BILL BROWN MBE
THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES - It was not a massive upheaval, but the last quarter of 1967 and the first quarter of 1968 saw two of the kiaps enmeshed in Conzinc Rio Tinto’s (CRA) operation leave Bougainville and four newcomers arrive.
District Commissioner John Wakeford moved to another hotspot, the recently created West Sepik District. His headquarters were situated at Vanimo, just 45 kilometres from the border with West Irian. (1)
Another newly appointed District Commissioner, Des (DN) Ashton, came from Lae to replace him. I would come to miss Wakeford’s “tread lightly” counsel.
Wakeford was probably moved at CRA’s behest, although he also trod on some toes.
CRA did not agree with his oft-repeated concern about the impact they were having on the people’s land, and his comment that Gordon-Kirkby had become too close to CRA annoyed Aitchison and some of the other Administration brass. We kiaps were expected to facilitate, not criticise.
I would also sorely miss Assistant District Officer John Dagge. He handled the CRA-created problems around Panguna and Barapina for more than 18 months before his departure to get married in Australia.
He needed a break and, if I had any say, would not be returning to Barapina or even to Kieta. Dagge and also Chris Warrillow were showing signs of strain. At the time I had not heard of post-traumatic stress disorder.
In an unexpected acknowledgement of Dagge’s efforts, on 9 January 1968 Gregory Korpa (one of the more vocal CRA antagonists) made a special visit down the steep foot track from Moroni village to say farewell to him. (2)
On 11 December, when I departed for Australia on three months’ leave, John (JA) Wiltshire (3), the Assistant District Commissioner at Kieta, was lumbered with it all. He attended the weekly meetings at Panguna and the bi-monthly meetings in Port Moresby.
He told the other kiaps when and where to accompany the CRA teams, kept in radio contact with them each day, and visited them in the field. All that was in addition to his regular sub-district duties.
And if that was not enough, he had to organise the opening ceremony for the Kieta overseas wharf in January, the House of Assembly elections in February, and preparations for the UN visiting mission in March.
District Officer Ross (RW) Henderson (4) was based at Laiagam in the Western Highlands when the Director of District Administration, Tom Ellis, called him into Mount Hagen for an interview on 16 December 1967.
Five days later, Henderson arrived in Bougainville and took up residence at Barapina. During the following week, he unpacked his gear, visited CRA operations and helicoptered down the Jaba River to Morotana on the west coast.
He also roamed around the ridge that overlooked Panguna to meet the people who lived on the other side, in Guava and Musinau villages.
Henderson had a mixed reception at Panguna. Some expatriates, confused by his habitual khaki shorts and shirt, heavy boots and bluff exterior, thought him to be inflexible - a Western Highlands hard head.
But, with a few exceptions, the mountain people around Panguna were much more perceptive. They saw him as another kiap who would listen and with whom they could argue.
In a display of confidence, the Panguna-area landowners – except those from Guava village - were soon showing him their boundaries, something they had steadfastly refused to do before.
Two much younger kiaps became involved in the CRA mayhem in early 1968: 20-year-old Cadet Patrol Officer John (JR) Gyngell, (5) with only six months’ experience and Patrol Officer Jim (JL) Wellington (6), after just one term in New Ireland.
On Tuesday 23 January, Assistant Administrator Frank (FC) Henderson (7) came to Bougainville to officially open the overseas wharf. Early next morning, he and his wife flew to Panguna by helicopter with District Commissioner Ashton in tow. Ashton came from Sohano in north Bougainville for the occasion.
District Officer Ross Henderson (not related) met them at the Panguna helipad, delivered them to CRA for the tour and departed in haste. Fifty Musinau and Guava men were clamouring to be shown their transport to Kieta, having put themselves forward to attend the opening. After the ceremony, however, they were not in the same hurry to go home. The village men wanted to see town, and Henderson spent hours tracking them down.
Henderson revisited Guava and Musinau on 30 January intending to talk about the 1968 House of Assembly elections. His explanation degenerated into a shouting and screaming match: "Anthony Ampei, in particular, abusing Paul Lapun, all members of the House of Assembly, Councillors, the Administration, CRA, and whiteskins in general,” he recorded in his Field Officer's Journal.
