The quiet village of Huris in New Ireland came alive on the morning of August 29, 2019. There were chants of the Tumbuans sailing into the harbor. They were performing the Kinavai ritual, to honour New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan on his 80th Birthday. The Kinavai is reserved and only performed to honour Great Leaders or Chiefs during important occasions. Women are not allowed to be in close proximity during the ritual. People believe that is a bad omen or harm may come to them.
Sir Julius’s Kinavai ceremony was witnessed by family, friends and dignitaries that travelled from far and wide.
Among them were NCD Governor Powes Parkop, fellow Peoples Progress Party members, East New Britain Governor Nakikus Konga and Wewak Open MP Kevin Isifu. Also present were representatives from the mining companies Newcrest and Simberi Gold mines, Education Institutions representatives, the tourism sector owners, newly elected LLG Presidents and Councilors.
Clergymen his Lordship Bishop Rochus Tatamai of the Catholic Church and Rev Stanely Nadoi Bishop of the United Church were also part of the celebration.
The ritual was extended to Nokon where Sir Julius and his clans men convened their secret meeting at their “Hausboi”. Outsiders and women are kept outside. Sir Julius, was then hoisted in a chiefly fashion to the main village square by the Tabar culture group. Singing in unison their voices raised and faded into the heavens melodiously. Their stage was a sight to behold.
In offering commendations as the ceremony unfolded to speeches NCD Governor Powes Parkop said: “Leadership is our Foundation in any nation. Nations rise and fall with its leadership. If leadership is good and strong then the country and people will be good and strong. If leadership is bad then people too will be confused. So we must have time to come and honor leadership that is quality leadership. Strong leadership, prudent leadership. Leadership that has carried our country from where it was, to today.”
He expressed that no number of gifts, pigs, custom or money would be enough to say thank you for the amount of work Sir Julius has put into the country. “It’s a big celebration , with customs, many pigs, Taro, and Mis, but still all of this is not enough to say “thank you” to this great leader. The work and sacrifice, time he has given, there is no price to his leadership. And the nation should celebrate, to honor his life. 30 years he gave to his family and 50 years he gave to the country. He has been in all the governments since 1975 to today, ” Parkop said.
Parkop also revealed that the Government that came in 2012 as well as the recent government formation came about as a direct intervention by Governor Sir Julius Chan.
Sir Julius Chan thanked everyone for their contributions and for all the gifts they presented to him. He fondly expressed that the best gift he got was a kiss from his granddaughter Siarra because it meant she loved him and no amount of money can buy love.
“Life is limitless, if we can predict what is going to happen in the next few hours or next few days then life won’t be interesting at all. It’s like looking across the sea to the unknown, we don’t know what’s out there. It’s a world of adventure but we all must go, whether it will be victory or defeat,” he said.
Celebrations continued into the evening, with over 80 pigs gifted to Sir Julius Chan.
Sir Julius was born on the island of Tanga, in the middle of nowhere, just before World War II. His mother Miriam Tinkoris was a native New Irelander. His father, Chin Pak, was a Chinese migrant from Taishan, Guangdong China. He was the fifth born of seven children.
He was born on August 29, 1939. Three days later, Adolph Hitler invaded Poland and started World War II.
He said during his birthday commemoration at Parliament: “And, of course, within another two years the war came to the Pacific when the Japanese attacked America at Pearl Harbor.”
“And, believe me, we felt that war in Tanga, Anir and New Ireland. I was two and a half when the Japanese invaded New Britain and New Ireland. Suddenly there were soldiers, with rifles and warships and tanks. I remember my youngest brother – just a baby – died of fright from the constant bombings nearby. And they forced us all into a labour camp in Namatanai. My father’s brother, Captain Chin Him, was put in the Duke of York Camp, where he was tortured,” he said.
“I never attended school until I was ten or eleven. I had to really work at the Rabaul Sacred Heart Catholic School. School is the first place I ever spoke English – until then I spoke only Cantonese, Tok Pisin and Tok Ples from Susurunga.”
‘In early 1954, when I was just fourteen, my father sent me and my cousin, Joe Chan, to boarding school at Marist Brothers, Ashgrove, in Brisbane. It was a long trip to a foreign land, a trip both exciting and frightening.”
“I found schoolwork tough because I had to jump from sixth grade to eighth in Australia – Scholarship Grade, they called it, when you qualified for secondary school. Luckily I was good at sport, especially rugby. I represented the First XV for three straight years. Later, at Queensland University, I was up for selection to the Australian Under 19s Colts to face the All Blacks, but fate intervened. I had an accident riding a motorbike on a rainy day in Toowong, Brisbane. I was in hospital for several months and had to abandon my studies and rugby career, and return to Rabaul.”
“That was probably a blessing. I applied for a position as cooperative officer in the public service in Port Moresby, where I learned basic accounting and business. I also spent six months FAO Cooperative Training at Nasinu Teacher’s College in Fiji.”
After working for sometime in Port Moresby, he returned to Rabaul to help his father in the shipping business. He had every intent of being a businessman for the rest of his life, but in Rabaul he met Ray Lacey from Anir, a former Australian coastwatcher and plantation owner. For some reason Ray thought he should stand for election to the House of Assembly. He hadn’t thought of this himself, but Ray got the local chiefs to pressure him, and the next thing he knew he was a candidate. And the next thing he knew, he was elected. That was 1968. He was 29. And his life changed forever.
He spent 50 years as a politician, becoming the first Finance Minister when PNG gained independence and introduced the kina and toea.
HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY SIR JULIUS CHAN