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The sad story of the colonial massacre of Golen Keri, Simbu

Kiap in south Simbu, early 1950sMATHIAS KIN

I grew up listening to stories of an Australian Administration patrol that killed my people at Warasua in south Simbu in 1947 (1).

After university, and seeing these killings against the perspective of today’s morals and principles, I became angry that modern day humans of Anglo-Celtic descent could be so barbaric.

This story is included in a history of Simbu I am working on, which I hope will come out by the end of 2014.

In Simbu, there are many stories of the killings of highlanders by the early kiaps and their policemen. Prospectors also killed many highlanders, although these encounters are usually not documented. And, in the Chimbu Valley, Catholic missionaries killed some tribesmen in self-defence.

Surprisingly, these killings did not seem to trouble the cultured white men back then as they might today. These Australians seem did not hold indigenous people’s lives to be of great value.

They presumably claimed racial superiority and were here to teach primitive highlanders better ways. A few dead natives were OK. They even killed for the stealing of a cheap knife.

In many situations, outnumbered by many thousand natives and on foreign soil thousands of kilometers from authority and support, these Australians may have been left with few choices. They had to demonstrate their authority and the power of their weapons.

To medieval highlanders, killing and being killed had been a way of life for centuries. Seeing a few tribesmen go down was nothing new.

But these Australians, by the essence of their premeditated acts, were murderers, and worse than the tribesmen they were killing.

Michael Leahy’s magnificent collection of photographs never showed images of the natives he killed. These white people were the only ones who could record the events they were responsible for and many were never reported to authorities. Or, if they were, they were understated and hid the truth. These Australians got away without being punished.

On the first Taylor-Leahy patrol through the Wahgi area in April 1933, in one incident three men were shot dead. Taylor himself reported that he shot over their heads and the natives ran away. Leahy did not mention the incident at all.

In their book First Contact, Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson quote surviving people of that area as confirming that the three people died. Taylor later conceded he did not usually report shootings. He believed the killings were unavoidable and the outside world would find it difficult to understand. He thought it best not to mention them.

Taylor impressed this on his subordinates and many killings in Simbu were never reported. My interviews of the tribesmen from the area uncovered many killings as a result of encounters with kiap patrols. We modern Simbus never knew these had occurred.

Just last month when I interviewed them, the people of Kimba clan were still grieving over the shooting of Ate Nolkal 80 years ago.

The killings at Kumul by Assistant District Officer Kyle and his policemen were understated. The Chimbu valley punitive expeditions by Taylor, J Black, Danny Leahy, Allan Roberts and others after the killing of the two Catholic Divine Word missionaries were not fully investigated at the time.

The unprovoked massacre at Dirima was fully (and privately) researched and captured in the book.

Here I tell of the massacre at Warasua.

And I write of all of these killing in the history I am working on.

In 1933 the proud Simbu tribes would never allow other aggressive people through their territory unless they were invited.

The European patrols were large parties of usually more than 50 people. The Taylor-Leahy patrol had more than 100 and other attendant tribesmen could inflated the number to well over 200.

Attacks on these interlopers were within the rules. Warfare had been part of our culture for centuries. The lure of white men’s cargo was an incentive but not the only reason.

The Simbus never stood a chance against the superior weapons of these invaders. Hundreds of tribesmen, including women and children, were killed before they understood the power of the shiny and deadly sticks.

I reproduce here the story of the killing of my people by Assistant District Officer Jack Costello and his policemen at Suanule (Sua Creek).

My fathers (2) confirmed it was Holtoru and not Jim Taylor or another person. When I mentioned the name Costello, they agreed; “owoo Holtoru!” (yes, Costello!).

My father, Raphael Kin Hobel, was a hausboi for some months for these people and knew the character Costello well. Costello sometimes sent my father to bring his cousin sister Mege to sleep with him.

I know the story well but for good measure I confirmed all the information with my fathers Raphael Kin Hobel, Mikal Nime Nul and Bane Bayal, all of the Keri tribe. From the Golen tribe I also interviewed old Sime Kora of the Egeku clan and Nehamakumel of the Mlaku clan.

This is the account told to me by my father, Mikal Nime Nul:

“……Our Golen Keri people were still fighting. Holtoru and his policemen came from the direction of Gunange across the Pleme (Wahgi) and to Sua. They came and lined up in the middle there [pointing], some looked towards the Golen and some looked towards us. At that time we did not know the power of the white men gun yet.

“They pointed their sticks and suddenly, bang, bang, bang, everywhere! Golen and Keri men were falling everywhere, plenty, plenty, not a little! Some were even shot in the protection of their shields. Your grandfather (who was the lead warrior and chief of our tribe) fell into a ditch up there [pointing] with his shield attempting to run.

“I was a little over there. Luckily he stayed down with his shield on top. I thought he had been shot so I ran down into Suanule below (gully). I had told our family who had run away into the gully also of the killing of Nul Haralsunga [his father] and others. However later we were surprised he was still alive. Two women were also killed. It was a big thing. Some people we did not locate their bodies until many days later.”

Mikal Nime Nul continued:

“….Then they went up to Mul and Bokil and shot some people there. In our tribal fights there are not so many deaths. Sometimes we do not kill leaders or family friends or in-laws. This killing of the red men completely wiped out my people. We should have taken them to court at the time but we were still bush kanakas so we did nothing. Now it is too late.”

Far from the fighting site at Sua, the policemen chased the people in the valley for kilometers in both directions to kill them. Raphael Kin Hobel and Mikal Nime Nul gave the names of the tribesmen shot. Altogether 23 able fighting men of their tribe, two women and a child were shot.








Maima Bane



More On



Kobil Sawa



Maima Aba



Baku Gurabe



Kuri’s wife









Demere Bospe



Dua Din



Kene Maima






KeneMaima’s wife



Kobil Kumaire



Marme Bospe



Tine Pariaiyal



Marme Duyal






Kuiwa Gi



Ubaina Gran



Kobil Are



Yoba Dengaba



Nime Bi



Miaba Kumel



Aule Bone



Kuri’s son


On the same fateful day, 10 able fighting men, one women and a child from the Golen tribe were also killed.

Old Sime Kora provided this account and the names of those who died:

Holtoru and his policemen shot all our people. They were shot everywhere here. Some we did not see their body until two or three days later. The people from my Egeku clan were here. Kora Kummel was shot there near that rock. He was holding his four year old son in his arms when he was shot.

“After Kora fell, his child who had fallen with his father was crying so wildly the policemen picked up him up and swung him against a big boulder smashing his head killing him instantly. Bomai Ninkama, Bill Ninkama’s (3) grandfather, was shot up there. When Bomai fell, Ginbol Ninkama, his son rushed in with his shield to save his father, but he was also shot. His whole arm was blown off. He lived for four days and also died. Teman was also shot near here.

