Friday, November 30, 2007

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.


  1. Thank you for the story about the Late Sir Tei Abal, my Grandfather.I am so fascinated and proud.He sure was a great leader.I appreciate all your effort in putting up this story on the net.Thank you.

    (Grand Daughter)

  2. Anonymous6:18 PM

    Sir Tei was a Great and wise Leader and with his wisdom he was against early independence.Had leaders at that time agreed with him and let the Australian People to develop the people the country's infrustructer for the last 30 years and than seek self rule now than we would be in a better position to run our own country.Sir Tei Abal's Argument brings us dreams of how well educated and developed a society would we be and this generation will be 100 % literate and the entire population would be now living in a well developd and managed country. Had Sir Tei's ideas take into consideration We would be like Hongkong gaining self rule from England in 1999 after being colonized for many many years.Those who were going against this great Engan Leader and voted to gain early independence are the directly resposible for the destruction caused to the health well fare and social security, law and order and the entire national infrustucter of this beutifull rich country. May Sir Tei Be remembered by every member of the failing genration of PNG and may God reward for you hard work.

    From: Pai Bip Molopai of Kandep

  3. Sir Tei Able was a great man of Vision and Wisdom. He wanted us first learn how to live Whitemens life until such a time when we can live on our own just like the whiteman. Sir Michael Somare and his kaukau cult team would see what Sir Tei saw, we are what and where we are now. Increasing illiteracy people giving room for corrupt politicians to rip this young rich nation. We need a true Leader like Sir Tei who can stand tall and change the course of this Nation. May His Legacy lives on.

    Noxx Yakio..Awain Apiap Wankaiwane.