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« Tales from the kiap times - A bit of a lift in Kuala Lumpur | Main | Govt department says newspaper’s allegations defamatory »

24 January 2017


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I wonder how many other kiaps delivered babies Doug.

We did a session at ASOPA on childbirth but I never thought I'd have to use it until we encountered a mother in difficulties in the Star Mountains.

The umbilical chord had somehow wrapped itself around the babies neck and was turning it a pretty blue colour and preventing it being delivered. A bit of dexterous pulling and tugging and little 'Pilip' emerged. I wonder what he's doing now.

“Papua v New Guinea” is another interesting field of study in the country’s fading history. Many books mention a benign approach in Papua, to a more aggressive attitude in New Guinea.

The earlier days of heavy-handed German rule possibly accounts for some difference. The word “kiap” was the local people’s shortened pronunciation of the German captain “kiapitan” (Chips Mackellar “Sivarai” page 9).

Papua started as a largely unwanted British colony and then Territory of Australia. We were “taubada” - Motu for big whiteman, or sir.

I served all my time as a Patrol Officer in Northern (Oro), on the Papua side. None of us there spoke of being “kiaps”.

We didn’t have Pidgin English and probably considered kiap a sort of nickname over on the New Guinea side. It wasn’t until attending the National Archives of Australia “Tribute to Kiaps” at Canberra in 2010 that I began to refer to myself as a Kiap.

Back in Australia to say I was a Patrol Officer often brought a response something along the lines of “so you issued parking tickets”! I would try to explain: “think of every government function of the day and that’s what we did - keeping law and order and everything else, walking (no cars for us here) from village to village.

On our Induction Course in 1969 at ASOPA we were told we would be the whole of government in the field - except for Health.

Despite that, during one Census I had no alternative but to help a mother having just given birth to twins in the village. She survived and those twins are still alive, approaching 50 years.

Told you so Daniel!

The mention of Cecil Rhodes is interesting. Most people would have no idea about his statue but his scholarships are well known.

Statues are for dogs to piss on and pigeons to crap on. They don't do much for me but the idea of a Kiap Scholarship is appealing. This has been discussed at some length on the Ex-kiap Website.

A lot of boneheads who play rugby, cricket etc. get Rhodes Scholarships (including a recently prominent pugilist) so there should be a definite clause disbarring scholarships for sporty types.

Wouldn't have to be too expensive. Maybe scholarships for PNG high school students to study in Australia.

Just need a rich ex-kiap to come to the party. Or perhaps a call-out to our diminishing band.

Good project for the PNGAA to drive?

The name V P Bloink also reminds me of my time employed in the Office of the Economic Adviser, Port Moresby.

My boss Bill McCasker and Vince Bloink were both querulous men with important jobs.

McCasker had spent the war years as a lieutenant coastwatcher behind enemy lines in eastern New Guinea while Bloink had been a POW in Poland.

McCasker had been recruited in 1966 to institute a five year economic development plan.He had a small staff of economists and clerical officers who worked out of the newly built ANG Haus.

One of my duties was to organise the printing of the many drafts of the plan.

I can still visualise the look on Vince's face each time i walked into his office with orders not to come back empty handed.

McCasker demanded his printing take precedence over all other jobs,and he loved pulling rank, but Bloink would have none of it.

I was young and ingenuous but it was character-building.

Chris - I guess you are right about statures and other edifices to past fame.

Back in 1962 poor old kiaps missed the memorial boat to immortality when a 3/- TPNG proposed issue of a postage stamp showing a typical kiap on patrol was withdrawn for future issue.

The raison de etre expressed by the authorities for withdrawal of issue of that stamp was that the powers to be regarded the depictions shown on the proof was unacceptable as the drawing showed the kiap carrying a firearm over his shoulder.

Ironically the replacement issue postage stamp showed a policeman on traffic duty.

So I guess kiaps like the stamp were destined to remain as a Cinderella never to make it to the ball.

If any old ex kiap is feeling sentimental purloined copies of the original proposed stamp which for some reason unknown escaped the collection net are available for a mere $500.

Here's the story of that kiap stamp Harry (the link is - KJ:

"Papua New Guinea 1961 5/- Native Patrolman UNISSUED stamp - the first COLOUR stamp ever to be printed in Australia.

"A famous issue and about 100 copies existed. I bought the unique full sheet off Kevin Duffy, that I broke up many years ago to clients. One client bought a fair number of those, and they have come back into stock from his estate.