“The Melaku clansmen shot were Sulkumel, Bogi and one other women. From the Neraku clan Kumai and Guimelenonga were shot. From the Kunareku clan, Molikumel and Maimakumel were shot. They the men were really pained inside that our men were shot dead finish by the Semelnen (policemen).

“But we did not believe white men could shoot women and break a child’s head on rocks. In our fights children and women we do not harm. Also in our fights we sometimes do not kill some people. This kiap and policemen killed anyone and everyone. Today we know the white are not bad but that man Holtoru was the devil.”

After this shooting the policemen stayed in my village in Deri for many months to ensure peace and control was established after such horrifying acts. Hausboi Raphael Kin Hobel was used to collect water and firewood for Costello and his men. He remembers the names of all these policemen and where they came from:



Place of origin



Place of origin











Agiwera (Yegiora)


















Kuri Hausunga








In this incident, 34 able tribesmen, two women and two children of the Keri and Golen tribes were massacred. This Australian, Costello, did not report the shootings. There was nobody else at the time who could have written of this terrible incident.

But my fathers remember this shooting very well. How would they ever forget such a calamitous event?

Today, as their son, I am writing so my children and other outsiders know of this terrible event.


(1) Fr Alphonse Schaefer, the first missionary into the area, makes reference to this shooting in his book, The Cassowary on the Mountain. He visited the area in 1947 and heard of the shootings by a Mr Costello and his policemen. It is possible, however, that they occurred in 1946.

(2) In true Simbu culture, it is polite to take all uncles and kin as fathers. Bane Bayal died a very old man in 1998. Raphael Kin Hobel died at a very respectable age of more than 100 years in 2012. Nime Nul is blind and alive today in Sua. He is more than 100 years old. Nehamakumel of the Mlaku clan also died a very old man in 2009. Sime Kora still lives in Sua with his grandchildren. 

(3) Bill Ninkama was Gumine member of parliament for two terms between 1982 and 1992. Prior to that, his father, Ninkama Bomai, was also a two-term member for Gumine from 1972 to 1977. Bomai Ninkama was Ninkama Bomai’s father.

Photograph: Old people say this is the man Costello but I am not sure. They recognise the policemen. This picture was taken by the SDA Missionary Gilmore who was based at Boromil Gumine in the 1950s.


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Mathias Kin

Fr Garry, I cannot be sure about the Buri or Burei. This is how old Kin Raphael told it. But I shall try to find out and let you know.

Garry Roche

Matthias, I notice you list a 'Buri' from Hagen among the policemen. Buri is of course a common Hagen name and he may indeed have been from Hagen.

Another possibility is that it was Burei - a policeman from Mussau Island who was stationed in Hagen back in 1942 and who was probably involved in the Kum River Massacre in 1942.

Mathias Kin

Good evening, Samuel Yule, thank you for your comment.

There was another killing at Dirima near today's Catholic church which had also been well researched and covered in our recent history book 'My Chimbu'.

Other killings also covered in the book are the August 1933 killings at Waingar near Mingende and another big killing in the Chimbu Valley in February 1935 when the famous discoverer Assistant District Officer (ADO) James (Jim) Taylor was in charge on both occasions.

Chapter 4 of our history book contains all the killing stories of both Europeans and indigenous Chimbu people in these first contact times as Europeans invaded and tried to control the Chimbu people.

Samuel Yure

Dear friends, I would like to comment Mr Kin for his wonderful research into uncovering some of the most important parts of our history.

Thomas K Ninkama

Thank you Mathias Kin for recording this piece of history that was not recorded by the colonial Administration.

Indeed this event was the most tragic event in our family history because of the fact that we have lost our grandfather Bomai Ninkama and uncle Ginbol Bomai.

Myself and my other siblings grew up without seeing our grandfather. We were only told of the event by our father Ninkama Bomai.

The most unfortunate thing that happened in our family is our uncle Ginbol's wife Bagi conceived a daughter who never knew his father and his daughter was adopted by our father as his own elder daughter.

The daughters name is Dorcas Ginbol Ninkama and she has two children and the elder son is an educationist teaching at Kiminiga High School in Western Highlands, his name is Bob Bill Kuglame.

The graves of these two family members are testament to the piece of history you are recording. Well done, MK.

Liz Warwick

I am Bill Sippo's daughter and I have just found this page. I am currently transcribing his original diaries and patrol records as I find them with the idea of putting everything together for his grandchildren.

Before linking the name of a genuinely ethical and moral man to a massacre, I would request that someone contact me with a list of exact dates and places these crimes took place so I can attempt to find out where my father was at those times.

Philip Kai Morre

Mathias Kin did a good job by reporting what has happen during the colonial era. He is more objective, searching on what people honestly told him. He does not make up stories. History deal with facts and can be verified by written documents or oral testimony.

Early missionaries and kiaps are anthropologists, ethnographers and linguists and they report every major events weather good or bad. You can not hide a truth, the truth at the end will always reveal it self. I am told by my grand father that many killing going on in South Simbu in the 1940s and he did mentioned few policemen from my area who are responsible plus their kiaps. I don't want to call their names.

Chris Overland

I want, somewhat belatedly, to take up a point raised by Geoffrey Luck in his post of 30 September.

He uses a quote from one of my posts to infer that my comments about the lamentable treatment of Aboriginal people was based largely upon the oral histories related in the "Bringing Them Home" report.

For the record, this is not so. While I am quite certain that many Aboriginal people, several of whom I have met, were greatly affected by being taken from their parents as related in that report, my comment was stimulated more by various well documented accounts of what was done to Aboriginal people in the 19th century.

That they were subjected to arbitrary dispossession, assault and murder is not seriously disputed by any credible historian. What is in dispute is the extent to which this occurred.

Until recently, this was simply either ignored or glossed over in discussing Australia's history.

While very bad things undoubtedly were done to Aboriginal people, I think that some of the claims made about their mistreatment are overblown rhetoric, an example of folklore becoming the facts.

Rhetoric and reality have become blurred together and erroneous conclusions can be and have been drawn.

For example, one such conclusion seems to be that only Aboriginal children were removed from their parents when, in fact, this was a fairly common practice in the case of "at risk" children across the wider community.

Similarly, I think that Mathias Kin is unwise to uncritically accept stories of the distant past, some relayed second or third hand, as reflecting the absolute and unvarnished truth.

This does not mean that he is entirely incorrect, just that oral histories tend to become distorted over time.

Human memory is a strange and mercurial thing and always needs to by viewed with a degree of scepticism in the absence of solid corroborating evidence.

We live in an age when many people strive to present themselves as "victims", often so as to absolve themselves from making a mess of their lives.

