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17 July 2017

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Very sad. One of the members of the profession that made it all worthwhile – a gentleman in every sense of the word … incredibly resourceful with a great sense of humour.

I am deeply saddened by the death of Gus Smales. He was a great journalist and a friend and mentor to so many of us younger journalists in PNG. It was a privilege to know and work with Gus and may I start the round of Gus stories. There was always humour around when you were with Gus.

In the hour preceding the first Bougainville declaration of Independence at the Market Place at Arawa on Monday, Sept 1 1975, Gus pointed to the 44 gallon drums holding up the make shift stage and told me to hide behind the one on the left of him and the AAP and SMH/Age journalists to hide behind other ones so he'd know where we were should everything turn nasty and tear gas was used.

Thankfully, the first secession, unlike the second was peaceful. The previous evening at our motel, Gus and Dick Pearson challenged the man hovering near the partly opened sliding door who was obviously eves dropping on our conversation. The hapless local admitted to being from 'army intelligence' which reduced Gus to tears of laughter.

Humour was as attracted to Gus, as he was to humour -- such as when I ran into him at the Motor Vehicle Registry Office in Moresby. He had been allocated NON-matching number plates when PNG introduced Alpha-numero plates in 1975.

Also, it was Gus who enlisted the guests at the buck show of journalist Biga Lebasi to head down the road to pull my car out of the storm water drain it decided to inhabit as I drove home in the early hours of the morning. I was saved from any police examination.

Gus and my boss, the late Albert Asbury, bounced humour off each other and were great mates. Albert told the story of flying back from Milne Bay province in a light plane in the early 1970s. The pilot had partaken of a pork dinner at the Mu-Mu the night before.

They say 'Love is better the second time around' Pork mu-mu is not. The pilot was filling the sick bags and Asbury was dropping them out the plane window. Gus took over flying the plane and quipped to Albert that he'd better stop dropping the bags out the window as he could start a cargo cult! As they approached Moresby Gus handed control back to the pilot for the landing.

Albert and Gus had an on-going limerick competition. I will close with one Gus composed after the Member for Kabwum, Mr Buaki Singeri, called in parliament for money to be allocated to build a highway from the north coast into his electorate and that it should be named after him:

'When you are tired of the sea and the skyway, Buaki says 'Why don't you travel my way, On the road used by most from Kabwum to the coast, its the Buaki Singeri Highway'.

Vale Robert Angus Smales.

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