"This was printed in Australia - who at the time had printed all of PNG’s stamps, and indeed administered the country.

"Senior bureaucrats noticed the local police carrying rifles and felt showing the “natives” images of armed countrymen would cause problems, and the issue was stopped. Remember the violent and warlike highlanders had had only first seen Europeans that same generation.) Ken Humphreys wrote an article on these in the prestigious ACCC journal.

"These were indeed the FIRST stamps of any type ever printed on the new colour Chambon photogravure press.... My price is $A650 a stamp for singles or pairs and $A2,400 a block of 4."

Having been to the Stockman's Hall of Fame, I know the statue that Paul is referring to. It is a splendid piece of work and a worthy representation of an occupational group for whom words like stoic, tough and resilient seem barely adequate descriptors.

Some kiaps were pretty tough cookies as well, especially those who carried out the exploration patrols of the first half of the last century.

Even those who came much later still had to be fit enough to endure some demanding patrol work, disease and frequent isolation, but often had the advantages conferred by much better access to modern communications, transportation, medicine and so forth.

That said, I think that erecting a statue to commemorate the work of patrol officers would be viewed by many as an act of self aggrandisement.

After all, what about the large numbers of missionaries, medical assistants, teachers, agricultural officers, engineers, planters, soldiers, broadcasters, tradies and many more besides who contributed towards the development of PNG?

Its seems to me that any statue would be bound to be as much a source of contention as of pride, much less gratitude.

Just think about the recent fuss at Oxford University about the statue of Cecil Rhodes, one of the most important figures in the history of colonial Africa. A small but vociferous group of students wanted it removed because, to them, it represented a glorification of colonial oppression, greed and hubris.

Might not a few modern Papua New Guineans feel justified in taking the same view of kiaps?

So, I think that we ex-kiaps should just be content with our recently awarded medals and subside gracefully into history.

Incidentally, the controversy over Cecil Rhodes statue subsided when one of the leading student protestors, apparently without the slightest embarrassment, accepted a Rhodes Scholarship. He really should look up the words irony and hypocrisy in a good dictionary.

When you visit the Stockman's Hall of Fame in Longreach, Queensland the first thing you see is a bronze statue of a Stockman carrying his saddle and looking into the distance. He is actually aligned with a copy of the statue looking in the Northern Territory who looks back (or to?) the statue in Queensland.

These statues celebrate the huge cattle drives that took place in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Sir Sidney Kidman etc.). A subsequent tour of the museum then gives visitors an education about how important the cattle industry was to Australia and how it developed through hard work and effort.

Contrast that with the lack of anything in PNG or Australia that even remotely depicts the work of Kiaps and how they helped bring the PNG people into the Modern Age.

Clearly the Australian cattle industry has far more exposure and publicity than our brief but crucial work on behalf of both PNG and Australia. I understand that almost nothing of PNG's history prior to Independence is currently taught in PNG schools.

Before any attempt is made to set up a bronze statue in the PNG Parliament's foyer, perhaps one should ask about how it would be depicted?

One thing decidedly goes without saying. It would be highly unlikely there would be any duplicate statue in Canberra, looking North and in appreciation of our nearest neighbour.

However, perhaps a joint initiative might yet achieve what many have already commented upon. Recognition of our shared history. After all, even the current PNG PM has a shared history.

It's not a great film Bernard but it has its moments.

Patrolling the border was a regular feature of the kiap's role in the Western and Sepik districts Arthur.

It was a sometimes unnerving job, especially knowing that there were Indonesian paratroopers around with sophisticated weaponry while all you had was a few antique Lee Enfields. The other problem was the indistinct border. The Indonesians were no good (intentionally or otherwise) at reading maps. My son later confirmed this when he got into a skirmish with them in the then East Timor.

Quite a few kiaps had dangerous encounters with Indonesian soldiers. I think Mike Eggleton had a run in with them out of Olsobip and Arthur Marks was fired on at Bensbach because he had some West Papuans in his canoe.

All part of the job.

We were also ex-officio members of the RAN and would be called upon for coast watching if necessary.

Your suggestion about a statue would really stir up a hornet's nest among the old bastards Daniel.

A statue of a typical kiap in any of these locations - the Central Government offices at Waigani, Nature Park, PNG parliament grounds, the National Museum, the APEC Haus currently under construction at Ela Beach would honour the efforts of patrol officers, didimans, masta mark, teachers etc - people who were mainly responsible for opening up the country.

Claret Wars - Harry I knew about this politically sensitive operation against Indonesia only because of two things that had previously interested me.

