By PNG Echo
It is with much sadness that PNG Echo this morning learned of the passing of a great lady, Mrs Schola Kakas.
Mrs. Kakas, the President of the National Council of Women, was a tireless fighter for women’s rights in PNG. She will be sorely missed
How I’ll remember Schola
It was my pleasure to have met Schola in November 2011 when I was in PNG to witness the expected historic passing of the bill for 22 reserved seats for women in the PNG parliament.
When I arrived at Waigani, busloads of women from the provinces had preceded me.
The women had come for the self-same reason that I had. It was an excited crowd, brimming with expectation and camaraderie.
Schola welcomed me on behalf of PNG women. The generosity of Schola and her supporters was humbling. These women who suffer so many hardships just to exist in PNG, embraced me as a sister.
The women respectfully took their seats in the galleries of parliament and waited patiently for the Speaker, Jeffery Nape to arrive (he was late).
However, things did not go as anticipated.
Within minutes, the Speaker left the chamber on a point of order and didn’t return. (I believe it was over having Paul Tiensten remove himself from the chamber – he didn’t.)
The disappointment in the galleries was palpable. Some of these women had come from far away, at a great cost, to witness an event that was not going to happen – at least not that day – and for some of them, that day was all they had.
While I, caught up in the moment, loudly and vocally protested, the women were, under the circumstances, very well behaved as Dame Carol Kidu, a lone voice on the opposition benches, cautioned calm.
These women had been treated with disdain and disregard by the PNG parliament, yet acted with considerable dignity. They dispersed quietly.
On the morrow, the scene was duplicated at Waigani, although the women, less in numbers, were subdued.
Before the proceedings, I was approached by a lady who Schola had tasked with informing me that she (Schola) had been contacted by the parliament and told she was not welcome to return that day to parliament because of her bad behaviour the previous day.
I was there. The President of the National Council of Women’s behaviour had been exemplary, while disapproving of the unnecessary delay. She executed her job and she did so with considerable dignity.
It was not Mrs Kakas who had scandalized the parliament, corrupt PNG MPs do that every day with impunity.
What happened that fateful morning, without Mrs Kakas, is now history.
She was not present to hear the reading of the bill. She was not there when the long-time member for Lae, Bart Philemon, voiced his dissenting view. She did not hear the resolve of the lady sitting next to me who affirmed “We [the women] will make sure he doesn’t return as an MP in 2012,” – and he didn’t. She did not witness the overwhelming vote in favour of the motion.
She, who had worked so hard to effect this, was denied the pleasure by much lesser people than she.
To add insult to injury, it was to become clear that the favourable vote that day was a political ruse – when, subsequently, the last reading of the bill in Parliament could not muster the numbers to bring it into law.
This was just one incident in the life and career of a fighter for women’s rights in PNG. It was surely just one of many slights, disappointments and slurs she had to endure because of her convictions – women’s rights have never been a popular cause in PNG, yet Schola Kakas was its willing champion.
Mrs Schola Kakas, be at peace. I salute you. You make me proud to be a woman.