Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mt. Pawih Digicel Tower preparation

Since the introduction of Digicel to Papua New Guinea a few years ago, the country’s communication especially that of the mobile phone system has dramitcally shifted another gear. Digicel's key strategy of installing transmitter towers in almost all regions of the country, especially those in rural areas has helped people in these areas communicate to the ‘outside world’.

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 Manus Island and is roughly around 700 meters above sea level.

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. Mt. Pawih is a place where tress such as Rosewood and Kwila are too many to count. This mountain has no bush tracks, but filled with bush vines that have thorns, is humid but quiet as still waters.

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 Papua New Guinea is a very contentious issue. Customary land (97% of the nation’s land) is outside the existing system of land law. This is where the majority of Papua New Guineans live. The existing system is inappropriate for promoting national goals through the various levels of government – national, provincial and community. Sometimes because of land disputes concerning ownership or usage, there can be no development whether for personal use or development purpose for many years. However, for this clan in Manus, it was a conscious decision by its leaders to come together and make this land available for this tower for Digicel.

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 Mt. Pawih. We started off by climbing small hills, then walking up mountains and as we got nearer the mountain, it got steeper, the bush tracks became narrower, filled with bush vines and thorns and my feet hurt. My father and brother walked and talked as if we were walking along a sandy beach but my body was screaming silently. My feet had cuts, my knees ached, my skin filled with sweat and I wanted to just lie down then and there. They kept saying “its just around the corner” on every corner just to keep me from falling off the trail. Eventually we arrived at the base, there were quite a few people already, about 40 men, women and children who had just arrived before us and were setting up camp.

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 Pitilyu, Hawaii and Momote island to the east. I imagine that once the tower is complete and functioning, it could serve 75% of the people on the west coast of Manus Island.

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.

The boys camp during the night.

The girls and mothers sleeping area during the night

Having coffee and telling stories under our tent at night.

Looking further inland from where we were. At the bottom of the photo is Kari village while the mountain peak in the centre is Mt. Dramsel, the highest peak in Manus Province with a height of maybe 800 meters above sea level.


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.

7 comments:

Shastar said...

Good news stories that should be hitting the press lines. And I loved the way, you have capatured every moment with photos.Well done Kings, you know you have a follower for your blog.

Keep them coming

Serah

King said...

Thanks very much for your comment. I'll keep writing some more.

SACHIRA said...

I like those pictures Kings. I can see that PNG is a beautiful country.

Hensca Poyah said...

It's amazing..

Hensca Poyah said...

> its amazing>>>>

Hensca Poyah said...

Nice.

Hensca Poyah said...

Awesome..