By HELEN TARAWA
MAHUR Island is the last of the Lihir Group of Islands and it takes about an hour to get there by dinghy from Lihir on a fine day.
The Lihirians have a myth that warns that in order to travel out to the seas, one must seek the gods of the seas to make it calm.
Those who believed in such a theory practiced it but for chief executive officer of Mineral Resource Lihir (MRL) Lawrence Rausim a local from that area, he was determined to take us to Mahur.
The MRL had organised for Melisha Yafoi from Post-Courier and I to travel to Lihir to cover stories of some of their projects.
We arrived on Lihir on Sunday afternoon, May 28 and it had rained that day and continued the next day.
The weather was not suitable for travel at sea but we only had that day to achieve our task before we boarded the flight the next day May 30 so we had no choice but to face the challenge.
I’ve traveled the seas of Milne Bay, Northern, Central, Manus, Morobe and mainland New Ireland but as they say, the seas of every coastline and Island are not the same although it’s the same salt water that surrounds the islands and the mainland.
Our dinghy operator was Matthew Lamsing from nearby Malie Island. The only form of transportation for the islanders is by boat and Lamsing assured us that all was in good hands.
Married with two boys and ttwo girls, Lamsing operates his boats along the Lihir Group of Islands as well as neighboring Tabar Island and mainland Namatanai on a passenger rate and hire services.
“I have four boats and each of them has operators but on special hire I step in to assist for the safety of my passengers as I did in the recent trip to Mahur.
“I operate the boats; sometimes the weather is fine other times we encounter rough seas. I take passengers to Lihir town and also to Namatanai and back.
“It takes about one and a half hour from Lhir to Namatanai in good weather and costs about K70 per passenger and for hire it’s over K1,000 or more.
“For the smaller Lihir group of islands the boat fare is bout K20. For hire it’s about K700 to K800 depending on the rates and distance.
“The trip from Lihir to Tabar and back takes about two hours but during bad weather it takes about seven hours,” he said.
Lamsing was engaged by Mineral Resource Lihir Capital Limited (MRL) to take its officers and two journalists to Mahur, the last of the Lihir group of islands.
We departed Lihir at 8am as black clouds were forming beyond the horizon but Lamsing assured us that his boat that we were travelling in was called Emanuel and that God was with us in our journey.
It started raining and the sea was rough with winds lashing the salt water into our faces.
Lamsing had bought a brand new canvas which he used to cover our bags and he advised that we take cover under it.
Yafoi and I sat on the seat, a plank of wood put across the boat. From Lihir we traveled past his Malie Island onto Mashaet Island where the health centre is located.
As an experienced operator, Lamsing knew what was expected ahead of us so he told us to take cover under the canvas because it was going to be a rough ride to Mahur.
True to his word, it was the longest ride with never-ending waves and rain drops and strong wind beating against the boat and a roller coaster of waves.
As we approached Mahur Island, looking back, Lihir and the rest of the islands were covered in dark clouds.
We arrived at about 10am and got straight to business with the visit to the newly built Makapa St Peter and St Paul’s Primary School classrooms.
“ I feel I have to work hard to do my job well and get the results because throughout Lihir everyone’s eyes are on us. We have to prove to them that with the new classrooms we have to live up to a higher standard. It’s a real challenge to work extra hard and whatever I learnt in college I have to put to use to achieve the standard expected.”
The purpose of our trip to the island was to see the first ever Lihir six-in-one classrooms building for Lihir.
The building was funded by Mineral Resources Lihir Capital Limited with assistance from the local ward councillor Joe Sitiaman and was built by the local carpenters and the parents.
MRL was originally established under the PNG Government auspices to hold in trust, Landowner equity in the world class Lihir gold mine on Lihir Island in PNG. Until September 2010 the mine was developed by Lihir Gold Ltd (LGL).
The operations were taken over the New Crest Mine Limited since then. MRL was then a wholly owned subsidiary of Minerals Resources Development Company Ltd (MRDC).
Due to limited space on that island, the idea was to house all the classrooms in one building and the designers were spot on.
We spent about an hour and a half on Mahur and interviewed the three teachers and their board chairman.
The Makapa is a level four school with about 120 students and six teachers.
The six-in-one classroom block was constructed at the cost of K1.2 million. While we were interviewing the teachers and the board chairman, the myth about the sea was retold.
They told us that it took two weeks of nonstop ferrying of the building materials from Lihir to Mahur and the people had talked to the god’s of the sea to calm the sea during that time.
Senior teacher Sylvia Kaka said with this infrastructure development they needed to lift their standards and discipline in teaching.
“I feel I have to work hard to do my job well and get the results because throughout Lihir everyone’s eyes are on us,” Kaka said.
“We have to prove to them that with the new classrooms we have to live up to a higher standard.
“It’s a real challenge to work extra hard and whatever I learnt in college I have to put to use to achieve the standard expected,” Kaka said.
Assistant teacher Nick Zikbeh said the parents and citizens meeting would have to be held in order for awareness to be carried out.
“Any student that is found to breach the rules and laws will be punished,” Zikbeh said.
“The community is taking ownership of the asset and the parents have to be held responsible for their children’s behaviour and attitude as well,” he said.
Zikbeh said the new building needed to be utilised well and also looked after by students and teachers as well as the school management.
“I have to match the standard of building; I must be at the same level so I can prove that I’m capable of teaching in this school.”
Another teacher Rose Niting said this was the first type of building in Mahur and Lihir and she was inspired to lift her work standards.
“We have a big responsibility to ensure the infrastructure is protected and kept safe,” Niting said.
School board chairman John Kourio said the building belonged to the parents and citizens because they have worked hard for it.
He said before the classrooms were utilised a set of rules would be drawn up to direct how to use the new infrastructure. After taking same pictures and looking around, we headed back at about 11.30am and arrived at 12.30pm.
The weather was calm on the return, the rough seas had subsided and the rain stopped so it took us about an hour.
The sudden change of weather obviously wasn’t the work of the god’s of the sea but because we travelled with operator Lamsing on his boat Emanuel the supreme God was with us.