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The events of 29 May 2019 inside & outside parliament

"For two months, I woke up seeing these people already out in the fields working the land"

| An entry in the 2019 Crocodile Prize Award for Essays

PORT MORESBY - It’s been about six weeks since Peter O'Neill resigned as prime minister of Papua New Guinea on Wednesday 29 May.

The day itself has a significant story behind it that I want to share with you.

I first moved into my little hide-out in Games Village halls of residence at the University of PNG situated towards the Morauta swampland and bush.

On that afternoon of 15 February 2019, I sat alone on my balcony and watched as the last ray of sunlight touched upon the horizon.

Nearby some men collected their tools and called for the youngsters to follow them.

The women piled bilums on their heads, put toddlers on their shoulders and held water container in their hands as they started back to their squatter settlement.

Their work for the day was done. They had cleared some land, burned some bush and ploughed some soil. Now the garden was ready for breeding seeds.

I got lost in the moment watching them and, before I even realised it, I was taking pictures of the scene before me.

The fresh land they'd just burned, the mountain that Games Village was alongside and just everything I found mesmerising about that evening.

I took every single shot I could. I didn't know the photos I took would make so much sense 15 weeks later.

For the next two months, I woke up seeing these people already out in the fields working the land or taking a rest under nearby bushes.

Each day I returned from the mess after dinner just in time to see them packing up and moving back to their homes as darkness crept over the earth.

All I knew was that they were going to come back the next day. And they did.

Never did they miss a day or skip an hour.

They were faithful to the land that provided their bread and butter.

To them, it was their only asset.

There were days I just totally forgot about their existence.

I mean, I’m a student and I had classes to attend and assignments to complete. My world revolved around my studies, my friends and other things I enjoyed.

But these people, their whole world revolved around their garden.

They were the workers of the land.

They had plots to weed and plants to water.

Land was important to them. Food and money was what they were after.

Some days I would sit on my balcony and look over the green gate and the crumbled bricks of the old building separating them from me.

I imagined they were Jewish prisoners and I was the son of the Nazi soldier in the film, ‘The Boy in Striped Pyjamas’.

If only I could go over and swap stories with them.

If only I could send a bottle of water to them so they could quench their thirst in the unbearable heat.

But that was impossible.

Even though they were black like me, had the same nationality roots and Melanesian blood like me, they seemed far away. They belonged in their own world and that was not mine.

Countless times I watched them, there were a lot of failed attempts when I wondered if I could go to meet them. The green fence was the border.

But in my heart there was no boundary.

I saw them each day for 15 weeks.

Then, on the morning of 29 May, whilst the rest of the country was focused on changing the government, I walked to my balcony and something unusual caught my attention.

The women were collecting vegetables, the men were harvesting peanuts and the children were carrying bags. Following closely behind were the elderly.

A wave of happiness swept through my soul and I hot tears of joy flooded down my cheeks.

It may sound crazy but I'd watched these people working hard every day for the past 15 weeks and now they were harvesting what they had sown.

I felt relieved and happy for them. But one thing that broke my heart was that the rest of the country was focused on the vote of no confidence and these people - our country men and women – were focused on their land.

They had to because politics changing government was not their main concern.

All they cared about was a packet of rice and tinfish for the afternoon.

They had to harvest and sell to make ends meet. Meanwhile, our MPs were crossing the floor in Parliament.

On 29 May 2019 politics just didn't matter to the people in the garden.

But tomorrow, when the next election day arrives, these same people will stand under the hot sun for five hours to vote.

And they will suffer again for the next five years.

So now the power has shifted and a new prime minister has been appointed.

I hope these people will be beneficiaries of this nation’s wealth.

We must work together to create a rich, black Christian nation where everybody is treated equally regardless of age, gender and status.

Then I won't have to stand at my balcony and watch mothers hang their babies under the trees and dig kaukau in the gardens. I won’t have to watch young children who are supposed to be in school doing hard labour in the field.

Time will tell whether our fellow countrymen and women will no longer be slaves in their own land.

Time will tell whether Papua New Guineans will gain financial freedom.

Until then, may this land be blessed to sustain its future generations.

I am a proud Papua New Guinean, and I shall live to be a witness of this change in my homeland.

God bless Papua New Guinea.


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Philip Kai Morre

Farmers are more important than gold miners because agriculture is the fabric of human existence. We are what we eat. without farmers food security is at risk.

Farmers are the happiest people because they have food to eat and they don't worry about money. In our daily sacrifices, tilling the land has rewards and blessings.

Roslyn Tony

In toiling the land with faith and sweat comes the blessing after 15 weeks. Yumi holim graun, graun bai lukautim yumi. Thank you.

Daniel Kumbon

You harvest what you sow. Mind your own business. Leave politics to politicians. Don't waste time. You live your life on a day to day bases - are some messages coming from this story. Thank you Boas.

Paul Oates

Good luck Mr Boas. That story really resonates with me.

As a child, I too watched as my older, extended family members as they farmed their land and it left an indelible impression on me as well. They too understood that words can sometimes be meaningless. It's actions that silently speak volumes.

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