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Toroama takes government to the people

How a janitor helped me become a soldier

Graun Blong Mi - My Land | Edited

LAE – Many years ago, I was working as a cleaner at a power plant at Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province when I saw an advertisement for PNG Defence Force recruitment.

I’d wanted to join the Army since childhood, so I submitted a form and was called for an entry test at Murray Barracks in Port Moresby. I would need travel there by sea.

I had a distant uncle who lived in Port Moresby back then, and I wrote him a letter saying I was coming to sit for an entry test at Murray Barracks and would love to stay in his house.

There was no reply to my letter and, as my departure date was approaching, I became worried. I would just have to go.

As I was talking to a colleague, who was also a cleaner in the power plant, an elderly Awin man in his forties who overheard me discussing my concern interjected in broken English and said he knew someone inside the Army recruiting office.

Who could this person know? Maybe it was just a cleaner like myself.

"Yangpla-o, the commandant of the recruitment in Army ya em bipo classmate na pren blo mi, nem blo em Captain David Nipo." [‘Young man, the commandant of Army recruitment is a former classmate and friend of mine, his name is Captain David Nipo.’]

In bad handwriting, he scribbled the recruitment officer's name on a piece of paper.

"Just mention my name - poro blo yu long bipo long skul - na givim disla pepa". [‘A friend of yours from school, and give him this note.’]

I reluctantly took the paper from him, not because I intended to make use of it but because I didn't want him to feel bad.

The next day I set out on the long journey by sea aboard MV Obo Chief.

It took me from Kiunga to the mouth of the Fly River and after a few days I arrived in Port Moresby.

I went straight to my uncle's house only to find they have relocated and no one knew their address. I was stranded and it was getting late.

Around 3pm, I made up my mind to give the cleaner's contact a shot.

I got to the gate of Murray Barracks and mentioned the name I’d been given. To my surprise, everyone in the hut recognised the name and someone was promptly tasked to take me to his office.

I gave the old cleaner’s note to the receptionist who took it inside. Almost immediately I heard the recruitment officer shouting from the office for the receptionist to take me in.

"Where do you know Peroru?” Captain Nipo said.

"He's my colleague cleaner in the power plant,” I answered. “We worked together, sir."

“Where is he, how is he, hope he's doing well?” The officer was asking me many questions in obvious excitement and curiosity.

The look on his face confirmed to me that Peroru was a beloved friend.

Captain Nipo asked me what I was doing at Murray Barracks and I replied that I was here for the Army entry test.

“Wow! Okay, do you have anywhere to sleep?”

“No, sir.”

Captain Nipo immediately called someone to take me to his house in the officers’ compound. Upon getting to the house I was lavishly entertained.

Captain Nipo returned home later that night and woke me up for a chat and told me about the tutorials for the next day entry test.

After the test, he personally drove me to the officers’ compound and gave me instructions for the next day’s session.

I began to look at Peroru with different eyes. How on earth did this man know such a powerful person?

Needless to say, when the results came out, my name was number four on the accepted list of 50 entrants.

Friends, I put it to you today that relationship is a currency. Every man needs another man to move up and that man may be the neighbour you look down on.

He may be the taxi driver you so despise or even the house helper you think is a nobody.

Relationships are a stream of income; everything in life reproduces on the basis of a relationship.

Those we know in life matter. Most of us are talented but we need a cup bearer to tell King Pharaoh that there's a Joseph who can interpret dreams.

There are some heights you may never get to in life until someone tells someone about you. So shut the door of relationships gently, you may need to use it tomorrow.

As we enter a new year with a new beginning and new promises, let us endeavour to take our relationships seriously. Even if you meet online, don't look down on anyone.

You never can tell which relationship is your key to success.

Sometimes those who crown kings don't look like kings.

Footnote: Retired Army Private Berldon Timah served alongside now opposition leader Belden Namah during the Bougainville crisis to try to restore peace to the now autonomous region.


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