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35 posts from November 2008

Montevideo Maru – all about politics

Rod Miller

To understand the loss of the civilian men on the Montevideo Maru you have to understand the politics which led to the Japanese decision to transport them with the enlisted men to Hainan.

Possibly as early as 1943 the Australian Government had information that the men from Rabaul had been loaded onto a ship destined for Hainan and that it had been sunk. Evidence suggests that it was definitely known by 1944. The dropping of letters in 1942 wasn’t, as Hank Nelson states, “a strange act of chivalry in a brutal war” it was one of a series of calculated acts by the Japanese aimed squarely at showing the Australian Government that they were prepared to give fair treatment to prisoners of war.

The problem for the Japanese top echelon who devised this campaign of fair treatment and letter dropping was the Tol massacre. It's possible that the Japanese H.Q. in Rabaul knew nothing of this massacre till after the war.

With the return of the survivors of the Tol massacre to Australia in early 1942 the government knew that men it had abandoned as hostages to fortune had been massacred. It immediately assembled a court to inquire into the whole of the circumstances attending to operations in Rabaul. The court completed its investigation in May 1942, one month before the sailing of the Montevideo Maru. Frank Forde deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Army sent a cable to Curtin reassuring him that the inquiry had found that nurses at Vunapope were being well cared for.

Although the courts findings weren't made public the Chifley government used it as an excuse not to conduct a further inquiry into the loss of the Rabaul men post war. The refusal to investigate the events in Rabaul, and the loss of the men on the Montevideo Maru, has led to much speculation and various theories being put forward to explain what happened. Most of the theories have loose ends that can't be tied together. I suggest that these loose ends have clouded the issue for many years. Even the Rabaul survivors of that time, the nurses and officers who made it to Japan, the writings of Gordon Thomas and missionaries can only describe what happened, not why it happened.

Finding the wreck of the Montevideo Maru would not be easy as it lies at a great depth. Having said that, it would be much easier and possibly a lot cheaper to find than the wreck of the Sydney, as the coordinates of where it was torpedoed are known. It would be a simple matter for the government to recognise the enormous tragedy of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru and give the families of those who lost loved ones some closure.

I personally believe that there is far more to the story of the movement of the civilian internees from Rabaul to Hainan than has yet been discovered in our archival files. Possibly therein is where the problem lies.

It was, and possibly still is, all about politics.

Source: Forum - Website of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia. A 'Montevideo Maru' task force will meet on Tuesday to begin a major effort to persuade the Australian Government to locate the ill-fated vessel and to resolve other aspects of the tragedy.

The crowded life of a Governor-General

Sir Paulias Matane

Sir Paulias close My usual bedtime is 8.30pm and I wake up to go to work just after 2am. I use the time between 2am and 5.15am to work in my study answering emails, reading manuscripts, and writing Forewords for many books.

Since retiring from the Public Service (but not from public service) on 1 January 1986, I have helped Papua New Guineans to write books. Forty of those people have published their first books here and overseas; six have published second books; and four have published third books. Last week, after reading through three manuscripts by two new authors, I recommended their publication. My estimate is that by the end of 2009, there will have been more than 50 books by PNG authors.

Two days ago I went with the vice regal party for a very busy schedule in East New Britain. We arrived at 11am and went straight to the first meeting with six provincial leaders. I then had a lunch meeting before leaving for my village at 1.35 to meet with students and teachers of my old school and then with the members of the school board who I briefed on my plan to redevelop the school. The idea is to build five double storey buildings each with six classrooms and eight offices. I hope building will start early next year. The school will be used not only by children but village people as part of a Global University for Lifelong Learning. We left for Kokopo at 4.15.

Yesterday was another busy day. At 9.30am, we arrived at the Kokopo Business College where I was guest speaker for the 144 people who graduated with certificates after two years of accounting and business studies. We left just after 1pm and between 2.30 and 4.20, I met with six provincial leaders at the Governor’s office to discuss some important matters including an autonomous government for ENB, a plan to give city status to the quickly growing town of Kokopo and the need to register clan land.

This morning after breakfast, I met with a successful businessman to discuss issues including his request for me to open his new Kokopo Beach Bungalow. At 9.45, we left in a Hertz rental car for a meeting and at 11.10 drove to the airport for another meeting with two provincial leaders before we departed for Port Moresby at 1pm. It looks as if I will be at this desk until 7.30 before I go to bed.

Tomorrow I will lead a group of over 100 walkers for the last Governor-General’s Monthly Health Walk for the year. We will gather at Government House at 4.45am and, after some warming up, set off at 5am on the dot to climb Touaguba Hill before we return just after 6 for refreshments and a Christmas cake. I’ll then depart for work just before 7am.

PNG ATTITUDE thanks Sir Paulias for allowing readers to share this glimpse into his life. At 78, the Papua New Guinea Governor-General has a schedule that would daunt a man half his age.

Tongan Tonsils gets top Pacific affairs gig

Latukefu_Alopi 'Alopi Latukefu (aka ‘the Tongan Tonsils’) has been appointed chief of staff to the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Affairs, Duncan Kerr. ‘Alopi is the son of Dr Ruth Fink Latukefu and the late Rev Dr Sione Latukefu, both of whom were active in Pacific academia during their twenty years’ service with the University of Papua New Guinea. Ruth, of course, was also a celebrated lecturer in Anthropology at the Australian School of Pacific Administration.

Announcing the appointment, Duncan Kerr said “Mr Latukefu has served with distinction as my Pacific Adviser and I am confident that, in his new role, he will further advance the Government’s focus in the Pacific region. He brings to the role knowledge and personal experience of the Pacific, the information economy, private sector development, and international development generally.”

‘Alopi is also leader of Alopi Latukefu & Palermo Express, a five-piece ACT-based jazz and funky lounge band. One critic has written that “Latukefu's oaken voice mines the soft sensuality of Pacific Romanticism with the rhythms, melodies and skat of the Jazz world.”

And another: “Alopi Latukefu leads this smooth jazz funk band. You will immediately warm to this charming man, the moment he steps on stage, with his engaging smile, smooth looks and a voice like velvet, as it caresses the many soulful jazz tunes in his vast repertoire.”

Quite an acquisition for the Parliamentary Secretary.

Pacific work scheme about to launch

Papua New Guinea workers could be picking fruit in Australia early next year after the signing of an international agreement this week. Three farming areas in Australia - Swan Hill and Robinvale in north-western Victoria and Griffith in the NSW Riverina - have been selected to participate in the Pacific seasonal worker pilot scheme. PNG workers were admitted to the deal after a last minute change of heart by the Australian Government in August.

Australian farmers hope the workers will arrive in January, although many details such as accommodation and transport still have to be ironed out. The finalisation of the scheme ends months of uncertainty for growers.

A delegation of ministers and public servants from PNG and other Pacific island countries will travel to Swan Hill this week for talks about the program. Swan Hill Mayor Gary Norton applauded the news. "We reckon it's great. The sooner the better. We've got a lot of horticultural growers at the moment waiting for workers," he said. "We need a good, reliable workforce for the picking. When the fruit is ready to be picked it's got to be picked that day, it's no good the next day."

Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr, said up to 2500 workers will come to Australia for up to seven months each year. National Farmers Federation president David Crombie said about 100 workers would start within weeks.

He said the horticulture industry had a nationwide shortage of 22,000 seasonal workers and the scheme was critical to ensure farmers kept producing food. "At present, in the Pacific Islands, we have a ready, willing and able workforce happy to make the trek into regional Australia to fill these positions. Australian farmers are ready to welcome them with open arms.”

