Wednesday, 12 September 2012 8:41 AM
Tributes to Father of Pacific Journalism
They brought late John Lamani's coffin on the back of a blue cab truck to the Anglican Cathedral in Honiara Solomon Islands.
It was overcast, humid and car wheels churned up road dust in Honiara central. Somehow it seemed just right - for this humble man of great reputation. For he was also a man who embraced everyday life in the Solomon Islands.
Hundreds of people had packed the church with more sitting on the floor at the back, all coming to pay tribute to the father of Pacific journalism.
John Lamani started the Solomon Star in 1982. It went from a weekly to three times a week to the country's leading daily newspaper.
He made a success of it during the most tense of times when his country was flung into times of killing and ethnic conflict. He was brave, controversial, gentle and a damn fine journalist.
We thought we were all brave in those heady days of the 90s, pushing boundaries in the Pacific exposing corruption and challenging Governments never before challenged.
The difference was John had already done it ten years earlier and was to keep on doing it despite the very real dangers he faced.
As co-owners of a fledgling struggling paper in the Cook Islands we looked to the Solomon Star for inspiration.
Those dreadful nights working without a break, folding the paper by hand and delivering it to dozens of shops at 4am were because we knew better days would follow. We knew this because we had watched from afar as John Lamani did the same. He was the role model we needed.
Whenever we gathered at PINA (Pacific Island News Assn) meetings I was hugely in awe of him because I knew I still had much to learn.
And so we fast forward to today twenty years later. I am at John Lamani's funeral in Honiara and I wonder where all the years went.
It just doesn't seem that long ago that John Lamani, Monica Miller, Pesi Fonua, Dennis Rounds, Laisa Taga, Sano Maliefa and Kalafi Moala to name a few were an integral part of the Pacific gang at PINA, respected and at the forefront of excellent journalism.
Gosh those were interesting fun times and we all made some strong bonds. Today our Pacific media family came back together sending shocked, sad messages at the premature loss of one of our own.
John Lamani has been described by the Solomons Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo as an agent for democracy over his thirty year publishing career. He truly was a champion.
It was appropriate John Lamani start the aptly named Solomon Star, because it is clear to all of us he was one himself.