SINCLAIRE SOLOMON | PNG Post-Courier
BARRY BLYTH HOLLOWAY (pictured right late in life) and wife Ikini were with an older, quieter crowd in one section of the Bird of Paradise Hotel, Goroka, but as the evening wore on they found the younger, whiter and rowdier bunch of drinkers next to them more to their liking.
It was May, maybe June, 1977.
When the night is still young and never one to refuse an offer of a night cap, “no” was far from the Holloway mind when the younger revellers, including me, suggested that we retreat to the Post-Courier pad at West Goroka for “one for the road” and “let’s have one more just like the other one”.
This ritual constituted more booze, and a healthy drag of Goroka Gold, maybe a Henganofi Hedge, preferably the Hagen variety, Kundiawa Kool or the latest Weed from Wabag. Barry Blyth, not to be outdone by his hosts, produced from his pocket his own Kainantu brand.
Whatever was available, there was enough grass smoke, alcohol fume and noise to bring in the fire tender from the next street, or the cops two blocks away to drag off the dimdims and the only two natives among them – myself and Ikini Holloway.
Ikini single-handedly almost did that – she did not take too kindly to the hubby chatting up a budding Aussie painter by the name of Glendys. To demonstrate her displeasure in true Morobe fashion Ikini wacked her husband across the ears with the pointed heel of one of her ankle-length shoes.
Holloway retaliated likewise, a flurry of uppercuts landing on Ikini; the fiery Finsch curled up and covering her small body with both hands absorbed the punches. All seemed well orchestrated, rehearsed moves, as if done many times before in the past for a live audience.
The warring parties were eventually separated but not without a few more scratches to the battered, bruised and boozed bodies and torn clothing.
As Holloway bled and all hell broke loose a passing police van dropped by to check the commotion yet commonsense prevailed and all was forgotten as the drinking and the grassing resumed, and that was not for too long; it had been a long day, an enjoyable night and tomorrow was another day.
Ikini returned to Port Moresby the next day to her work commitments with the national radio and Glendys got what she craved after that night – Barry Blyth Holloway on canvass, in oil. She spent many days at the Holloway residence in Kainantu, with and without the model, to produce the masterpiece.
Wow! It had been an honour sitting in the tiny flat which I, a second-year Post-Courier cadet journalist, shared with senior Melbourne colleague Tim Grimwade, drinking and smoking with a well-known and liked politician who had just been elected to represent the people of Eastern Highlands in first post-Independence general election.
This very human side of Holloway was a one-off encounter I never saw repeated but whenever our paths crossed, in Port Moresby, thereafter – I in the Press Gallery and Holloway on the floor of Parliament, moving his heavy frame about awkwardly, clumsily when making a point - I used to wonder with amusement whether he had just “let’s one more just like the other one” before entering the chamber!
He loved his drink and women as he loved his work as a government minister; he was known to be the last to leave his central government offices at Waigani late at night, surrounding himself with younger ministerial colleagues and departmental heads, attracted by his easygoing ways.
These ways also won the hearts of Eastern Highlanders who kept Holloway as their Member until they felt confident that one of their own can do the job, dumping him in favour of a wanskin in the 1982 general election.
The lanky, curly-haired Tasmanian-born Apo is no fancy dresser, often times spotted with his shirt tail hanging loose behind him. But what he lacked in his dress code, he made up for in his contribution to political awareness among people he called countrymen and women for 60 years.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill on Monday paid tribute to the late elder statesman but the person who knows more about Sir Barry’s colourful political career is Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare who I, unfortunately, could not pin down in Wewak long enough at the weekend to get comments from.
Hopefully, in time, Sir Michael will comment on the person who came to Papua New Guinea, age just 18, in 1953 as a cadet patrol officer and after brief stints on Bougainville and Madang hinterland made Eastern Highlands home where he carved out a political career as a founding member of Pangu Party in the years leading up and immediately after Independence in 1975.
Holloway arrived on the PNG political scene at a time when dimdims who sided with natives to agitate for nationhood and independence were deemed subversives by the Australian colonial administration.
We know something about his early life through Australian foreign policy documents of 1966-69 declassified by Canberra seven years ago. They paint a strong anti-Independence movement against an equally determined force spearheaded by the likes of Holloway, who lobbied for Papua New Guineans to run their own affairs.
Holloway was already a politician in 1966, Member for Kainantu – two years before Somare became a politician as Member for East Sepik. Local leaders like Lepani Watson realised where his sympathies laid and recommended his appointment as a member of the committee on constitutional development.