Encounters: Ray Whitrod and Bob Cole

In 1968, after a 30-year career in Papua New Guinea, Police Commissioner Bob Cole, who has just died on the Gold Coast, was ready to retire and return to Australia. As he searched for experienced police commanders who could replace him, he sought advice from Ray Whitrod. In an oral history for Film Australia, Whitrod tells the story....

Ray Whitrod: I had been going to these commissioners' conferences for a number of years and I'd grown very pally with the Commissioner of Police from Papua New Guinea, a chap called Bob Cole. He wasn't a proper policeman. He'd been what we call a kiap, a government patrol officer in New Guinea, but he was the Commissioner up there, and he used to come down to our conferences and in a sense he was a bit on the outer like I was, in that we weren't regular, standard State police forces. So we got very friendly.

And one day he rang me up from Port Moresby and said, 'Ray, my wife says I'm getting too old to stay in the territory. I'm fifty-five. It's the usual retiring age for kiaps. My superannuation is ready. She wants to go south to be with her grandchildren. I need to give up'. But he said, 'The force is coming along slowly and I don't want to leave without making sure it's in good hands. Can you find me somebody who'll replace me?'

And I said, 'Sure, Bob, it's an interesting, challenging job in Papua New Guinea . I know a number of young assistant commissioners, who would jump at the chance to do some years in New Guinea'. So I rang around to all my assistants, people I'd met at various conferences and so forth. None wanted the job, partly because independence was coming in New Guinea, partly because their wives refused to move, partly I think because in the eastern states they had a larger income than they should have had and they didn't want to go.

So I rang up Bob and Bob was crestfallen about this and said, 'Look mate, I've gone ahead and I've made accommodation arrangements down on the Gold Coast. I really can't get out of leaving'. So I said, 'Bob, I've been here fourteen years now. I've got a good assistant. I'll come up and take your place'. Then I went and told Mavis, 'We're going to New Guinea '. [laughs] Of course she was a bit staggered by this. We went up to Port Moresby , at an age when Bob Cole was leaving to come south.

Interviewer: Could you sum up for me what the New Guinea experience was like?

Whitrod: Well, it's a short story because it was stupid of me to go in the first place.

Source: Australian Biography, Film Australia, Ray Whitrod (1915-2003)

E Course teachers recalled with affection

Loch Blatchford

I always admired the contribution made by six-month trained E (Emergency) Course teachers. Those I met were of high quality, often working under difficult circumstances. Some continued their studies and went on to hold down top jobs.

Don Owner, at the time the Chief of Division, Teacher Training, was another to recognise their worth. In February 1963 he stated, “Graduates of the first and second ‘E’ Courses are displaying a remarkable degree of enthusiasm. All intend remaining in the Territory after the period of their bond expires. The quality of their work varies, but in every case they are attempting to do something positive. All are planning to improve their academic status by in-service training assignments; by Matriculation studies or by courses leading to a University degree.

“They can form a core of enthusiasts whose good example can spread to hundreds of other teachers. A continuous supply of ‘E’ Course graduates will ensure the Territory of a vastly improved system of primary education. There is no doubt in my mind that the training of this particular group of teacher who now occupy the vast majority of expatiate positions in Primary ‘T’ schools has been justified…

The Missions have expressed themselves almost without exception in favour of the continuation of the training of these people. The training of Teachers Grade I, has therefore my strongest recommendation.”

PNG great, Bob Cole, dies on Gold Coast

McCarthy_Cole_Green Yesterday Papua New Guinea lost one of its greatest servants and Australia lost a pioneering officer whose association with PNG began before World War II.

Former pre-war kiap and PNG Police Commissioner Bob Cole OBE MC died on the Gold Coast. His PNG career spanned the years 1938 to 1968 and he served in the Sepik, Bougainville, Western Highlands and Southern Highlands Districts, attaining the rank of District Commissioner before being appointed Commissioner of Police.

In Una Voce, the journal of the Papua New Guinea Association, in March 1993, Bob wrote a story about his late wife Kay’s introduction to New Guinea. Some extracts.

We were married in 1943, during the War, and after I had spent three years in the Middle East writing her letters. We married within a week of my return to Australia and only had two weeks together before I reported to Melbourne and then New Guinea two months later. These separations were the pattern until the end of 1943 when I was discharged. After the war we had a wonderful ten months together before deciding that I should return to work, which meant New Guinea where the Provincial Government was in operation.

Bougainville was my posting and there being no married accommodation available I was not able to take Kay with me when I returned. I was required to build my own residence before a permit would be granted for Kay to join me and this did not worry me very much because I knew I could knock up a suitable house within a few weeks, and so off I went to get started, giving Kay an assurance that she would be with me within a week or two and that the Territory people would look after her all the way to me.

I landed at Sohano at the end of November 1946 and was sent to Buin where I arrived two weeks later, and where Jimmy Hodgekiss was in charge as ADO. Jimmy did not like crowded stations (we had a Patrol Officer, Jim Humphries, and an EMA, Alan Pinkerton) and now me, who intended bringing a woman to the station. This was too much for Jimmy so he went bush to start Boku and left me in charge at Buin to build the house for my wife.

The house was built by the end of December, native materials throughout except for the floor which was constructed from Japanese bed-boards salvaged from the huge overgrown Jap army camp in the bush nearby. These boards were better than limbum, but only just, because they were very thin and gave way frequently underfoot. Our furniture was patrol issue to start with, no refrigerator, and a camp stove salvaged from the same Jap camp. Upon completion I convinced Raleigh Farlow, the District Officer, that it was suitable as a married quarter and he notified Moresby to this effect and asked for approval for Kay to join me.

Passages to Papua New Guinea, on aircraft, were at a premium in 1946 and baggage allowances were very limited so when Kay did get a seat on 27 January 1947 she filled her handbag with cutlery and the allowable baggage space was used for linen in addition to her own clothing. I remember Treasury hit me for £10/13/6 to cover excess baggage, and duly collected it.

You can read this wonderful story in its entirety here.

Photo: Bob Cole (centre), as Honorary Colonel, Papua and New Guinea Rifles, with Col JK McCarthy and Lt Col H Green

Many voices contend for B’ville influence

Mark_Steve The day job of Steve Mark [left], who I met at a rather soggy garden party in Bowral yesterday, is as NSW Legal Services Commissioner. One of his other passions, in his role as Chairman of the International Commission of Jurists (Australia), is the development of a workable common law code for the people of Bougainville.

The rule of law in Bougainville broke down totally during the civil war, and was replaced by the rule of AK-47. Following the cessation of hostilities, an unhappy mixture of ‘gun justice’ and various forms of traditional law prevail. This situation is neither pleasant for most of the people of Bougainville nor conducive to the economic and social development of the autonomous PNG province.

So, in a few weeks time, Mark and some colleagues will return to the island to continue an innovative task of blending traditional and common law – seeking to find a happy medium that will suit the needs of the fiercely independent and proud Bougainvilleans and the imperative to redevelop a Province in which little infrastructure remains but where, although the Panguna mine is finished forever, the central cordillera remains a rich source of gold, copper, silver and other minerals.

Such wealth lies there, in fact, that Chinese and Russian companies are competing for the favours of the Bougainville people in seeking to exploit it. (Australia is not to be seen.) But the question remains, under which law?

