By Peter Korugl
Senior Western Highlands businessman and leader Kagul Koroka CBE, CSM wants to be the next Governor-General of Papua New Guinea. A self made man, he believes he has the credentials to occupy the State House at Konedobu, the official residence of the Queen’s representative in PNG.
The 71-year-old man is educated up to Grade 10 only but his involvement in business and politics has provided him with the opportunities to mix with the best in both worlds that today, he reckons he understands the world and PNG, for that matter, a lot better than many in this country.
Born at Tomba in Western Highlands, Koroka started school at Paglum in 1960 and completed grade 10 at Kabiufa in 1965. While he was in school, he was made the school captain. After school, he joined the PNG Electricity Commission in Port Moresby but a bout with Malaria forced him to flee Port Moresby for Mt Hagen. There he joined the Department of Works as a clerk.
A year later he joined the Bush Boake Allen Australia Limited pyrethrum research project at Mendi in Southern Highlands. Koroka returned home to start his own farming business after the project closed down in 1971. He grew potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and strawberries and sold them to hotels and motels in Mt Hagen. He then ventured into coffee, starting as a buyer on the roadside. Between 1973 and 1974, he bought two second-hand trucks and leased them to the Works Department.
In 1975, when PNG was preparing for Independence, he formed his own company, Kiluwa Trading and went into the trucking businesses. He headed Western Highlands Transport Investment Corporation. In 1976, he was in the forefront of PNG Highlands Freighters Pty Ltd, which then bought out PNG Freighters P/L which he headed as Chairman. Soon WHTIC bought out Pagini Brambles, another trucking firm, which eventually bought out ANGCO Coffee group, which controlled approximately 60 per cent of the coffee and cocoa exports.
In 1993 Kiluwa trading changed its name to Pangali Construction Ltd, which is now a renowned supplier of equipment, sand and gravel for road constructions in PNG. While he was running his business empire, he was slowly developing a keen interest in politics. In 1972, he contested the Tambul/Nebilyer Open seat, in 1977, he contested for the Western Highlands Regional seat, in 1982 and he contested the Tambul Nebilyer Open seat again. He lost the contests.
In 1984, he contested the Upper Nebilyer Constituency, and won. He went on to become Premier of Western Highlands but after 18 months, he lost the seat in a vote of no-confidence. He blamed his defeat on his strict control on expenditure of public funds.
In 1994 he defended his seat and won, but remained Opposition leader until the reform to the provincial government system came about. In 1977. Her Majesty the Queen awarded as a Commander of the British empire and then he was made a Companion of the Star of Melanesian. The awards were for his service to business, community and politics.