For these people especially, their memories becoming highly selective in ways that validate their need for "victimhood".

I am not saying that this is the case for all people who claim to have been victimised in some way. Clearly, many have been treated unjustly.

However, we need to keep in mind that it is a human tendency for people to filter memories to provide a narrative that fits a their view of themselves and their lives.

This is why all historians need to be regarded as potentially unreliable reporters of the "truth" which, as Oscar Wilde famously said, is seldom pure and never simple.

Phil Fitzpatrick

A letter arrived today from Anne Sippo, the widow of Bill Sippo, regarding the identity of the kiap in the photograph.

She says: "My apologies for taking so long to reply to your letter. I have just found it in a file of previously unreplied-to correspondence.

"My daughter and I have looked at the photograph very carefully, even resorting to a magnifying glass, and we are pretty certain that the man in the photo is not Bill. Somehow the jawline isn’t right. However, I wouldn’t swear to it.

"I would be more certain though that Bill would never have been involved in any of the atrocities (whether true or not) which are mentioned in the article. Bill was a pacifist, and liked and respected the native people.

"We were only at Chimbu for a short period before moving on to Hagen and I would certainly have been aware of such a terrible happening during his tenure.

"Bill enjoyed his work and was very sad to leave PNG. I have found some letters from local people expressing their thanks and appreciation for things he had done for them."

Geoffrey Luck

For someone with a long interest in PNG but no share in the work of district administration, I find this discussion not only fascinating, but very worthwhile.

A couple of points leap out, however. First, the danger of abstracting from specific instances to generalisation about what went on in patrol work.

In my time in PNG (1957-1967) I saw patrolling at vastly different levels - from first contact to regular census patrols. Even early years of contact produced quite different experiences in different areas. In my time for example, there were the Telefolmin murders of patrol officers and at the other end, the first patrol (in the Asaro Valley) to be led by a native patrol officer (Ted Diro). Isolated instances of misbehaviour, however reprehensible cannot be abstracted to condemn the kiap administration. Too many journalists and historians in Australia would like to do so.

Second, the problem of relying on aural history uncorroborated from other sources. Chris Overland's comment: "Australia's own lamentable record (at least, until recently) in acknowledging how badly Aboriginal people were treated is a glaring example of this." provides a perfect warning. The sensational "report" Bringing Them Home, on the so-called Stolen Generations demonstrated the distortions that could occur when an emotionally-involved commissioner relied on verbal accounts, stigmatising a whole paternalistic system..

Matthias' revelations from his family accounts is not the story (not if he wants to be taken seriously as an historian). His work is just beginning, requiring much more research and cross-checking. This dialogue has shown he is to be commended and encouraged, but should have learned it is not enough to write history taken at face value.

One other point - I am surprised that nobody pounced on the claim of one thousand warriors shot down. This is patently impossible without a Vickers gun or two. The slaughter would have exceeded the death toll in many serious skirmishes in European wars, indeed in some decisive battles.

Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin

The descendants of the Jews and the Nazis, the Japs and the Uncle Sam, Abos and the Poms do not carry on the homicides, murders and massacres, even though it is still vivid in memory and written for all to see.

In PNG whatever happened is history and we have to record for the future generation even though the exact iota of events are lost in the vault of unwritten history.

Mathias Kin, I don't see any repercussions to your work, just write it for the future.

Mathias Kin

Des Martin - May I repeat here? Symons was not involved in the Sua incident. He and Costello were involved in another in the Jimi Valley to the north over the Bismarck range. Please read my post of 7/9/14, the one before yours.

Fr Schaefer SVD had his say in his book "The Cassowary on the Mountain".

Rev William Bergmann also made comments on the killings when he visited Omkolai station (across from Dirima and Sua) regularly between 1934 until the war and then after he returned from his internment in Australia, when he continued his visits to Omkolai.

Both made comments.

I find these discussions very interesting especially all your discussion and/or defences.

In essence, perhaps we are digging up a grave that we should not? something "tabu"?

This is the impetus I need, my friends.

Des Martin

Chris Overland's comments in his post of 06 September tell it all. Well said Chris.

Whether pre or post WW2, no Kiap would have been stupid enough not to report a clash with locals even if no casualties occurred because sooner or later the event would be reported by missionaries or gossip. Indeed that is how the Craig Symons' incident surfaced.

How such reports were handled at HQ is another question. If the patrol had been attacked and lethal force had been used the Kiap would most likely be exonerated but the records will show that some were charged.

Obviously clashes were seen from two different perspectives. The "they said, we said" situation and although I respect Mathias Kin's efforts in searching his history, he and others are relying on second hand hearsay evidence as those he refers to are long gone.

I think my post of 01 September is relevant.

Mathias Kin

All friends, I was born in mid 1966, only 19 years after the incident here in my village. (By the way I am writing now standing on the very spot, Warasua, where Costello and others downed 37 innocent people.)

In the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and even 1990s, there were a lot more people in the know from the 1930s and 1940s than there are today in 2014.

So this story had never been new to me. I have grown up with it. To put a book on the history of Simbu together, I went out looking for information from other parts of Simbu and I found information on other killings.

Chris Overland

It seems that I have apparently become the de facto main "defensive" contributor to this lively debate.

There seems to be an inference in Phil's latest post that I and others may represent what might be called "atrocity deniers" amongst the remaining band of kiaps. This notion is quite wrong.

After leaving PNG I took a degree in history at Flinders University of South Australia. During my studies it was drummed into me that good historians went in search of hard, verifiable facts upon which to base their interpretations of history.

Oral history was and is regarded as useful but not definitive information unless it can be supported by other verifiable records and material.

Just because a thing is commonly believed and has been repeated many times does not mean that it is true.

By the same token, a historian has to be mindful that written history tends to reflect the views of the "winners' and thus must be regarded as potentially self serving by either commission or omission.

In this case, all I am really saying is that Mathias Kin's work, while clearly reflecting the honestly held beliefs of those he interviewed, is not, of itself, sufficiently robust evidence to conclude that there were many examples of unjustified, extra judicial killings by kiaps.

His response is to say that he has further evidence that he chooses not to publish at the moment.

As an historian (not an ex-kiap), my response to this is to say that he cannot reasonably expect me or anyone else to uncritically accept his conclusions in the absence of such additional evidence.

That said, the material related to the Craig Symons' case does, at a bare minimum, cause me to think that there may be other examples of such behaviour that may have been suppressed.

In short, there is at least some circumstantial evidence that lends credence to the stories he has collected.

This is not denial, just reasonable concern about building a good case for his central proposition that such behaviour was a wide spread phenomenon, not just a few sporadic incidents.

I am not interested in defending the collective "honour' of ex-kiaps. What I am interested in is ensuring that any history of PNG (or elsewhere for that matter) actually reflects the facts in so far as they can be known and understood.

