For the N’dritian clan of Derimbat village who are located in the North Coast of Manus Province, theirs is a dream come true for a Digicel tower to be erected on their land. The Ndritian clan is one of the largest clan in Kurti language group, whose members numbering into the thousands who live in the villages of Liap, Souh, Andra, Mundrau, Patlok, Mundrupudeu, Wamandra, Pundru with the largest group living in Derimbat. Each member of the N’dritian clan lays claim to be a landowner of Mt Pawih. Mt Pawih is next another mountain called N'druturu, both mountains famously known in the Kurti area and can be seen as far as the islands lying in the north coast area of Manus.
The clan leaders have come together, applied to Digicel and been given the go ahead by the company to start clearing the base of Mountain Pawih for the Digicel tower construction. Pawih is located in the hinterlands of the mid-north coast of
The N’dritian clan members showed tremendous passion to climb the mountain, about 4 hours walk from the coast. It is so cold at night that sometimes the mist and dew covers the green and lush forests.
Mountain Pawih also hold significance to the N’dritian Clan and also the Kurti people because of cultural and spiritual events that took place during ancestoral times. This included the story of Lapam Pawih, a demi god who lived in Pawih. He had magical powers that saw the world through a clear pool of water that was at the top of Mountain Pawih and worked similarly to a television set. Many believed that these events foretold what would happen such as now which is happening to the construction of the Digicel tower.Looking back to the sea from the mountain
I, as a member of the N’dritian clan, took the pilgrimage up the mountain to see and take part in this historical event in our place. I say ‘historical’ because land use in Manus, as in many parts of
Having a rest midway towards Mt Pawih
It took us about three hours to walk from the our home on the seaside to the top of
Setting up camp and boiling water for coffee
My small brother and uncles quickly set up our tent and made a fire before it became dark. That night it rained. We had fried sago and fish and downed it with coffee. I couldn’t sleep. There was no comfortable place to sleep. It was good that I brought a blanket. I wrapped myself around it and sat down, telling stories about anything and everything till around 3am when I dosed off. I woke up at around 5.30 when the church groups that had come to the mountain too began praying and singing. I just sat in the tent with father staring towards the ocean watching the morning sun come up. It was just perfect.
A young man already starting up the work
After the announcements and break up of people into groups, most people had breakfast. Then the work began. There were two men who used their chainsaws to cut the bigger trees, while the young men used axes to cut the other tress. The women cleared the roots and clean the tower base. More people from Derimbat and Kari villages arrived. They brought fuel, another chainsaw and the woman brought food such as sago, cassava, fish, turtle meat and greens. Some young women went down the side of the mountain to fetch water for drinking and cooking while other young boys went to get betelnut. Everyone worked till the afternoon and tower base was cleared and the helipad was also cleared. A few days ago, this was thick forest with no bush tracks, now a place cleared and ready for the tower. As I stood up on the very top of the mountain, I could see as far a Ponam, Harangan and Sori villages to the west and
Everyone working to clear up the tower base and the helipad area.
One of the saws (090 STHL chainsaw with a crosscut chain) that was used to cut the huge trees
Others using the axe to cut a tree down
The tower base being cleaned up
The women remove roots and vegetation fro mthe area
The base being cleared. In the centre of the picture are containers of fuel for the chainsaws.
In the afternoon, when everyone had eaten and rested, certain people spoke. Some spoke about the land and sacredness, others spoke about the good and the bad of what developments such as this Digicel tower would bring to the locals, while others spoke about family and people. Then everyone rested for the night. The next morning, we all walked back down to the coast.
I wrote this story to say how proud Iam that my people have come together and mustered up the courage to say ‘yes we need this and it will benefit all of us’. To even get to this stage of clearing the top of this mountain, is itself and achievement because people don’t give away their land that easily. The process of identifying the landowners and making sure they understood the purpose of such a development on their land was vital to achieving the cooperation of all the clan members. There was no payment of people or of manpower but each family gave something of themselves to contribute towards the work. Some families gave their chainsaws, others contributed fuel for the chainsaws, others were appointed to cook food for the workers, some contributed sugar, coffee and tobacco towards the work.
This was community participation at its best. When good things happen like this, I believe it is also a sign that people in the village do not want to be left out of the opportunity for development and to be involved in nation building as is happening in other parts of PNG too.