In March I recorded in ASOPA PEOPLE how I had been interviewed for Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program on the contribution to PNG broadcasting of the late Sam Piniau OBE. During the interview, I related an anecdote Sam told me on my visit to Rabaul last October.
Sam spent two days guiding Ingrid and me around the Gazelle, including visiting his modest house in Rakatop village in the hills behind Kokopo. As we drove through the bush not far from Rakatop, Sam stopped the car and pointed to a spot beside the road. “This is where my people killed and ate the first Christian missionaries from Fiji,” he told me. “It was a very hot day and the Fijians had struggled to the top of this hill. They were plump and glistening with sweat. They looked so good my people just couldn’t help themselves”.
On Saturday the Sydney Morning Herald published a small article saying that Sam’s people have just apologised to Fiji for their forefathers' actions. Fiji's high commissioner to PNG accepted the apologies at a reconciliation ceremony near Rabaul attended by thousands of people.
The death of the Fijian minister and three teachers in April 1878 provoked a punitive expedition by Methodist missionary, the Rev George Brown [seen with PNG tribespeople, left], which resulted in a number of Tolai people being killed and several villages burnt to the ground.
These actions caused a storm of protest in the Methodist Church in Australia and elsewhere. But official investigations by British colonial authorities in the Pacific cleared Brown of criminal charges.