A Litany of the Corrupt
Poet, speak

Brink of death: The birth of trucking tycoon Jacob Luke

Mapai truckROBERT IKI LESO

THE GROANS of a woman in labour disturbed the peaceful afternoon. They came from inside the smoke-stained women’s house in an isolated area some distance away from the main family home.

“Please help! Please help me! I am dying,” came the desperate cries of a young woman, struggling to give birth to her first child.

The pain worsened and there was no relief. The elderly women tried to comfort her to no avail.

Otherwise, life in the village appeared normal that day. Women were in their gardens, the smoke from fires spiraling into the sky indicating intense activity.

Men gathered at the usual places to gossip and exchange rolls of homegrown tobacco to sample the bitter taste. The smoke they exhaled resembled the exhaust fumes of an engine.

The men talked about tribal issues - fights, compensation, feasts and other matters of interest. The serious discussions were interspersed with jokes on sex and polygamy. They laughed at their dirty jokes and continued with the serious stuff.

Men enjoyed the pleasure of lovemaking but women paid the price in childbearing. They also looked after pigs, cultivated gardens and cooked food every day to feed the family. The men helped once in a while to clear new land or erect some fences.

Meanwhile, the young woman suffered as labour pangs stabbed at her. She felt as if she was on a bed of a thousand needles and pierced by a blunt scalpel.

“Am I dying or will I survive?” she asked. “Is this what every woman goes through during childbirth? Why didn’t anybody tell me about this pain?” The fear of death mixed with regret haunted her. She felt she was being torn apart.

But she maneuvered all her strength to remain brave. She realised she would soon be a mother if she safely delivered this child. She had no choice but to fight on and win the battle.

The setting sun disappeared over the western ranges. Her first day of suffering was coming to an end. The evening sky was beautifully painted. But the atmosphere in the women’s house was tense. The young woman began to lose consciousness.

No matter how much men and boys wanted to be close when their loved ones suffered during childbirth, tradition forbade them from going anywhere near women’s houses. Menstrual blood, childbirth and labour were unclean and ritually impure for men.

Surrounded by rugged hills and steep gullies with waterfalls and fast-flowing rivers, the prospect of rescue for this dying woman seemed hopeless. There was no missionary with a vehicle nearby and Wabag Health Centre was 22 kilometers away.

Luke Luwai, the young woman’s husband, was a Pendend clansman of the major Tit tribe and lived in Yakandak village in the Aumbum Kompiam district of Enga Province.

His wife, Aipit Lyambian, was originally from a small hilly village called Goropip located not far from where she lay broken in the women’s house. Her clan, Pumain, was a sub-clan of the Tit tribe but clans were allowed to intermarry. She had married Luke, a close neighbour, whose baby she was now struggling to bring into the world.

Right in front of Yakandak village is the roaring Ambum River which, joined by tributaries, surges downstream to finally unite with the mighty Sepik River.

During the wet season, the Ambum can turn angry, its flow accelerating, the mud swirling. It can trigger unexpected landslides in the Ambum Valley, impeding vehicles from transiting the single snake-like road built by early missionaries and colonial kiaps.

Not many vehicles used the road. There seemed no hope for Aipit.

The night was taken over by the humming of insects. Fireflies flickered here and there and a breeze blew from the Ambum River, producing an eerie murmur.

Distant owls could be heard, hooting in the dark forest. These sounds seemed to send death wishes to the woman, signalling her ghost to be taken away. Fear gripped everybody present in the house. How they wished the day could break.

The elderly women kept vigil and added firewood to the dancing flames. The flames seemed to keep hope alive through their warmth and light, which also kept at bay the engulfing darkness.

Luke Luwai by this late hour had heard of the pain his wife was enduring. He feared she might die. But he could not go near the woman’s house. He could not comfort his dying wife. He wished and prayed everything would work out right in the morning.

Anxiety and sorrow robbed him of sleep. He sat quietly in the men’s house and puffed his home-grown tobacco deeply. He felt the nicotine’s powerful grip. He breathed out mouthfuls of smoke and glanced at his clansmen fast asleep.

“It is too soon to lose my wife and unborn child,” he said to himself.

