NOOSA - Sir Jerry Kasip Nalau has died in Lae aged 83 just two months after the death of his great friend and Bully Beef Club comrade, Sir Michael Somare.
Nalau and Somare met while attending Dregerhafen High School in Finschhafen in the early 1950s. Somare was in the year ahead of him.
The friendship they forged eventually brought them together again in an important moment in Papua New Guinea’s journey to independence.
Nalau was a member of the Bully Beef Club, the small group that accelerated independence and provided the political skills the country required.
He was one of PNG’s first indigenous patrol officers and, in 1973, became one of its first district commissioners.
He spent a career in public service, being for a time premier of Morobe Province, and was knighted in 2008 for services to public administration, politics and the community.
After Somare’s death on 26 February, Nalau told The National newspaper of those early days at Dregerhafen.
He recalled that Somare “was confident and outspoken compared to us village boys. He was our school soccer team captain but would hardly kick the ball.
“He would run around in the field shouting and directing us the whole time. We’d tell him to talk less so we could hear the referee.”
Nalau and Somare met again in 1965 at the Administrative College in Port Moresby where they were among a group of talented young Papua New Guinean public servants being groomed for senior administrative positions.
“This is where the idea of early self-government and independence started.
"This is where our bond became even stronger. Most of us were patrol officers and Somare was a journalist.
“After college, we were posted to strategic posts around the country, based on our physique and our level of confidence.
“We became like feeders. We would observe from our posts and feed Somare (in Port Moresby) with information; just basic research and maneuvering people’s minds towards the idea of independence.”
By the time independence arrived in 1975, Nalau was already well experienced, having served several years in the political hot spots of Bougainville and Rabaul before being posted to Chimbu Province as district commissioner in 1973.
On the eve of Independence Day in 2014, journalist Scott Waide interviewed him for My Land, My Country.
Nalau told him the story of how, in 1973, then chief minister Somare told him he was to be transferred to Kundiawa.
Nalau recalled his initial reluctance to be posted to Chimbu Province:
“Somare said to me, ‘I want you to go to the highlands’. And I said, ‘Somare, I’m not the only one! What about the others?’
“Somare responded, ‘You go to the highlands because you Finschhafens took the Word of God to the highlands calling God’s name, Anutu. Anutu. Anutu. I think if you go, they will respect you.”
Nalau told Waide that Somare had promised him he could have whatever he asked for if he agreed to take the highlands assignment.
So, Waide records, on the eve of independence in September 1975, Prince Charles, representing Queen Elizabeth II, was due to visit PNG for the handover of power from Australia to the new nation.
And Nalau had a request:
“According to the Prince’s itinerary, he was to travel to Manus and Wewak then onward to Goroka. Then drive through Simbu and then rest in Mt Hagen.
“I called Somare and I said: ‘Somare, do you remember what you said? You sent me from Bougainville to Simbu and you promised you would give me whatever I wanted.
“So I have a small request. I want Prince Charles to sleep in Kundiawa instead of going straight to Hagen.”
“Somare said later, ‘Jerry, it was a problem to me but your request is granted’.”
Prince Charles rested in Kundiawa and, not only that, was part of the entourage that witnessed the crowning of the winner of a Simbu beauty pageant.
Sir Jerry Nalau, a man who got things done, is survived by six children, 21 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.