In 1975, Jerry Nalau, became one of the first Papua New Guineans to become a District Commissioner when powers were transferred from the Australian Colonial administration to the new Papua New Guinea government.
The young patrol officer who was then already a veteran in the new administration became one of the few Morobeans sent to Kunidiawa in the Simbu Province as part of the Somare’s administration’s effort to help unite the new country.
“Somare said to me: ‘I want you to go to the highlands.’ And I said: ‘Somare, I’m not the only one! What about the others?’”
By then, Jerry Nalau had already served several years in Bougainville and Rabaul during the turbulent but positive pre-independence period.
Nalau recalls that in typical Somare humor, the Chief Minister responded: “You go to the highlands because you Finchafens took the Word of God to the highlands calling God’s name… Anutu… Anutu…Anutu… I think if you go, they will respect you.”
It was a 13 hour flight on a slow DC3 that eventually took Jerry Nalau from Bougainville to Minj.
“Back then, large planes didn’t land at Kundiawa. We landed at Minj and traveled by road to Kundiawa.”
Now in his mid-seventies, Sir Jerry Nalau, former patrol officer, former Morobe premier, says with hint of mischief, that Chief Minister, Michael Somare, had told him that he could have whatever he asked for, later, if he agreed to take the assignment to the highlands.
So when Independence came and the Charles, the Prince of Wales, representing Queen Elizabeth II, was due to arrive, Jerry Nalau called the soon to be Prime Minister Somare.
“According to the Prince’s itinerary, he was to travel to Manus to Wewak then onward to Goroka. Then drive through Simbu and then rest in Mt. Hagen.”
“I called Somare and I said: ‘Somare, do you remember what you said? You sent me from Bougainville to Simbu and you promised you would give me whatever I wanted later.”
“So I have a small request: I want Prince Charles to sleep in Kundiawa instead of going straight to Hagen.”
According to Sir Jerry, Somare returned his call 15 minutes later.
The new Prime Minister granted his request after going through a lot of trouble. “He said later, ‘Jerry, it was a problem to me but your request is granted.’”
The Prince rested in Kundiawa and was part of the entourage that witnessed the crowning of the Simbu beauty pageant.
[Written on Independence eve, 2014]