Will Peter O’Neill return as prime minister?
Christianity is a good fit for PNG

The mysteries of the Sandline rebellion

Baka Bina


Operesin Kisim Bek Lombo: The one operation that the Sandline operatives did not make, by Baka Barakove Bina, CreateSpace, December 2019, 364 pp. ISBN-10: 1974332365. Paperback $US14.50. Kindle e-book $US5.00.
Available here from Amazon Books

PORT MORESBY - I was just getting off the bus to go into Murray Barracks when that first bullet whistled across from the army base and into the Foodland shop at Three Mile.

I immediately joined a group of people cowering in a drain, peeking out occasionally and expecting soldiers to come storming out.

Baka BinaIt was 1997 and the revolt of the Pacific Islands Regiment over the use of Sandline mercenaries had begun.

Meanwhile the police had graciously pulled back to the Sir Donald Cleland public swimming pool in order not to escalate the situation.

After two hours of drain hugging, I extricated myself and walked into Murray Barracks.

Over the next four weeks, from all manner of people, I heard one story after another, no two the same, all of which just added to my confusion.

I heard stories walking with the crowd and stories from men clustered around buai stands, chewing nuts and spitting out red sputum. They enjoyed retelling titbits they had heard from someone else. 

They talked of these strange happenings and tried to connect them to get a clear picture of the situation. There were, as you’d expect, a lot of embellishments. Clarity was nowhere to be seen.

Indeed, some of the tales were so outrageous they belied all reasoning and I took them with a bit of salt and stored them somewhere in the recesses of my mind.

As things unfolded, however, I began to think that these improbable stories might be possible. And it was so, some of the craziest and most unlikely stories I heard around the buai stands turned out to have substance and, eventually, many of us believed the impossible had actually happened.

Some were really crazy stories like freshly harvested bunches of betel nut hanging out on the patapata early in the morning will give chills to people.

And localised gusts of wind that snap off healthy tree branches will make you look over your shoulder.

While, for some people, these events were evidence of supernatural powers at work, they were of little or no concern to the recipients of the betel nuts or the person who lived with the downed tree branches. They simply took it all in their stride.

The betel nut on the patapata was a routine thing for them.  Just calling cards to show that the relos from back in the village had come and gone.

Meanwhile, other outrageous stories doing the rounds featured supernatural powers including the Ghewos from the Wesan area of the Ramu River valley.

These were powerful puripuri men whom, it was said, the army had brought into the scheme of things during the last two weeks of rebellion.

And other strange stories told of various powers being solicited from throughout the country - walking carvings, time travelling women, dukduks and, stranger still, the E’hahos.

I initially believed these stories were hogwash – because, as a former military man, I could not believe the army would entertain such notions.

As I battled to complete my own telling of how we got rid of the Sandline mercenaries, however, I encountered so many twists and turns and so many different plots that I had to think did these crazy stories really happen?

Did the army actually harness the powers of the supernatural at that time? I had to expand on this idea of finding betel nut bunches on the patapata, broken tree branches, time travel and the birds…. These story tellers could not stop talking about the birds

In the end, having listened to all the kohn but probable stories told by those who alleged they were inside it all, I felt obliged to share them in Operesin Kisim Bek Lombo – a potpourri of ideas, plots and stories about the Sandline affair which I started in 1997 and, 22 years on, in 2019, have published.


Other books by Baka Barakove Bina

Zymur - A short story published by Oxford University Press. A revised version will soon be available on Amazon

Haffies Are Made, They are Not Born - A self-published novelette available on Amazon

Curse of the Lamisi - A self-published novella available on Amazon

Sweet Garaiina Apo - A self-published novel available on Amazon

Man of Calibre - A novel available on Amazon.  Winner of 2015 Ok Tedi Book of the Year in the Crocodile Prize

Antics of Alonaa Vol 1 - An anthology of six short stories available on Amazon

Musings of Sogopex - An anthology of 15 short works (short stories, poems and adages) with contributions from Emily Sakepe, available on Amazon

Coming soon

A Farmer Buys a Wife - a novel about how marriage was arranged in times gone in the Goroka area of the Eastern Highlands, including bride price payments

A Sequel to Sweet Garaiina Apo - Monica is entrapped in a legal fight over heritage rights in Europe

Antics of Alonaa Volume 2 - Another collection of short stories about the antics of the young Alonaa


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Baka Bina

Thank you to KJ for putting up the announcement. I was offline for a week and did not see this.

Thank you Phil, enjoy reading, but if you become befuddled, undasten (savi) stap, ino isi long bihainim tok tok sanguma. it was never easy writing it.

I would like to say thank you to Ed Brumby for his editorial assistance. He must have reread about 10 reruns of this manuscript. Some of the jokes, puns, innuendos and traditional beliefs were not his normal cup of tea.

For those writers out there, I was serious when I said it took 22 years from the first day that I put pen to paper with the initial idea to the day I published it.

There are some works you can tinker with for a long, long time before you can publish and there are others you can publish at a wink of an eye. Segha ne ve!

Philip Fitzpatrick

For anyone interested my order cost AU$34.28, sent by ordinary mail from the US and arriving around the end of the month.

That's about the same price that you'd pay for a novel of the same length in an Australian bookshop.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Congratulations Baka.

If this book is as good as 'Man of Calibre' it's well-worth a read. It certainly sounds intriguing and has all the indications of a typical Baka Bina left field approach.

Ordered my copy this morning.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)