A couple of days ago Governor Gary Juffa and his best mate Justin Parker drove two hours up the Bruce Highway from Brisbane to spend an hour or so with me in Noosa. We’d never previously met.
Gary is, as all regular readers would know, a national MP in Papua New Guinea and Governor of Oro Province. He’s also a popular contributor to PNG Attitude.
Justin is a prominent PNG businessman, and a very successful one. As managing director of Golden Valley Enterprise – miners, buyers and exporters of gold - he has a company based in Lae with branch offices in Port Moresby, Wau, Bougainville, Madang, Bulolo, Tabubil, Ningerum, Wewak and on Australia’s Gold Coast. Impressive laka?
Gary and Justin (pictured above) went to school together in the Highlands town of Minj. They both had harsh and deprived childhoods but established a strong friendship that has lasted to this day.
They bailed out of education prematurely – Gary was ejected from UPNG for operating a money-lending business. “Hah,” he told his accounting lecturer, “I was just putting the theory into practice!”
And they both had early adventures on the margins of society until, by dint of innate ability and a realisation that they had to make something more of themselves, they embarked on careers – Gary in public service; Justin in business.
Shortly before the 2012 PNG election, they co-founded a political party – the People's Movement for Change. Gary, who had resigned as the highly effective and respected PNG Customs Commissioner, was elected to the National Parliament.
Gary and Justin have big plans to establish the PMC as a viable national entity well before the next general election in 2017.
They have adopted an approach to politics that is tough, pragmatic, ethical and aimed at ensuring PNG uses resources to advance the interests of its people.
To observe that they are dismayed by the current state of national governance in PNG is an understatement. Gary believes that less than 10 of PNG’s 111 parliamentarians can be considered, let’s use a euphemism, sound.
He was born in Minj, where his mum moved after his father disappeared. His grandfather worked in the government store there.
Justin says he hardly knows anything of his father apart from the fact he came to PNG in the early 1970s as a coffee buyer for the Sigmill coffee factory in Minj.
During Justin’s formative years his peers treated him differently because of his fair complexion. The hurt of rejection made him believe he had to rise above skin colour to show he was pikinini man tru blo PNG.
Armed with a dream and K500 in final pay from a waiting job, he started selling beer on the blackmarket in Wau. When drinkers ran out of cash, they would give him gold as security.
In time, Justin started buying gold and coffee. The gold business flourished and has made Justin a successful and prosperous man.
Right now People’s Movement for Change is a minor political party. But it is developing, strategy, structures and an ethical funding base to provide substantial clout in the three years between now and the next national election.
With Tru Hailans and Tru Oro in the drivers’ seats, and a group exceptional candidates to be selected sometime in 2015, the people of PNG can look forward to a real choice come 2017.
Thanks to Money Minting Blogspot for additional material on Justin Parker