Ken Fairweather CBE — farmer, trucker, politician and self-confessed larrikin – was born in Melbourne, Australia, and arrived in Papua New Guinea in 1970 in search of opportunity.
As it turned out, he was just in time to witness the birth of his adopted nation, as she moved to self-governance in 1973, then independence in 1975.
He has been an integral part of Papua New Guinea’s commercial heart since that momentous era, and has also served as a Member of Parliament for Sumkar (Madang Province) from 2007 to 2017, and was a Minister. Ken was recognised with a CBE in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to commerce and the community, including his role as Member of Parliament and Minister of State.
He has also been Chairman of Papua New Guinea’s Copra Marketing Board (now Kokonas Indastri Koperesen) and Deputy Chairman of the National Privatisation Committee (now Independent Public Business Corporation).
All of which belies his larrikin streak! Ken has travelled Papua New Guinea’s Highlands and her highways, knows her people and speaks their common languages fluently. His 40-year career has book-ended an era of passionate entrepreneurship, astounding development, and colourful politics, and of deals, always deals.
Trucking boss, coffee plantation owner, optimist, and forthright and skilled politician — he’s been there. Through troubles — the 1980s coffee boom and bust; Bougainville’s disastrous war (1989–1998) costing 20,000 lives; Ok Tedi; the Sandline Affair; and the 7.5-magnitude earthquake in 2018. And the many triumphs — his numerous commercial successes and the gaining of better facilities and roads, and greater access to water supplies for his constituents.
You know you’re in for gritty yarn when he starts with: “There’s a funny story about…”
Skilled enough to survive in Papua New Guinea business and politics, his great strength is his personal contacts at all levels of society. He is fiercely loyal to those who work for him, but expects “good work for good pay”.
Now Papua New Guinea has no place for the entrepreneurial white tribe. That time has gone.
Ken’s has been a rollercoaster of a life — well-lived.
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 2020