One was the involvement of the British SAS mentioned in a history of the Regiment and with Wikipedia telling of amazing attempts by UK Govt. to keep it hush-hush, which they did for nine years. Apparently the Australian public only officially knew about it in 1996.

The other was in the equality fight over pensions etc by retired Gurkha. At the battle of Bau on 21 November 1965, during which 24 Indonesians were killed for the loss of three Gurkha.

One of the Gurkha, Lance Corporal Rambahadur Limbu, was later awarded the Victoria Cross - the only such decoration of the conflict.

In 2014 he was still fighting but this time politically when he went to the UK parliamentary committee that was looking into the rights of these brave soldiers who have served the UK for hundreds of years.

Here is a Mar 14 2014 Daily Mail report of his heroic day in 1965:

Almost immediately one of Lance Corporal Limbu's comrades was shot in the stomach as he cocked his machine gun to return fire. Another Gurkha was then shot in the head.

Corporal Limbu quickly hurled a grenade to take out one of the sentries, but soon found himself the target of a hail of machine gun fire.

But rather than diving for cover he picked up the soldier who had been wounded in the stomach and carried him to safety. Then, as the bullets continued to fly, he went back once more for the soldier who had been shot in the head.

Cut off from the rest of the squad he crawled out of cover to grab a machine gun only to find it was broken. So he picked up a rifle and opened fire on the enemy reinforcements that were beginning to arrive, killing several.

The Indonesians went into retreat with the British in pursuit.
At least 24 Indonesians were killed that day while the British lost three men killed and two wounded, one of them seriously.

Bringing it back to PNG I just read online at www.diggerhistory: Australian troops, mainly from the Pacific Islands Regiment, were engaged in intensive patrolling along the only land border between Indonesia and Australian territory – in Papua New Guinea.

While there was only one shooting incident, the demands of patrolling in such difficult terrain imposed a considerable drain on the available pool of Australian officers and NCOs.
Seem to recall some exkiaps were involved at the time.

Of course the era was the time of 'Red peril' mania and the wish to see the Commie in Indonesia removed. With the aid of USA's Kissinger he was along with many hundreds of thousands of alleged commies and the terrible blight of RI history is still under investigation today.

Dear Phil,
I have not seen the On The Road movie but have noticed it is available on you tube. I would imagine the scene is when Sal, Stan and Dean are travelling across Texas to Laredo.
I must watch it tomorrow.

Several years ago whilst visiting Canberra and having a couple of hours to spend I visited the War Memorial

As I neared to end of the historical line of wars Australia has been involved with over the past 120 years and nearing the Vietnam commemorative section I noticed a small alcove with a plaque tribute to the “Claret Wars”.

As I had never hears of this matter I researched to the matter to discover that the Claret Wars referred to military actions undertaken by Australia, NZ and the UK during the early 1960s when Indonesia was endeavouring to expand its sphere of influence in the Malaysian peninsular
Claret was the code name given to operations conducted from about July 1964 until July 1966 from East Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah) across the border in Indonesian Kalimantan during the Indonesian-Malaysian Confrontation.

They were instigated by the Director of Borneo Operations (DOBOPS) Major General Walter Walker with the agreement of the British and Malaysian governments.

Their purpose was to seize the initiative and put the Indonesians on the defensive instead of allowing Indonesian forces to be safely based in Kalimantan attack when and where they chose.

However, it was important not to cause the Indonesians to lose face and possibly escalate the conflict, or to enable Indonesia to present evidence of 'imperialist aggression', so Claret operations were highly classified and never publicised, although it seems that some British journalists were aware of what transpired.

British casualties on Claret operations were publicly reported as being in East Malaysia. Australia and NZ were also involved providing tactical military support to the British.

Claret operations were only publicly disclosed by Britain in 1974, whilst the Australian government did not officially acknowledge its involvement until 1996.

I found this memorial quite touching as it was so understated

The reasons for the lack of publicity given to this matter are unknown but more likely treated that way because it was regarded by politicians as being too sensitive a matter and thus best forgotten.

The similarities between those matters in Malaysia and the conflicts that later occurred along the PNG/West Irian border show strong similarities hence the rather tame very low key response the Australian Government, at that time, responded to frictions along the border of the two countries.

The writer to the subject under discussion hints, perhaps tongue in cheek, on how the important role kiaps played in the development of PNG during those colonial times has, unfortunately post Independence, also been conveniently forgotten by subsequent Australian Governments.