He said that Miringtoro Taroa, from Musinau, was one of the most influential men he had seen so far. "He is quiet, will argue and reasons. When he loses an argument, he does not admit a loss but changes tack. He is anti-Administration, but he is human -not like the raving lunatic Ampei.”
(Assistant District Commissioner Denehy who had led the CRA-sponsored educational tour to Australia in 1965 had a different view. He thought Miringtoro learnt nothing from the trip and had no potential.)
Anthony Ampei's brother, Dumeno, spent almost all of February 1968 roaming around the district telling everybody there would be a catastrophic earthquake on 8 March. The dead would rise from their graves and the world would end.
He warned that people had little time to prepare. They should all attend the singsing (ceremonial feast) at Guava village commencing on 2 March and enjoy the last six days before the end.
Oni, the Luluai of Guava, who had supported CRA and who had been forced to leave Guava village when its people objected to prospecting, was living in a hideaway on the coast near Aropa, south of Kieta.
Disturbed by Dumeno's raving, Oni visited Henderson at Barapina and suggested they attend the singsing where the pair found many of the confused and uncertain participants had come just in case. On 9 March, the day after the expected cataclysm, Gregory Korpa visited Henderson to advise him "the end of the world didn't come."
While Henderson was occupied around the Guava, Warrillow, accompanied by Gyngell, was visiting four of the villages in the Eivo census division: Atamo (population 327), Boira (145), Karnovitu (196) and Korpei (293).
The people were opposed to any CRA intrusion. Warrillow had to tell them he would be escorting onto their land the CRA geologists who had been at Mainoki.
The Administrator, David Hay, kept Canberra up to date. On 5 January he telexed the Secretary that a DDA officer [Warrillow], a police officer [Brazier] and 20 police, together with CRA personnel would be entering the Atamo area to establish a helicopter pad and camp in preparation for a CRA survey commencing on 22 January. The helicopter pad and tents would be one mile upstream from the village.
The operation did not go as planned. Warrillow and Brazier left Kieta at 6.15 am on 15 January and arrived at the rendezvous - Korpei village – at 07:00. They found no one there.
They continued to Nairovi road camp where they met up with 20 riot police from Barapina, two CRA field assistants, and five men prepared to carry the supplies.
The field assistants said they had sent a truck to Daratui to pick up the additional 30 porters needed to move the party to Atamo, and "they could be expected when they arrived". Maybe they did not know that it would take the truck driver at least six hours to drive to Daratui and return.
Warrillow and Sub-Inspector Brazier waited for three hours then returned to Kieta, after rescheduling the departure for the same time on the morrow. CRA repeated the fiasco next day. Nobody turned up at the Korpei rendezvous.
Eventually, he and Brazier shepherded the CRA party and their gear to Karnovitu on Wednesday, 17 January - two days later than planned. Warrillow spent the night as a guest in Councillor Naimeko’s house while the others slept under canvas.
Next morning the group walked for 10 minutes to Atamo, passed through the village, and continued upstream to the site that had been selected from the air.
A day later, the first helicopter flew into the newly created pad. The only passenger, Sub-Inspector Campbell (8) was also new. The second helicopter delivered CRA Area Manager Bishop and the senior geologist from Panguna, Dick (RN) Spratt (9). Sub-Inspector Brazier departed on the outward flight.
Bishop and Spratt wanted to plan the future activity with Warrillow. But when he complained about the chaotic organisation at Nairovi, Bishop said, “It couldn’t be helped!” and Spratt added “You are not doing us any favours by escorting us in, you know.” Warrillow’s retort was unrepeatable.
Before departing back to Panguna, Bishop said they would employ the Atamo people before any others. And they would buy all the vegetables they brought to camp. A few days later, when camp staff were rejecting workers and refusing to buy vegetables, Atamo Councillor Tonepa resumed his tirades of abuse against CRA and the Administration.
Sub-Inspector Campbell stayed only a week at Atamo. On 25 January, he and 10 other ranks were withdrawn to Barapina, leaving Warrillow and 10 police at Atamo. Fortunately, Constable Narokai, a Nagovisi from Buin, who had become Warrillow’s right-hand man, was among the stayers.