With the much-respected President Kabui dead of a heart attack a few months ago and a new election due in the near future, there are many contending influences for power in Bougainville. The hope that the Province would quickly settle back to normality after the civil war has not been realised.

That beautiful island with its fine people is still very much a work in progress. And it is clear that much of that work confronts the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.

PNG leader praises “wonderful” Una Voce

With lei A couple of weeks ago in these Notes, I mentioned that the most recent issue of the PNG Association journal Una Voce was being distributed and suggested you might join the Association (just $20 here) so as to obtain this quarterly publication.

I have just received this letter from PNG Governor-General, Sir Paulias Matane, a PNGAA member and Una Voce reader, which may spur you into action.

We send to you sincere greetings from Government House, Port Moresby.

I write this to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for the wonderful PNGAA journal. I read the various contributions with a great deal of interest because, apart from other things, they bring back memories of the past events in PNG, particularly during the colonial days.

It is encouraging that many Australian former employees still have nice feelings and memories of their times here. Some have written books about their activities. I would like those of you who may have not written books about your experiences here should do the same as people like Dame Rachel Cleland and others.

It is encouraging and gratifying to read that members of PNGAA are going to do something for the catastrophic Cyclone Guba that devastated the Oro Province last year. Congratulations.

When I read the first Letter to the Editor from Alan McLay in the current PNGAA issue about Fred Kaad’s tribute to Harry West, my mind went back to the time when I knew them as District Commissioners. They probably do not remember me. I was also interested in saying that Alan married a Tolai lady, Nellie, in 1982. I mention this because she and Alan helped to organise a fund raising dinner on 15 November (at the Melanesian Hotel in Lae in the Morobe Province) for the Morobe Bikers’ Charity Club, or MBCC. I was the main guest. The vice regal party paid for two tables.

What is MBCC, you may now be wondering. It is a charity club, formed and registered in 2003 by unemployed youths, some of whom were prisoners before but have changed to become useful citizens of PNG. There are over 300 members of the Club.

Some of the routes they had followed since the Club was started were: Madang to Lae; Goroka to Lae; Lae across the mountains to the Gulf Province, to Port Moresby where they worked for 3 months to raise money before continuing to Alotau and back to Lae.

After the fundraising dinner, ten members went by truck to Enga Province. They started riding at Porgera on 17 November, then to Laiagam, Wapendamanda, Mt Hagen, Kundiawa, Chuave, Goroka, Kainantu, Watarais, Nadzab and then to Lae where they will arrive on 1 December, World AIDS Day, to address the crowd.

On the various stops, they carried out awareness on HIV/AIDS; Violence Against Women and Children; Law and Order Problems; Consumption of Alcohol and other Drugs by young people; etc.

I am so much impressed with their initiatives and that’s why I support their activities. I had made a public call for youths in other parts of PNG to do the same as MBCC members. I will continue to raise this issue.

I thank you and the leaders for your plans for the future PNGAA as recorded under What’s Next in the PNGAA – Building on the Legacy. I can only see good things coming.

The other very interesting items include Those Early Days Had Their Moments by Jim Eames; Emirau by Warren Martin; The Murder of Errol John [Jack] Emmanuel by Derek Bell. This really shocked most of the people as this kind of killing was new to many of us at that time. Jack was a very good and peaceful man. We missed him. The other that stands out is Extract From ‘Bilong Gut Taim Bipor by Henry G Eekhoff.

Call for Kokoda Track code of conduct

With 7,000 international trekkers forecast to walk the 96-kilometre Kokoda track next year, Sandy Hollway - Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's special envoy on the track – has asked tour operators to introduce a code of conduct to preserve the trail and lessen the impact on the people living alongside it.

“Minimum standards for the trekkers, minimum standards for the treatment of local people along the track, respect for the villages along the track and minimum standards to be adopted by the trek operators themselves,” he said.

Mr Hollway’s comments follow those of NSW MP Charlie Lynn who, in a recent newsletter, wrote of “a new breed of 'trekking Samaritans' who use the experience to raise money for various charities in Australia. While the cause is always noble, and the individuals often well intentioned, there is some irony that we seek to exploit a jungle track in a third world country to raise funds for a cause in our 'land of plenty',” Mr Lynn said.

“Lets hope the new breed of 'trekking Samaritans' decide to leave some of what they raise in PNG - there is no shortage of worthy causes for those who trek 'with their eyes wide open'. It would be far more noble for them to leave their ego in Australia and their money in PNG!”

Sources: ‘Calls for Kokoda track code of conduct’, Steve Marshall, ABC, 20 November 2008 and Charlie Lynn’s ‘Adventure Kokoda’ newsletter

1962 – historical turning point for PNG

The Blatchford Collection for 1962 is now on PNG ATTITUDE (see ASOPA People Extra) and Loch Blatchford’s summaries offer the usual absorbing reading for people interested in the development of the PNG education system.

In his memoir ‘A Time For Building’, then Territories Minister Paul Hasluck wrote: “The year 1962 seemed to me at the time to be a turning point in the history of PNG. Hard work below the ground had been done and progress seemed to quicken.” And Hasluck was putting his money where his mouth was. Ian Downs recorded in ‘Australian Trusteeship’ that, when three senior PNG officials traveled to Canberra for pre-budget discussions, Hasluck refused to reduce the budget for primary education and said he wanted it extended by a further 100 schools. Sid Pearsall recalled, “Hasluck told us that if money was the problem we could leave it to him. On the same day he attended a Cabinet meeting and two hours later we were advised that £500,000 had been added to the grant to provide for 100 more primary schools.”

As all this was happening, long serving Director of Education Geoffrey Roscoe was preparing to hand over to the newly appointed Les Johnson. Roscoe wrote to the District Education Officer at Kerema, Neville Dachs: “Please accept my very best wishes for the future happiness of yourself and your wife. I have no doubt that you have told her of some of the drawbacks of life in the Territory. I do not think that the Territory is such an attractive place as it was when I first came to it in 1947. It was a kind of wild west country then. We didn’t have many laws and regulations; we had no Public Service Commissioner; and many of the present restrictions had not yet been invented. In some respects I feel now that the Territory is altogether too civilised, but I still think it has attractions to offer for young and energetic people.”

Some of those young and energetic people – my Class of 1962-63 – had just entered ASOPA and were beginning to train to teach in a country described by PNG education veteran Dick Ralph, whose daughter Margaret was one of our number: “The word ‘emergent’ certainly applies to us: we are emerging from the Dark Ages, from a Stone Age civilization, and are being forced to try and do in decades what other civilizations have taken many centuries to evolve. The Territory education system did not emerge, it was imposed by the Minister for Territories, who laid down in hard and decisive terms what were to be our aims. The first Director believed in the Blending of Cultures. (He) strove for the emphasis to be on the native and believed in gradual change. The second was concerned more with a political catchcry – Universal Primary Education. We are now facing the problem of secondary education, with tertiary education just around the corner.”

Meanwhile, an article in the left wing Nation magazine, for which I later freelanced in PNG, criticised Hasluck for “weakening the intellect of ASOPA”, accusing the School’s teaching staff of being “seldom entirely frank, authoritarian and paternalistic.”

Footnote: In 1962 the estimated population of PNG was just under 2 million. In 1960-61 the PNG Administration had spent £2.6 million ($5.2 million) on education. The missions spent an additional £580,000. In 1961 there were 186,000 primary students, 2,300 secondary students and one university student, Henry To Robert, who we met when he visited ASOPA early in 1962.

