Our society needs responsible fathers: a key to gutpela sindaun
Bar Association says banning of lawyers is ‘deeply disturbing’

The fall of Danely Tindiwi & the rise of Peter Ipatas


BEREFT of power and friends Danely Tindiwi died alone in his daughter Jubilee’s house in Mt Hagen. For a long time he had battled the effects of a stroke - which paralysed him from the waist down - and deteriorating eyesight.

The man from Kandep (pictured right) who once wielded so much political clout spent most of his last years living a humble, reclusive life outside Wapenamanda with his Yakuman tribe. Except for one loyal last wife, Tindiwi counted few friends.

Then, when his health deteriorated, he had gone to live in Jubilee’s house to have easy access to medical services at Mt Hagen General Hospital. Jubilee was a senior state lawyer with the Public Solicitor’s Office.

In early 2013, soon after her father’s death, Jubilee was appointed acting Solicitor-General by the government but was sacked a year later - like her late father, a victim of politics.

She had not opposed a warrant issued by the Port Moresby District Court in June 2014 for the arrest of prime minister Peter O’Neill in relation to his alleged involvement in millions of kina paid to Paul Paraka lawyers.

Jubilee had responded to her sacking with the statement: “I’m proud of upholding the rule of law in this country regardless of political intervention.”

In 1984, her father, Danely Tindiwi, had been jailed for seven years after a court found him guilty of official corruption regarding a K50,000 fund allocation for a road project.

Ten years later, after returning to office for only a year, Tindiwi made history when he became the first premier to be suspended a second time for the same allegations. It seemed as if Tindiwi was born to fight for political survival, until the stroke took him right out of the game.

Tindiwi never talked about his time in prison, nor did he explain publicly why he was suspended except to refer to the ‘Enga politics’ which he said were the cause of his downfall.

“I was suspended purely for political reasons,” Tindiwi told me. “I didn’t go to jail because I did anything wrong. It was all politics. I can tell you the truth. Enga people must know why I went to jail.”

Tindiwi was a luckless man who felt jinxed by ‘Enga politics.’ But he had been suspended for a second time in 1993 following reports of gross mismanagement of public funds. It appeared he had learnt nothing from his first experience.

Then, in June 1994, then Provincial Affairs Minister John Nilkare reinstated Tindiwi’s government saying the anomalies which caused the suspension were rectified by departmental staff. But he never did explain what the anomalies were.

In August 1995, Enga MP Jeffery Balakau was sworn in as the first Governor of Enga under a reformed system. Tindiwi was relegated to serve as Balakau’s deputy.

Sir Peter IpatasThe current Enga Governor, Sir Peter Ipatas (left), who at the time was president of Wabag Local Level Government, was sworn in as one of the assembly members.

During the swearing-in ceremony Tindiwi said: “Today we must leave behind our political interests and work hard to build Enga. Under this new system of government, we leaders must not divide ourselves into small groups. We must all join hands and develop Enga with a new vision.”

But Tindiwi’s call evaporated into thin air. A few months after the ceremony, the Enga Provincial Government was suspended a third time.

Allegations of misconduct in office were levelled against Governor Jeffery Balakau. He was subsequently found guilty by a Leadership Tribunal and dismissed from office in early 1996.

This paved way for Danely Tindiwi to once again assume the top political post in the province for the third time as acting governor.

“In that capacity, I appointed Peter Ipatas as my deputy,” Tindiwi told me. “But it was too late to realise my mistake. Ipatas challenged my position as acting governor and wrested the seat away from me through the courts.”

The dreaded Engan politics had struck again and the rise of Peter Ipatas had begun.

Soon after Ipatas assumed office as governor, the PNG Cabinet suspended the Enga Provincial Government for a record fourth time.

But Ipatas fought vigorously and had his government reinstated, serving a full term until the 2002 national elections which he won easily. The people hailed him as a hero and gave him the nickname ‘Action Governor’ which has struck with him since.

But Governor Ipatas’ fight was far from over. In October 2004, he was referred to a Leadership Tribunal for alleged misconduct in office.

Ipatas was fined a mere K1,000 on each of 16 counts, the tribunal finding that the greater fault lay with the Enga Provincial Administration and the Ombudsman Commission.

The fines were immediately taken care of by jubilant supporters who had packed the Waigani National Court in Port Moresby to hear the verdict.

When the 2007 elections came round, the people saw Ipatas as a visionary leader and returned him for a record third term. By now Ipatas had matured into a savvy and wily politician who realised that he could stand alone at a national level politics.

So he joined Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare as a coalition partner and proved to be the antidote Somare needed to hold together his 27 members and so neutralise an uprising from within the National Alliance.

Peter Ipatas was proving to be a king maker and a good man to have on side.

In April 2011, deputy prime minister Sam Abal became acting Prime Minister when Michael Somare flew to Singapore for heart surgery where he was to remain in hospital for several months.

During Somare's absence, Peter O’Neill served as Abal’s works minister. In August he joined with opposition MPs to topple Abal.

When O’Neill moved to take over government, Peter Ipatas briefly moved his five member People’s Party with Abal to opposition but eventually merged with O’Neill’s People’s National Congress.

Ipatas had dumped Sam Abal who had grown up with him at Pawas village in the  late Sir Tei Abal’s house.

When the 2012 national elections came round, Sam Abal lost to Robert Ganim who had been endorsed by Ipatas’s People’s Party. Ipatas easily held the governor’s seat for a fourth term– making him the longest serving member of parliament from the province.

In 2015, Ipatas was knighted by in the Queen’s Birthday honours list for services to the community in the fields of health, education and vocational training.

Despite many pitfalls along the way, the former ward councillor had made it to the top.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Patrick Simin

Action leader Ipatas. No one voted him in but Nature himself appointed him in the beginning.

Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin

The Action Governor (Ipatas) is more powerful than O'Neill or Sir Michael. Wherever he goes, the sum total of the NEC power goes with him.

Jubilee, I think is more matured and is an ideal person for the top Enga post when Ipatas retires from active politics.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)