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26 July 2017

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I can't imagine Ken McKinnon getting around in a lairy vehicle, Phil: he was far too modest for that sort of display. And you're dead right about Tom Stanley, Richard: always looking like an ersatz kiap - or was he a frustrated brownshirt of the Fascist type? I can't recall whether he had a pipe stuffed into the side of his long socks - but I do remember being reprimanded by a kiap in the Sepik for putting my own pipe into my socks because, as he put it, it was an affectation reserved for kiaps, not humble chalkies.

Tom Ellis had an immaculately clean and polished vehicle, can't recall what brand, maybe a Land Rover, that had a silver Hagen Eagle on the bonnet, an Australian flag fluttering on one mudguard and a siren that could be wound up by hand on the other mudguard so he could slice quickly through crowds.

Not even the administrator had one as grand.

Bet none of the chalkies had such a chariot.

Ed - Was it true and not urban folklore that the Department of Education's Tom Stanley copied Tom Ellis' dress code?

See at the head of Phil's yarn a headshot of Mr Ellis with his tie, shirt and most importantly the epaulettes on the shirt's shoulders. Both of them: shoulders and epaulettes.

Big Tom Stanley used to stump around Moresby and environs in the same get-up. Khaki shirt (with epaulettes), khaki tie, the same colour for baggy shorts and khaki socks. Almost knee high in the Tom S wardrobe.
The socks, that is.

Highly polished brown shoes to finish off the look.

I seem to recall Mr Stanley had once served in Hagen where DC Ellis ruled the roost.
__________

Education story (apocryphal perhaps). Scene: a government boat rocking violently on a journey from Karkar to Madang. A tremulous chalkie addresses an ashen faced District Education Officer Stanley.

Chalkie: Are you going to be all right, Mr Stanley?

Stanley (gurgles): Call me Tom till we get to Madang....

How Tom Ellis got his nickname

The story behind the reference to ‘god’ was told to me by my first OIC who had served in the Western Highlands under legendary District Commissioner Tom Ellis. The story may well have suffered (slightly) from innumerable telling and a few ‘SP’s’ however I offer it for those who haven’t heard it before.

As the story goes, Tom had a habit of glancing upwards. Possibly he wore bifocals, when not performing his public duties? Husat isave?

The first Mt Hagen Show was a forthcoming event driven by Tom. The whole District had been put on notice six months in advance to prepare with all outstation Kiaps getting their ‘Singsing’ groups and exhibits ready for the Show. Special gardens had been planted to feed the hundreds of thousands that might attend. Special accommodation was constructed to house the exhibitors and families who had to travel long distances. In other words it was a Big Deal.

As the day approached, so did the rain. Everyone held their breath that it would be a fine day and the ground wouldn’t be soaked and muddy.

The morning of the Show dawned and the sky looked threatening. Notwithstanding, feathers were preened and face paint applied and kundu skins warmed and ready. Still the rain looked like it would spoil everything.

The show was opened on time by Tom who made a speech reportedly including words to the effect that:
“We certainly hope that rains (glancing upwards), hold off and that everyone (again glancing upwards), will have a great time…..”

Amazingly, the rain held off all day and the Show was a great success.

Came the time to close the Show and again, Tom stood up with his closing words being something like this: “We certainly were glad (glancing upwards), that the rain held off (glancing upwards again), and that everyone enjoyed the day (glancing upwards again)…”

At that point, the heavens opened and the rain poured down.

After that, the word went around those attending that Tom had a firm understanding with ‘You know who’.

Why, they’d seen it in action, hadn’t they?

Well said, Paul. I agree.

As you’ll know, Phil, Tom Ellis’s reputation as an omniscient, omnipresent being had currency well beyond the Western Highlands. You’ll remember also, probably, that, during his tenure as DDA director in Port Moresby, stickers of the car bumper type circulated throughout the city announcing that ‘god is not dead: he is alive and living in Konedbu’ – a reference to the god is dead debate doing the rounds internationally at the time, and the subject of a famous Time magazine cover: the first time it did not feature a human image.

I was told that ‘god’ was not capitalized, as is/was customary, in order to avoid any charge of blasphemy.

When I was at Mount Hagen, the District Commissioner was Richard Ian Skinner MC. He was generally referred to as "R.I." which the uninitiated thought were the initials of his Christian names, Richard Ian. But no, R.I. stood for Rex Imperator - the King Emperor - because this is how he governed the Western Highlands, just as if it was his own empire. He was diligent, dedicated and demanding, and he exuded such an awesome aura of command that the planters always called him "Mister Skinner" and his staff always addressed him as "Sir." The Western Highlanders called him "Number one Kiap" because that is exactly what he was - the number one of all kiaps. Those of us who knew him, will always remember him as the best of all Kiaps and the most eminent of all our District Commissioners.

While it may seem to PNG’s younger generation rather quaint that we almost eulogise our former bosses it should be remembered that we all formed part of a team. The team’s objective was to effectively manage (administer), a small country of three million people. We had at the time about 250 members of our team operating rural outstations where 97% of the PNG people lived.

For those younger than 42 years of age, our team was responsible to the House of Assembly and the Administrator for the running of the country. We were and could be held responsible for what we did (or didn’t do), and accountable if our station finances weren’t properly run and balanced every time we submitted a return.

While there may have been some instances that should never of happened, mostly we had the best interests of the PNG people at heart. When in the early 70’s we started to convey the ‘party line’ that we were going to leave, many pleaded with us to stay, at least for many years to come.

The graft and corruption that apparently is now accepted as institutionalised, was not then accepted. Firearms were restricted and mostly only annually licensed single barrel shotguns were allowed to be owned. Police were respected and ensured that the law in turn was respected.

There was every expectation that while this situation would continue, PNG people could look forward to an increasingly bright future.

The dark cloud on the horizon was that most of us could see that our brand of government was held together by an ‘Esprit de corps’ that would disappear along with us when we departed.

That knowledge still burns within many of us today. If younger PNG people possibly wonder why we bother to continue to think and write about PNG, try and understand how you might feel if you had walked in our boots.

If some readers now find our ever decreasing numbers somewhat tiresome in both outlook and age, remember, if it wasn’t for those small band of men and those others who were part of what was known as the ‘gavaman’, things would have been very different today.

The rules in place today stem from our time. The fact that many in high places now seem to intentionally bend the rules without any retribution is as incomprehensible to us as our time now seems to those who never experienced it.

Phil,
I remember Mick Foley in Hagen. Tom Ellis was already in POM but his name lived on. As you note, Mick Foley's daughter Kerry died in an accident. It was July 1980 and the plane carrying the Premier of Southern Highlands, Mr. Andaija, was missing in the Tari Gap. Kerry Foley had volunteered to go in another plane to try and spot possible wreckage. While the plane was still on the ground in Kagamuga with the pilot revving the engine, Kerry somehow walked into or was hit by the propeller and killed. Very sad.

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