Now how about the Montevideo Maru?

Montevideo Maru


Today’s 67th anniversary of the sinking of HMAS Sydney by the German raider HSK Kormoran has been commemorated at ceremonies throughout Australia. The loss of all Sydney's 645 crew was one of the great tragedies of World War II and remained largely a mystery until the wreck was found last year - resting upright on the seabed 2,500 metres below the surface 200 km north-west of Geraldton in Western Australia. More than 280 family members of the crew this morning visited the site of the sinking aboard HMAS Manoora.

All this activity, and some of the misleading media coverage of it as ‘Australia’s biggest maritime disaster’, provided grim reading for people associated with the sinking of the Montevideo Maru [above] on 1 July 1942 – which cost the lives of 1,053 men and boys, prisoners of the Japanese who had been interned in Rabaul, and which was truly our greatest maritime tragedy.

“These families [of the Sydney victims] are truly fortunate to be able to finally acknowledge the resting place of their loved ones,” Andrea Williams, editor of the PNGAA journal, Una Voce, has told AAP. “I am the grand-daughter of one of the men, apparently sunk on the Montevideo Maru. The sinking of the Montevideo Maru and the loss of those 1053 men was Australia’s greatest maritime disaster.

“I find this erroneous reporting disrespectful to men who suffered unknown cruelties for many months before drowning by allied fire because their Japanese prisoner ship was unmarked as carrying prisoners of war. Sadly, their final resting place has never been found. I would love for our families to have the same opportunity that these families have and for our men to have their fates recognised in our Australian history too.”

Along with other organisations the PNGAA has been asking the Federal Government for many months now to do something meaningful recognise the enormous tragedy of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru by mounting a search for the wreck, which is located somewhere off Subic Bay in the Philippines. And let’s hope AAP gets the message that the loss of the Montevideo Maru was as immense a tragedy as the sinking of HMAS Sydney.

Make a date for lunch, and help PNG

With time running out and tickets selling fast, it’s time to secure your place at Australia’s premier Papua New Guinea event – the PNG Association’s annual Christmas lunch. This year it’s being held at Sydney’s Killara Golf Club on Sunday 7 December. Guest speaker is the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Hon Duncan Kerr, and former PNG Director of Education (and current Chairman of the Australian Press Council), Prof Ken McKinnon, will also be saying a few words. Both men will also be seeking to meet as many guests as they can.

Only 40 of the 220 tickets remain so, if you haven’t booked yet, now would seem to be the moment to do it. Tickets are $47.50 each and you can obtain them online by booking here.

The annual lunch will also see the drawing of the Oro Project Raffle – with a prize of two return air tickets with Air Niugini between Sydney or Brisbane and Port Moresby. Proceeds from the raffle are being donated by the PNGAA to the Oro Community Development Project, a well managed enterprise controlled jointly by Australian and PNG interests to bring relief to the cyclone-ravaged Oro Province.

You can order tickets online (they’re just $5 each) by clicking through from here.

PNG to host ICC regional cricket trophy

Papua New Guinea will host the International Cricket Council East Asia Pacific Cricket Trophy tournament in June next year. The tournament is a qualifier for the ICC Under-19 World Cup to be held in Kenya in 2010. PNG are the current regional champions having won the last tournament in Vanuatu in 2006. After that win, PNG qualified for the World Cup in Malaysia earlier this year and was placed 12th.

“We expect very strong squads from Vanuatu, Fiji, Japan and Indonesia,” ICC regional development manager, Mathew Weisheit, said in Port Moresby to identify improvements to ovals and facilities, which will need to be brought to international standard.

Cricket PNG general manager Andrew Knott said they were proud to host this prestigious event. “This is the second time an ICC tournament has come to PNG and we are confident of putting on a very professional display,” Knott said.

“This tournament encourages community participation, an increase in young boys and girls playing cricket, so any assistance from the Government and corporate companies to be a part of this prestigious event will go a long way for our cricketers and the country in the region and the world,” he said.

Too much punch at PNG media awards

Journalists from the PNG Post-Courier newspaper and the PNG National Broadcasting Corporation turned on a king-sized stoush at Saturday’s Media Council awards ceremony in Port Moresby. AAP reports that “simmering tensions mixed with alcohol” turned a successful evening into an all-in brawl.

The fight came late in the proceedings, after speeches on the importance of media freedom and accurate reporting. Security guards stepped in to pull apart scrapping guests. "It is embarrassing," said one guest. "This stuff always happens at this end of year. Everything starts fine but it all comes out with too much drink. It really is the silly season. All the simmering tensions erupt," she said.

The awards night came as the culmination of a week-long Media Council program to raise industry standards. After calm was restored, the Council provided karaoke entertainment. It would never have happened in my day. The karaoke, that is.

Source: ‘Drunken brawl mars PNG media award night’, AAP, 17 November 2008

Ceb Barnes, the man who said ‘nothing’

Bougainville Blue You can listen to Brian Darcey, author of Bougainville Blue, reviewed a few days ago on PNG ATTITUDE, talking about the book with Jeremy Rose of Radio New Zealand here. In the interview, Brian makes a number of interesting points including:

          That he believes the seeds of the disastrous Bougainville conflict were sown by then Territories Minister Charles ‘Ceb’ Barnes who, responding to a Bougainvillean who asked what locals could expect to gain from the opening of the Panguna copper mine, replied tersely, “Nothing”.

          How he wrote the book to provide a balanced account of the conflict – “no one ever has clean hands in a civil war” – and the book tries to describe events “as they happened not how they were painted in the press”.

          That the main reason the biggest copper mine in the world was destroyed with so much collateral devastation was that “neither Moresby not Canberra were listening to the Bougainvilleans”.

          Even though Brian says he’s “a late blooming author if ever there was one”, a sequel to Bougainville Blue may be on the way.

You can also visit Brian’s blog, and order the book, here.

PNG media must expose corruption


PNG’s chief ombudsman Chronox Manek has said the media must expose corruption in the country. “Although the media contributes a lot to the development and maintenance of a nation, it does not need to be biased but should allow for viewpoints of individuals on any matter,” he said.

Mr Manek said the media is a source of education to the public. “The right to inform remains the foundation of democracy ... without citizens remaining in the dark, since it will affect their right to decision making.”

He also said that for the media to be the agenda setter and expose issues, journalists need to know about their constitutional rights and also have a fair idea about PNG’s national goals. “You can never go wrong if you speak right, expose and stand up for the people,” he said.

Source: ‘Media is the agenda setter, says Manek’, by Peter Larry, UPNG journalism student, PNG Naional, 13 November 2008

PNG education '62: Foot’s kick in arse

By Loch Blatchford

It's 1962 in the Territory of Papua New Guinea. Concern about events in West New Guinea, where Indonesia is easing the Dutch out, increases the number teacher resignations and reduces recruitment from Australia. There is a shortage of teachers and teacher trainees. Class sizes grow, some have no teachers and new enrolments are postponed. The possibility of shift teaching and payment of overtime is explored for urban areas.

The new Deputy Director Les Johnson arrives in February 1962 and undertakes a familiarisation tour of the Territory. Meanwhile, Director Graham Roscoe prepares for retirement at the end of June. The United Nations Visiting Mission under Sir Hugh Foot tours New Guinea (Papua is Australian, and out of bounds) in April and May and its June report recommends the World Bank carry out an economic survey to prepare a development plan for the Territory.

