When you invite family to mumu, you don’t mumu family
Do you understand who we are? Do you understand our essence?

The last days of the kiap – a rare tale of the end of an era

Northumbrian Kiap coverPHIL FITZPATRICK

‘The Northumbrian Kiap: bush administration in self-governing PNG’ by Robert Forster, UK Book Publishing, Whitley Bay, 2018, ISBN: 978-1-9-12183-36-4, 294pp. My copy from the Book Depository UK, AU$25.80 with free postage

TUMBY BAY - By 1960 the training of local indigenous officers for the public service in Papua New Guinea had accelerated dramatically.

These officers were paid the same rates as expatriate officers. As a result the wages bill of the Australian Administration rose rapidly.

In 1962 Minister for Territories Paul Hasluck decided to restructure the public service. His aim was to cut costs by turning it into “an essentially territorial service based on local conditions and rates of pay, staffed as fully as possible by indigenous officers and assisted by an auxiliary service staffed by expatriate officers”.

This was the beginning of what later became known as “localisation” and signalled the end of career paths for expatriates in the then Territory of Papua and New Guinea.

This development caught a lot of people by surprise, including a lot of local staff whose salaries were suddenly reduced.

A group of surprised Australian cadet patrol officers about to commence their induction at the Australian School of Pacific Administration in August 1963 were told abruptly that no more permanent positions would be available and they were offered six year contracts instead.

There were further changes to expatriate recruitment as independence loomed.

When I joined in 1967 it was still a requirement that cadet patrol officers be unmarried and under the age of 30.

These conditions then began to be modified. Cadet patrol officers soon gave way to assistant patrol officers with “accelerated” training.

Then, by the early 1970s, older, married recruits with “life experience” were being employed. They were colloquially referred to as “instant kiaps”.

Robert Forster became a kiap in June 1971. His life experience included a stint as a forestry worker at Bundi after being recruited in England by Voluntary Service Overseas, “a government-sponsored organisation which recruited restless young people who wanted to exhaust their surplus energy while working in underdeveloped countries”.

His cohorts comprised an unusually large and disparate group. “There would not have been a straightforward CV among them,” Forster writes.” The age range was 19 to 41, eleven out of the intake of 39 were married, seven were born in the UK, one in Canada and two were Vietnam veterans. Perhaps half had secured a tertiary qualification”.

Forster at least had experience living in the bush and knew Tok Pisin but many of the others had no experience at all. Compared with previous intakes, they all looked pretty scruffy.

Quite a few didn’t last the distance. We had one from Forster’s intake arrive at Balimo. He was a likeable Englishman with a likeable English wife and two lovely kids but they were gone within 12 months.

Balimo was a muddy, soggy, mosquito-infested backwater and I can’t blame them for fleeing back to England. Shortly after they left, I too engineered a move out of the place.

However, those tail-enders who stayed on were important because they saw through an important stage in Papua New Guinea’s history.

I’m not sure I entirely agree with Fortser’s assessment that the 1972 general election “triggered a political earthquake” or that the Administrator “hurriedly evacuated his office” and made certain files disappear into the night before handing over his job to Michael Somare, but it was, nevertheless, an interesting time.

Rather than an earthquake, I think what happened after 1972 was entirely expected and understood, especially by the more senior and longer serving kiaps.

It was no secret that Michael Somare and many of his ministers had an intense dislike of kiaps and the power they wielded. Out in the districts, they often competed with local political aspirants for the minds of the people. Something had to give.

When the politicians and senior Papua New Guinean public servants began to seriously interfere in the work of the Australian kiaps by undermining the decisions they made, the writing was on the wall. Many kiaps realised this and accepted their fate.

As I recall, a very apt quote, attributed to Lawrence of Arabia, was doing the rounds among the kiaps: “It is better to let them do it themselves imperfectly, than do it yourself perfectly. It is their country, their way and our time is short.”

In Port Moresby, the boss of the kiaps, Tom Ellis, pretended to grovel and crawl across the floor of the House of Assembly and asked Somare and his cohorts, “Is this what you want?” And, of course, the answer was yes.

