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24 January 2018


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Garry, The events that took place in that battle are consistent with what I have heard from Dad and from others who were witnesses or took part in the battles.

I once had a discussion with late Komunka leader Yapi Ropa who jokingly told the other Komunkas, "I have many wives and I will breed sons to replace all those killed. We need to make peace with the Nambugas."

Such events are told repeatedly and by in the many hausmans so that the main events are largely consistent whilst the details vary according to the witnesses perspectives or with repeated variations.

In 1939 a government contingent went into what is Jiwaka and killed several Andakelkanam tribesman (the current Anglimp South Whaghi MP's Joe Kuli's tribe).

My father was sent as a catechist to Kuli which is adjacent in 1947 when the incident was still fresh in people's minds so that he often told the story as he heard it.

I also heard from several Kuli who had been part of it (they had connived with the administration to retaliate against the killing of a Kuli man).

Many years later with the advent of internet I was able to read Greathead's report which was at variance with popular recountings by the local people.

When I mentioned Greathead's report that the police contingent was met with a hail of arrows the general consensus from the eyewitnesses (who have since died) was that this was erroneous and that it was a surprise ambush.

Since oral history is rather unreliable I am not sure as to how to judge the differences in the whole saga according to the various parties.

However I am of the view that, though a written version is more reliable than oral version, if the single version was written without the basic facts being true, the body of evidence as told by many eyewitnesses cannot be dismissed out of hand as being unreliable; at least in the basic overall outline of events that took place.

Fr Garry - Truly sorry, but my comment should not disturb you. I contacted Keith Jackson offline so he will fill you in.
I couldn't go public here to what I said to KJ because it could raise new battlegrounds. OK you, great man.

And, to our readers - all is well, as always! We have some great people writing for us here. A constant source of wonder to me - KJ

Matthias, I am not sure how to interpret your comment. Mi go lapun yah!

Concerning the date I gave for the death of Mamp (22 February 1942), I relied on the Rebiamul baptismal records. According to Catholic custom, after Mamp was struck and dying, he was baptised in danger of death and his baptism and death were recorded in the Rebiamul baptismal records. (I have an electronic copy).

Other sources also specify Febraury 1942 as the time of the battle at Kum River. One would hope that all early Church records are preserved as sometimes they contain valuable information.

On the other hand, sometimes that information may be too sensitive to release. Kundiawa diocese may have similar archives.

Both sides in the Kum river incident gave very similar reports of what happened. The Nampakae did not try and deny that they had used a policeman.

The book by Pat Howley contains interviews with several people from both sides who were involved or who were onlookers. The names of the dead are given in the book.

Thomas Webster’s father, Pius Pi, would have been a witness to some of the action and Webster’s brother Jeffry helped Pat Howley with many of the interviews.

Of course I was not there in 1942, but I did witness the 1975 compensation payment and I knew several of the people mentioned in the review.

Mattthias, keep up your research, it is important.

Fr Garry, I read your article with another pair of reading glasses. Tingting blong mi igo longwe na igo back 70 years. Is such possible? Mi tingting aloud tasol.

Kela and Phil, I should have mentioned the peace and good order committee which has been quite effective in the Hagen area. At a higher level nn PNG Law there has been an effort at using “mediation” instead of adversarial procedures in dealing with non-criminal cases by using the National Court’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process. This process is not without its critics, but at least it is an effort to look at alternatives to the normal English common law process that presumes a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’. Judge Kandakasi has promoted this ADR process. However as stated, this process is only for non-criminal cases. The 'peace and good order' committee whose members are usually neutral to the case being examined can of course deal also with cases that may be criminal.

I can see that working, Garry, if the courts had the power to order a reconciliation following a conviction. The court could appoint reconciliators and set the parameters, timelines and penalties for non-compliance.

A conviction would have to be the deciding factor. That would cover Sil's concern about the clan or tribe carrying the can instead of the troublemaker.

I wonder whether it would work in some of these horrendous sorcery cases.

If the people doing the torturing and killing of alleged witches were charged and convicted and then a mandatory reconciliation process, including compensation, ordered it might change the dynamics.

If people knew that sorcery accusations carried a penalty and a financial burden they might think twice about it.

Garry, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission can bring about lasting peace and that is something that reliable national government authorities need to explore.

Simbu has a Peace and Good Order Committee that mediates and help broker peace and reconciliation among opposing tribes and it has done a lot of good.

The downside of communal involvement is that individuals who make trouble do not feel any pain and responsibility because the tribe serves as a safety net and shoulders the burden brought about by irresponsible individuals.

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