Sir Tei Abal
The late Sir Tei Abal, Leader of the Opposition at Independence in 1975, carried the Highlands traditions of fight and moga into the 20th century political arena without any difficulties.
During the colonial administration when he was a Ministerial Member, he tried to delay early Independence because he felt his Highlands compatriots were not ready.Sir Tei virtually became a Highlands hero.
Essentially a traditional leader, he found his destiny when he saw the similarities at home and the political system introduced by Australia.
When he first arrived in Port Moresby as a member of the Legislative Assembly in 1964, he was out of his depth, having no formal education.
Matter of factly, he used to describe how his first real knowledge of the job of a politician came from a week’s training in parliamentary procedures.
But by the time he was visiting African countries in 1968, he had a pretty firm idea of what was expected of a politician.
Sir Tei fought for the Westminster system of government to be introduced in Papua New Guinea because it had so many similarities to traditional PNG life.
“The moga talks are much the same as meetings of Parliament,” he once said.
“One man wants to kill his pig now, and another wants to kill his pig a week from now.
“It could be that the coastal men want to have their pigs now, while the Highlanders claim they are not yet ready.”
Sir Tei was the face of the Enga people until the time of his death.At the same time, he was a man with a mandate rather than a mission.
A good Christian, nonetheless Sir Tei began his political career by being nominated in his absence.
He was a well-known medical assistant in the Wabag area, on patrol with his boss, when he was nominated and his nomination fee paid before nominations closed for the 1964 elections.
Sir Tei had heard the kiap talk about the elections and several people had urged him to stand, but he had nothing about it as he was not really sure what it was all about.
He won his seat unopposed, replacing Kibungi, who had represented Enga in the previous Legislative Council.
Since then, Sir Tei was returned to Parliament virtually unopposed in every election.
He was leader of the United Party until young guns such as Iambakey Okuk (Chimbu) and Raphael Doa (Western Highlands) started leading a campaign against him and his star started to wane.
Intra-party squabbling in the Opposition United Party started soon after Sir Tei gained the leadership when Mathias Toliman died in 1973.
An interpreter who later became an aid-post orderly, he never had any formal education.
On record, he made it clear that he felt “a more capable man” should lead the party.
However, what seemed to hold him back was the fear that once he was gone, the United Party could become the staging point for disunity and instability – which have proven to be prophetic words.
The Abal legacy continues in the current Parliament with Sir Tei’s son Sam Abal being the current Wabag MP.