Up in the Highlands at Minj, where Robert Forster was posted, assistant district commissioner Nigel Van Ruth, a pugnacious Dutchman, launched a long last stand, shock and awe patrol under the guise of political education to demonstrate his power.

He was promptly arrested and moved on at the behest of Kaibelt Diria, the local member and Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.

Many of the more senior kiaps watched all this unfold and decided their best course of action was to keep their heads down and concentrate on securing promotions to bolster the amount of their final golden handshake.

The timidity and paranoia induced among many senior kiaps following the Van Ruth affair and similar incidents is nicely illustrated by an event at Bereina in 1973 on the day self-government was declared.

Forster had been transferred there from Minj and wasn’t enjoying it at all. Like me, he had found himself stuck in a hot, muddy mosquito-infested backwater with an apathetic population and nothing much to do.

In this case, member of parliament and founder the Papua Besena political party, Josephine Abaijah, momentarily helped enliven the ennui by deciding to visit Bereina to declare Papua independent of New Guinea.

The assistant district commissioner panicked and ordered a clandestine action to defend the station from the insurrection that was bound to erupt with Josephine’s presence. On the day he gathered all the expatriates in one house, made sure they were all armed, and awaited the long knives.

A more down-to earth, trade store owner, Dulcie Hides, the widow of Bruce Hides and sister-in-law to the famous Jack, arrived in her “best frock carrying a bottle of gin and a handmade .22 rifle … she wasn’t going to miss out on a rare chance of company and conversation”.

Nothing happened of course. Josephine “declared independence for Papua in front of not more than one hundred mildly enthusiastic people, and almost as many newsmen and cameras, then returned to her vehicle and left”. The end of Australian colonial power in Papua New Guinea was quickly descending into low comedy.

Meanwhile, out at the coal face, it was left to the tail-end kiaps, like Forster, to bear the brunt of the changed times and try to ease the transition towards independence for the ordinary villagers.

He finally and reluctantly left in 1975 after his family life began to suffer. Quite a few of his cohorts stayed on, some into the early 1980s.

I’ve always been surprised at the number of men who stayed on as kiaps well after independence given that their authority was reduced and constantly undermined and that the worsening law and order situation was making life onerous for their families.

This eloquent book is an important contribution to the history of Papua New Guinea and the kiaps in particular because it covers the end days of Australian colonialism, a subject that hasn’t had much attention before.

Robert Forster returned to Northumbria and became a successful journalist but the bones of the book were essentially compiled in 1977. In polishing it for publication he remarks that, because of its earlier manifestation, the “temptation to indulge in hindsight has therefore been resisted.”

This is an important book, even if you don’t entirely agree with its assessments and sentiments.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

I knew John Kup, Garry, both as a pikinini kiap in Hagen and later when he was a commissioner on the Commission of Enquiry into Land Matters. He went through Duntroon I believe.

Garry Roche

Robert - I note in your list a 'John Kamp: Australian educated man from Mount Hagen'. I knew of a 'John Kup an Australian educated man from Mount Hagen'.

Kamp is not a common Hagen name though Komp is. Phil may have known John Kup who was later a kiap in Western Province also.

And I wondered if Sergeant-Major Siwi would be connected to Pat Siwi of the Wahgi Hell-Cats band?

In Bundi there was Fr Rudolf Jischke who passed away in 1971. Max David was still active in recent years, but I do not know about current status.

Robert Forster

I would be grateful for help from PNG Attitude’s many supporters. I am confident “The Northumbrian Kiap” will be read by former Kiaps, academics, and Australians who retain an interest in PNG.
However I would also like it to be read by the PNG born children or grandchildren of the people I worked with because they played a part in PNG’s history and development and for some it will be the first time, apart from village census records, their name has been recorded.
I have listed below 120 names which cover the individuals, or clans, mentioned in its pages – and their location within PNG when I met them. Some are well known, a handful are European, but the great majority are village people.
Some were illiterate so they will be surprised their names, and in some cases their actions, are now in print and many will of course be dead.
Unfortunately I am beginning to suspect it will not be easy for them, or their descendants, to read, for the first time, an account of their father’s, or grandfather’s, interaction with Kiap government in the now distant late 1960s and early 1970s.
And have been told by gthe Papua New Guinean professionals I am in touch with from my home in the UK that many people are reluctant to buy books on line, even though it is not easy to find a bookshop and they would like to read them, because they are afraid they will be lost in the post or stolen.
Is this correct? Is there a way round this? Is there a solution?

