In 1964 Bill Bloomfield was elected to the first PNG House of Assembly. He’d traversed the Kaindi electorate asking voters to put the man they wanted as number one on the ballot paper and Bloomfield as number two. He won at the eighth preference count. To this day there are probably still Kaindi voters who believe both their man and Bloomfield were elected.
By 1966 Bill Bloomfield was dead, unhappily becoming the first PNG politician to die in office, and his place was taken by a young patrol officer called Tony Voutas who had just picked up a degree in Indonesian studies at ANU. He had visited every one of the 80 polling places in Kaindi telling everyone to put him first and allocate no preferences. He won easily.
In the next few years Tony Voutas became one of the founding fathers of the Pangu Party and an adviser to PNG’s first prime minister, Michael Somare. Tony Voutas was a prominent, indeed an eminent, figure in PNG in the sixties and early 1970s – and then he was gone. So what became of Anthony Constantine ‘Toni’ Voutas?
Well it turns out that Tony Voutas is a chang zhu de, or long time expatriate, in Beijing. He’s been in China for nearly 30 years and is Managing Director of his own company, Asia Pacific Access. APA consults to multinational companies doing business in China, its services including relocation, cross-cultural training, human resource management, business set-up and remote site investigation in China.
“I first came to China in 1974 on a semi-official PNG delegation,” he says. “At the time, which was before PNG's independence, I had completed two terms as a member of the PNG parliament and was serving as the PNG prime minister’s chief adviser.
“I am fascinated by the intricacies, variations and dynamics of the culture. While Chinese culture has had such a long and rich history, nowadays you may find layers of culture ranging from traditional to ultra-modern within the same family, even within the same person. On the weekends I still love to have picnics around the Ming Tombs or amidst the serene stupas of Silver Mountain - after decades I still haven't grown tired to exploring China and learning about its vibrant culture.”
Photo: Tony Voutas' election photograph [Pacific Islands Monthly, October 1966]