Bougainville Copper on course to renew Panguna licence
All round, those Papua New Guinean kiaps had a tough job

Those tough Chimbu kiaps included the remarkable Joe Nombri

Basil Koe  one of the first trainee kiaps at Finschhafen in 1961
Basil Koe one of the first trainee kiaps at Finschhafen in 1961

MATHIAS KIN

KUNDIAWA - The training of Papua New Guineans to become patrol officers was begun by the Department of Native Affairs in 1961 at Finschhafen.

A number of Chimbu men who had completed schooling in the late 1950s and 1960s joined the colonial administration as kiaps.

They included Joseph (Joe) Nombri, John Mua Nilkare, Kimin Poka, John Wawe, Jim Nombri, John Gigmai, Joe Kaugla, Joe Towa, Mathew Towa, Jerry Gerry, Philip Gore, Steven Kume, Otto Olmi, Peter Abba, John Ninkama, Alfred Poka, Philip Opri, John Koma and Joseph Mogna.

It was administration policy not to post local patrol officers or policemen to their home districts to ensure that there were no conflicts of interest.

However, as Papua New Guineans, they had particularly good knowledge of culture, geography and language that made them equal to the task and sometimes better than their Australian counterparts in their primary duties of stopping tribal fights, conducting peace ceremonies, supervising compensations and running elections and censuses.

Papua New Guinean kiaps from other provinces served in Chimbu during this time. They included Jerry Nalau from Morobe, who succeeded Bob Doolan as District Commissioner in 1973, Paru Kairi from Gulf, and Joe Kekemo from Henganofi in Eastern Highlands, Jack Tagita from Milne Bay, Jeffrey Dia from Wabag, Luke Pena from Western Highlands, Caspir Angapi from Sepik, Gerson Amen from New Ireland and Bruno Garima from Bundi in Madang.

Of these local kiaps, Joe Nombri in later years was to become a distinguished statesman in his country and was knighted by the Queen as Sir Joseph Nombri. Because of the administration’s posting policy Joe did not serve in Chimbu during his kiap days.

Joe Nombri
Joe Nombri as a young kiap in Kiunga

In the mid-1950s Joe attended Gon School in Kundiawa and later went to Goroka High School and on to Sogeri High School in the early 1960s.

One of his schoolmates was Michael Somare, who was to become a prominent leader and Chief Minister and later Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.

Joe was also the recipient of a scholarship to attend schooling in Australia. After school he trained at the Administration College in Port Moresby and graduated as a patrol officer.

John Nilkare, who became a kiap two years after Joe, described him as “the smartest indigenous patrol officer I had known, even smarter than the white kiaps”. Joe was reputed to have an IQ level equivalent to a genius.

He served with distinction as a patrol officer in Western, Enga and East New Britain and travelled to many parts of Papua New Guinea on his duties. He became the first indigenous District Commissioner from the highlands, serving in Southern Highlands and, at independence, in Morobe.

He was later was appointed as a Public Service Commissioner before, in 1981, becoming Ambassador to Japan where he served with distinction for over 11 years.

In Japan he mastered the Japanese language and became a close friend of the Japanese Emperor. He successfully negotiated K8 million in funding from the Japanese government to construct a provincial hospital in his home town of Kundiawa.

Back in the mid-1960s, Joseph Nombri had been a member of the famous Bully Beef Club in which many of PNG’s young leaders planned the road to independence and beyond. Then, in 1967, he became the founding president of the Pangu Pati which emerged from the Bully Beef Club.

Joe’s kiap mate Phil Fitzpatrick, who was based in Kiunga in the late 1960s, wrote in PNG Attitude of the time they spent together:

“Joe and I shared a house at Kiunga. We repainted the old kero fridge in Pangu Pati colours to upset the District Commissioner when he visited.

“Joe also liked to greet visiting dignitaries at the airport carrying a sign saying “Open season on swans”. This was a reference to the “swanning around” the countryside on “fact-finding missions” practiced by many senior public servants in the years immediately before independence.”

After he returned from Japan, Joe stood for the regional Chimbu seat in 1992 but was unsuccessful. He died in 2008 and the hospital in Kundiawa was named the Sir Joseph Nombri Memorial General Hospital in memory of this most humble Chimbu man.

The late Tangil Okuk wrote of his uncle in his Facebook column:

“PNG is surely in need of the likes of this humble servant. He gave everything and more and I personally have never heard him complain or utter grievances about the system and people who had let him down in his years after public service.

“Sir J always kept his dignity intact. He was a man mountain amongst others…..”