History is replete with examples of where folk lore has been elevated to the status of "truth", often to avoid having to acknowledge or accept real but unpalatable truths.

Australia's own lamentable record (at least, until recently) in acknowledging how badly Aboriginal people were treated is a glaring example of this.

I reiterate my strong support for what Mathias Kin is doing, but he needs to do quite a bit more to persuade me, as a "professional" historian, that he has incontrovertible proof to back his central thesis in this case.

I look forward to a further exposition of his work, including the material currently being withheld.

If there is solid evidence of the widespread unjustified use by kiaps of extra judicial killings, especially involving women and children, then I will be very quick to condemn such actions in the strongest possible terms.

Phil Fitzpatrick

The collection of oral histories from pre-literate societies is a well established methodology which has been in existence at least since the advent of modern anthropology in the 1920s. Mathias Kin is simply applying the same methodology and his data collection is impressive.

Like history, oral history is always subject to interpretational bias. Chris, I'm not sure that you are referring to Mathias' work or the comment by Jimmy when you say: "....there is not a shred of verifiable evidence to support this claim. It is strictly hearsay evidence...."

Jimmy's comment is manifestly unreasonable but Mathias presents a very well argued case.

Resort to the "facts" as they are represented in the literature and archival sources, which some of the commentators seem to swear by, also have to be taken in context.

Good researchers long ago realised that reliance on "facts" can often be fraught. The attempted cover up in the Symond's affair is a case in point with the official versions much coloured by the colonial policy of the time.

What surprises me most however is the vehemence with which the respondents to Mathias' article have demonstrated.

It comes across almost like an orchestrated denial and is most disappointing. Protestations like that tend to point to guilt.

On the other hand, comments like the one by Jimmy, are extremely unhelpful and simply serve to muddy the waters.

There is nothing at stake here. The "honour" of the kiaps is not an issue. Their good work far outweighs any effects of isolated incidents of violence.

The last thing we need to do is discourage people like Mathias.

Mathias Kin

Great morning, Chris Overland and friends.

I have other material that I won't post here to indulge further.

Symons went north over the North Wall (Bismarck Range) from Kerowagi into Jimi, now the province of Jiwaka, and not south over the Kubor Range into Gumine. So that story rests for now.

There are no reports on the Sua killing. I repeat that there was an "understanding" among the kiaps that these killings were unavoidable and that if the killings were reported outsiders would find it somewhat hard to digest. So they thought it best not to report as it really happened.

The killing at Warasua is no lie. I would invite any adventurous heart to come for few days up here and I can take you to my father Mikal Nime Nul in Sua.

Bill Ninkama and John Nilkare have been contacted. Ambassador Aiwa Olmi will comment on another killing in the same valley among his people.

Though I don't intend to go down that academic PhD track, I have materials that can add further flames to this already burning issue.

We must not discount oral accounts of incidents by old surviving people from the 1940s like my father.

Also, we do need to take further action to verify if such atrocities took place.

I have done just that and thus I brought this information into the open.

I am sure there are other 'angry' people out there who will come out also. I believe I have opened a can of worms.

Thank you, olgeta wantok.

Des Martin

Chris Overland's latest post on 06 September says it all. Well said Chris.

Chris Overland

Mr Jimmy Awagl has posted: "Disgrace to read the history that kiaps are murderers, for we have facts that prove."

With all due respect to Mathias Kin's entirely praiseworthy efforts to collect an oral history of PNG, what he has is a series of unverified claims about extra-judicial killings, some of which are attributed to a former kiap who is now dead and thus in no position to give his version of events.

With respect to the role of kiaps what can be said with certainty is that, during the initial exploration of PNG by the Australian administration, there were clashes that resulted in the deaths of local warriors. There are many well documented instances of this.

Also, it is quite clear that at least some kiaps, especially in the pre-World War 2 period, were perfectly willing to resort to their rifles as and when they judged necessary, even to an extent that created unease amongst the senior colonial officers. CAW Monckton and Jack Hides would, I think, fall within this category.

After World War 2, as Des Martin has previously mentioned, there was a conscious effort to discourage resort to force unless the kiap judged that he and his patrol were in mortal danger. Also, it was made quite clear to officers that they could expect to have to answer for such actions in the Supreme Court.

I have no idea how many people died in such clashes. The records doubtless exist somewhere if there is, say, a PNG PhD student willing and able to take up the task of finding out.

That there were at least some unjustifiable killings I have no doubt at all. The case of Craig Symons appears to be exactly such a situation. Also, I was told that immediately after World War 2, a number of Papua New Guineans known to have collaborated with the Japanese were summarily executed. In the chaotic and bitter aftermath of such a bloody and dreadful war, this is not totally surprising.

However, while administration officials might have been willing (with obvious reluctance) to not pursue a case such as that of Craig Symons, I do not believe for one minute that (using on example quoted by Mathias Kin) the death of 26 people, including women and children, would or could have passed unreported.

Right now, there is not a shred of verifiable evidence to support this claim. It is strictly hearsay evidence and while it might be a basis for further research it is no basis at all for concluding that all kiaps are murderers.

Most kiaps never fired a shot in either anger or fear. To put it bluntly, there sheer scale and power of western technology was so overwhelming that most people simply acquiesced to the imposition of colonial rule, especially with its emphasis on peace keeping and the rule of law.

Mathias Kin has done sterling work in collecting the oral history of Simbu people. It is very important that any history of PNG includes the experiences of ordinary Papua New Guineans.

However, claims of large scale extra judicial killings need to be backed up by something more than hearsay. Even if only a few examples can be verified in some way, this will add a great deal of weight to the material collected.

In the meantime, it would be wise to withhold judgement on what role kiaps might have played in such incidents rather than blithely label them as murderers.

Jimmy Awagl

Great not to cheat the truth, since the comment reveals the truth of killings in Wara Sua in Gumine.

Disgrace to read the history that kiaps are murderers, for we have facts that prove.

Phil Fitzpatrick

Bill Sippo died in February this year. His wife Ann is still alive and she might be able to identify the person in the photograph.

Phil Fitzpatrick

It seems that the identity of the kiap in the photograph is probably W.G. Sippo. He shows up in the staff list for 1968 as being in DDA headquarters Port Moresby but by 1973 he's not there.

Perhaps Robin Hide should link up with Mathias, they could be a great help to each other.

Mathias Kin

Harry Topham and others, truths will be told. Everything that goes up must come down. What goes around comes around!

Harry Topham

It is encouraging to see that some one from PNG is finally interested enough to take an interest in PNG’s colonial history to record those events from an insider’s viewpoint.

However I hope that the results are recorded in an objective and factual manner and any subjectivity associated with the writer’s close connection with the subject is avoided.

