"According to whom?" Numwaya Nathalie looked puzzled.
"And just who are her associates?" said the numwaya, pacing restlessly in the deputy governor's office.
She did not walk all the way from the Numwaya Lodge just to hear the politician's views on Lady Gaesasara. Her girls and her guests went missing more than eight hours ago and she was getting extremely worried.
The deputy governor eyed her head to toe and then shrugged. Women were increasingly becoming pests in the consciousness of dutiful politicians like himself was the thought that ran through his mind. He nevertheless gestured towards the secretary to make a cup of tea for the numwaya.
"Black or white, my numwaya?" said the secretary, rising from her desk.
"Oh, none for me, thanks, Rita," said the numwaya. "Make just yours and the deputy governor's. I've just had a cup before strolling over." She pulled up a chair and sat directly in front of the deputy governor. "Who are her associates? And why are you so concerned about her unfortunate partners instead of me and my pressing demands? You forget I voted for you, Ronald. And so did my husband."
"Ha!" laughed the deputy governor, and it was an explosive kind of laughter. "Flatter me as much as you want, my good numwaya, but I do my job regardless. And bye the bye, our natural disaster and risk management unit has been alerted five hours ago, the patrol is out, your girls and guests should be found by now. Besides, porimana isn't as bad as it was a few days ago. Dinghies are safely coming into town in numbers from our part of the province." He paused, pointed to the TV grumbling away along the ledges of the office. "We should rather be worried about her breaking away from her associates."
The TV screen showed Lady Gaesasara stressing the point that the border issue was the problem of the government. The Prime Minister should visit the Oro and Milne Bay province borders as soon as possible before all else escalated into another Bougainville crisis.
"I did vote for you," chuckled the numwaya, then added somewhat mournfully, "she isn't a politician like you, Ronald. She's a lawyer."
"Lawyers or whatever not," smiled the deputy governor, running a finger over a freshly shaven chin, "we all end up in parliament eventually. Which is why I am saying she's making a grave error more than already isolating herself from her associates like that."
"She made the right decision sacking that company," said the numwaya looking somewhat annoyed. "It's the government not keeping its end of the bargain. What's wrong with you fat politicians nowadays?"
"Oh, I'm not fat," said Roland, taking his cup of tea from Rita. "I think the government made the right move last few days. That company is overall important. I'm sure it was all short-sightedness on the part of Lady Gaesasara."
"Short-sightedness," snorted the numwaya. "Good thing she went ahead and sacked that monster company without the advice of her associates - if it is the Nokondi you're referring to. Look what they did to Brazil. Or to Indonesia. What good would the company do to Nokondi - or the Highlands bloc or the rest of Papua New Guinea, for that matter?"
"I still envisage she made the gravest of errors. We underestimate the Highlanders but they still enable us all to see the light at the end of the tunnel."
"Over-dependence is what you all envisage at the end of the tunnel," said the numwaya with a short laugh. "Sack your employer and you're unemployed. An argument most men would like to take on."
Rita suppressed an unwanted laugh by quickly getting herself busy with the files on her desk. Ronald pretended he did not hear. He looked at Rita but changed his mind about what he wanted the secretary to do in the next few minutes. The tea tasted good. As usual Rita put honey in the tea. The pleasantries of distraction from Samalae women, he thought with annoyance. He was thinking of getting rid of Numawaya Nathalie sooner from his office.
"The girls will be all right, Nathalie," he now spoke cheerfully. "How many did you say were on that dinghy?"
"Well, there are the girls, Foroga and Mimi, Mr and Mrs Goldberg or Dan and Amie, Doboro Fjord and the boy Diko."
"They should be all right," said Ronald. "That Foroga, she does wonders when it comes to rough weather."
"I am hoping she does, Ronald. I am so hoping she does."
"Oh, I never doubt Foroga, my good numwaya. Rita, you've been up north coast way on a couple of trips with Foroga... you'd know..."
"Yes, sir," said Rita, her eyes dropping to the floor. "One time we ran into a storm. It was night, pitch dark. We couldn't see nothing all around us. It was total blank like. I was scared. Sitting there, clutching on whatever I could hold onto, I cried for my parents, I cried for dear life. I prayed and I prayed. But Foroga, she just told us not to fear. She told us she could feel the current and tide beneath us. They were friendly, she said, even though the waves got rougher and angrier, and even at night we could see them mounting high and big like this building we sitting in..."