Monday, October 25, 2010

Paul Pora passes on

NATIONAL Party and Western Highlands icon Paul Pora is dead, The National reports.
The humble elder statesman was three-time member for Hagen open and one of Western Highlands’ first multi-millionaire businessmen.
Pora succumbed last Friday to a life-long struggle with asthma, exacerbated by a life-long smoking habit.
He was 66 years old.
Many would mourn his passing across the country among the National Party followers, business and personal friends and colleagues, and among his former Hagen electorate, particularly his loyal Yamuka Pepka tribesmen.
As with many people of his stature and longevity, Pora was the stuff of legend.
Such stories often tell the measure of the man.
When former communications minister Malipu Balakau was gunned down outside his house in Mt Hagen in June 1989, the death was blamed initially on Western Highlanders.
Yet, Yamuga Paul Pora was the lone man standing in the middle of the road at Togoba with the father of the late Malipu Balakau to face the wrath of the Enga people.
A convoy of Engan vehicles, nearly three kilometres long ready to do battle and burn Mt Hagen town, was stopped by the figure of this lone man.
He told the Engans that they could continue into Mt Hagen, but, in peace.
He told them that the city was theirs as well as Western Highlanders, that the perpetrators of the violence were not known, only that the killing had occurred in Mt Hagen.
The convoy did proceed into Mt Hagen – in peace where Pora ordered every food bar in the town to contribute food for the assembled Engans and told all Western Highlands tribes in the town’s vicinity to contribute sugar cane.
On the day he lost his Hagen seat to William Duma in June 2002, Yamuga tribesman threatened to block the Highlands Highway leading into Mt Hagen and to close the Kagamuga Airport.
They had good reason.
Three boxes from Pora’s stronghold areas remained uncounted when the returning officer declared Duma the member-elect.
Hearing of the threats and the people’s anger, Pora sent word to all Yamuga men to gather at his Tega village community grounds.
There, he told them, in words we paraphrase here: “The elections have just ended. We have a new member for Hagen Open.
“Something happened that I do not agree with, but there is a due process. It is not for you to take any action.
“It is for me to take this course of action.
“I want all of you to return to your jobs and your homes.
“Everything must run as normal.
“The airport is a national airport and it must remain open.
“The highway is a national road and it must remain open.
“Mt Hagen town is ours. It must not be touched ...”
And, with that, Pora stepped out of politics for the last time.
He never challenged his loss. The last 10 years he spent in retirement at his Kuriva farm outside Port Moresby.
When, as minister for finance from 1988 to 1992, he was told to ensure members were secured into guard against impending motions of no-confidence, Pora always sent away to his own company, Dobel Farming and Trading, for financial support.
Such was the drain on his family business that, while he was yet minister, he had the unpleasant task of appointing a receiver for the company when the PNG Banking Corporation placed it under receivership.
He refused pressure to sack then managing director of the PNGBC, Sir Mekere Morauta, which he perfectly well could have done as minister.
Pora’s funeral service will be held tomorrow at the Sione Kami Memorial church in Port Moresby between noon and 2pm before the casket with his remains makes the final journey, by chartered aircraft, the next day to Mt Hagen and his final resting place at the site of his birth, Kum Kona.
Pora walked to Chimbu to attain his primary education and completed it at Finschhafen, Morobe. He did his high school at Bugandi and Sogeri and was the second lot of intake for the new University of PNG.
He worked for the Reserve Bank of Australia, rising to be registrar of the savings and loans division before he answered a call from local councillors to become council clerk of Mt Hagen.
He was charged with having developed the council’s business arm which now remains the successful Wamp Nga group of companies.
He went into business himself and had a diversified portfolio under the Dobel Farming and Trading holding company name.
He was made the first chairman of the national airline, Air Niugini, and entered politics in 1987.
He served as minister for finance and for civil aviation.
Pora is survived by his four wives and 17 children and many grandchildren.
Soft-spoken, unassuming with the distinctive afro-hair and the curled moustache, Pora helped built many people’s lives and businesses and used others less.
His legacy shall long remain.

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