OF the many luminous people associated with the Crocodile Prize, one of the brightest stars is Francis Sina Anguary Nii, 50, from Yobai village in the Salt Nomane area of Simbu Province.
It is well known to regular readers – many of whose doantions helped him through a serious patch of ill health last year - that Francis is a paraplegic whose residence is Sir Joseph Nombri Memorial Hospital in Kundiawa where he writes, administers and boosts the morale of other residents, especially those with a disability.
Francis earned a degree in Economics from the University of Papua New Guinea in 1987, after which he joined the head office of the Rural Development Bank as a loans officer, later serving in East New Britain, New Ireland (Namatanai), West New Britain (Bialla), Manus and the Eastern Highlands (Kainantu and Goroka).
On 9 February 1999, whilst branch manager in Goroka, he received devastating injuries in a motor vehicle accident and has been wheelchair-bound since.
“I’ve been a permanent patient at Sir Joseph Nombri since 2000,” he tells me, “and involve in voluntary and charity work mostly concerning sick and disadvantaged children and disabled people.”
Francis is also a prolific writer. His titles as an author include Peaceful Village and other poems published in Ondobondo and republished in Through the Eye of Melanesia (Macmillan Press) and a novel, Paradise in Peril, a portrayal of the socio-economic scenario of the contemporary PNG published in 2005.
“I wrote the novel by using scrap paper from the hospital’s trash bins,” Francis discloses.
A second, reworked version of this book, under the new title Fitman, Raitman & Cooks, was published last year (Pukpuk Press).
He’s now assembling a collection of essays, short stories and poetry to published as a book under the tentative title, My Voice, later this year.
Francis has been a regular contributor to PNG Attitude and the Crocodile Prize since 2011 and won the PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum Essay Award last year for his sparkling work, If Dekla Says PNG is Eden, then it is.
“PNG has a wealth of diverse and esoteric cultures and traditions, unique flora and fauna, historical heritage and relics, legends and folklores, proverbs and idioms, contemporary developments and issues and others to be written about,” Francis says.
“There are talented writers who can write about all these things but lack of publication opportunities has been the obstacle.
“The Crocodile Prize and the annual anthology are the keys to unlocking this stumbling block and certainly there will continue to be a flood of new writers and new writing in the ensuing years.”
As a staunch member of the Crocodile Prize Organising Group, COG, who has recently established PNG’s first regional writers’ association in Simbu, Francis is working hard to develop a home-grown literature in PNG.
“The Crocodile Prize concept must not die away. It must continue to stand and be self-sustainable in the long term.
“The onus is on us who put our hands up to play our bit in ensuring that the competition continues.
“I salute those who came up with this brilliant concept and Keith Jackson and Phil Fitzpatrick for their exceptional ability not only to pilot this ship out of troubled waters and keep it floating but steering it to new horizons.“