Although Joe showed interest in the political developments early in his career, he did not go in that direction, instead preferring to remain a public servant until 1992 when he first stood for election.

Joe Nombri’s story is not unusual. Many of the local kiaps who served prior to 1975 did not seek public recognition and many quietly retired back into village life.

___________

PAPUA NEW GUINEAN FIELD STAFF at 1 JANUARY 1968

Compiled by Phil Fitzpatrick. There may be errors and omissions.

HEADQUARTERS:

Assistant Field Officer Bogagu, W.
Assistant District Officer Bagita, J.
Local Government Officer Asiba G.
Patrol Officer Memafu, K.
Patrol Officer Tubuora, 0.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Vanuawaru, K.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Ali, C.

WESTERN DISTRICT:

Patrol Officer Lokoloko, .K.N.
Patrol Officer Nombri, J.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Saliki, K,
GULF DISTRICT:
Patrol Officer Gemara, G.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Farapo, H.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Wura, H.

NORTHERN DISTRICT:

District Officer Sebire, P.F.
Assistant District Officer Kekodo, R.P.
Patrol Officer Gehora, C.
Patrol Officer Soroda, J.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Maravila, T.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Gamu, R.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Siemu, N.

MILNE BAY DISTRICT

Assistant District Officer Gari,
Assistant District Officer Kopi, R.
Patrol Officer Siaoa, A.

SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS:

Patrol Officer Salu, G.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Poga K.,
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Gele P.,

MOROBE DISTRICT :

Assistant District Officer Koe B,
Patrol Officer Sigamata D.,
Patrol Officer Ahe, N.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Maha, G.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Aitsi, A.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Henao, B.T.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Joseph, N.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Apa, L.G.

EASTERN HIGHLANDS DISTRICT :

Assistant District Officer Avosa, S.
Patrol Officer Rarua, M.
Patrol Officer Helarai, J.M.
Patrol Officer Dom, G.
Patrol Officer Kua, K.
Assistant Field Officer Waike, J.M.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Gagole, K.

CHIMBU DISTRICT :

Assistant District Officer Karukuru, K.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Vele, V.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Baloiloi, D.L.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Tarube, A.

WESTERN HIGHLANDS DISTRICT:

Patrol Officer Geri J.K,
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Sali, W.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Kureu, P.

MANUS DISTRICT:

Trainee (Patrol Officer) Tapo, H.O.

MADANG DISTRICT:

Assistant District Officer Katauga, M.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Smare, A.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Balagetuna, J.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Samae, J.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Luther, M.

EAST SEPIK DISTRICT:

Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Rupa, L.W.

WEST SEPIK DISTRICT:

Trainee (Patrol Officer) Koibo, J.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Mekea, P.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Tawe J.,

EAST NEW BRITAIN DISTRICT:

Patrol Officer Nalau, J.K.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Mora, S.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Wisio, P.O.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Kiliwi, P.

WEST NEW BRITAIN DISTRICT:

Assistant District Officer Kilori, P.
Assistant District Officer Batho, P.J.
Assistant District Officer Borok, B,
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Tobia, R.
Trainee(Assistant Field Officer) Tavalokol, B.
Field Assistant Tauka, R.H.

NEW IRELAND DISTRICT:

Assistant District Officer Bouraga, P.
Trainee(Patrol Officer) Tauvasa, J.J.
Trainee (Field Assistant) Posua, J.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Angua, W.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Paleu, C.

BOUGAINVILLE DISTRICT:

Patrol Officer Dagge, V.J.
Patrol Officer Tabua, C.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Tanu, T.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Kingsford K.S.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Tuka E.

Comments

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Philip Fitzpatrick

That's him Jim.

As I recall he was a great man. Roger Gleeson would have been the Council Adviser at the time. Also a great man but, sadly not with us anymore.

Roger married Robin, the sister of Noeline Allen. Ross disappeared while bringing a yacht back from South America I believe. I think both Robin and Noeline attend the kiap reunions in Queensland.

Jim Moore

Phil wrote:

I think Luke's father, Pena, was a MP Garry.
I can't remember Pena's father's name.

Phil, would that have been Pena Ou from Dei Council area. He was Council President there for some time in late '60's and I am quite sure he became an MP.

Bob Cleland

Mathias, I enjoyed your bit on Joe Nombri. Reminded me of a patrol I did in the Wain and Naba areas in the mountains behind Lae.

Mine was just one of many patrols throughout PNG compiling the Common Roll for the up-coming House of Assembly elections in early 1964.

Each of the trainees in Finschhafen were assigned to a patrol to assist and get patrol experience. I scored a fresh-faced clean-shaven Joe Nombri.

