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