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Luluai to Councillor – the evolution of local government in Simbu

Luluai  near Chuave  Chimbu  1964
Luluai from south of Chuave, Chimbu, early 1964


KUNDIAWA - After World War II, Papua New Guinea’s colonial Administration, in its attempt to fast track control and pacification of the highlands’ tribes, appointed tribal and clan leaders as official Luluais and Tultuls.

A main tribe made up of many smaller clans would have one Luluai and several assisting Tultuls.

Luluai, in the Kuanua language of the Tolai people of East New Britain, means ‘chief’ while Tultul means a lesser chief or second in command.

My grandfather Nul Bal was made Luluai of the Keri tribe of Simbu in the early 1950s.

The insignia of office was a badge, which was worn on the forehead, and sometimes a cap. The officials were also issued with laplaps.

These Luluais and Tultuls, as agents of the Administration, played leading roles in the fast progress of control and pacification of the tribes. Their main roles were to assist the Administration curb tribal fights and supervise construction of roads, airstrips, houses and other infrastructure in the area.

During the 1950s, Luluais and Tultuls helped recruit males for the Highlands Labour Scheme, which sent workers to many different parts of Papua and New Guinea.

Like other areas in Papua New Guinea, as Simbu developed it required a more sophisticated form of local input into government.

The Papua New Guinea Act of 1949 that created the first Legislative Council also made provision for the establishment of local government councils. The first of these were set up on the coast and in the New Guinea islands in1950.

In 1959 the Waiye Local Government Council in the Chimbu (now Simbu) sub-district became the first council in the highlands. Chimbu became prominent at that time due to the influence of Luluai Kondom Agaundo, who was appointed in 1951 when he was in his thirties.

He became a popular agent for the Administration, assisted the kiaps in their work and later sat in the Legislative Council, the forerunner of PNG’s national parliament.

By the early 1960s most of the traditional Simbu leaders who had become Luluais and Tultuls in the 1950s had aged and the new local government positions required younger people who could speak Tok Pisin and understand modern European ways.

The representatives usually chosen were the sons of former village officials who had some initial education and who understood formal government procedures. Men who had returned from working on coastal plantations and who had knowledge of the wider world were also chosen.

Training on the work of the councils was provided for these officials. They were taught about their role as councillors - to pursue the administrative goals of providing schools, aid posts and roads, developing cash crops and maintaining law and order.

By 1970, Simbu had seven local councils and, by the time of independence in 1975, nine councils: Kundiawa (previously Waiye), Kerowagi, Gumine, Chuave, Mount Wilhelm, Sinasina, Elimbari, Salt Nomane and Bomai-Mikaru.

There were two main revenue sources for council operations: a central government grant through the Rural Improvement Program and head taxes collected from the people. For example the total grant received from the central government in 1973 through its Rural Improvement Program was K149,700. By 1975 this had increased to K186,045 to be spent on such things as schools and aid posts.

Most rural people at the time could not afford the tax payments decreed. In lieu of taxes, the people undertook weekly communal work building and maintaining roads and bridges, schools and other infrastructure.

Before independence, when I was a child, my father was assigned a 20 metre section of the Gumine to Kilau road which my brother and I assisted him to maintain. The other men of the tribe were allocated similar sections.

The work involved cleaning drains, filling potholes and lining slippery spots with the river sand and shale that were abundant in the area. We would also sweep the surface so clean that the kiaps were most impressed when they arrived to inspect our work.

Every Monday was work day and ward councillors were our immediate supervisors. Once in a while a kiap would drive along to inspect the state of the road. All access and feeder roads in the Simbu area were maintained in this manner.

Back then the access roads were in top condition and small cars usually drove all the way to villages without much trouble.

In 1970, all the councils formed the Simbu Councils Services Unit. Its duties were to construct and maintain work for all member councils. Its equipment included two heavy four-wheel drive vehicles, one D4 bulldozer, a grader and a front end loader.


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Ross Wilkinson

And a further point of clarification regarding the use of the term "Tultul". From the perspective of the government the "Luluai" was the officially appointed Headman through whom the kiap would communicate instructions and government policy to the villagers of the Luluai's area.

The Tultul was appointed to act as the interpreter or "Tanimtok" when the kiap wanted to address the village people direct. He would speak to the people in Tok Pisin and the Tultul would interpret that into Tok Ples.

The Luluai's badge had that title on it and the Tultul's badge had the word "Tultul" instead.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Just a note about the name 'Simbu' as opposed to 'Chimbu'.

During the 1930s when Europeans first entered what is now Chimbu Province they heard the gratitude exclamation, ‘sipuuu’ during the exchange of trade goods for food. So they called the area and its people Chimbu, which is now the legal name of the province.

Several of the provincial governments have changed the names of their provinces, including changing the spelling of Chimbu to Simbu. The change has been accorded popular acceptance but remains unofficial, as the provinces are creatures of the Constitution and official changes of name would require amendments to the Constitution using the prescribed amending formula.

So far this hasn't happened so Simbu is still officially Chimbu, just like Oro is still officially Northern.

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