brawling Tavatava River.  

Nearly all the refugees gathered around Parisii family’s shelters in the smoldering midday sun that was filtered by the canopies of the restive jungle patches conserved purposely to cover the refugee camps from prying PNG helicopter gunships and planes.

All gave a hand to young boys lining up a bush material stretcher for the mother and the child as the saddened and exhausted father arrived after a run to the coastal BRA post.

‘There is a lot of PNG army activity out at the sea,’ Parisii announced to a pleading crowd of relatives and sympathizers. ‘But the fighters said we will manage it by dusk.’

The sun was low over the Kongara Mountains and dusk was moving in as the stretcher bearers rushed along the unkempt bush tracks by the banks of Tavatava River for its estuary where the BRA boat was waiting for the needy family and that have just popped up for medical evacuation.

By 5PM the lone boat was out at sea gliding and galloping through the tempestuous waters of the Christmas Eve experienced annually across Bougainville.

Not a boatman talked but all were silently admiring the fading mountains of Dangtanai and the exhaustive looking coast of Koromira stretching north to Pokpok Island in the distance with Kerekere mindful to all the patients now around her.  

The boat was heading into the area of the Solomon Sea calculated by the experienced BRA boatmen to be the Solomon Islands territory of the Choiseul Province when a low flying PNG helicopter approached them from the north and opened fire.

Bullets hit a BRA fighter and another sick patient who had travelled from Buin over the Koromira Mountain ridges and valleys and rivers for the boat journey to Honiara for medication.

The BRA fighter had injuries that had him weeping in agony whilst the Buin man was gasping for breath as his minders struggled in tears pleading for his life.

The boat darted uncontrollably with its riflemen firing at the attacking flying machine. But it turned away and headed north over Aropa where there was a PNG army encampment.

‘We are with you, brother,’ the boat people consoled the Buin man who was struggling for his life. But as the boat approached the Choiseul coast, the Buin man gave up life in the eerie air they all breath in comradeship.  

Parisii read his watch at 9PM as the lone BRA boat reached the northern end of the Taro Township with a swarm of Bougainvilleans and locals gathered hearing the hysterically wailing woman’s voice and the mid-sea gunfight earlier.  

People helped the weeping Buin woman and the body of her husband who had fallen victim to the air strike; Parisii’s family and the BRA fighter were also rushed to the Taro Health Centre for medical attention.

‘We have to wait overnight,’ the head nurse said to Parisii and the other Bougainvilleans, with tears in her eyes. ‘We will get the plane ready for evacuation to Honiara. In the meantime, all you locals and Bougainvilleans please be with our needy brothers.’

Parisii was beside his wife grieving silently through the night. The bush nurse of the Koromira refugee camps, Kerekere was also anguished beside the family and the BRA man who was in the next bed in pain. She also went over to the mourning Buin woman and wept with the people, too.   

Very early the Solomon Airlines plane left the greenish tiny island town for Honiara. It soared higher as the injured BRA man began more uneasy and with excruciating pain behind the family who had now left their faithful Kerekere in Taro. The fighter was bleeding.

Parisii was disturbed as was the Taro Health Centre nurse accompanying them. Parisii and the nursed held him to stabilize him as the nurse gave him some medication. But to Parisii the sudden calm was unacceptable.

The fighter’s eyes turned white and he was gone. The nurse sobbed as was Parisii whom his child’s and its mother’s lives were bothering him. His wife was never speaking a word but only her eye movements were telling him she has life in her.

‘Parisii, where are you? Where are we?’ his wife painfully asked.

Parisii and the nurse turned their attention back to the mother. ‘I am here,’ Parisii whispered carefully reacting to a series of air turbulences. ‘We are on a plane…wait till we reach Honiara and the doctors will help you.’

The tiny airplane taxied into the tarmac of the Honiara’s Anderson Airport to a waiting ambulance. Parisii felt peace as the BRA man’s body was evacuated by another ambulance and his family was rushed with the Malaitan Taro-based female nurse in another vehicle.

Parisii watched as his wife, who was now constantly wailing in pain, was rushed into the operating theatre with the Malaitan nurse.

‘My brother,’ a medical officer, rushing after all had entered, said to the lost father, ‘just pray and we will try.’

The voice of the much darker skin medic, dictating him to be a Choiseul and Western Province man, sank slowly like a fishing line lead into Parisii’s world. Sorrow and joy seem to be at war deep in his conscience. It was a battle to be judged when the door before him came ajar.  

Seconds turned into hours; and hours began a stream of years, and the desperate father was there for ages and to his sudden shrink of spirit the blackest medic popped out and headed straight for him.

‘Brother, nice baby,’ the medic said uneasily. ‘Sadly…your beautiful wife could not make it.’

The shock was unbearable and the massive body frame of Parisii was bound for the ceramic floor when he was caught and carried to a patient bed by patients and medical officers. He slowly gained consciousness and began to snuffle supported by sympathizers.

‘My love Doomi, why have you left me and our baby,’ he sobbed freely. ‘Why here in Guadalcanal where we have no land and money?’

‘Cry my brother,’ the black medic who wrapped the weeping Bougainvillean with his arms encouraged him. ‘Free yourself my brother and meet your baby. Your Solomon family is working to pay for your wife’s return to Choiseul and we will rest her there.’

The newest moon saw Parisii single handedly nursing his baby on Poroporo Catholic mission at the black medic’s home often showing his child the tomb of his mother with tears freely running down; sobbing near the tomb with his child in hand.

‘My brother,’ the black medic told him one day holding a new rifle in his hand, ‘now that my sister’s corpse had decomposed properly according to our Solomon traditions you may decide to leave and bring my nephew to his people in Koromira with this gift from me.’

He handed the father and the son the new AR15 assault rifle with ammunition. ‘Avenge my sisters who are dying in Bougainville.’

One cloudy morning of the final days of the present moon, Parisii lifted his child from well-wishers in tears and shook hands with every hand that stretched for him and the child with his gun dangling in his right shoulder. The father and the child were ushered onto a boat in a company of dancing BRA boats.

As the family’s boat moved out to sea, tears and screams came for the innocently smiling child, ‘Our baby…our baby, come back when the war is over.’

‘We will come back to visit our mother when the war is over,’ Parisii yodeled back in sobs.   

Based on real incident during the Australia-backed PNG blockade of Bougainville in the 1990s


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