CLEVELAND, QLD - If one was to bequeath a view of history as it happened, Chips Mackellar’s recollection is accurate and reflects the general view of most Papua New Guinean people in the early 1970’s.
That’s what kiaps in the bush heard from the Papua New Guinean people they met and worked with.
There was a general view that more time was needed to effectively transfer power from a Western government to a people who had never experienced anything like it in the past.
The transfer of knowledge and expertise was naturally perceived as being something that should not be rushed lest the value of what had been built up could be lost forever.
Into that conservative climate came two irrepressible motivators.
Gough Whitlam who wanted to make a name for himself with the then developing nations and the young leaders of PNG who saw opportunities and grabbed them with both hands.
There were some leaders who spoke out against a fast transfer but they were overtaken by these two unstoppable forces.
Most Papua New Guinean were never consulted or not taken notice of if they consulted.
Over the last 40 plus years, PNG has seen most of the infrastructure existing in 1975 fall apart and a more traditional PNG concept of government take over.
I, among many, at first found this very hard to accept as the type of government I was used to and had been educated about; a form of government that had been evolving for hundreds of years.
It was clear to me that, unless you had free, democratic elections and a separate government and opposition, you would quickly descend into a form of dictatorship.
The examples of how easily this happens are readily available around the world today.
To an extent, the PNG people’s conservative views about independence have mostly been proven correct.
Yet at the same time, the traditional PNG concept of a village council sometimes being dominated by the bigman has been shown to work, at least on the surface.
World events are moving rapidly towards a showdown between competing powers for world domination.
How that confrontation will affect Papua New Guineans and their way of life could perhaps be predicted and anticipated by looking at the Japanese invasion of PNG in 1942.
The only certainty in life is that nothing is certain except that history keeps being repeated by those who will not learn.