By MALUM NALU
One of the most-respected government business executives in the country, Mewie Launa, died from a suspected heart attack in New Zealand last Saturday.
|Late Mewie Launa (right) with New Zealand Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand at Kabiufa outside Goroka in September 2009.-Picture by MALUM NALU|
Launa, who was corporate affairs manager with the Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA) in Goroka, died from a suspected heart attack in Auckland, New Zealand, while on a business trip.
His body is in New Zealand awaiting repatriation to Papua New Guinea.
He was aged 56 from Chuave, Chimbu province, but was well-respected all over the country, especially his adopted home of Goroka for his work in business, community, sports, church
The FPDA took out a full-page advertisement in The National today announcing his death, which shocked many people, given the respect he commandeered in the country.
As word of his death started spreading, tributes started pouring in on social media sites such as Facebook, from family, friends and colleages
Launa was a well-known former rugby league player in Goroka and Port Moresby, and worked with Investment Corporation, Coffee Industry Corporation and FPDA.
Younger brother, former Chuave MP Peter Launa, said tonight that the family was still reeling from the shock of the sudden death.
“We are still in a state of shock,” he said.
“We will miss him.
“He was a unique Chimbu.”
Launa, while with the Investment Corporation was involved in co-operative societies, for which many people remember him for.
At the CIC, he was in a senior management position at a time when the industry faced so many crises such as Coffee Rust and the infamous Panga case, but helped to steer the ship through stormy waters.
He employed young people from all over the country with a view towards giving a new face towards PNG’s then often-controversial coffee industry.
At FPDA, which he joined after CIC, Launa was helping to set up so many vegetable projects in the country – such as the Potato Late Blight project - with a view towards the LNG project, including building of the new FPDA headquarters in Goroka, when he passed away.
Ironically, he was closely involved with New Zealand Government support of the vegetable industry in PNG at the time of his death, which included him hosting New Zealand Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand at Kabiufa in September 2009.
New Zealand Herald News reported that Launa died from a suspected heart attack at a dinner before the Rugby World Cup semi-finals last Saturday.
Launa, who collapsed about 7.30pm as about 500 diners sat down to eat last Saturday night, was believed to be attending dinner with his wife and other FPDA executives.
Former All Black Andrew Mehrtens, who gave a speech at the dinner, said he, like many others at the dinner, was at first unaware of what was happening.
When word started to filter through there were mixed messages about what had happened to Launa
"We were about to go in there and do a couple of things as part of the entertainment and then we got told that someone had possibly had a cardiac arrest but then we also got told that he'd been taken out and possibly just passed out.
"We were reasonably oblivious to the gravity of it; they had the medics in there. They were working on him outside the actual function room."
St John staff worked on Launa for about 40 minutes but were unable to revive him.
Mehrtens, who didn't learn that Launa had died until after the function, said it was a difficult balancing act for the organisers but he believed they handled the situation well given the circumstances."I guess the tough thing for the organisers there is being sensitive to this guy and those around him in that sort of situation but at the same time not effectively cancelling the whole event, so I think they did it pretty well," Mehrtens said.