Luke had seen a lot of women die in childbirth. There were no proper health facilities in his isolated valley. He felt certain his wife and unborn child would die. He felt like crying. But he was a tough Tit-raised Engan male who did not succumb to childish emotion.

So Like Luwai withheld his tears and made a plan to save his young wife and unborn child. He had to show how much he loved Aipit Lyambian. Memories of the struggles he had gone through to marry her flooded his mind.

He was many years older than Aipit, he had been well past marriageable age, but Aipit had not rejected him. She could have easily gone for younger men but had accepted his proposal and he loved her more so because of this.

He also did not want to disappoint his wife’s aunt, Leale. She had been a powerful influence in making it possible for him to marry Aipit. He had indeed been the victor to marry such a wonderful woman.

Luke decided that his wife had to be taken to Wabag Health Centre for immediate medical attention. There could be no waiting until dawn, and he discarded the traditional belief that men should never go near a woman in labour. This now seemed like nonsense to him.

He had to get the men sleeping in the hausman to help him carry his wife to Wabag. He had to try to save her life. He would not sit idly and have her die with their unborn child.

Luke’s brother Lalyo worked at the health centre as a medical officer. Once there, they would face no problems. So, in the dark morning, before the first rays of the sun touched the sleeping valley, the semi-conscious mother was lifted onto a stretcher.

They walked the 22 kilometers to the health centre. First they climbed over the Mokokam range to Lakolam and then followed the Lai River towards Wabag.

With two bearers on each end of the stretcher, they tramped through the mud, carrying her up and over the ridges, shrugging away the numbing cold of the deep gullies. They toiled on painfully hoping against hope that she would not die on the track.

Jacob Luke & Sir Peter IpatasIt was worth the struggle. They got there and they saved the lives of Aipit Lyambian and the baby.

This baby boy who would one day become a great businessman, indeed a tycoon, who would establish a major trucking company, Mapai Transport.

His name is Jacob Luke. The year was 1950.

_________

Footnote: Mapai Transport commenced operations in 1985 with a single vehicle and now has depots in Lae, Mt Hagen and Goroka running a fleet of 70 prime movers and 170 trailers, 20 town delivery trucks and nearly 700 containers. Jacob Luke is pictured here with Enga governor, Sir Peter Ipatas.

Comments

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Gibson Toraso

It is interesting indeed, I wrote a feature story about Jacob Luke and was wishing if someone do his autobiography. this is wonderful piace. I really loved it.

David Kitchnoge

Is there anyone from Mul-Baiyer area or Western Highlands generally who can tell us the Koi Trappe story please?

I bet not a lot of people would recognise this name.

What if I told you he is the current member of parliament for Mul-Baiyer?

I was privileged to visit his electorate on a project of mutual interest some time back and was pleasantly surprised to learn about one of the best gentlemen MPs of our time.

He was a trucking tycoon and a multi millionaire before entering parliament and has used his electoral funds wisely in serving his community.

Daniel Kumbon

Richardson Sikip, this is the first chapter of a draft I rewrote for Robert.

He had written a draft on the autobiography of Jacob Luke.

But he never forwarded the second chapter after that. I met Jacob Luke briefly sometime later in Wabag but never asked why, hoping Robert would raise the matter.

Luke's story is indeed a good success story, I too wish to know more.

Richardson Sikip

I like reading this wonderful English essay without any problems. I wanted to read more but it suddenly ended.

Thanks Robert Iki Leso.

Richardson Sikip

Wow! Powerful and awesome historical event than I have ever thought. God bless Maipa Transport.

Thanks to Robert Iki Leso for narrating.

David Martin

Lovely father and a hero.

Daniel Kumbon

Linus - Jacob is travelling in the United States meeting with American Lutheran missionaries who came and opened up Enga Province.

He was educated at St Paul's Lutheran High School the first such educational institution set up by the missionaries.

Yes, Luke is a generous down to earth man who doesn't act as if he owns a large trucking company.


Linus Kuruwalo

I knew Luke after he sold a 15 seater bus to me when he was a salesman with PNG motors Warakum.

He built a home close by and I would visit and spend couple of nights with the family even though I am a Southern Highlander.

He was a great guy who would joke and smile most of the time. He had a lot of energy trying out things and finally the good lord has rewarded him for his efforts. God bless Jacob Luke.