The Foot Report is very critical of Australia’s administration. It criticises the lack of provision for university education and the failure to produce people capable of exercising responsibility in commerce and industry. It finds fault in the failure to replace Australians in senior administrative and professional positions, and to generate political confidence and leadership. The report does have a positive influence, though. It adds stimulus to what is already evolving in the Territory.

The emphasis in education shifts to higher education, education for economic development, indigenous leadership and urbanisation. Johnson prepares to cut the ASOPA intake in order to train more ‘E’ Course teachers and to recruit more trained Australian teachers.

The Education Department seeks to identify and train indigenous teachers with leadership potential, and it moves to concentrate education in urban areas where best use can be made of the output of well educated young Papua New Guineans. A five year plan is produced to achieve the change in emphasis. This includes the consolidation of existing schools rather than opening new schools, identifying students with academic potential (placing them in special high schools) and planning for a university.

The full story of the turbulence in PNG’s education system in 1962 will be published on PNG ATTITUDE soon.

$2.4B gas deal stirs PNG Opposition

The PNG Post-Courier reports that opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta has demanded that prime minister Sir Michael Somare delay signing a bond with an Abu Dhabi company to finance the government’s share of the huge PNG gas project deal. The $2.4 billion bond may be signed this week.

Somare_Arthur Arthur Somare [left], the Public Enterprises Minister who controls the gas project for the government, has confirmed the deal. Sir Mekere has strongly criticised the deal following the disclosure of leaked PNG Treasury papers that the deal was risky and did not need to be done at this time.

“What is the rush?” asked Sir Mekere, “The Treasury advice leaked to the press clearly outlined some of the risks. So why [is] the PM plunging headlong into this deal, we wonder? Why are alternative options not being sought and considered? Why is he moving to sign this deal and put one of the most valuable assets of the state, its shares in Oil Search, at risk? It makes no sense.”

Sir Mekere said: “Treasury assesses the deal as risky. Arthur Somare says it is not risky. Given these two conflicting views, I urge the Prime Minister to appoint a third party to assess both the risks and advantages of the bond deal, and compare them with other forms of financing options. That is obviously the most sensible thing to do. How can we make this point any clearer to the PM? Leaders must be reminded that they are custodians of people’s assets, and that they must act in people’s overall interest.”

Easy searching now on PNG Attitude

We have installed a new search engine on PNG ATTITUDE. You can find it underneath the ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA supplements at left. The Lijit search engine enables you to find  the information you want without the need to plough through the thousands of entries on the site and without moving off the site and reverting to Google. You can do everything you need to do on the site itself.


B/ville Blue – more than a good yarn

Some months ago in these notes, I mentioned the publication of Bougainville Blue, a novel by Brian F Darcey that is more than loosely constructed around events on Bougainville in the couple of decades from the late 1960s.  When I noted its publication, I hadn’t read the book, but a current sojourn in Noosa has relieved me of other responsibilities and given me an opportunity to immerse myself in what has turned out to be far more than a rattling good yarn. In fact, Brian subtitles it ‘An Allegory’, which is a neat insight into what the reader can expect.

The novel is articulated through a rich cast of nicely drawn characters, the principal of whom is Josip Nugui, a bright and well educated young Bougainvillean who is inexorably and somewhat reluctantly drawn into the struggle of his people against the development of the copper mine and the massive consequent disruption to the culture and lifestyle of the village people.

The plot is well conceived and nicely structured, with enough tension and twists to satisfy even the most jaded armchair adventurer.  But Brian’s book is more than an absorbing novel. It is also a social and political commentary on attitudes of and towards Papua New Guineans around the time of national independence in the mid-seventies. And, beyond the politics of colonisation and change, it shows a depth of understanding about the nuances of PNG – the topography and ecology, the sights and smells, the eccentricities (e.g., the pretentiousness of 'Kieta International Airport'), the contesting values and wilful behaviours of the main players – whether kiaps, Australian politicians, entrepreneurs, planters, the media or the native people themselves.

Wherever you go in this book, apart from the plot which is a fictional collage, although close enough to reality to be plausible, there is an authenticity of observation and an acute awareness of much of the tangible and latent stresses that characterised PNG at a time when many of us felt we knew the country very, very well.

Brian Darcey has written a splendid book and Diane Andrews has done us the service of editing and publishing it. Find out more about the Bougainville Blue, and how you can obtain a copy, here.

An opinion on ‘Recognise Aussie Kiaps’

From Theodore Mawe in Goroka

I was very much impressed by an article entitled ‘Recognise Aussie Kiaps’ by Ilya Gridneff of AAP which appeared in the ‘The National’ dated 31 October 2008. A Mr Viner-Smith, a former patrol officer expressed his concern for the neglected  recognition given by Australia for the efforts and hardships kiaps and patrol officers endured in bringing law and order and development services to the remote  peoples of PNG. He expressed his views by comparing the recognition Kokoda war veterans get as opposed to themselves who are never recognized. He says they  endured all the hardships, sufferings and risks of encounter with an alien world and thinks they should be respected and given some kind of recognition as the Kokoda war veterans.

The writer states that the Australian government will be asked to honour the pioneering work of Australian patrol officers who brought development to Papua New Guinea’s tribes between 1949 and 1974. He says that  after WW11 and before PNG Independence in 1975, more than 8,000 Australian public servants administered PNG as an external Australian territory. Among those administrators, 2,500 were kiaps or patrol officers [who endured hardships and risked their lives] to bring development to PNG. Mr. Chris Viner-Smith, a former kiap or patrol officer is quoted as saying,” their efforts are part of a forgotten Australian history that was never officially recognized”. He says,” kiaps brought law and order to PNG’s remote tribal areas and paved way for Australian teachers, agricultural officers and infrastructure and health personnel to go and work for the first time”.

“The work of  kiaps formed a glorious chapter in Australia's history just as the Kokoda campaign has. And both share the remarkable heritage of being Australian and shaping a new future for PNG. I don’t know why we’ve been forgotten,” said Mr Viner-Smith as per quoted by the writer.

The jobs kiaps carried out was not easy. The writer I quote says, “ the work of the kiaps was to trek isolated [and some unknown ] villages to conduct weeks and months of surveys while also providing basic services like law and order”. Mr Viner-Smith is quoted as saying and which depicts a typical scene, “ my first task was to get 40 prisoners to build an airstrip in a swamp. Imagine that as a 21 year old in PNG in 1961, when there were no roads, no radios, no support.”

 “You just had to survive or you would die”. It was not the people, it was the country itself, it was an alien land full of danger”, said Mr Viner-Smith as per quoted by the writer. Here we can imagine the dangers prevalent during those times; in the highlands there could have been prevalance of warfare, fast-flowing rivers and steep mountains; and in the lowlands illness from malaria, snake bites, deep swamps and rivers pested with crocodiles. These sort of environment would not have been favourable and would be seen as dangerous for our pioneer administrators or kiaps.

I sympathise and support Mr Viner-Smith, just as others are doing in Australia. The writer quotes Mr Viner-Smith who said,”he had support from politicians, the PNG Association of Australia, the ex-kiap network and the police federation. And  at least they have got the acknowledgement they deserve”. The writer concludes and I quote, “ The parliamentary secretary of Pacific Islands Affairs  Duncan Kerr said the submission [ for the recognition of Aussie kiaps] would be viewed seriously as kiaps were an integral part of the Australian colonial administration in PNG”.

