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11 March 2016

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Hi, Andrew Opu Aipu Maino is my grandfather, and I am so blessed that you all have a piece of him in your life.

Ross, That acronym you use may be an unfamiliar one in today's world, so by way of explanation:

The acronym for a Cadet Patrol Officer was CPO, and the plural was CPOs.

Neither acronym rolled off the tongue, whereas SPOS, even though it was offensive did.

And it could be used in the singular or plural.

SPOS was the acronym for a Small Piece of Excreta.

I do not who introduced the term. I first heard it used by C. E. (Tim) Terrell in the 1960s, and even then, I thought it was a bit 'off'.

Hindsight is 20/20 vision as they say. Unfortunately, when a SPOS of some 6 month's seniority is told to do something by his ADC he does what he's told as he doesn't know any better!

Perhaps if I'd related the story to Andrew when he came to Village Courts those years later, perhaps we both would have had a bloody good laugh over it.

I think I might have just taken his hand grenades away Ross and threatened him with action if he did it again. All that court rigmarole seems like a bit of overkill.

Another tale, Bill, where you stir the memories including a name that leapt out at me.

In late 1968 after 4 months at ASOPA and then 5 weeks orientation at Kwikila, I was posted to the Morobe Province and then out to Finschhafen under ADC Rick Hill. Finschhafen was one of the first sub-districts in PNG to have a separate courthouse built, one of those (then) modern inverted butterfly types and to have a magistrate appointed.

The very first task that I recall being given by Rick was to attend the court on a specific date and undertake the prosecution of a villager who had been caught using old explosives for fishing. He was being prosecuted under the Labour Act for using explosives without having a permit. The facts were that he had been caught smacking open M36 hand grenades (Mills Bombs) with a hammer and using the explosive to sprinkle on the water which apparently stunned the fish. He had not been detonating the grenades.

Our evidence that he had been apprehended with was a complete undamaged but rusted grenade and one in various pieces that he had allegedly hit and broken open with a hammer. This was shown to me by Rick in the office and I was expected to take it to court and present it during the hearing. I took one look at it and promptly said we have to destroy that bit immediately, pointing to one of the broken pieces.

I had spent two years in the CMF before becoming a kiap and whilst the Australian Army was equipped with the American M26 grenade and was using it in Vietnam, we poor sods in the CMF were still using the WW2 surplus M36 grenades at the grenade range in Puckapunyal.

There is a totally different way of arming each of these types so I was able to recognise that the evidence was an armed grenade and the piece I asked to be destroyed was the segment with the detonator set in it. I also requested that the second complete grenade be disposed of because we were unable to remove the corroded base plug to ascertain whether or not the ignitor set had been inserted. The remaining pieces were sufficient evidence of explosives.

So, off to court we go. Defendant attends dressed in his finest with war medals attached as a former policeman and war veteran.

Magistrate enters and we all stand. Upon sitting he introduces himself - Andrew Maino.

Defendant is identified and then the magistrate turns to me and asks who is prosecuting and by what authority. First and only time I have ever produced my Police Warrant Card.

Case proceeds and the charge is read to the defendant and is asked "How do you plead?" Defendant looks nonplussed and looks around for help. The magistrate turns to me and says, "Mr Wilkinson, the defendant doesn't appear to understand the charge."

I responded, "Your Worship, the laws of the Territory of Papua New Guinea require that any person using explosives must have a permit to do that. Ask him if he has a permit." The magistrate put the question to the defendant in tok pisin and which, in my limited knowledge to that date, I managed to understand. And the reply, which was "No."

“Your Worship, ask the defendant if he had the hand grenades in his possession.” Again the magistrate put the question to the defendant and to which he answered, “Yes, I had the bombs.”

The magistrate turned to me and stated that the defendant did not have a permit to use explosives and that he agreed he had possession of the hand grenades to which I quickly responded, "Then he's guilty isn't he?"

Gavel is banged and the magistrate says "Yes, sentenced to one month's detention with hard labour." For the next month the prisoner cut grass on the station including my house and pumped my water tank every morning and I was his best friend despite the short cut in his court hearing.

On return to PNG from leave in July 1975 I was transferred into the newly formed Village Courts Secretariat in the Department of Justice under Ian Holmes. It was essentially a kiap unit because we were magistrates who knew the village and local government scene well and could speak either or both tok pisin and Police Motu. After a number of months Ian retired and his number two, Trevor Bergin took over for a short period.

We then had our first National Secretary, Andrew Maino, who remembered me from the Finschhafen days but I never spoke to him about our first court case all those years ago.

Thank you Bill Brown MBE for this historical piece (both writing and photographs).

This is another interesting part of Bill's story of his time in PNG.

Happily, it is also another useful contribution to the documentation of a period in history that is fast fading from memory in Australia and has probably entirely disappeared in PNG.

Future historians will be very grateful for Bill's anecdotes and observations.

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