No easy task as when one embarks on compiling family histories, human nature being what is, can sometimes lead the researcher into discovering dark secrets that cannot easily be accepted nor reconciled.

Looking backwards through history when using rose coloured glasses can sometimes afflict the reader with that common complaint of myopicism.

Bill Brown

Mathias, If the colour photo that appears with your story was taken in the 1950s, the kiap that appears in it cannot be Costello.

J.A. Costello is recorded in the Staff Postings list of 14 September 1948. He had left New Guinea, and was on leave.

(In the same staff postings, the Chimbu Sub-district staff were recorded as acting Assistant District Officer J E Wakeford and Patrol Officer Sippo. John Wakeford is not in the photo.)

The Staff Postings of 17 November 1948 record Costello's resignation. He resigned some time in the previous month while absent from New Guinea on leave. He did not return to New Guinea.

Mathias Kin

Des Martin, your knowledge of the types of garments worn by the different police people at the time is good. This kiap may not be Costello, but it is not in Papua. It is a picture taken in the Gumine Valley.

It was taken by SDA Pastor Gilmore (New Zealander) who came to Yani (Gumine Simbu) in early 1950s.

The policemen are recognized by my interviewees as the men who hang out with Taylor and Costello.

Des Martin

I have some reservations about the above photo being relative to the post by Mathias Kin.

The unarmed person in the centre is wearing the uniform of a Papuan Hanuapolis, i.e., the government appointed village constable roughly equivalent to the Luluai in New Guinea.

The village constable's uniform was similar to that worn by pre-World War II Papuan police.

Also the armed policeman on the left of the photo is wearing the blue serge sulu which, with a serge blouse was the Papuan police issue uniform which later became general issue for both forces.

However early post-war the New Guinea police were still wearing khaki and it took some time before the old style Papuan uniform became general issue.

To my eyes the scene illustrates a routine census being conducted in a Papuan village by the Kiap who remains unidentified with the village constable acting as interpreter and not in the Central Highlands of New Guinea.

Mathias Kin

Hi Bill - The photo of the kiap was certainly in the Gumine area and taken around the time. It could be another kiap. But my father Raphael recognised Costello's policemen in the picture.

Michael - Thanks bro, sometimes truths are hard to digest, but truth shall prevail.

Robin Hide

Some further (see Phil Fitzpatrick’s post) information about Costelloe, in response to Chris Overland’s comment that:

“I have been unable to find any material dealing with the activities of a Jack Costello. For example, no such officer is mentioned in James Sinclair's book "Kiap", which contains probably the definitive account of the exploratory era in the highlands of PNG.

"Also, I cannot find any reference to a Jack Costello on any of the Staff Lists published on the Ex-kiaps website".

In David Dexter’s (1961) The New Guinea Offensives (Canberra), Captain Costelloe is described (p. 241) as the ANGAU representative in Chimbu and one of his 1943 reports is quoted. He is footnoted as Maj. J. A. Costelloe, NGX395, NGVR, and ANGAU, with a birthdate of 5 Aug. 1906.

While James Sinclair may not mention him in his “Kiap” book, he does note his actions re the Kouno affair as ADO in Chimbu in 1947 in his book about the Coffee Industry (Sinclair 1995, The Coffee Tree, p. 71).

Other mentions of Costelloe’s wartime/immediate post-war role in Chimbu are given in:

Fulton, T. 2005. No Turning Back: a memoir. Canberra, Pandanus Books.

Nilles, J. 1987. They went out to sow: The beginning of the work of the Catholic Mission in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, 1933-1943. Analecta SVD 62. Rome, Apud Collegium Verbi Divini.

Scheps, L. 1995. “Chimbu participation in the Pacific War”. Journal of Pacific History, 30(1), 76-86.

At least one of Costelloe’s patrol reports is held in archives: (e.g. Kundiawa, Special Report 2,1947/48.

And for those of a literary and historical bent, Costelloe has an important part in Mama Kuma’s life, as recounted by her grand-daughter Deborah Carlyon (2002) "Mama Kuma: one woman, two cultures". University of Queensland Press.

When the Costelloe family transfers from Kundiawa to Lae, they take Kuma and her child by another Australian ANGAU officer with them.

Mathias Kin's account is most interesting, and I'll search my files of early 1970s interviews in Sinasina amongst which I recall there was at least one description of the event that he recounts.

Bill Brown

Apologies for being a pest (again) but one of your readers is giving me stick because the link that I posted to the Kituai story does not work.

My fault: an "l" fell off the end, and it became htm instead of html. Could you tack it back please? Thus

I thought making a reference to my 22 August 2014, post to the Ex Kiap forum (A Garrulous Response to Warren Read), particularly the para:

"In March 1946, working under Assistant District Officer Jack Costello, Harry West and a Medical Assistant looked after what is now the Chimbu Province.

"At that time it [was] one of the Central Highland sub-districts, ‘uncontrolled territory with 'rampant tribal fighting'.”

Synchronicity, perhaps?

Harry West is probably one of the few people alive who could verify whether or not the guy in Mathias Kin's photo is Costello [photography footnote to Mathias's post].

I did not pursue it, as Harry may not want to become involved.

The link to Bill's Ex Kiap post has now been fixed - KJ

Michael Dom

Hi Chris Overland. I have not made any statements that I am aware of regarding this article on Simbu history. You have referred to me several times.

This appears to me to be an important story worth pursuing, Mathias.

Let it be written, with diligence and care - caution only to let truth prevail.

Mathias Kin

Phil, this is great stuff of the interview with the Madsang Policeman Petrus Tigavu.

Unless he has another name, he was not involved in the later (1947) killing at Sua. But the Dirima incident is certain confirmation of this killing. Thank you again.

I will not post the Dirima story here as I think one is enough.

Phil Fitzpatrick

I tried to contact Dr Kituai several times about the Claridge affair, Bill, but he resolutely refused to respond.

The references in his book are many, as you point out, and those I've followed up seem to be accurately reported.

His interviews are another matter and there is no way of confirming their veracity.

On the social mapping projects that I've carried out I relied heavily on old patrol reports and local oral history. Quite often I discovered differences of perceived facts and knowledge.

The example of Petrus Tigavu and his thousand people shot is a case in point. If a massacre of that proportion had taken place it would have received widespread attention and be prominent in local legend.

And yet Dr Kituai seems to accept the number without comment. Mathias, on the other hand, lists the names of people killed.

That's one of the problems with oral history, often it can be manipulated to suit someone's motives. The reason I pry into local knowledge for social mapping is to determine historical land boundaries and clan affiliations. Very often the stories I get are tailored to suit the aspirations of whoever I am talking to.

I can't see that anyone that Mathias spoke to would have any ulterior motive and would accept his recordings of the events as being as accurate as old memories can make them.

