Death of Sam Akoitai: MP for all occasions
Despite exposure, health corruption continues

Pax Australiana & techniques of pacification

Forster - Roy edwards
Patrol Officer Roy Edwards and police with a group of manacled villagers, Kunimaipa section, Goilala Sub-District, late 1940s (photo previously unpublished)


NORTHUMBRIA, UK – Roy Edwards was an uncompromising kiap (patrol officer), not fond of paperwork and with his own way of bringing pacification to the warring tribes of Papua New Guinea.

He patrolled the Kunimaipa section of the Goilala region for months on end and was ultimately successful in erasing a traditional payback murder spiral that led to dozens of deaths each year.

The perpetuation of payback was an insurmountable obstacle to securing the wellbeing and progress of the villages.

Pax Australiana demanded that the practice be terminated.

Ron Galloway succeeded Edwards as officer-in-charge of the Goilala Sub-District in 1950 and was instrumental in parading his predecessor before the Supreme Court on a charge of common assault.

As a result, Edwards was jailed for six months and left a colonial Administration keen not to offend anti-colonial sensibilities and move to a more development-focussed governance.

The contrast between the two men could hardly be greater. Edwards was tough, practical and expedient.

Through physical threat and coercion, he was resolute in discouraging routine murder.

He was so successful that two decades later in 1975, long-serving priests stationed at Kamulai in the Kunimeipa area continued to credit him with saving hundreds of lives.

Forster - Tumai
Assistant District Officer Ron Galloway and Tumai Mumu, the big man of Tatupiti, outside Goilala administrative headquarters, Tapini, 1951

Galloway was a modern, bureaucratic man who understood the complexities of bringing pacification and progress to the people of Papua New Guinea.

It is difficult to imagine Edwards taking part, as Galloway did with obvious enthusiasm, in a public relations picture underlining another advance in Pax Australiana’s ambitions.

This was surely a photograph that found its way to senior desks in Canberra and into the press.

And now I must introduce Tumai Mumu, whose father was the big man at Tatupit in the Tauade section of the Goilala region, and who had been one of Edwards’ interpreters.

Tumai’s role is complicated because he was a self-confessed mass killer who could only evade arrest through extraordinary cunning.

I was stationed in the Goilala in 1974-75 and he told me that as a young man he had ambushed and killed 24 men.

When I asked how many of his victims were women he stuck out his bottom lip and shrugged.

Nevertheless Tumai said he did appreciate the new found stability generated by the dramatic reduction in murder initiated by Edwards.

While I was at Tapini he helped me investigate the especially puzzling murder of a woman who had been carefully axed four times.

This is a record of his observations:

“Four men were involved. In the Goilala many men will kill one man.

“You must understand that with a pig it would be different. A man can use several blows to kill a pig and it would make no difference. But humans are unique.

“One man is marked to strike the victim first. This blow should be the killer. Then while the murdered man is shaking and turning other men will come and strike him once.

“They strike once then run away. And then the man behind them strikes. It is the first man who really kills the dead man. The others just cut him with their axes.”

Later, when I was investigating a double murder, I needed to find the original killer before he too was bumped off.

The search was entering its second day and an encounter with Tumai once again proved fruitful.

As we came to the ridge top near Tumai’s village, the old man hurried stiffly towards us waving his arms.

Bakaia, the senior policeman with me, was already grinning in anticipation.

Tumai fired off a rapid burst of tokples, smiled, patted my hand and walked back to his hut.

“What did he say?” I asked.

“Amuna [the principal suspect] is hiding in Pomutu village,” Bakaia replied.

Tru?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.

Tru,” affirmed Bakaia, grinning again.

This information had saved us hours of fruitless searching.

My own Goilala experience confirmed that routine murder had still to fade completely.

However during those two years, only five murders were reported compared with dozens each year in the pre-Edwards era - and there was a much larger population then than in 1950.

Unfortunately in more recent times everyday Goilala murder has resurfaced. No one can be certain how many people are killed each year because poor record-keeping means few violent deaths are reported.

What is known for certain is that the Kunimaipa, the region where Edwards was most active, became a genuine government no-go area about 20 years ago when the patrol post at Guari was abandoned.

Robert Forster as a young kiap
Robert Forster when a young kiap in Papua New Guinea devours some bush tucker

More recently the Catholic Mission at Kamulai - the only place where health, education and economic development needs within the Kunimaipa region were maintained - has also been forsaken after its resident priest was murdered with a shotgun.

So, even though Edwards’ methods were declared unpalatable 70 years ago, his uncompromising approach secured about 30 years of relatively murder-free security for the Kunimaipa people.

Robert Forster is author of The Northumbrian Kiap


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Bernard Corden

I refuse to subscribe to Facebook or Linked In, which I find incalculably narcissistic.

The language is reminiscent of bar parlour bores and the ubiquitous exclamation marks replace the shouting.