I support the movement here not in the sense that I am party to it but as someone who values history and have great concern over especially for the destruction and loss of colonial  buildings and property. What are colonial buildings and property? These are things like , for example in Mendi; the former residential house of the first District Commissioner; there is a mountain named after him namely Mr Clancy; there are other old houses which were formerly used by Mr Clancy’s officers; the site of first european settlement which is marked by an erected stone monument on which is a plaque that reads this historical event well and the site of first missionary settlement and buildings.

I feel that these colonial buildings and sites located throughout the country should be preserved and studies on these things be carried out and publications related to these produced. And we may question why bother doing these things when we should be worried about economic things the most. Well here is my opinion. The kiaps whose efforts we now enjoy should be given the recognition they deserve when they are calling out loud for it. The only way PNG can compensate and honor them is by restoring, conserving, preserving and maintaining the actual objects and writing about their achievements in the form of publications.

The kiaps as well as PNG can benefit from doing this. The kiaps can participate in writing their reports and publish these and make money from it. They can also benefit in the sense that they and their descendants can read of their achievements in publication. The other way in which kiaps can benefit is when their descendants visit the sites and see the actual things for themselves and have an appreciation for it.

And for PNG it can benefit in terms of tourism and historical education. The colonial and historic buildings and sites can serve very well as important tourist attractions to generate revenue for PNG. In places like Australia and New Zealand historic buildings, sites and places have served very well as important tourist attractions and have generated much needed revenue. The same can be true in PNG when we develop these things and attract tourists including the former kiaps and their descendants who would visit these sites during their vacation and or holidays. Generally tourism will save PNG when its non-renewable resources like oil, gas and gold run out and when we need to make up for lost income. And the teaching of these things in schools, colleges and universities will benefit our young generation.

An institution to cater for the work of carrying out studies as well as to coordinate the restoration, conservation, and preservation of colonial buildings and sites should be established. Australia in partnership or otherwise with PNG should, if not fund an organisation which will initiate plans to develop and manage a program which will be responsible for the restoration, preservation and conservation of colonial and historical heritage property. I would recommend that this be initially an NGO rather than a government body which have less transparency credibility, and I make note of a certain media publicity concerning the miss-use of funds raised to restore the old parliament house by a certain government agency. The aim of this body will be to reconstruct and preserve damaged buildings and property, conserve sites, and carry out studies related with these and produce publications. 

The writer is Theodore Mawe of the University of Goroka, Goroka. His contact is email [email protected] and phone 7311796

Somare Cairns properties questioned

PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and his son Arthur have been asked to explain how they obtained a luxury inner-city unit and a new $685,000 beach house in Cairns. Documents have emerged linking the PNG leader and his powerbroker son to the real estate.

PNG's anti-corruption watchdog, Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta and former finance minister Bart Philemon said it had to be asked where the money had come from. Ombudsman Commission legal counsel Vergil Narokobi, one of the most senior officials with the anti-corruption watchdog, said the Commission would investigate.

"It is quite possible it is legitimate," Mr Narokobi said. “We will look to see if there were any breaches of the leadership code. To afford such luxuries it is not something ordinary Papua New Guineans can do. It is a situation of unfairness, but that is my own personal view. We have to give them the benefit of doubt. On the face of it we will respect our leaders until the contrary is shown."

Documents obtained by the Courier-Mail show Sir Michael obtained a $349,000 three-bedroom executive-style apartment with private plunge pool in inner-city Cairns in April last year, in a deal brokered by a Gold Coast lawyer. Two months ago, Arthur Somare, who is PNG's State Enterprise Minister and a political heavyweight, bought a $685,000 four-bedroom home with his wife at Trinity Beach.

Mr Somare, who plans to move his family to Australia to live, has just  sealed a $US20 billion deal over access to PNG's liquid natural gas reserves with a consortium from the Middle East.  Cairns builder Michael Case, who sold the house to Mr Somare in August, said: "He is a fabulous guy, everything was done above board."

Sir Michael, who was in Cairns last week for a historic address to Queensland Parliament, declined a request for an interview and did not respond to a series of written questions. His son Arthur also did not respond to questions about his new property

Sir Michael, who has refused to provide details of his overseas assets under the leadership code since 1992, is fighting a Supreme Court action against the Ombudsman Commission.

Opposition Leader Morauta said the Somare family owed it to the PNG people to reveal their assets. "They should both publicly explain how they obtained this real estate," said Sir Mekere, who this year bought a $3.6 million riverfront mansion at New Farm in Brisbane's inner city under his wife Roslyn's name.-

Former finance minister and anti-graft campaigner Mr Philemon said, “They have got to tell people in PNG how they funded those properties, otherwise it smells like corruption.”

Source: ‘PNG leader Michael Somare and son asked to explain Cairns property’, by Peter Michael, Courier-Mail, 5 November 2008

World cup trip a boon for PNG

Papua New Guinea may have lost its three qualifying matches in the rugby league world cup but its visit to Australia for the championship has been anything but disappointing. Not only has the side won plaudits for its style and tenacity of play but it now looks like winning a ride into the Australian national competition, with prime minister Kevin Rudd agreeing to establish a Port Moresby-based team.

In a stirring pre-game speech before PNG played Australia last night, PNG prime minister Michael Somare said his Government had committed $20 million to the project. He also revealed details of a recent meeting with Mr Rudd at which the Australian PM pledged his Government's assistance for the project.

"You'll be very pleased to know that Kevin Rudd, my brother from Australia, has spoken and Mr Rudd has agreed that the Australian Government will support us with the upgrade of sporting facilities," Somare said. "You can rest assured we will have the facilities required for us to have a team, a professional team, that people can devote their time to, who will represent our country.

"It is very important for you to know the prime minister, the high commissioner to Canberra and everyone back in PNG, we are all with you."

It is likely any PNG-based NRL team would play at least three seasons in the Queensland Cup competition before being admitted to the premiership.

Source: ‘PNG has support of Rudd’ by Dan Koch, The Australian, 10 November 2008

First climate change refugees to PNG

The world's first climate change refugees will be relocated from their Pacific island home to Papua New Guinea by March next year. The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation says 40 families from north of Ontong Java in the Solomon Island's Malaita Province will be relocated to Bougainville.

Flooding has made parts of their islands completely uninhabitable and the islands are expected to be fully submerged by 2015. The relocation is estimated to cost the Autonomous Bougainville and PNG Government millions of dollars over the next six years. One third of the 1,500 residents have refused to leave the islands.

What’s hot for PNGAA website visitors

If you haven’t visited the PNG Forum on the PNGAA website yet (it’s right here), you should give it a go – and deliver to it the benefit of your views. With the website today passing 1,000 visitors for the last month, I thought I’d publish the league table of the kind of subjects in the Forum that attract readers. In descending order, here they are:

1 – 164 visitors – Past Times, Something at the bottom of the pool (Nick Booth)

2 - 128 visitors – Missing People, Desmond John Marks (Ross Johnson)

3 – 105 visitors – Past Times, Hot blood (Nick Booth)

4 – 97 visitors – Missing People, John Sutherland Anderson (Keith Jackson)

5 – 95 visitors – Aviation, Jude’s big breakfast (Wendy Booth)

6 – 94 visitors – PNG Issues, Reaction to African Chief Justice (Keith Jackson)

7 – 92 visitors – PNG News, Teachers still awaiting claims (Bob Lawrence)

8 – 91 visitors – Aviation, Yearning for Chinese (Col Booth)

9 – 90 visitors – PNG Issues, Ex PNG patrol officers seek recognition (Ilya Gridneff)

10 – 88 visitors – Aviation, Charter flight (Col Booth)

We’ll reprise the list a month from now and see what’s happening with reader preferences.