Bundi station in Madang District.
Mori: Reliably cheerful labourer at Bundi Mission’s sawmill.
Marcus Dam: Labourer at Bundi’s saw mill.
Kari: – Diminutive labourer at Bundi’s saw mill.
Nicholas Kebma: Foreman at Bundi sawmill.
Max David: Lay missionary developing new cattle station at Brahmin.
Otto Dirumbi: Leading labourer at Bundi Sawmill.
Yabanai: Prominent among labourers at Bundi sawmill.
Fabian Kamtai: Worker at Bundi sawmill.
Frank Cotton: Kiap stationed at Simbai Patrol Post.
Kaspar Gene: Labourer at Bundi sawmill.
Father Jiezke: Elderly priest at Bundi Mission.
Mr Clezy: Orthapeadic surgeon at Madang Hospital.

Wahgi Valley – Western Highlands.
Tsengelap clan: Influential group of people living on north side of Wahgi Valley.
Kauga Kua: Chimbu born Kiap stationed at Minj.
Neil Mockett: Kiap stationed at Minj.
Yuak Dju: Luluai representing Kambi people of Minj Sub-district.
Nopnop Tol: Important man among people living on south side of Wahgi Valley in Minj Sub-District.
Ian Douglas: Assistant District Commissioner at Minj.
Tangilka: Clan living at Tomba on south side of Wahgi Valley.
Kambilika: Clan living at Danal on south side of Wahgi Valley.
Brian Corrigan: Kiap based at Minj in 1953.
Marie Reay: Anthropologist studying people living near Minj in Wahgi Valley.
Mont: First victim of clan war between Tangilka and Kambilika.
Kos: Tangilka clan killer of Mont.
Sergeant-Major Siwi: Veteran of Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) stationed at Minj.
Swiss Missionaries: Staff attending mission stations built by Swiss Mission church.
Kaibelt Dorum: Frontline Kegerinkabam fighter.
Councillor Muga: Leader of Tangilka clan.
Councillor Koilmal: Front man for Kambilika clan.
Kaibelt Diria: Member of the House of Assembly (MHA) for Mid-Wahgi constituency.
Abba Kip: Pivotal member of Tsengelap clan.
Luluai Tsike: Important man in Tsengelap clan.
Dick Theile: Australian planter based at Banz in Wahgi Valley.
Komunka: Sub-clan living near Nondugl in Wahgi Valley.
Ogana: Dominant clan in Nondugl area.
Richard Theile: Son of Dick Theile.
Kaibelt Op: Fight leader of Komunka clan.
Tippuary: Minj based constable in RPNGC.
Mapa Dei: Driver working from Minj Sub-District office.
John Kamp: Australian educated man from Mount Hagen.
Kaiyer Auwin: Fight leader of Omgarl clan.
Omgarl - Clan living in Milep area.
Nigel Van Ruth: Assistant District Commissioner at Minj.
Kapuli: Interpreter at Minj Sub-District office.
Danga: Clan based at Bolimba on north side of Wahgi River.
Konumbuga: Dominant clan in villages surrounding Minj.
Kisu: Important clan at Kudjip on south side of Wahgi River.
Talu Bol: Nondugl based Vice President of Wahgi Local Government Council.
Berebuga: Large clan from Tombil on south side of Wahgi River.
Konjiga: Clan based in villages surrounding Banz.
Class Six: Gang of thieves based at Kabalku, Minj Sub-District.
Wi Kupa: Councillor at Kabalku and a charming individual too

Kairuku Sub-District.
Mekeo: The dominant group in villages surrounding Bereina Sub-District Office.
Roro. Important group of clansmen occupying coastal villages in Bereina Sub-District.
Erico Aufe: Legendary Mekeo escapee.
Nicholas Ain’au Okua: Mekeo villager who absconded from Bereina Corrective Institution.
Wani: RPNGC Constable stationed at Bereina.
James ToWalaun: RPNGC Constable stationed at Bereina.
Bruce Hides: Planter living near Kobuna in Bereina Sub-District.
Dulcie Hides: Wife of Bruce.
Anton Gawi: Sub-Inspector in charge of Bereina’s Police Detachment.
Lofty (Peter Barton-Eckett): Kiap stationed at Bereina.