Because the majority of Australians employed by the Territory Government of PNG, pre independence, were kiaps and thus made up the majority of all expatriate public servants working in PNG at that time, their role has tended to overshadow the important role other expatriates in PNG played in the development of modern day PNG.

Perhaps one day some stalwart Historian will take up the issue and have a suitable display created in a Museum.
Nothing fancy just a Diorama depicting a young field office sitting in his aluminium chair at his collapsible table doing his paper work and perhaps holding Court, whilst a adjoining thatched hut shows his rather crudely made bed sleeve, a tilley lamp hanging from the rafters and the kero stove on top of his patrol boxes and of course the obligatory string line holding his saturated clobber trying to dry out and get ready for the next days toil.

Perhaps if such a display ever eventuated I imagine a future young child visiting the Museum might enquire of his/her father.

What all this about, Dad?

To which the reply might be - Dunno! Something about Papua New Guinea I think?

Just to pick up on Phil's point about Papua often missing out - I'd always say I was a gavamani rather than a kiap and explain why.

As the Government Printer, Vince Bloink, as Keith will know, ran a reasonably efficient print factory staffed largely by some handy Hanuabadan printers and finishers.

Vince was an irascible old school kind of chap who railed frequently and justifiably at the Department of Education's practice of using Australian printers, and not his outfit, to produce textbooks and such.

VP Bloink - the name at the foot of every magazine and poster - is also indelibly associated in my mind with those early, exciting days when I was learning the ropes of printing and mass publication - KJ

Did you see the film of 'On the Road' Bernard?

There's a great scene in there where the three of them in the front seat are passing a farmer in a truck.

The closest I ever saw to that scene was Dave Agg on the bus coming in from Kwikila in '67.

If Keith ever sets up an R-rated version of PNG Attitude I'll explain.

As to why the publication was ever compiled and issued I think that's fairly easy to explain. It conformed to early Public Service Risk Management practices that are usually only referred to when something goes wrong.

If some made mistakes it only showed we were human. However there had to be a government publication issued to cover the collective backsides of the Government and those who were in charge to hold junior officers to account if required. I can't ever imagine anyone actually reading these publications and following them like a 'how to' text book.

Most of us either learnt from direct instruction from our seniors or after we had made mistakes. Many mistakes could end up being fatal and sometimes were.

The other teachers were the PNG people we worked with and who we developed an empathy with. Senior Non Commissioned police with many years experience were also a good source of information and instruction.

Notwithstanding, anyone posted to isolated outstations where they had to fend for themselves without any chance of immediate backup of communication with seniors if on patrol had to 'fly by the seat of our pants'.

Anyone who had been able to survive the first two years and was promoted to Patrol Officer level had to develop a sixth sense of what was possible and what wasn't. Also what was ethical (under the circumstances) and what wasn't.

It never took the people long to work out who was worth accepting and who wasn't. Either you had the local people on side or you weren't able to achieve anything.

I find many of the stories and articles by former kiaps enthralling and it resembles the writing of Jack Kerouac, especially Desolation Angels and his time on fire watch in the Cascades in Washington state.
I guess it must have something to do with the isolation

I have had the same experience as Phil and many others. Basically, no-one knows or cares much about what happened a long time ago, in a country far away (actually, not so far away, but well north of Bourke).

We ex-kiaps, didimen, tisa, polis, mastamak and so on, have to get used to the idea that we are mere human fossils, fit only for display in a museum.

We are quaint by products of an era gone by that is now so seriously non-PC that it cannot now be mentioned in polite company.

So, we have survived long enough to go from obscurity to even greater obscurity, which is the usual life trajectory for almost all humans.

Still, we had some great experiences along the way, especially the chance to observe pre-modern PNG and its people in all their fantastic glory.

Not many people can say that.

Some kiaps commanded a capital 'K' and some a lower case 'k'. Tom Ellis, for instance, was a capital 'K'.

I was always a lower case 'k'.

It's strange how 'kiap' looks fine in a sentence whereas 'patrol officer' doesn't, it has to be capitalised.

In my own case, of course, I always demanded the appellation of Teacher Jackson (and later in my career Journalist Jackson) - KJ

If the word Kiap is a noun and correctly designated a PNG government 'official', why do we often downplay our role and ourselves and write it with a lower case 'k'?

Are we still suffering from a case of cultural cringe or is it sheer force of habit?

It is not a proper noun. Also, editorial style guides used by publications, including this one, try to minimise the use of caps which can be a distraction for the reader - KJ

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