LUCERNE - I am rather pleased that my research has caught the attention of someone from PNG Attitude and that it decided to showcase this on its website.
I welcome this interest and hope that some readers will consider buying the book I am currently working on once it is published.
I am grateful to the comments from Chris Overland and Philip Fitzpatrick which made me aware of potential misunderstandings that can emerge from my use of the word ‘repression’.
I used ‘repression’ in the sense of the repression (or suppression) of warfare, not the repression (or oppression) of people.
In my thesis, and also noted by Chris, I show that Australian kiaps and New Guinea police used a wide variety of enforcing tactics to stop armed conflict.
These were for the most part benign uses of police in the form of arrests and imprisonment, in a few cases destruction of property (burning houses) or corporal punishment (caning), and only rarely (and then mostly in cases of self-defence) involving the use of potentially lethal force by firing guns.
Let me also state that I have the utmost regard for the work of the Australian kiaps, as they operated in sometimes very difficult and hostile circumstances and mostly went out of their way to prevent situations in which they would have to use firearms.
The number of victims of pacification in the area I studied is small (I have collected testimonies for a total of 32 deaths) and pales in contrast to those that would have died had indigenous warfare continued.
There were, however, a few isolated incidents in the late 1940s and early 1950s that warrant the term ‘excessive violence’.
These incidents were mostly perpetrated by unsupervised New Guinean policemen, which is why there is hardly any documentary evidence and why so little is known about them (even by ex-kiaps).
My case study of Obura, which I briefly mentioned in my summary, is one such incident.
Police posts, only occasionally visited by kiaps, existed in the Eastern Highlands until late 1952.
A coastal policeman stationed at the Omaura police post together with some local villagers mounted a punishment expedition against Obura. At dawn and without warning the party opened fire on a men’s house.
This resulted in the death of 13 men, the largest death toll in any of such encounters.
I would like to emphasise, however, that this was an exception and that, for the most part, positive material incentives, the promise of wealth, the introduction of courts and the support by local leaders led to a quick end to warfare, a development that was accepted by all.
If someone would like to know more about these positive processes, I suggest reading my article ‘The Red Flag of Peace: Colonial Pacification, Cargo Cults, and the End of War among the South Fore’ which is available here.