Harry Roach died this afternoon bringing to an end an illustrious career as a Papua New Guinea kiap, a Cooroy property salesman and a Noosa shire councillor. He was known wherever he went as a can-do man, a thoroughgoing professional, a solid citizen and an inveterate prankster. Life with Harry could be eye-popping, hair-raising and mind-blowing, but the saga of ONGU was perhaps his greatest accomplishment – a true tour de farce - KJ
AITAPE - There was very little to occupy the ever-enquiring minds of the people who lived and worked in the many and varied outstations of the Sepik District in the mid 1960's.
And so it was with those who filled the various government and private occupations on the small Aitape outstation at the time.
There was occasional cricket against the Doggett XI. Tennis on the concrete slab laid down by the AIF for its mess hall during the war. A dangerous surf. A popular game of golf on the ever expanding airstrip.
Whatever, the Aitape gang was ever ready to adopt any new challenge that appeared on the horizon.
Thus when Michael Somare formed PANGU (Papua and New Guinea United) Pati, the news became an important topic of conversation on Friday night at the famous multiracial Aitape Club.
This ensured much discussion far into the night. The beer flowed freely and ideas came thick and fast. Finally a consensus emerged - "something must be done."
If there is a PANGU, why not an ONGU?
And thus the ONGU legend was born. The political arm of Only New Guinea United.
Donald T, the technical school headmaster, vowed that henceforth the school's trade store - the ONGU trade store would guarantee Only New Goods Utilised (the commercial arm).
And Tiger, the didiman promised henceforth his efforts would be directed to Organised Natural Ground Utilisation. And thus the legend grew.
Matias from Menapi undertook to find a suitable carving to be the emblem - a mascot.
He returned next day with a solid four foot carving of an ugly head, with a crocodile collar. It was immediately dubbed ONGU.
And the legend grew further.
When a bus full of school children slipped off the road, a local wag wrote ‘ONGU WAS HERE’ in the dust on the back.
When told the story a South African born police officer in Vanimo muttered "it had to come to this country sooner or later."
Again at Vanimo the 007 (as Special Branch officers were known) left his safe open one lunchtime and an ONGU representative slipped an ONGU file into the secure space.
When discovered it caused such a stir that District Commissioner John Wakeford threatened to "bring the long arm of the law down on ONGU."
In Madang two tortoises, extracted from the hotel fishpond were branded with ‘ONGU’ and returned secretly to the water, setting tongues wagging and astonishing all and sundry.
And at every inter-station sports day or football match, ONGU the carving would be a silent sentry on the sideline.
And so it spread - letters to the editor began to be published in the Post Courier newspaper from ONGU’s in Lae, Port Moresby, Aitape and Konedobu.
J K (Jack) McCarthy (the journalist, not the kiap) visited Aitape to report on the ever-expanding phenomenon.
He was met by two motorbike riders with ONGU WAN and ONGU TU printed on their helmets and his subsequent full page article went viral throughout the Territory.
In 1972, local MP Paul Langro proposed to form an ONGU branch of his United Party and even suggested a renaming of the West Sepik to ONGU District.
In a letter to the Post Courier a Jay Kay from Waigani criticised this idea and it was rejected by ONGU in a later letter to the editor.
Telegrams began to arrive over the radio sked. One that had 007 worried was from Bulolo to ONGU reading: "ASPECTS GOOD ONGU UNGU BONGU BOT (STOP) DEKANAI.”
The monthly Aitape magazine Da Spegal followed the fortunes of ONGU and published an ONGU Book of Verse.
There was the famous occasion when the Australian naval ship HMAS Aitape arrived for a long weekend of sports and cultural activity.
The town played the ship at rugby league and the ship's team won. ONGU was present by the sideline.
It was agreed that the crew of HMAS Aitape would take ONGU for a publicity voyage round New Guinea, so wherever the ship visited and played a game against the locals, ONGU was produced.
The omnipotent carving always had pride of place.
Whenever asked the significance of the object, the crew would answer simply: "That is ONGU from Aitape."
We express our great sadness to Betty who, with Harry, made one of the best teams of community builders Aitape, Kieta, Cooroy and the world ever saw. Great men and women exist because of what they do, not because of what is said. The deeds live on - KJ
This piece was first published in PNG Attitude as 'The curious affair of ONGU: A study in public confusion' in July 2015