Philip Kai Morre

I personally met Jacob Luke two years ago when there was a massive landslide at my village (Guo) west of Kundiawa that blocked the national highway for more than two months.

The highlands people on the western side suffered from a lack of basic services because vehicles never passed through.

The Works Department couldn't do much to open the road because they were in a financial crisis. It was Jacob Luke who stepped in to pay the landowners to allow Kaiaworks Construction to clear the massive slide.

Jacob Luke is a down to earth man with an outgoing personality and good public relations. He showed a heart for his people. Thanks Robert for a very good essay.

Jacob Luwai

Wow! Just sudden pause, why not taking me through……very good script, well written Robert. Yes ya!

One of our great man and a true son and pride of Enga, Jacob Luke, my name sake, who has a uniquely charming heart for people; a giving/sharing/helping heart.

Pray that Mother Nature will abidingly bless him so he may continue the good work.

Robert Forster

Deep in my retirement I often think of a young woman who walked into a patrol camp on the north side of the Wahgi River sometime in 1973.
She was in labour with a stomach that at the same time was as big as a balloon and as hard as stone - and her face betrayed a grim mixture of stoicism, desperation and fear.
She was with three men and they told me she had been in contraction for some time. What is more she had walked in from other side of a range in the Bismarks - which placed her in a lower section of the Jimi Valley and a journey of at least two days.
I was astonished by her fortitude. She was immediately out in the front seat of a Landcruiser and driven to the Nazarene Hospital at Kudjip.
Her fear and courage stay with me still - especially as I do not know whether she was, with the aid of medical help, able overcome her problem or died as a result of it instead.

Amesi Naiks

Luke a really hero and Loving Father.

Arnold Mundua

Daniel, there is not one company in PNG that I heard of doing what Jacob Luke just did to his long serving employees. There are many unpopular men and women recognized for unpopular contributions to this nation. Mr Luke should be knighted without any questions asked.

Daniel Kumbon

News just in.... Mapai Transport has bought 10 new highway trucks at a cost of K8 million. These trucks will replace 10 older trucks in the fleet and will be given away to 10 of the company’s committed and long serving drivers.

EMTV news showed keys and a bank account opened for each of the recipient drivers. But the keys and accounts were given to the wives of the drivers.

Each truck is valued at K450,000 and will continue to be hired by Mapai Transport. This new business arrangement is the first of its kind in PNG and will begin in April according to Mr Luke.

A new chapter has opened for rewarding committed employees and supporting their families to enter into the world of business.

Mr Luke ought to be congratulated for sharing his wealth with his employees in these tough economic times.

Daniel Kumbon

This is the 1st chapter of a manuscript I edited and published it here after Robert gave the approval. Wonder what happened to the whole manuscript. I believe it will make a good book.

Adlah Fox

Love every word. Best script. I just felt it deep inside me, very emotional. Truly this man is a role model of Enga. The pride of Enga. The blessing from Ambum River.

Garry Roche

The Jacob Luke that I met several times in Hagen was a quiet unassuming person. The trucking business is not an easy one. Road conditions have deteriorated over the years, costs have increased enorously. It is a credit to Jacob that he has been successful over many years. PNG does need more home-grown business men and women like Jacob.

Jimmy Tope

Great businessman with wonderful qualities.

Francis James Irara

Brave and encouraging story

Waswan Tokak

Very interesting story.

Leo Maso Malala

What a thtrilling story, well phrased, that ignites us to read further but ended suddenly with birth of one of our great heroes of Enga, Jacob Luke.

Michael Dom

Good stuff!

Daniel Kumbon

This is indeed a great story. In PNG we look for role models. Jacob Luke's presence is right there on the Highlands Highway.

Robert Iki Leso is writing his biography. Attitude readers will be treated to more tales in future.

Robert is one of four people in Enga Province who I am encouraging to write books, poems, articles etc. I hope their names will be heard like those of Francis, Dom, Roka, Dean, Arnold Mundua, Potoura, Agnes Are, Sil etc....

Arnold Mundua

Indeed, a great story to be shared and passed on of this great man. My heart goes to Mr Jacob Luke's father.

Barbara Short

Thank you, Robert. An inspirational, great story, well told.

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