A day elapsed before some Atamo men plucked up the courage to protest. At 11:30 on 26 January, geologist Mooney returned to the camp. Six Atamo men told him he was trespassing in their creek and to get back where he belonged.
Early next morning, 50 men presented themselves in front of Warrillow’s tent, the spokesman saying, “We have come to carry your cargo back to Panguna where you belong.”
Then men and women commenced the usual shouting and ranting: against CRA, the House of Assembly, the laws and the kiaps.
Warrillow said he tried to reason and explain but gave up and ignored them. He remained at Atamo, babysitting CRA field assistant Fernon (10) and geologist Mooney until 3 March 1968, when the camp was closed.
He moved back to Mainoki for the next exercise and was warmly welcomed. Around the same time, in an uneventful operation, Patrol Officer Wellington escorted geologist Mooney back to Karato.
I returned to Kieta from my vacation in Australia on 15 March 1968, five days before the United Nations Visiting Mission arrived in Kieta. According to the files,(11) one week earlier the Administrator advised Canberra that he expected village spokesmen to demand immediate independence for Bougainville and CRA’s removal.
He also advised that, because of the people's opposition, CRA had decided to defer a proposal to relocate the main road through Pakia land until after the UN visit.
I knew that Damien Damen [Irang] and Anthony Ampei [Guava] had told their followers they would give the UN team a lot of money to get them to visit Guava, and that after they heard the talk, the UN would order CRA to leave Panguna.
The Mission’s visit to Bougainville was short and sharp. On 20 March, they flew to Buka, spent the morning there, and flew to Kieta that afternoon. Next day they drove to Panguna, inspected CRA's operations, then drove back to Kieta.
After the public meeting held in the Kieta Local Government Chambers in the early afternoon, they drove to Aropa airport and departed Bougainville. They only wanted to see Panguna, and they declined to visit Guava or any other villages.
I think the tenor of the meeting surprised everyone. Raphael Niniku, the Kieta Council President, demanded that the mining royalties be paid into a development fund for Bougainville and that CRA establish a processing plant on Bougainville so the people could see how to make copper.
Councillor Tonepa, from Atamo, said the people were very upset about CRA's activities because they did not know what the company was doing.
In a surprising rebuttal, Gregory Korpa from Moroni said he owned land where CRA was working, and Tonepa's statements made him angry. (During the six years I was in Bougainville that was the only time Korpa was not screaming ‘CRA cease operating and quit Panguna’.)
Theodore Dewe, a CRA employee, asked what would happen when the company finished the ore. He also wanted to know if Bougainville could become an independent nation.
The leader of the Mission said that some countries were lucky and had mineral deposits. He added, "In Bougainville, you may have copper in workable quantities.
"There are many countries where the law says the minerals belong to the nation. I ask the Liberian member to tell you if all minerals belong to the state in his country.”
The crowd was dumbfounded when Augustus Caine, the 36-year-old Liberian member of the UN team, spoke. He said his country, on the west coast of Africa, between Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, had been an independent republic since 1847. Several large iron ore deposits had been discovered in recent years.
Now, with four mines operating Liberia was one of the world's leading exporters. The government owned the ore. The people and landowners received no financial reward, but they and the rest of the nation benefited in every way from the development.
We kiaps were also dumbfounded. We had expected the UN to be anti-CRA and pro-Independence.
Maybe the UN visit gave the company greater confidence. At the weekly onsite conference on 7 May, Area Manager Bishop announced a massive expansion of their activity: “The rerouting of the main road through the Pakia land will be investigated this week against the people's wishes.”
In the coming weeks, the company would operate in a broad swathe of the country stretching from east coast to west coast. They were looking for town sites, port sites, access roads, power transmission lines, areas for industrial sites, and tailings disposal.
They were also seeking construction materials: limestone, gravel and rock. They would need to explore, survey, drill and sample.
Until now, the people around Panguna had been the principal opponents to CRA. Soon, CRA's surveyors and engineers would be tramping through the villages on the east coast - in the Pinei valley and the North Nasioi – and down the Jaba River valley to Empress Augusta Bay.
Henderson and I were horrified.
1 - Vanimo, his new headquarters, was 45 kilometres from the West Irian border. Jayapura, the capital, was only another 60 kilometres further on. The “act of free choice” was only twelve months away. Irian Jaya refugees – Melanesians - were already seeking sanctuary in PNG, and were sometimes pursued across the border.