That said, and as you know, you have to be cautious, even with recorded events like those Dr Kituai quotes.

No one should discount oral histories, they are well worth recording; perhaps I should say they must be recorded before they are lost. Mathias is doing a great thing in this sense.

He has also established, I think, a prima facie case for Costello having carried out unreported shootings.

I only wish that there were more people doing what he is doing. PNG is losing its history for want of interest, especially from the government.

Bomai D Witne

Yalkuna Kin, our colonial history has been mostly written by expatriates of that time and our part of written historical accounts has been missing.

There are people like Waiko, Kituai and others who have attempted to investigate and write about our history.

Your work on the history of Simbu will complement and bring a renewed dimension to first contact and colonialism in Simbu and PNG. Write as you heard from our grandfathers and fathers.

Bill Brown

I know from several years of research that people's memories of past events differ widely from the events, and that, without an accurate written record, the individuals recall must be suspect, and probably ignored.

I have had to apply that criteria to a narrative that I am preparing, but it is a criteria that is irrelevant to the history that Mathias Ken has given us.

Mathias was provided with the facts by his elders: the details of how people died—in the particular cases—of how they were killed. I know from personal experience that the elders never got those stories wrong, and they never forgot them. I have to believe every word.

What I cannot understand is how someone as erudite as Phil Fitzpatrick, who must know all that has been said about the errors and distortions in Kituai's "My Gun, My Brother", can comment: "To shed light on the attitudes at the time there is another incident that Kituai refers to." Is he suggesting to the reader that this is some form of verification?

I have previously referred to R. R. Cole's criticism of Kituai. Maybe somebody went to the reference:

Maybe you would prefer to pick up the initial thread at

I might save some effort by repeating Cole’s unequivocal letter, written in March 2001:

“The attached file discloses at least 25 errors &/or misquotes made by Dr August Kituai in just three pages (Nos 158, 159 and 160) or two references in his book ‘My Gun My Brother’ whilst claiming his printed version to be verbatim quotes.”

“A comparison of the original documents (copies of which are included in the file) clearly shows the latter to be not ‘in exactly the same words as were used originally’ ie verbatim.

Substitution of words and deletion of paragraphs etc manage to completely distort the meaning of the original documents.”

“Dr Kituai then using misquoted material at his conclusions which are quite irrelevant and very damning of Mr Patrol Officer Claridge and also misrepresenting of myself.

Again the correspondence from Sir Paul Hasluck, Mr J. K. McCarthy and Mr W. W. Watkins (enclosed) conflict with his conclusions.”

“It is also noted that the book is one of 417 pages containing 403 references. I am only competent of checking the two references in which I was personally involved, but I must conclude that there is a possibility of error in one or other of the remaining 401 references that I am not in the position to check & I submit this possibility for consideration by all future researchers into Papua New Guinea affairs.”

“I suggest that this file be made available for perusal to all academics researching Papua New Guinea history.”

Peter Kranz

It is worth re-reading Paula Brown's 'Beyond a Mountain Valley'.

Yes there were killings - on both sides. And the kiaps were not just brave explorers.

"After the killing of McGrath, Leahy said in his diary of Feb. 21, 1934 : "Murder is an everyday occurrence for these people and they forget it quick. Wives will kill children if the father is not there. I wish we had a free hand here to do some murdering of the murdering bastards."

In his diary of 1934 Leahy frequently refers to the highlanders as "niggers" and "coons", and he reacted to insolence by thrashings and to theft by reprisal." (page 42)

Bubu Pius was right. Magical monsters dealing death and glory.

Phil Fitzpatrick

To shed light on the attitudes at the time there is another incident that Kituai refers to.

Here is an extract from an interview by Kituai with retired policeman Petrus Tigavu in Madang in 1985. In it Petrus talks about shootings.

Just before the incident below Petrus had been troubled by his involvement in killings and asked the Catholic priest at Mingende for advice.

The priest told him: "If people attack you and you do not retaliate, people will not listen to you. In order to win respect from the people, you must retaliate because only then will people around here pay heed to what you tell them. If that means shooting people, you will have no alternative but to carry out that action".

Petrus told Kituai: "After that I shot dead many people, especially men who were belligerent, men who attacked my patrol or disobeyed our orders. My kiap's instructions were to shoot to kill if people became troublesome. With Masta Jim Taylor and Kiap Costello we killed about a thousand people at Gumine. It was like this.

The people of Gumine threatened to cut the bridge there. The people's threat was conveyed to Masta Taylor and Kiap Costello. They arrived and overnighted at Gumine within the vicinity of the bridge. Policemen were assigned to guard them. I, with other policemen, kept a vigil at both ends of the bridge. During the night, the men of Gumine attacked from the other side. We attacked with such ferocity that when it was all over, I estimated that around a thousand men had been shot. Bodies were sprawled all over the place. Some could not be buried due to exhaustion of the men to bury them. The birds had a feast for weeks. This incident took place at the site of the present Catholic mission station. At no stage was I brought before the court to testify for those killings."

A thousand dead is probably an exaggeration but it was obviously a lot of people.

And, apparently, not reported or investigated.

Bill Brown

KJ - People are now accepting Kituai's tome as being authoritative, and they are quoting from it.

Perhaps it is time to call attention to some of the errors (and suggested distortions) identified in "My Gun, My Brother" by Bob Cole.

His correspondence, together with the supporting documents, can be found at:

Mathias Kin

I will further attempt to clarify some things on my posting. Dinga tribe referred to by Costello and Symons is only a half a day walk from Kundiawa. You can see Dinga from the “Chimbu-Waghi” post.

My place Sua is two full days walk away in South Simbu.

Mek the leader of Dinga referred to is not known, and Denimp, Kum, Maniamp, Waim and Du, those killed in this incident are not names of South Simbu people, certainly not my people. the names of those killed in Sua in 1947 are given here. Children and women were killed also.

At the time in 1947, the leader of Keri tribe is my grandfather, Nul Harasunga, not Mek.

The leader the Golen tribe at the time was Bomai Ninkama who was killed in that incident. He is father of former two time MP for Gumine (1972 to 1977), late Ninkama Bomai and grandfather to Bill Ninkama also two time MP for Gumine (1982 and 1992). Ninkama Bomai is cousin to firebrand Simbu politician John Nilkare.

They may have their say on this but unfortunately Bill and John are both not on this site (PNG Attitude).

The line by Kituai in “My gun and my Brother….” on Symons, Costello, Taylor and the mess up in the investigations by police and judiciary is not the same incident I write of. This is another incident.

Another massacre involving Costello at Dirima, upriver from Sua in the Gumine Valley among Ambassador Aiwa Olmi’s people is also told in the book. Mr Olmi might like to tesify! This killing is referenced to by Fr Alphonse Schaefer (1948).

