Mekere Morauta and Paias Wingti have one thing in common: they don’t like provincial governments, and so they set about suspending them and cutting off their funds. They were slaughtering them one by one. Private enterprise was cheering. We all hated provincial governments, too – a waste of public money.
Wingti rewarded me with the position of Deputy to Michael Mel on the new Privatisation Board. I asked to do it, but wish I hadn’t. Sir Julius, who was the Treasurer, didn’t like it, and so there was no money. Tim Neville, son of Ron, was also in Parliament as the Governor for Milne Bay, and the Minister for Forests, Air Niugini and Tourism. He was the Minister for Everything. I became a kind of advisor. He did a good job and remains loyal to Wingti to this day.
In 1992, after Wingti was sworn in, he took the “chosen ones” to Mt Hagen for a dinner celebration. Tim and Jamie Maxtone-Graham and I were on the hired jet (a small one). Paias Wingti was not a drinker, nor was Tim. But I am. I didn’t attend the dinner but stayed in the bar of the Highlander Hotel “having fun”. I went to the Hagen Park Hotel for more drinks. I was dropped off there and started all over again. At 2 am, I was arguing and doing a bit of boxing with some Hagen coffee buyers in the car park. There was no car to take me to the Highlander, and so I walked. It’s probably a one-kilometre walk through the park across barets. It was raining. I arrived at the Highlander, and Tim and Peter Neville and Simon Korua were waiting for me on the steps. The dialogue went like this:
Tim: “The PM’s waiting for you.”
Me: “Fuck off. It’s four o’clock.”
Tim: “He says he urgently wants you as soon as you turn up.”
Simon: “You’re covered in mud!”
Me: “Yes, I fell in a baret and I’m drunk, too. So piss off.”
With that, they dragged me into the men’s toilet and cleaned me up as best they could. Off to the Prime Minister who was sitting on the bed and didn’t look up. He was reading something. He said, “On Saturday, get all your trucks and a labour line and clean up Mt Hagen. It’s filthy.”
“OK,” I said. “What are we going to do about the law and order problem in Mt Hagen?”
“I’m gonna set up a committee and you head it up.” He still hadn’t looked at me.
“I don’t reckon there’s any problem. I just walked from the Hagen Park.” The Prime Minister looked at me. His eyes grew bigger.
“Go away. Only you would say that and do that. Just go away.”
When I came out, the gang asked, “What did he say?”
“He gave me a job.”
“Police Commissioner, I think.”
I arrived at Aropa Airport in mid-1972, and was met at the airport by Michael Murray Kavanaugh, the boss of Co-operatives in Bougainville. The car drive to Kieta was memorable, as he began to quiz me.
“You’re the bloke I’ve seen running around the streets in Moresby?”
“Can you speak Pidgin?”
“Do you know what a co-operative is?”
“Do you know what your job is?”
“Are you married? Got a girlfriend?”
“Nope, but I’ve told the Government I’m married – you get a better house!”
“Jesus Christ, they’ve sent me a useless, fucking athlete who tells terrific lies.”
“You’re the boss. You tell me what to do, I’ll do it. Now let’s find a pub!”
Six hours later, Kavanaugh was asleep on the table. I was his best mate in the world. Welcome to Bougainville. Ain’t beer wonderful?
“You are his friend,” they would say.
In 2011, when O’Neill grabbed power, I was in the Prime Minister’s room with the Prime Minister, Polye, Namah and Duma. After some discussion, all eyes turned to me, and Polye said, “What’s Wingti doing?” I said, “Buggered if I know.” Duma said, “You’re lying.” The Prime Minister smiled a weak little smile. Me? Jesus Christ, he’s not even in Parliament. All of them were asking, “What about 2012?” I said, “He’ll be back.” Like Schwarzenegger, really!
In 2013, when I broke my pelvis and was in a bad way in hospital for two months in Brisbane, Wingti, Patricia and sons were constantly in my room. So were Bob Green, Jeff Wall and, of course, my nuclear family. I am grateful to them. Prime Minister O’Neill visited, as did the Nevilles many times. Loyalty is loyalty! I was really crook, and they made me feel good.
The head sister came to see me one day and said, “Who are you? We’ve got Prime Ministers, politicians, doctors and bikies, all lined up out there.” I said, “Just a truckie, really!” She winked and laughed.
You walk around with a hand grenade up your arse and just when things are going well – you pull out the pin. Papua New Guinea and I have this in common
© Farewell White Man 2022