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15 September 2014


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One correction to this account.

In the Conclusion, we wrote “(Costelloe had been in Chimbu since at least 1943)”.
This is an error. We know that Costelloe had been in Chimbu in 1943 (from McInerney’s diary, and from (accessed 28 June 2015). However, between 1943 and early 1946 he was away on ANGAU duties in other parts of the country, including Bougainville, Rabaul and Lae. He returned to Chimbu, presumably after discharge from ANGAU, as Assistant District Officer, sometime in 1946 (later than April when he was still in Rabaul with ANGAU). In a memoir note in 2008, Harry West wrote that:
“I was discharged from the army in Lae in March 1946 and was soon back in the highlands where Medical Assistant Gray Hartley and myself under Assistant District Officer Jack Costelloe looked after the whole of what is now the Chimbu Province. Most of it was classified uncontrolled and tribal fighting was rampant.” (“Musings of a District Commissioner”. THE MAIL THE ASOPA - PNG NEWSLETTER Number 125 – July 2008, (accessed 27 June 2015)).

Robin Hide

This is a vivid and illuminating contribution to the debate on this topic. It demonstrates that the information Mathias Kin has gathered is, at the very least, broadly consistent with the material independently gathered by Dr Hide et al.

The combined impact of the reported widespread tribal fighting and the subsequent police action must have resulted in a very large death toll, as reported by Mathias Kin.

It remains unclear if ADO Costelloe was actually there at the time when the police intervened in the fighting. Even if he wasn't, it seems hard to believe that he would not have found out about events subsequently.

It may be that we will never know for sure simply because of the ambiguous nature of the evidence.

On the face of it, this exceptionally ugly incident ranks with some of the more extreme behaviour of Charles Monckton in the early 1900's. The reported police action was, by any reasonable assessment, disproportionate and unjustified.

Thank you Dr R L Hide for this very rather sad (very much to me) account of your work among the Numai, Dinga and Dom people.

The people of Numai, Dom, Gunage and Dinga are closely related to my people in Sua (Keri tribe), even to this day.

They intermarry and trade but most importantly the Salt baked by my people at Pleme (Waghi) was the major factor which pulled other tribes of Simbu closer to my people.

This killing had stayed with me since my childhood in the late 1960s. For a fair argument, my father Mikal Nime Nul (son of Nul mentioned in Hides document here who was later made Luluai by Costelloe) is still alive today and claims "Holteru" was there on that fateful day. He saw him.

Costello hid this killing well. His "rest house" and the site he planted the "tankit" is Deri, my village.

Fr A Schaefer SVD was referring to another incident among the Kipaku (Golen) people at Dirima opposite the Catholic Church, some 15 kilometres up valley from Sua.

This Dirima incident took place some months before the Sua incident.

Thank you for sharing this information.

Cheers olgeta wantok.

Hi Robin and Carol - Nice to hear from you again after a long time.

Your work in recording the history and culture of the Niami tribe and other tribes in the SinaSina and Gumine areas will continue to be of value for future generations.

If you can remember, I am Karl Kora Aina the son of Aina Kora (Interpreter). You can contact me by email on

I am a regular reader of PNG Attitude and I wish to thank Keith Jackson and all the contributors for your wonderful and interesting stories to read every day.

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