It took a bus driver five words to sum up the life of well-respected veteran journalist, late Jonas Cullwick, when he told his passengers that ‘a nabanga tree has fallen’, as he glanced at a lone Air Taxi plane soar into the clear morning sky at Bauerfield Airport yesterday, to fly with his coffin to Maewo — his home island of many waterfalls for burial.
His widow, Leias Cullwick (Chief Executive Officer of VNCW) and first born son Dr. Trevor Cullwick (Senior Surgeon at Vila Central Hospital) accompanied his coffin.
Another full plane took off minutes earlier on the same path to Maewo loaded with other members of the family for the funeral ceremony.
The low-key ceremony, yet rare, was led by custom-attired high chiefs of Maewo for pall bearers, witnessed by his three brother-in-laws of the all powerful Kalsakau dynasty; Leader of Opposition MP Ishmael Kalsakau and MP Ephraim Kalsakau and MP Joshua Kalsakau.
Also present to farewell him were two former Heads of State; current President of Vanuatu Red Cross Society George Sokomanu and Ombudsman Kalkot Mataskelekele and former President of PINA and former media colleague and current Port Vila Councillor, Moses Steven and Daily Post senior political reporter Godwin Ligo, First Political Adviser to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, Bakoa Kaltongga and other close members of the bereaved family.
When Penama people pass away in Port Vila, many of the bodies are repatriated to their island of either Pentecost, Maewo or Ambae for burial.
In this case the repatriation of the body of the late Jonas Cullwick (also Chairman of Maewo council of chiefs in Port Vila and executive member of Port Vila Town Council of Chiefs), was in line with his own wish that if anything should happen to him, his family was to send his body back to his home island for burial.
Daily Post Media Director Dan McGarry wrote the following tribute to farewell the beloved journalist:
“A key figure in Vanuatu’s media industry is lost.
Jonas Cullwick worked as a professional journalist since this country was born. Former GM of the VBTC, and senior journalist at the Daily Post for many years, he was a valued and trusted colleague, and deeply principled truth-teller.
He passed away last night (two nights ago).
All of us at the Daily Post, and throughout the media community, are grieving. Words won’t convey the sorrow we feel, and the sympathy we wish to convey to Leias and to all his family and friends”.
Farewell brother and colleague. Tears well up in our eyes every time we think of you. Your chair will always remain empty.