Fr. Robert Laka (To Forever Engan)
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Date Posted: Sat, Aug 26 2006, 02:34:12am
I for one share the same sentiments with you regarding the attitude and mentality of Engans, but I do not want to raise my hands and point a finger at anyone, because it is evident everywhere I have been. Simply there are good and bad people everywhere on this planet and I guess we’ve got to live with them side by side, but at the end, the good prevails, only when the person is willing to change. Introduction of western culture may or may not contribute to the problems we have, rather, it is how people adjust to the challenges of the modern day society today.
By way of affirming what you shared, I have seen all that you have shared even to the extend of criminals making me literally walk with my underwear, when they took all that I had after I coming from my pastoral work, with a K5.00 offering. Life was dangerous and adventurous in a sense when I faced happenings like that during my short ministry in Enga as the person I have become, to serve my people.
I thought life was like that, but then I took the other approach and went to the guys who took my things. I said, I would share with them the little that I had only if they had asked me. I spent some time with them, they expressed their sentiments, which I believe are valid. (I wasn’t a foreigner to my brother Engans to deceive me).
Forever Engan, your grandfather and your father were right. We Engans are naturally good people as they have expressed. We may be hard headed, insensitive and being labeled as “wild west” but we are generally unique and decent people.
These positive traits that we have can be advocated and encourage with the shadows we have may be revived in a positive way rather then resolving to guns. A bullet for a bullet will increase more bullets and live becomes a misery. Revenges does not substitute the cost of a life, rather increases more pain.
It is true that through tribal conflicts the infrastructures usually get down to ashes and millions of kina are wasted. More lives are lost, many mothers loose their husbands and children, many children become orphans and many fathers loose their sons and it is a sad episode in the lives of the people. Sadly I myself have become a victim of such incidents, when a single bullet ceased the life of my father, a tragic death after a long struggle, should I say. He being a peace mediator, that single bullet ceased his life. I shouldn’t blame him for not being there if he thought about his family, he was doing his job. No vengeance was taken. I remember, he himself said, no vengeance. When the person (identified) noticed that no vengeance was taken upon him, he himself asked for forgiveness, which he received. Today, I still meet and talk with him.
The point I want to say here is that, it takes courage and energy for one to change then others making someone to change. We don’t change individuals, individuals change themselves, and in order for the individual to change, an environment has to be provided for people like that. Build and/or maintain the road net works we have, that would make the people having access to knowledge and information would be one possibility. Creating markets at the micro-level and inviting people to sell their products divert peoples’ attention to their business would be another. Empowering people to participate in certain business ventures would be a plus factor……. The list goes on.
Every Engans do not have to plant coffee or raise chicken. Dividing the 5 districts in Enga to engage in certain cash croups or other market products can ease competition at the same district, thus enabling the supply to be constant at the market level. Consistency in production enables people to be busy with their products. Places like Germany loves bananas. USA loves potatoes and they import for African as well as Latin American countries. Enga is a good venue for bananas, taro and other marketable vegetables. We have Engan leaders who have the potentials to negotiate successfully to open markets at a macro-level to supply fresh bananas straight from Wapenamanda to Germany, (of course through trade agreement). We have possibilities to venture into businesses and yet, people are NOT ENCOURAGED TO DO SO. If leaders would encourage and motivate people, by providing opportunities and open up trade agreements, it is possible for the people to venture into business. These would become possible on the condition that people would be consistent in supplying to meet the demands of the consumer.
I remember doing so when I was in DWU. I negotiated with the person in charge of the staff and student dinning halls of the university, and the vegetable suppliers from the highlands to supply vegetables to the dinning hall at the reasonable prices and it worked out well, until the supplier stated to cheat by buying vegetables in Madang and started selling them to us, so we had to stop the agreement. Sometimes, we are not consistent, but the point is that, if people are encourage and their products are sellable at the provincial level at a constant price, I guess, people would resolve to money, rather then bullets.
If however, opportunities are provided and people still resolved to guns, then I suggest a tougher law and order in the province. I guess, that would be the process of rehabilitating someone in the prison. A tougher penalty and a heavy consequence would be the solution.
This goes to smoking in public areas and chewing bettle nut as well. I guess the educated might be missing something, professional ethics. Our “taik” and “mana” pii of our fathers are the professional ethics that served as the pillar in the history of the Engan culture. These “taik” and “mana pii” I understand them in the modern day language of professional ethics. If these ethics are not being considered by the learned, then law is to come in. Laws are compulsory but then they do not last for a year if they are imposed. People take no notice of it, simple because, consequences are too lenient.
Again, it all melts down to the leader of the day. A number of good advisors teaming up with the leader to run the show would be a better way to easy our problems. If the leader doesn’t consider advises then, he/she is not worth being a leader. Someone has to show the way and lead. He/she has to motivate the others by doing so. By then, we dream of progress.
Finally, I always tell me students at the seminary a week before exams. Do not pray to God for miracles during your exam. You do your best in your studies and God will do the rest. Sweat your guts first, and then let God will do the rest. Our pious attitudes in Enga would help but it also means we need to sweat up first before we resolve religiosity to end our problems. A Latin phrase reads, “Ora et labora” meaning, work and pray. Nothing is impossible if a person is changed inwardly to quest for progress in a honest way. “Honesty is the best policy” - as some say . Someone has to lead the way.
Am I too idealistic? I don’t know, my reflections could be only a day dream. Pii iki lelyo. Please correct me if these are not possible, I will accept them with a genuine heart. I also welcome other suggestions that would be worth sharing in this forum.
Fr. Robert Laka, (Tsikiro Tange Ambum)
Slovenia - Europe
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