A PNG magazine worth signing up for

The most recent issue of the PNGAA magazine Una Voce will be in the hands of readers early next week and as usual its replete with fascinating articles about PNG. I’d like to give you a glimpse into the contents. If you’re not already a subscriber (just $20 gets you both PNGAA membership and four issues of the journal) you can sign up here.

“A group of ten village leaders wearing face and hair decoration confronted Emanuel and Feeney. One of them, William Taupa appeared angry and excitable and was shouting “the title to the land is not right”. He approached Emanuel and they spoke briefly before Emanuel took Tapua by the arm and they moved away from the main police party. Taupa then guided Emanuel towards a path into the bush and they both walked off out of sight.” [The murder of Errol John (Jack) Emanuel GC, Derek Bell]

“Lombrum in the 1960s was a capital-B Backwater. Social life consisted of seeing the same faces in different houses. Lombrumites even had the same entertainment: at parties, invariably, they played charades; in the mess, every night, it was liar’s dice or pontoon. Once a week there was a movie; the Sydney Sunday papers came on Tuesday or Wednesday. The big excitement was the six-weekly visit by the Burns Philp liner MV Malaita, with stores and fresh food.” [Lombrum, Jerry Lattin]

“The Chief explained that it had been very hard to kill the white men as they had ‘iron skins’, but this very factor made them more vulnerable as the weight of their bodies caused them to sink into the marshy ground. It was quite obvious from this description that the ‘iron skins’ he referred to were really armour.” [Island trader, Gordon Harris]

"I figured 32 3lb packets of rice to a 100lb, in some cases perhaps 33. In one of these I would put 1/-. The native that found a 1/- in his packet would tell everybody, consequently my sale of 3lb packets of rice was fantastic! My Chinese friends were at a loss to know why their sales had dropped, so like a good friend, I was naturally sympathetic. Wouldn’t you be?” [Bilong gut taim bipor, Henry G Eekhoff]

“We were coming in to land when a jeep, without a hood, containing a group of Chinese teenagers, went racing along the only sealed strip and Cliff yelled some derogatory remarks and said ‘We’ll have to go round again”. So he gave the Moth a boost and we shot up and around again. This was too much for my fragile control [and] there were no ‘sickbags’. In desperation I struggled out of my waist length slip and used it to save the situation.” [How embarrassing, Pat Murray]

There are also articles by Jim Eames on the PNG press, Warren Martin on Emirau Island, Robin Mead on aviation, Max Hayes on the Montevideo Maru, Charles Betteridge on judo, Graham Egan on revisiting PNG and Graham Taylor and Keith Jackson on the future of the PNGAA as well as poems by Bernard Oberleuter, Jim Toner and Geoffrey Baskett.

PNG says US has ‘ again taken lead’

Obama_Barack The United States Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Leslie Rowe, hosted a live telecast of the US election in Port Moresby yesterday. Ms Rowe said it had been the most historic election in her lifetime. “Today many of us are especially proud to be part of the American electorate. A projected 130 million Americans have lined up to cast their votes — the largest election turnout in the history of the United States.”

 “I remember as a child travelling through the south of United States and questioning my parents as to why gas stations had to have two different water fountains, one for whites and one for blacks. That we have come this far from those days to the point where an African-American may be elected president, is something many of us never thought we would see in our lifetimes,” she said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Abal said PNG as a small nation could learn from the US, the leading democracy in the world that had again taken the lead in electing the best man for the job despite his race, skin colour or status.

Source: PNG Post-Courier

The Ian Boden story, as told by himself

As told to Malum Nalu


 “I came [to PNG] as a relieving radio announcer for three months. I was supposed to be going to Rabaul. 9RB was the furthest-flung station of the ABC empire. It was the kind of station where you had to be a jack-of-all-trades, from playing records to trying to train PNG staff. We had quite a collection of Tolai announcers, young guys. At least three of them are still alive. One is Anton Kaut, he was probably the youngest. The others were Jack Ainui, Robin Popat and Nelson Bale. They were the core of the presenting staff outside Port Moresby.

“We had programs like Blue Hills which ran twice a day, classical music and religious programs. It was very much European-oriented. The town itself was like something out of a page by Somerset Maugham. It was quite remarkable. It had everything going for it. We were in a hostel on the top of Namanula Hill. That became the ABC Hostel. I built myself a bush material house, and lived there: ‘Boden’s gone troppo’.”

“I [later] became principal training officer of the NBC. That’s how I came into a training role with people like Justin Kili, Memafu Kapera and so on. They were already accomplished broadcasters. Apart from that I was involved in producing a lot of radio drama, taking part in a lot of radio drama by people like Peter Trist, who was a very good producer, and lots of people who are very well known today.

 “I have to say that after all these years, nothing has changed (for me). I still feel the same way about the country and its people. I know there are problems. I think we become bogged down and we fail to see the very real achievements that are being made. I suppose the ultimate goal of young Papua New Guineans is to see personal development opportunities, and through their contributions, ensure the development of the country.”

Ian Boden: broadcaster & friend of PNG

Boden_Ian Ian Boden would have been as surprised as anyone at the headline. ‘Aussie giant of PNG journalism dies’. Ian was not a retiring man, he was unassuming, outgoing and friendly. But there was nothing about him that sought gianthood. Ian loved PNG, he loved its people and he sought little more than to be there and to do what he could do for the place.

Ian was a journalist and broadcaster in PNG for 45 years. He went to PNG with the Australian Broadcasting Commission as an announcer. After a secondment to the BBC in London working in current affairs, he returned to PNG after 18 months to be appointed principal training officer with the PNG National Broadcasting Commission.

He later worked as director of information with the Public Services Commission before becoming press secretary to Prime Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu from 1988-92.He joined The National newspaper in 1995 as editorial writer and columnist and became executive editor. In 2003 he joined Divine Word University in Madang as a journalism lecturer while he continued to write the editorial and Column One for The National. Ian had been ill for some time before he died yesterday morning at the age of 67 at Madang’s Modilon Hospital.

Ian had moved to PNG from Australia in 1962 as a relieving announcer on the ABC 9PA for a three-month stint that extended for the rest of his life. He is survived by his widow Delma and their three children, Roland, Russell and Emma who now all live in Australia. He also adopted his wife's children from a previous marriage.

This blog & PNG - all a matter of attitude

Well, I’ve taken a big step. I’ve changed the name of this blog. To explain why, let’s go back to the start. In the beginning, in February 2002, there was a simple one-page newsletter entitled Vintage. I put it together in a hurry at the same time as a small group of people took on the considerable task of tracking down each and every member of the ASOPA Class of 1962-63. The aim – to get a 40th anniversary reunion going in October 2002.

It’s a matter of history that, after four decades, most of those people were found, that a successful reunion was held in Port Macquarie, NSW, and that Vintage flourished through 26 issues. After the reunion, I decided to keep the newsletter going and it became The Mail, which continues to this day (this month we publish No 129).

Then, in February 2006, The Mail spawned the ASOPA PEOPLE blog, which gave as its raison d’etre that it was “created for the men and women associated with the Australian School of Pacific Administration… They were young and ready for a challenge and they contributed a great deal to the development of the indigenous peoples of the South Pacific and northern Australia.”

