CARDIFF - Phil Fitzpatrick often writes about subjects that capture what many of us ex-New Guinea types think about now we have more time on our hands having left behind the daily commute to work.
His ‘Power, Hedonism & the Best Years of Our Lives’ was one such essay.
During the latter part of my 30 years in Papua New Guinea, I often felt that the life of expats who were off duty influenced the local people.
Phil listed these proclivities.
“Australians unconstrained could drink to excess, engage in dubious sexual adventures, create outrageous lies about one’s past, indulge in excessive swagger and engage in riotous behaviour largely without fear or consequence”.
Perhaps as a lifelong teetotaller I’m biased but believe problem of drunkenness PNG has experienced in the 60 years its people could legally consume alcohol should be laid at the feet of those expats who devoted most weekends to excessive drinking accompanied by raucous parties.
That lifestyle was a template for the post-independence elite. My sojourns in Port Moresby during my years in PNG happily were short but my experience of living there was full of terrible drunken events.
While working for Pasuwe Ltd I lived in Boroko. Every weekend, sometimes on all three nights, my family was disturbed by expats indulging to excess.
On one memorable night a neighbouring expat decided to smash every piece of glass in their home starting with the glass-louvre windows followed by crockery and mirrors.
And who there to observe can forget the sights of the infamous ticket-only Bank of New South Wales annual ball? I cannot.
My immediate neighbour, an Australian, daily calaboosed his young Papuan partner while he took off every morning dressed in immaculate tropical attire.
She was forbidden to leave their compound and the gate was locked and chained. My New Guinean wife would talk over the fence to sympathise with the young woman about the restrictive rules.
What the wanker didn't know was that she would easily jump over his fence and enjoy a swim in our small above ground pool.
Mind you, she had to make sure her costume dried on our clothes line as she always had to be back home before the lord of the manor came for his lunch and perhaps to check on his bed-slave.
The pair gave us some noisy nights with lots of shouting accompanied sometimes by screams. She would show my wife the black eyes and bruises.
There was a happy ending as one day a wantok drove up in a ute and took her away from this unhappy life.
Contrast this with ethos of the mission stations run by God-botherers, Popies, Pentes etc. Our local communities and workers saw that we appeared to enjoy life: we laughed, told jokes and had parties on weekends.
Even the more restricted SDAs had good times without liquor. I look back on the events hosted after the short Sabbath closing service which began at dusk every Saturday night.
There was moonlit volleyball at Konkavul Mission, which adjoined our hutted compound, a cool refreshing stream just down the hill at the boundary with our settlement.
Most missions had film nights, sports carnivals and even dances.
One night the American Bishop of Kavieng asked me to ring the Convent across from the compound and invite two of the Sisters to join us to play Rummy.
I questioned him about the playing-card ban and apparently there was an exemption that allowed 'suitable or respected person’ to apply for a licence, which he had obtained.
Despite being a Welsh Baptist I’ve always enjoyed playing with what some Christians call The Devils Cards. Perhaps it’s an inherited gene from my paternal grandfather who was one of the best cribbage players I ever knew.
So yes, I feel that the behaviour and lifestyle exhibited by many expats was a contributing factor to the drunkenness that plagues PNG today.