2 - Four months later, when Dagge married Robyn Griffin, his dark-haired beauty, in Bendigo, Australia, the wedding guests may have been confused by a telegram read out at the reception. In Tok Pisin, and purportedly sent by Senior Constable Yimbin, it read: "Baraun I tok yu laik marit tudei (stop) Mi no klia gut. Oloseim wotam bipo." [Brown says you are getting married today. I am confused. What was going on before?]
3 - John Albert Wiltshire born at Scone, NSW, in May 1936 became a kiap in April 1955 and was transferred to Kieta around about June 1967. I do not recall how or why that occurred. Wiltshire was ADC at Cameron (renamed Alotau) in Milne Bay at the time, and I knew him very well. He had been one of the Patrol Officers at Maprik in the Sepik District when I was posted there in 1962. We worked together until April 1965 when the Yangoru area was split from Maprik and became a Sub-District with Wiltshire the first ADC.
4 - Ross William Henderson, a fourth-generation Tasmanian, was born in Devonport where his father was a bank manager. Ross attended Devonport High School and was involved in the scouting movement. A talk by a former pupil, kiap Terry (TW) White, inspired him to follow that career.
5 - John Raymond Gyngell, generally as known as “Jingle-bells” was popular with his peers. Born in Melbourne in March 1947, he became a Cadet Patrol Officer on 13 March 1967 and served two twenty-one terms in Bougainville. After accompanying Warrillow to Atamo in January 1968, he was posted to Barapina and to assist in defining the clans’ land boundaries.
6 - James Leslie Wellington was born in Australia in December 1945 but grew up in New Guinea where his father worked as a clerk in the various District Offices. He was home schooled at Namatanai and Kavieng, New Ireland, and Sohano, Bougainville, and was fluent in Tok Pisin. After attending boarding school for five years in Australia, he became a Cadet Patrol Officer and was posted to New Ireland without any specific training. A few months into his second term, he was transferred to Bougainville where he was involved with CRA.
7 - Frank Cotter Henderson born 1911 in Broken Hill, NSW, joined the Territory of New Guinea Administration as Agricultural Office in 1936. He was based in New Britain – at Kerevat and Talasea, before enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force in 1942. Returning to Papua New Guinea postwar, Henderson was appointed head of the Division of Plant Industry in 1951, Director of Agriculture Stock and Fisheries in 1958, and Assistant Administrator (Economic Affairs) in 1966. He was appointed as one of the Official Members in the House of Assembly in 1964 and Leader of the Government Members in 1966. I found him to be friendly and approachable but focused on economic development and almost uninterested in the grassroots’ problems.
8 - Ivan Leslie Campbell was 22 years old and a virtually a newcomer to Papua New Guinea when he was posted to Bougainville in 1968. He joined the Territory force as a Sub- Inspector from South Australia Police in 1967. When he returned to Australia in October 1968, he said he was returning to live permanently in Australia. He must have changed his mind; he had a distinguished career in Papua New Guinea.
9 - Richard Nicholas Spratt, born in March 1924 took over the role of Senior Geologist at Panguna in 1966. He had the geologist’s typical myopia.
10 - Bruce Anthony Fernon, a 22-year-old CRA field assistant from Ashbury, NSW, had been in Bougainville for almost a year when he was involved in the Atamo exercise. He returned to Australia
11 - From 1967 to 1969, weekly situation reports were sent by telegram from Kieta to the Administrator in Port Moresby. He telexed them - sometimes with comment, sometimes with amendment - to Canberra. In August1969, Prime Minister Gorton demanded daily reports. Those situation reports, records of meetings, and documents are preserved in a number of files in the Australian National Archives. My own files together with the Field Officers Journals that I have borrowed from half a dozen kiaps, and the digitised Patrol Reports and PNG Land Titles Commission records augment the reservoir.
Map of Central Bougainville (Bill Brown)
 Bill Brown and Fred Kaad (Bill Brown)
 Assistant District Commissioner John Wiltshire
 District Officer Ross Henderson, c 1967
 Assistant District Officer Chris Warrillow, 1967
 Moroni and Barapina villages from the air
 Moroni village