By 2006, ASOPA reunions were more common. That initial 2002 event, its spirit maintained by subsequent reunions, close bonding and the monthly presence of The Mail, had stirred a mood of reflection amongst a generation of Australians who had served in PNG mainly in the fifties, sixties and seventies. These people, upon reconsidering what had become a distant personal history - the story of their youth - began to re-evaluate this story and then to newly value it.

The circulation of The Mail reached 400, ASOPA PEOPLE began to get over 100 visitors a day and, indirectly, the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia benefited from an influx of new members.

But ASOPA was having trouble bearing the load. As I wrote thousands of words of personal histories, anecdotes, history, biographies of ‘ ASOPA Greats’ and other information about the School, it became clear that, if we didn’t move beyond ASOPA, the storehouse would be depleted and there would be nowhere to go but repetition. There was only so much new knowledge.

So for this reason, and because this reflection on our PNG past made me even more acutely aware of PNG’s present, I began to focus more on PNG itself. It was a classic case of Harry Peake’s notion of how kids learn through “ever increasing circles”. First the Class of 1962-63, then all the Classes, then the ASOPA institution, then its history and finally PNG, where most of us ended up and – if it was to survive – this project had to end up. I guess I noticed the problem and the opportunity first because I write the words.

So here we are – and now we’ve got to see what else we can make of it.

There are some people, me included, who contain a nugget of regret that the cosiness of the past could not be maintained in a pristine state. But you will find it still here, embedded in the blog's informality and its orientation. But you may have noticed that the names of the people who contribute to it are changing, and that's good, and you may also have noticed, they include an increasing number of Papua New Guineans.

We’ve added a new concentric circle. Thanks Harry.

The bones of the big white horse

When Eora fell to the Australians, Major General Vasey headed for Kokoda while another force pressed east to the village of Oivi. Kokoda fell on 4 November 1942, and on the same day the 2/3 Battalion encountered the main Japanese force at Oivi. The Japanese intended to establish a defensive line there, but were cut off. Japanese casualties were “extremely high” said the general, most occurring in a futile attempt to escape down the swiftly flowing Kumusi River. Among the dead was a senior commander, Major General Tomitaro Horii of the Imperial Japanese South Seas Force. Drowned, like 1,500 of his countrymen.

The Kumusi, where the Japanese troops dug in to make a stand, was more than 100 yards wide at Oivi. They’d made elaborate defences of logs and packed earth and had their backs to the river. They were driven out, leaving stores, weapons, mountain guns, machine guns, mortars, pack horses and hundreds of slave PNG carriers from Rabaul. They tried to escape at night over the flooded Kumusi, using rafts, canoes, even swimming. Many drowned.

Twenty years later, towards the end of 1962, Bill Wilson, a Kokoda-based Medical Assistant, who had left ASOPA mid-term figuring that, for him, a career in health was better than one in education, observed with passing interest an army exercise in which elements of the Pacific Islands regiment chased a team from the Perth SAS up the trail from the coast. One evening the soldiers SAS camped on the flood plain of the Kumusi River.

The next morning, burying their rubbish near the river, the soldiers found some bleached bones, reporting their discovery to the ADO at Kokoda, Reg Bentinck.

Bill got the job of retrieving the bones. Helped by medical orderlies, he dug down finding the complete skeleton of a large horse. Bentinck later said to him: “You’ll get an award from the RSPCA for kindness to dead animals”. It’s the sort of thing a Kiap would say.

Bill now believes that the horse was the big white steed of Major General Tomitaro Horii of the Imperial Japanese South Seas Force.

By the way, there are 40 creek and river crossings between Kumusi and Kokoda. Bill has counted every one of them

Footnote [from Wikipedia]: “In a dramatic and bizarre turn of events, Major-General Horii disappeared, presumed drowned, while withdrawing with his troops across the Kumusi River, towards the beachheads. The fierce current of the river swept away a horse on which he was riding; instead, Horii opted to float down the Kumusi River in a canoe with other senior officers, in order to quickly get back to Buna and organize the beachhead defences. The canoe was floated down to the river mouth, but Horii and his staff were swept out to sea in a freak squall. None was ever seen again.”

Footnote [from our own files]: Bill Wilson went on to have a distinguished career in public health, which extended until his retirement a few years ago. He is a Life Member of the Australian Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs.

Kumuls trounced by NZ in world cup

The Papua New Guinea Kumuls were comprehensively defeated by New Zealand 48-6 in yesterday’s rugby league world cup match on the Gold Coast. The Kumuls now need to defeat Australia – which would be an extraordinary upset - to reach the semi-finals of the competition.

Despite making a shaky start to the second half, when PNG came back with a try by teenage winger David Moore, New Zealand scored nine tries to one and made. New Zealand had won its previous 10 matches in a row against PNG since the Kumuls’ only win, 24-22 in Port Moresby, in 1986.

Positive response to ‘honour kiaps’ move

Reports in the PNG media about Chris Viner-Smith’s efforts to get the Australian government to honour the pioneering work of patrol officers have drawn an “unprecedented positive response” in PNG. The story was widely and prominently reported in PNG yesterday.

Under the headline ‘Recognise Aussie kiaps’, the PNG National reported Mr Viner-Smith saying that “their [the kiaps’] efforts were part of a forgotten Australian history that was never officially recognised. Kiaps brought law and order to PNG’s remote tribal areas to make way for Australian teachers, agricultural officers, infrastructure and health workers to go and work there for the first time. It’s Australia’s history, and it was a glorious chapter. I don’t know why we’ve been forgotten.”

The Post-Courier in its article (‘Aust want to honour kiaps’) quoted Mr Viner-Smith as commenting that there are positive signs the kiaps will obtain gain the acknowledgement they are seeking. Pacific Island Affairs Parliamentary Secretary Duncan Kerr said the submission would be viewed seriously as kiaps were an integral part of the colonial administration in PNG.

Moulding the Kumuls was a tough task

From Richard Jones in London

A number of Papua New Guinea's rugby league players were reduced to tears this week when they met former Melbourne Storm winger Marcus Bai. Regarded as close to a 'God' by PNG aficionados of the sport. Bai is a much larger character these days compared to his glory days when he played on the wing for the Storm.

Kumuls' coach Adrian Lam said the waterworks were more "tears of joy" when Bai introduced himself to the Kumuls at training. "We welcomed him with open arms. Some of my players regard him as close to a God --- even though he's more the shape of a backrower than a winger these days," Lam said, with a smile.

Former Brisbane Broncos and Australian Test prop Gorden Tallis said he also saw some tears in the eyes of Kumuls' players. "When they walked out onto the surface at the Gold Coast's Skilled Park a few of them were teary-eyed," said Tallis. "They said they felt humbled to be on the same grass graced by a star like Scott Prince - something as a player you take for granted."

Lam conceded he'd been handed a tough task, moulding the 24-strong Kumuls squad into a cohesive unit. "Many of them have never travelled overseas before and there are a few who can't read or write. And some of them can't speak English. So it's an experience for them, especially playing in a World Cup."

Lam said even though the Kumuls went down to England by just 10 points in their opening fixture last weekend, they needed to continue with their intensity against the New Zealand Kiwis on Saturday. "We've got to back up our performance. There's no doubt the bigger Kiwis will try and bully my boys. They are obviously disappointed with their last result (a 30-6 flogging from Australia).

"So we will have to try and keep our composure and hope that the bounce of a the ball and the referee's calls go our way," the PNG coach said.