Top companies rally to cause with Croc Prize sponsorships
I do believe I owe an Ulga man some small compensation

Yalumet languishes in post-colonial neglect as Moresby thrives


ON THE eve of Papua New Guinea’s 41st anniversary of Independence last month, a large group of villagers gathered at Yalumet, a government station tucked away in the hinterland of the Kabwum District in Morobe Province.

They met for a ceremony marking the end of a long running feud between political rivals backed by their clans. Officials from the Morobe provincial government facilitated the ceremony. It was rare for members of the bureaucracy to visit this isolated community.

Since the 1990s, Independence celebrations have become little more than commemorations of a day when school children raise the flag bearing the gold Kumul and Southern Cross and sing the noble words of an anthem in a foreign language.

Independence Day has come to mean little for a people far removed from the rest of Papua New Guinea.

As the country’s capital, Port Moresby, grows, evidenced by new four lane highways and tall concrete buildings, Yalumet has remained the same since the 1970s.

“The airstrips were built with manpower, crowbars, spades and digging sticks,” said EMTV cameraman, Maisen Hungito, who brought back telling images of the state of affairs of the old government station and its people.

Airstrips were an initiative of the colonial government and this one had been driven by chief Engam Dumulok who envisioned it would bring positive change in the lives of his people.

In 1927, when the first missionary arrived in Yalumet, Dumulok was a seven-year-old boy who saw for the first time the things that would become part of his adult life.

Dumulok never had a formal education but was a highly skilled and intuitive organiser and leader. In 1968, he was appointed by a kiap (patrol officer) as a representative of his people.

He led the work parties that built Yalumet airstrip. Later some of those skills and knowledge were passed on to other clans who built the neighbouring Kabwum, Satuak and Sapmanga airstrips.

In 1975, Engam Dumulok led the independence celebrations in Yalumet as the Prince of Wales witnessed the lowering of the Australian flag in distant Port Moresby. Years later, he would be honoured by the Queen for his services to his community.

The airstrips built by Dumulok’s work parties became a lifeline for a people hopeful of continuing development. Schools thrived and services trickled down from far off Waigani. Messages were passed through letters sent by plane or two-way radio.

But, by the 1990s, third level airline services began to disappear and the second biggest operator, Talair, abruptly ended its operations after four decades in PNG. Over the next 20 years, flights into Yalumet and nearby airstrips became irregular and the delivery of government services declined.

Teachers from other provinces, who previously lived and taught in remote areas like Yalumet, did not want to continue working in these remote locations.

In 2008, Engam Dumulok passed away at 88, having lived through a period that saw the arrival of missionaries, the exit of the colonial power and the arrival of the computer age.

The potential of new development that Dumulok foresaw in the 1960s waned after his death.

Early this month, the only airline still servicing Yalumet and surrounding areas, North Coast Aviation, announced it was cutting back operations due to a shortage of fuel for its older piston-engine aircraft, vital for rural flights.

The fuel shortage coupled with high import and maintenance costs seem likely to contribute to the further regression of Yaluet’s economic and social development.

On 16 September 2017, a couple of months after a new government takes office, the people of Yalumet will again gather to see their children raise the Papua New Guinea flag and sing the national anthem in the language of the former colonial power.

One can safely bet that their living conditions will have seen little change, unless there is a demonstration of political will strong enough to bring about a transition for the better.


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

Daniel Kumbon

Scott, I can identify with this great tale. Great men of vision like chief Engam Dumulok have passed on. There appears to be no more hope for the people.

Like late chief Engam Dumulok late Nenk Pasul, MBE was used by the colonial kiaps to pacify Kandep. He also helped build the Laiagam – Kandep road and the Kandep airstrip with crowbars, spades and bush knives.

Regular flights came to Kandep every week. But now cars and people trample on the airstrip. A market thrives at the top end while elephant grass has overtaken the once beautiful airstrip.

Nearby lies Nenk Pasul MBE in his cement vault right next to where Jim Fenton, the first kiap, built the first permanent government office in Kandep.

If you go to Kandep today, you will easily feel the loneliness and desolation. Government activity is no longer there. The great baritone voices of leaders like late Nenk Pasul and John Yaka can no longer heard.

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.)