A few more skirmishes involving Simbu people killed are also told.

Truths can never stay covered up forever!

Paul Oates

This appears to have been a fairly isolated yet very deplorable and lamentable incident at the time that with the benefit of hindsight should never have been allowed to happen. But hindsight was as much a scare commodity then as it is these days.

As others have pointed out, the clash of cultures was always going to create some violence when the irresistible force met the defenders with a different perspective.

Events like this should'nt be allowed to be distorted or embellished for the sake of anachronistic licence or journalistic drama. I understand that the kiap concerned has died and is therefore unable to defend himself or the actions of his police at the time. That Symonds should not have been placed in that situation was recognised when the event was later reviewed at the highest level.

As a postscript to Des Martin's last observation, modern day people should try to understand what it was like to be in a very dangerous situation when there was no one available to consult or defer to for advice. A kiap was often alone and responsible for his patrol as well as himself and has been discussed, was often in a position where he could be damned if he did and damned if he didn't.

What wasn't possible was to simply reach for a mobile phone or even a radio and call the boss and ask for instructions. A kiap and his patrol were often days or weeks away from any form of outside communication. You also certainly couldn't or wouldn't have time to consult Standing Instructions and consider what action might be justifiable at a later date in a less stressful environment.

Only those who have been in such a situation of responsibility will know what it was like and how quickly things could become life threatening. It is difficult to now try and judge that kind of situation using a totally different set of circumstances and today's perspectives.

Perhaps we should be careful not to lose perspective on the bigger picture by focusing on this one incident, regrettable and as indefensible as it obviously was subsequently found to be.

Des Martin

I respect Mathias Kin's efforts to research local history but I suspect his informants have over stated the casualties and included the murder of women and children to embellish the tale.

The incident which was thoroughly investigated was a one off tragedy details of which ended up with the relevant Minister in Canberra who after some soul searching exonerated Craig Symons.

Craig was well known to me in later years. Unlike me he was too young to have served in WW2.At the time he was young, inexperienced and should never been left to his own devices by Costello. He had never faced danger nor did he have the older hands sense of impending trouble. Personally I suspect his police convinced him to have them open fire.

Setting aside the above incident the fact is that from a strict legal viewpoint a patrol attacked with arrows fired in an attempt to kill can attract lethal force in retaliation. The patrol leader has a duty of care for his carriers and police and must defend them by all means.

Lethal force was avoided, even when under attack by the experience of the Kiap and diplomatic means e.g. sign and body language and by using interpreters. And indeed it is to the credit of the Kiaps that the vast majority of attacks on patrols were overcome without the use of lethal force.

All patrols resulted in reports being written in daily diary form and certainly an attack or use of firearms were fully documented and in the latter case in my time referred to the Department of Law.

In the early years the 1920's and 30's and post WW2 numerous miners and Kiaps and police were killed or wounded by hostile tribes who resented the advent of the administration. I am sure that Mathias Kin will agree that latterly when law and order prevailed and people could move about their environment without fear of being butchered or eaten by traditional enemies it was a step forward.

It is a sad fact that when "colonialism" impacts on an indigenous culture clashes will occur with lethal results. I think it is true to say that while the the Kiap service in PNG had its faults by and large it has a good record.

I still have by copy of "Departmental Instructions for General Field Administration" in which about twelve pages are devoted to "The Use of Force" with many sub-texts devoted to the use of firearms.

In the sub-text "Firing on Hostile Persons" it outlines various scenarios which might be encountered the bottom line being that the Patrol Officer must weigh up the situation and make his own decision as to the degree of danger being faced. In other words "On your head be it" The ultimate paragraph reads:-

"Because an officer has a good legal defence to possible charges of homicide, grievous bodily harm or unlawful wounding it does not necessarily follow that his conduct or management of the Patrol will escape censure"

Worst case scenario: Your are tired after walking all day chasing a raiding party that has been on the rampage for some days killing enemies living in isolated hamlets. Your carriers are strung out with police interspersed along the line.

You suddenly come under attack with arrows (said later by one of the police to be falling like rain) being fired at the patrol. The carriers are inclined to panic and run off with the police trying to hold them together. Things are chaotic. What do you do? The answer can be found in Patrolling 101.

Phil Fitzpatrick

As I've noted elsewhere Mathias there are undoubtedly incidents that were never reported.

It's curious that Costello would be so critical of Symons if he had been involved in a similar incident himself. Perhaps he was afraid his activities would come to light during the enquiry.

I'm not sure it's useful to dismiss these incidents as something from a different time, as Chris seems to suggest.

The Kituai reference places Costello in the right place at the right time. It would be interesting to know if your 'fathers' know of this apparently later incident too.

Oral history is well-worth preserving. Sil Bolkin demonstrates this perfectly in his book 'The Flight of Galkope'.

Bill Gammage, in his book about the Hagen-Sepik Patrol, makes it very clear that the policemen travelling with these patrols got up to all sorts of mischief without the kiap knowing, including rape and murder. They were still at it in my time.

Chris Overland

Thanks to Phil for finding information that I did not have to hand. It puts further important context around actions attributed to J.A. Costello by Michael Dom.

Clearly, the actions taken by kiap Craig Symons were unjustified and, by any reasonable measure, an outright case of murder.
They were and are indefensible by any standard.

They ought not have remained unpunished and the fact that they did so reflects very badly upon the authorities of the day.

I think that Mathias Kin has misunderstood my remarks and so I must try to clarify them.

I was not attempting to suggest or imply that there was moral justification for the extra judicial killing of people during the period when PNG was being brought under government control.

Such justification as existed arose only when it was necessary to defend a patrol from attack. In such situations, resort to "reasonable force" (a notoriously slippery term) was deemed justifiable.

Police officers are still able to invoke this defence today, although they have to prove it in a court of law in most cases.

Nor am I suggesting or implying that anyone is lying about various apparently unreported incidents which remain firmly fixed in the minds of those concerned or of their relatives who have been told of such incidents.

The shameful cover up relating to Symons' actions provides evidence that there was an official willingness to suppress knowledge about these incidents that went right to the top of the colonial administration.

This is something that Australia, as a former colonial power, needs to acknowledge.

However, deplorable as it is to contemplate for those who suffered in such incidents, it is very hard to see how bloodshed could be entirely avoided when the Australian (or, in fact, any) colonial power sought to impose government control upon people who determined to resist this by force.

My central point was and remains that there is, so far as I know, no historic precedent for the entirely peaceful imposition of such control upon anyone else.

It seems to be in the very nature of human beings to resort to force, whether to impose their will upon others or to resist this.

What is going on around the world today in the Middle East or Ukraine is clear testimony to this fact.