They wanted him to fill the vacancy left by the death of William Bloomfield, the expatriate Member for Kaindi, Morobe province. In Holloway, they saw similarities of the late leader and this was confirmed by an administration report … “Bloomfield was known to maintain excellent relationships with indigenous MHAs (members of House of Assembly) and other native people with whom he came in contact.”
The report stated that since his death “there are no European Members, Official or Elected, who will assist indigenous Members in the House.”
Subsequent declassified correspondences I leafed through do not show whether Holloway filled the Bloomfield vacancy. Nonetheless, PNG Attitude’s Keith Jackson wrote last week on his website publication that the Kainantu MHA had pursued a localisation policy as early as 1963.
The two had met at a dinner party and Jackson was impressed with the 28-year-old “Olowei” who “spent most of the evening discussing the first PNG general election … that if he won the (Kainantu) seat, he would serve for one term before handing over to Papua New Guinea candidate.
“He did win and four years later he honoured his pledge.”
The declassified information showed that the previous year, 1967, Holloway, contrary to popular anti-Independence sentiments of the time, supported Minister for Territories Charles Barnes’ “misquoted” statement on independence.
The Australian media had a field day quoting, or misquoting, what Barnes had said during a opening of a PNG display in Melbourne in March, that PNG might never be granted independence!
A Department of Territories reported various reactions to the Barnes statement on the floor of the House of Assembly. “Only one Member, Mr Barry Holloway, spoke of independence inevitably coming within a certain time – eight years. All others either spoke of self-government or were even more cautious.”
“All others”, according to the DOT report, included Mathias ToLiman, Don Barrett, Gabriel Ehava Karava, Tei Abal, Rev Percy Chatterton and Kaiabelt Diria.
Even the local South Pacific Post newspaper, the Post-Courier forerunner, jumped on the bandwagon with a lead story during the week of 6 March with a Barnes “clarification” that “he doubted whether Papua/New Guinea would ever be completely independent of Australia”.
On June 13 the Pangu Party was launched and Holloway, Anthony Voutas and Cecil Abel were expatriates listed as founding members. Others were “Mike Somare”, Joseph Nombri, Oala Oala Rarua, Albert Maori Kiki, Epel Tito, Gavara Rea, Cromwell Burau, Ebia Olewale, Thomas Tobunbun, Vin Tobaining, Paul Lapun, Pita Lus, Nicholas Brokam, James Meanggarum, Paliau Maloat, Wegra Kenu and Siwi Kurondo.
After that Pangu and pro-Independence advocates came under closer scrutiny by the administration. Administrator David Hay was clearly not impressed with the new party when he sent an observation report to Canberra on 14 June.
On Pangu’s parliamentary support, he observed: “At first sight this is not repeat not impressive. This could be due to the fact that party’s instigators Voutas and Holloway do not commend themselves to majority of older electorates and have tended to be treated with some scorn in the House.”
Meanwhile, the administration’s intelligence report MIS on September 8 noted the expulsion of Oala Oala-Rarua from Pangu, adding that while he accepted it “he also stated that Pangu Pati is a white man’s party controlled by Mr C. Abel, Mr A. Voutas and Mr B. Holloway.”
Again on 17 November, Hay informed Canberra: “It is believed that the motivating forces in the Party, and acting mostly behind the scenes, are Messrs C Abel, B Holloway and A Voutas.
“It has been learned that there is some dissension concerning strategy for the 1968 elections. Voutas wants campaigning to be on a Party basis. Holloway favours independent campaigning with a re-grouping and consolidation later within the new House. Holloway is claimed to have said he was considering resigning from the Pangu Party. It is known that he has not yet decided to stand in an Open or Regional Electorate.”
Going by Jackson’s account, Holloway would have stood for Eastern Highlands Regional, and lost. Voutas on the other hand stood for Morobe Regional and won as did Abel for Milne Bay Regional. Other noted Pangu men who lost were party general secretary Maori Kiki, Wegra Kenu and Epel Tito.
In March 1968 a restricted paper in Canberra noted that Pangu had “at times has given indications of an ‘anti-European’ feeling, although this has been most apparent in the views of two prominent European members of the party, Tony Voutas and Barry Holloway”.
Having tasted defeated, “Olowei” walked the breadth and width Eastern Highlands in the coming elections to remind his people that he was their man to help Pangu Party lead them to self-government and independence. And he stuck to his promise.
In his kiap days, Holloway would have lived a real bushwhacker’s life, just like his Tasmanian wantok, Errol Flynn, many years before him fossicking for gold before finding fame and fortune in Hollywood. Unlike his wantok, Olowei did not leave.
His childhood friend Ian James summed it all up in PNG Attitude on 21 January: “Barry’s passion for PNG and its people and his contribution to the country will be long remembered.”