Also along was a didiman, who took the opportunity to talk to assembled villagers about coffee and other agricultural activities.

Imagine three of us crammed into some of those government rest Houses barely adequate for one.

Joe's infectious personality and wicked sense of humour kept us laughing almost constantly. My ribs were quite painful by the time the patrol ended. But I felt I’d got to know Joe quite well.

I bumped into him several times over the ensuing years. He always greeted me warmly as a wantok, though he feigned disappointment the first time when I didn't recognise him behind his luxuriant beard.

PS - Matthias, as you recognised the DC at Kundiawa was Laurie Doolan, not Bob.

Paul Oates

There is an updated list of PNG Kiaps that I believe has been compiled. Like most lists of this nature it is still a work in progress.

Hopefully it will be published here and elsewhere before everyone who understand what was involved goes on their last patrol.

Mathias Kin

Murray - yes that's correct. Bob is Laurie Doolan.

Mathias Kin

Thank you very much Phil for that listing. I will watch out for the kiaps names that concerns Chimbu.

Murray, Rashmii and others, thank you for your kind words.

Murray Bladwell


Mathias, what you have achieved in your article is a wonderful historic record of the transitional change-over from expatriate to local kips. All too often this factual data is lost and PNG's rich history of development is diminished. We need more researchers and writers with an eye to recording history.

Phil's extension of your data actively demonstrates how history is recorded and extended.

As a matter of record, I was wondering if the 'Bob' Doolan (Chimbu District Commissioner in 1973) cited in para. 5 should read Laurie Doolan?

Philip Fitzpatrick

I'll email you a list of books Rashmii.

The staff list above comes from a Department of District Administration (DDA) return for 1968 but quite a few districts were slack in keeping their staff lists up to date.

There's a later list for 1971 on the Ex-Kiap Website if anyone is interested.

I note that my old mate Patrol Officer Leo Bera is not on the 1968 list but on the 1971 list for example. God knows where he was for the three years in between - lost up in the Star Mountains somewhere I guess.

I'm not sure what a "Trainee (Assistant Field Officer)" was but I'm assuming that meant a kiap in training.

Later on the Australian trainee kiaps went from being cadets to assistant patrol officer, or something like that, and then we had the "instant kiaps" (men with 'life experience' who could be sent into the field with minimal training) and who were called something else again.

Rashmii Bell

Thanks for this, Mathias. So interesting to learn more history about our PNG patrol officers and their Australian counterparts.

Also, Phil - appreciate the list. I feel like I need to read 'Bamahuta- Leaving Papua' book again soon. Are there titles (re kiaps) you could recommend?

Garry Roche

In the list supplied by Phil Fitzpatrick, I notice a “Smare, A.” listed in Madang District. I wonder if this was Arnold Smare from Sepik who later joined the Diplomatic Service and was the father of Anthony Smare, a well known lawyer and businessman? And listed under East Sepik is “Rupa, L.W.” I wonder it this was Laka Rupa who later served in WHP at Bukapena?

Mathias Kin

Good morning Fr Garry. I have never met him but heard of Luke Pena from another old kiap Eastern Highlander Joe Kekemo who still resides in Kundiawa.

I hear Pena was a no nonsense feller too as were the others. Just three months back another of these old kiaps, Kimin Poka, passed on.

There has been talk among the politicians and government officials of some recognition for these early colonial workers which also includes teachers and others but this is yet to be seen. Maybe just politics mauswara again.

Philip Fitzpatrick

By 1968 there were about 75 local kiaps. Here is a list. Not guaranteed to be totally accurate. Wonder where they all are now.

PAPUA NEW GUINEAN FIELD STAFF 1/1/68

HEADQUARTERS:

Assistant Field Officer Bogagu, W.
Assistant District Officer Bagita, J.
Local Government Officer Asiba G.
Patrol Officer Memafu, K.
Patrol Officer Tubuora, 0.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Vanuawaru, K.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Ali, C.

WESTERN DISTRICT:
Patrol Officer Lokoloko, .K.N.

Patrol Officer Nombri, J.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Saliki, K,

GULF DISTRICT:

Patrol Officer Gemara, G.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Farapo, H.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Wura, H.

NORTHERN DISTRICT:

District Officer Sebire, P.F.
Assistant District Officer Kekodo, R.P.
Patrol Officer Gehora, C.
Patrol Officer Soroda, J.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Maravila, T.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Gamu, R.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Siemu, N.

MILNE BAY DISTRICT

Assistant District Officer Gari,
Assistant District Officer Kopi, R.
Patrol Officer Siaoa, A.

SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS:

Patrol Officer Salu, G.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Poga K.,
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Gele P.,

MOROBE DISTRICT :

Assistant District Officer Koe B,
Patrol Officer Sigamata D.,
Patrol Officer Ahe, N.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Maha, G.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Aitsi, A.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Henao, B.T.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Joseph, N.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Apa, L.G.

EASTERN HIGHLANDS DISTRICT :

Assistant District Officer Avosa, S.
Patrol Officer Rarua, M.
Patrol Officer Helarai, J.M.
Patrol Officer Dom, G.
Patrol Officer Kua, K.
Assistant Field Officer Waike, J.M.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Gagole, K.

CHIMBU DISTRICT :

Assistant District Officer Karukuru, K.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Vele, V.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Baloiloi, D.L.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Tarube, A.

WESTERN HIGHLANDS DISTRICT:

Patrol Officer Geri J.K,
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Sali, W.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Kureu, P.

MANUS DISTRICT:

Trainee (Patrol Officer) Tapo, H.O.

MADANG DISTRICT:

Assistant District Officer Katauga, M.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Smare, A.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Balagetuna, J.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Samae, J.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Luther, M.

EAST SEPIK DISTRICT:

Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Rupa, L.W.

WEST SEPIK DISTRICT:

Trainee (Patrol Officer) Koibo, J.
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Mekea, P.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Tawe J.,

EAST NEW BRITAIN DISTRICT:

Patrol Officer Nalau, J.K.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Mora, S.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Wisio, P.O.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Kiliwi, P.

WEST NEW BRITAIN DISTRICT:

Assistant District Officer Kilori, P.
Assistant District Officer Batho, P.J.
Assistant District Officer Borok, B,
Trainee (Patrol Officer) Tobia, R.
Trainee(Assistant Field Officer) Tavalokol, B.
Field Assistant Tauka, R.H.

NEW IRELAND DISTRICT:

Assistant District Officer Bouraga, P.
Trainee(Patrol Officer) Tauvasa, J.J.
Trainee (Field Assistant) Posua, J.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Angua, W.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Paleu, C.

BOUGAINVILLE DISTRICT:

Patrol Officer Dagge, V.J.
Patrol Officer Tabua, C.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Tanu, T.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Kingsford K.S.
Trainee (Assistant Field Officer) Tuka E.
____________

This list has been added to Mathias's original story - KJ




Chris Overland

In relation to Papua New Guinean kiaps, I worked with Jack Karukuru and Cedric Tabua, both now deceased I think.

They were intelligent and capable men. Jack went on to become a departmental head but Cedric's ultimate fate is unknown to me.

I always thought that PNG kiaps had a really tough task. They were being asked to join a colonial force that was designed to impose the rule of a foreign power upon their fellow citizens. There was, of course, more than a hint of racism amongst some within the Department of District Administration, with which they had to contend.

Also, it was my impression that it was harder for them to win the confidence of the local people they were working with because they were not automatically covered by the mystical prestige accorded to white kiaps. This "glamour', if I can call it that, was a function of history rather than a reflection of personal capability or charisma (although some of us fondly imagined otherwise).

So, unlike the white kiaps who were obviously outsiders, they could be seen as brothers. I think that this may have set up a different set of expectations about how they would behave and do their jobs, which could be both an advantage and a disadvantage.

Sadly for PNG, the government did not persist with the kiap system, presumably believing it to be an anachronistic colonial relic. This was, I think, true to some extent, but jettisoning an entire working administrative system left a gaping hole in the new country's public sector structure which does not seem to have been filled by any viable alternative.

Anyway, irrespective of what I may think, history has moved on and PNG has developed another way of doing business. Whether that is a good thing or not is a matter of conjecture although the current state of affairs in rural and remote PNG suggests not.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I think Luke's father, Pena, was a MP Garry.

I can't remember Pena's father's name. I kept a lot of the Western Highlands posters from the 1968 election but donated them to the University of Queensland library a few years ago. Pena features on one of the posters. As I recall he was a fine gentleman with his people's welfare at heart.

On a more general note it would be great if we could get some stories about other PNG local kiaps and maybe a list of them all for posterity.

A lot of them have passed on but expatriate kiaps probably remember them well, as will their sons and daughters.

Garry Roche

Matthias, you mentioned a "Luke Pena" from Western Highlands who had worked in Chimbu. I have some memory of a Luke Pena who married a lady from Neragaima. Another 'Kiap' from Western Highlands was John Kup, quite a character. Many of those early local kiaps and local public servants were genuinely committed to their work.

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