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The practical wisdom of the kiap

Cessna 206
Cessna 206 taking off from Siwea in the Morobe hinterland, early 1970s (The Bucket Blog)


PORT MORESBY - I know at least one kiap who actually traversed the rugged terrain from his remote outpost.

My mother's offer letter to come to Lae and attend Busu girls’ high school from our hinterland Mindik village in Finschhafen was delivered by one Paul Oates to my grandfather.

The same Paul Oates who is a regular contributor to PNG Attitude. Thank you Paul on behalf of my siblings.

In my area, the most reliable access is by small aircraft that service the people by landing on the many airstrips scattered throughout the Sarawaged Range.

Paul in 1970 with the Pindiu Cooperatives storeman and council clerk Joe Koaba
Paul Oates in 1970 with the Pindiu  cooperatives storeman and council clerk Joe Koaba

Paul left his indelible mark when he supervised the construction of the Ogeranang airstrip. Thank you again Paul on behalf of my people.

The kiaps knew best. They could have tried to build a road to connect us to the coast and on to Lae but they didn’t.

They built us airstrips because the topography of the land and the high rainfall mean a road network was impossible to sustain compared to an airstrip.

Today I see our local government and my brothers in the village trying very hard to push a road through to our area from Lae.

And I keep telling them to reflect on the kiaps’ wisdom supported by our own grandfather who was the councillor during those days.

I keep telling them to ask themselves why our grandfather and the kiaps didn’t build a road network and instead made our grandparents build airstrips.

They say, ‘oh, no one can afford to fly into Lae today’ which is true.

But why don’t we spend the money sunk in the failed road projects to partner North Coast Aviation to provide some price relief?

If anyone from the current government is following our conversations here on PNG Attitude, I would strongly urge prime minister Marape to re-engage our many ex-kiaps in national conversations about how best to serve our people.

Each one of these kiaps saw us in our purest and most innocent state as a people and they understand our strengths.

It would be wise to listen to their take on what things were like ‘long taim bipo’ which would be a handy guide for us as we walk into the future.

Oates Paul 69
Paul Oates as a young kiap in 1969


Keith Jackson writes:

Upon reading this on the blog, Paul Oates emailed me, “I must admit to shedding a few tears reading David's post on something that happened nigh on 50 years ago.

"I'm currently writing about Mindik as part of a possible book that Phil [Fitzpatrick] might be prepared to edit.

“David and I must have shared a common memory at about the same time. It's sure great to be remembered after all these years. Must be getting old.”


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David Kitchnoge

Waiting patiently for Paul's book. Folks back home will be very interested to read the 'story blo kiap'.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Just a minor correction.

Paul's book will make fascinating reading and he will publish it and I'll definitely help with the editing, which won't be a big job at all because he writes really well.

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