Keep up the fascinating work, Robert, your book, The Northumbrian Kiap, is a compelling story and the comments from Garry Roche back in 2018 are well worth repeating:

"One thing that strikes me about The Northumbrian Kiap is that, in my opinion, Robert Forster comes across as being very honest and straightforward in his writing and recollection."

Peter Briggs

After completing my cadetship in the Southern Highlands District and attended the ASOPA long course, I began work as a Patrol Officer Grade 1 in the Goilala Sub-District on 6 January 1966 and left it as Assistant District Commissioner in September 1973.

Although I was posted elsewhere in the Central District during this period I was stationed within the Goilala itself for a total of six years.

During this time I met Tumai so many times it is impossible to forget him – just as I cannot forget Sergeant Major Kenava, Constable Michael Nuglai, Constable (Snr) Bakaia, DO/ADC Des Fitzer, DO/ADC Phil Hardy, DC Ron Galloway, DDC Ken Brown, DC Kingsley Jackson, and many many others I worked with.

The picture that was published with Robert Forster’s article is without any doubt whatsoever a photograph of my friend and sometimes adversary, Tumai the big man of Tatupiti (who could forget that face), and of course a young Ronald Thomas Galloway who later became my District Commissioner.

I have no knowledge of Geoff Hancock and cannot understand why he disputed Robert’s identification.

My wife Christine has seen the picture too and without hesitation she confirmed that the man in traditional dress was Tumai and the other man was Ron Galloway because, like me, she knew both individuals well.

Peter's confirmation of Tumai's identity gives me full confidence that the photograph provided by Robert and which illustrates his article is indeed that of Tumai Mumu, the bigman of Tatupiti - KJ

Harry Topham

Robert - When you entered this discussion, you would have been well aware that there are always heaps of viewers that just sit on the fence watching like hawks for someone to stray over their boundaries.

So although you might feel miffed about the reprimand you received you might just have to just take it on the chin, metaphorically speaking.

It is the new chum to the town thing, I think, you know like someone who takes up residency in a country town finds that it is sometimes difficult, even after many years residency, to be accepted as a local.

I guess the same analogy applies to those who lived and worked in PNG.

I think it may have been Bill Gammage in his book The Sky Travellers who commented that immediately post-war when the two territories were amalgamated under one administration, many of the earlier pre-war New Guinea kiaps were not comfortable with the changes in direction the then department of Native Affairs was taking.

Some did not renew their employment as post-war kiaps.

It would seem that maybe Edwards was collateral damage in the renaissance of thought that occurred. I am not aware of the crimes that Edwards committed that merited him being gaoled for six months.

To make a comparison to today, those crimes must have been severe to merit six months gaol or maybe he was a convenient scapegoat to political pragmatism.

Can anyone elucidate?

Of course, Robert is no new chum to PNG Attitude, to which he has been contributing since 2017 - KJ

Robert Forster

Keyboard loud mouths are a plague. Their shouty din has devalued social media and now it has penetrated PNG Attitude too.

I am disappointed Geoff Hancock has, in one shrill observation, persuaded Keith to reject my identification of Tumai Mumu.

And I am angry that Hancock, commenting on my article, feels able to accuse me of “conjuring up a dubious piece using considerable creative licence”.

Elsewhere he has said it contains “more fiction than fact”.

So I challenge him right here, with the equivalent of a mailed glove smack across the face, to join combat and outline exactly which sections of my description of Goilala Sub-District administration after the late 1940s are fact and exactly which are fiction.

I look forward to his response.

The previously unpublished photo of Roy Edwards and his chain gang was sent to me almost three months ago. I could have used it immediately but waited instead for a hook to hang it on.

That opportunity came when I saw the picture of Tumai and Ron Galloway that Hancock had lifted from Pix.

It was a perfect book end because it complimented the Edwards picture by underlining the critical shift in Goilala administrative tactics between 1949 and 1951.

The text Hancock criticises relies on personal observations acquired during, and after, my own Goilala posting.

Tumai, who lived less than a mile from Tapini, helped me investigate the brutal murder of a woman who had been deliberately disfigured.

He sat opposite me for hours on end as I took down a range of depositions which included his description of axe wielding Goilala men forming an orderly queue over the body of their victim.

Another was his outline of the previously unknown ritual which bound all but the grass man among Tauade group killers to silence.

He was arraigned as an expert witness to inform the court of this and I assume that his testimony, and his original statement, are filed in Supreme Court case records.

So yes I do know exactly who Tumai is and so does Peter Briggs, a senior kiap at Tapini, who responded to a similar article I had posted on the Ex-Kiap website by observing the Tumai standing next to Galloway was “still recognisable as the same bloke (he knew) in the 1960-70's”.

How does Hancock respond to that?

And, although there will, for example, be no record of the conversation in which Tumai tells me where Amuna Ipoi (subsequently sentenced for 15 years for the murder of Panai Koiai) was hiding, or conversations with the long dead priests at Kamulai when we discussed Roy Edwards, I am wondering if, or why, he doubts them too.