Also, we are all discussing past events in PNG while significantly removed from the values and attitudes that prevailed 60 or more years ago.

Thus, what strikes us as obviously wrong now may not have been thought of in the same way then.

In trying to understand history, it is very important not to simply reinterpret events through the prism of our contemporary values, ethics or even understanding of the law.

This is the road to misunderstanding, stereotyping and the perpetuation of myth, not knowledge and insight.

Mathias Kin

Chris Overland, so it is acceptable that a few highlander be killed in the course of the Australian pacification of New Guinea?

Caesar and the Romans - 3000 years ago, Europeans in Africa - 300 years ago. Australians in the Highlands and Simbu 67 years ago - it is a shame that it really happened. And that another person from that country should comment in that manner.

Thirty-seven people killed in one day is not just a random something nothing. You should sit up and take note that such barbaric acts took place at all. Your defence of these murders surprises me.

I am also surprised that there is no knowledge of J Costello the kiap. In my searches, J Costello married a Dinga woman and had two or three children, now grown up I believe.

Also Phil, I have read Kituai's "My Gun my Brother..." It could not be the same incident. Dinga is some 50 kilometres from Sua in South Simbu. Costello was there in Sua. My father would never tell a lie.

Phil Fitzpatrick

There is an account of the Costello incident in August Kituai's "My Gun, My Brother: The World of the Papua New Guinea Colonial Police, 1920-1960". (University of Hawai'i Press, 1998, pp. 144-157.

Kituai quotes from "McDonald J.H. (Inspector of Police)1947, Kouno Area, Central Highlands: Death of Five Natives. Report to Director of District Services and Native Affairs, Port Moresby. 1 December. Australian Archives, Canberra. CRS A518, item W841/1.

To quote: "In early July 1947 the assistant district officer for Chimbu, John Amery Costello, received a complaint from Geru, leader of a sub-clan of the tribe of Karap in the general area of Kounu in the Chimbu sub-district, that two women from the village, while tending their gardens, had been chopped to pieces by men of their enemy tribe - the Dika. During a previous encounter ten lives had been lost, five from each side ..... Consequently a patrol party consisting of Costelloe, Patrol Officer Craig Andrew John Symons and eleven policemen gathered at Kerowagi and set off for Karap village on 11 July 1947, intending to arrange a peace settlement between the two warring factions".

Costello was recalled from the patrol to attend a matter in Port Moresby and left Symons to carry on with strict orders not to proceed beyond Karap.

"Symons and his entourage finally arrived at Karap village and for the next three days he tried in vain, through the assistance of messengers, to persuade Mek of Dika to come to Karap. Mek continued to maintain his defiant stance and refused to come to Symons .... On 21 July, against the strong advice of his superior officer and with a suggestion of bravado, Symons walked to Dika, accompanied by his party of policemen and villagers from the aggrieved tribe. In the ensuing confrontation, five men were shot and killed".

Back from Moresby, Costelloe wrote to James Taylor: "I am sorry to advise that young Symons mucked things [up] in Kouno and became involved in a totally unwarranted shooting affray, killing five men ... I instructed him to proceed as far as Karap, there to remain until I got back.

For some reason or other [Symons] disobeyed my orders. The usual insulting messages were brought to him and I guess that he took them to mean a reflection on his own courage - anyway he went looking for trouble. As he approached the hostile people, they laid down their arms and shields and fled. He had told the police to open fire if that happened and they immediately did so, shooting five men in the backs and killing them. Most unfortunate and unjustified. There was no attack at all and the fact of them laying down their arms indicated their desire to parley. He then permitted his party to lay waste some banana patches - totally unjustified".

The five men killed were named as Denimp, Du, Kum, Manimp and Waim. Four of the police are named as Sergeant Bus of Manus, Constable Numibi of Henganofi, Constable Waim of Chimbu and Constable Gande of Western Highlands.

Symons, in his report, claimed that Mek had rushed them from behind as the five men ran off and in the confusion the police opened fire.

Despite the recommendations by Taylor and Costelloe that Symons be charged the Administration exonerated him and he returned to duty.

Chris Overland

The events being referred to by Michael Dom took place between 60 and 80 years ago. Most if not all of the kiaps allegedly involved are now dead. Consequently, confirming the veracity of the oral history he has collected is exceedingly difficult.

Based upon my reading and conversations with other ex-kiaps, what can be asserted with confidence is that the pacification of PNG did involve extra-judicial killings by patrol officers. After all, as Michael says, a proud warrior culture does not meekly acquiesce to the imposition of colonial rule.

There is reasonable evidence that some patrol officers were much more willing to resort to violence than others. I have in previous comments mentioned the activities of C.A.W. Monckton in suppressing the war like behaviour of the Orokaiva in the Northern Province.

Jack Hides, the archetypal "Outside Man" of the pre war era, was criticised both within and outside of the colonial administration for an allegedly undue readiness to use rifles to protect his patrols.

The redoubtable J.K. McCarthy was obliged to use force to repel a serious attack on his patrol in which he was grievously injured with arrows.

I have been unable to find any material dealing with the activities of a Jack Costello. For example, no such officer is mentioned in James Sinclair's book "Kiap", which contains probably the definitive account of the exploratory era in the highlands of PNG.

Also, I cannot find any reference to a Jack Costello on any of the Staff Lists published on the Ex-kiaps website.

After World War 2, resort to extra judicial killings was apparently regarded as a deeply regrettable but sometimes unavoidable hazard of patrolling. So far as I am aware the TPNG administration's policy was and remained that rifles could and should only be used as a last resort when a patrol was actually under attack.

I was issued with and carried a Lee Enfield Carbine and Smith and Wesson revolver during patrols in 1970, together with the stern admonishment "For God's sake don't kill anybody but if you do, keep the expended cartridges as evidence of the number of shots fired".

Like almost every kiap I ever knew, I never fired a shot in either anger or fear and soon ceased to carry weapons at all, although my police typically carried a shotgun.

I personally only saw a weapon used once. This happened in 1972 when a very dangerous riot at Popondetta was broken up by Police Inspector Brian Chape firing directly at rioters. He used a shotgun loaded with bird shot which inflicted painful but non-lethal wounds on 5 or 6 rioters before they abruptly dispersed.

The imposition of the rule of law upon PNG was not bloodless but, even accepting the figures quoted by Michael Dom, it was hardly comparable to what happened in Africa let alone when Julius Caesar brought Gaul (France and Belgium) under Roman control.

This is, of course, no consolation at all to the living relatives of those who fell before weapons the like of which they had never seen. Nevertheless, it is important to view these unhappy events within an historic context so as to better understand why they may have occurred.

Otherwise they become just random acts of violence that make no more sense than the huge number of inter tribal killings that preceded them and, in fact, continue to this day.

Michael Dom

Let it be written.

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