For the record, and incidentally, I knew Roy Edwards as well. On one occasion (after getting past his dogs) having a beer with him in Ou Ou Creek’s kitchen.

Informed eye witness description is historically important and those offered by credible sources should be valued. Noisy uninformed observations by people like Hancock devalue them and so deface history too.

Some of his outrage appears to have been triggered by minutiae like his interpretation of my Facebook response to the Tumai picture he posted.

I was 'fishing', a term that will be recognised by journalists and other researchers, because I had asked if anyone could confirm that the Tauade with Galloway was Tumai.

The responses (there weren’t any) could have been illuminating. They may have included another, historically valuable, previously unpublished picture like Edwards with his manacled prisoners.

His criticism also focuses on an assumption that Tumai had not been pictured opening a Commonwealth Bank Savings Account.

This is trivial beer. Journalists recognise cheesy public relations exercises, many including myself have written up dozens, and this one, along with Galloway’s toothy smile, is typical of carefully presented representations, sometimes re-staged, that are constructed specifically for targeted media outlets – most likely in this case state and regional press outlets in Australia.

Finally he notes that during my time in PNG my career included just four years as kiap.

I’m not sure how this devalues my records and recollection but it is, for certain, four years longer than him

I am looking forward to Geoff’s response.

Yesterday Robert and I exchanged personal emails on this matter in which I explained why I had altered the caption on a photograph to remove Tumai Mumu's name. This is the relevant extract from my response to Robert:

"....faced with two versions of history I chose the one that was conservative as I didn’t know for sure if the man was Tumai, his twin brother or the bloke from over the hill."

Geoff Hancock did not "persuade" me of anything, he raised doubt. And I do not "reject" Robert's identification of Tumai, I simply do not know. If the identity of the man in the photograph can be established through another source, the caption will be restored. At present, I am not in a position to make that decision - KJ

Ross Wilkinson

Robert, there are several aspects to your story about the respect held for Roy Edwards’ tough actions, but first, about Edwards himself.

He was born in Hobart but was working as a poultry farmer in Adelaide when he transferred from the CMF to the 2/27 Battalion at the start of the Second World War.

As a Section Corporal he was awarded a Military Medal for sustained and continuous bravery during and after the Balikpapan Landing in July 1945 as part of the Borneo Campaign.

He returned to Australia and was discharged in Adelaide in 1946. Post- WWII employment preference was given to ex-servicemen and Edwards became a Patrol Officer in 1947; no doubt his MM probably served to his advantage in the selection process.

However, to take up Harry’s point, there was a particular Tok Pisin phrase expressed as either “Gut Taim” or “Gutpela Taim” and referred to the strength of kiap administration at any given point in time.

In the post-World War Two era it referred to the pre-War administration being stronger and in the post-World War One era it referred to the strong German administration.

In my experience it was used in two ways. The first was a challenge by lapuns to young kiaps, “You only think you’re tough, in my day the kiaps were really tough!”

The other was a reflection by lapuns as to how tough they had to be to survive the strong administration meted out by the kiaps of his day.

And he was not the only one convicted because of his treatment of the villagers as there were several on the New Guinea side who were convicted of offences such as unlawful detention, burning village houses and improper dealings.

I am also convinced through my research that there were a number given the option to resign to avoid prosecution.

Geoff Hancock

Robert it would seem the photo I posted from an article in a Pix magazine on a Facebook site recently of Ron Galloway handing over a bankbook to a man at Tapini has prompted you to conjure up this dubious piece using considerable creative license.

You do not know for a fact that the man in the photo which you have copied from my post is Tumai Mumu or that he has just opened an account as the Pix article did not give this information, and you said only that it could be him in the photo when I posted it.

As you would likely know Ron Galloway had a distinguished 30 year career as a Kiap serving in postings throughout P&NG and reached the position of District Commissioner compared to your 4 year career as a Patrol Officer.

Harry Topham

They always were a bit soft over on the Papuan side this observation goes back to earlier Murray times when the local population were treated with paternalism and patronisation.

This was evidenced by Governor Murray's distrust of his appointed Village Constables. He appointed a subsidiary delegate to keep the Village Constables from over exercising authority.

Over the border on the New Guinea side the local population were treated with more respect but stronger discipline as evidenced by the authority granted to the Luluais and Tultuls.

Perhaps Edwards probably would have not been prosecuted if he had been on the NG side. In fact his strict approach to discipline would probably have suited things.

Those difference in indigenous management approaches were still evident as I noticed when I moved over the border form the NG side in the early 1970's.

Joe Herman

Interesting article, Robert. Sometimes a leader’s effectiveness can be dependent on the perceptions of those being led.

In the mid-1970s, one of the remaining kiaps at Wapenamanda, Enga, was Mr Edwards, known as Mr Neck Fire.

The people there respected him because he was seen as an effective strong leader.

The Enga people admire strong and predictable leaders, and he displayed those desirable leadership qualities.

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