Goilala Sub-District.
Tauade: People living in villages surrounding Tapini Sub-District Office.
Jeff Van Oosterwijck: Temporary ADC stationed at Tapini.
Sergeant Gabume: Senior sergeant of the Tapini Police Detachment.
Michael Nuglai: Constable stationed at Tapini.
Jack Hides: Brother of Bruce Hides and early explorer of Papuan Highlands.
Fuyege: People living in villages surrounding Woitape Patrol Post.
Kunimeipa: People living in villages surrounding Guari Patrol Post.
Peter Ivoro: Tauade convicted of murders in Port Moresby.
Karto Kartogi: Tauade convicted of murders in Port Moresby.
Roy Edwards: Kiap who patrolled Goilala region immediately after end of Second World War.
Father Abel and Father Morant. Gelignite blasting, road making, Catholic priests based at Kamulai Mission.
Tumai Mumu: Tauade leader from Tatupit Village.
Oulaine Papaite: Female victim of gang execution at Tapini.
Opu Anuma: Charged with Oulaine’s murder.
Maia Papaite: Brother of Oulaine.
Tuta: Important witness to events preceding Oulaine’s murder.
Katai Anuma: Opu’s sister.
Bill Graham: Kiap working at Tapini in 1969.
Tau Inam: Tauade villager murdered in 1969.
Kaga Lava: President of Tapini Local Government Council.
Kepara Lamoro: Witness to events surrounding Oulaine’s murder.
Tatai Kila: Charged with Oulaine’s murder.
Aia Paimere: Charged with Oulaine’s murder.
Meto Wanuwe: Charged with Oulaine’s murder.
Apua: RPNGC Constable posted to Tapini.
Panai Koai: Murder victim at Kariarita village, Tapini.
Amuna Ipoi: Convicted of Panai’s murder.
Ke’ere: Panai’s wife.
Aito: Panai’s daughter.
Mavi: Old man living at Kariarita.
Kaita Kamo: New leader at Kariarita.
Gitai Ino: Victim of revenge murder at Erume.
Alama Kaita: Convicted of Gitai’s murder.
Bakaia: Senior Constable stationed at Tapini.
Mana Ivoro: Kariarita villager charged with murder of Gitai.
Kaga Lava: President of Tapini Local Government Council.
Judge Lalor: Justice of PNG’s Supreme Court.
Louis Mona: MHA for Goilala constituency.
Ex-Sergeant Toro: Holder of the Queen’s Police Medal.
Peto: Thief on run from police at Port Moresby.
Suiz: Influential villager living at Guari Patrol Post.
David Suiz: Son of Suiz.
Adolf Noser: Bishop of Madang Catholic Diocese.
Patrick Pezoi: Kunimeipa cargo cultist.
David: Son of Patrick Pezoi.
Noel Tererembo: Kiap in charge of Guari Patrol Post in 1973.
Lucas Taia: Kunimeipa cargo cultist:
Agi: Kunimeipa cargo cultist.

Garry Roche

During the 1972 elections I was based in Karap in the Jimi Valley. I had frequent contact with the Kiaps at Tabibuga, Jack Edwards, Ken Logan, and Rod Cantlay.

I distinctly remember that those particular kiaps seemed more open to the possibility of independence, and Jack Edwards was not in agreement with the thinking of Tom Elllis.

The victory of Thomas Kavali in the Jimi election was quietly welcomed by the kiaps. Kavali was of course a key highlander supporting independence.

Both Edwards and Ken Logan stayed on some years after independence, based in Hagen for some time.

Robert L Parer CMG MBE

I remember when Pangu was formed and it was considered a threat to the way the Kiaps were running things.

So the Kiap's job in outstations was to keep a close watch on what Somare and others were doing. They were the enemy.

Some were so paranoid, especially the senior Kiap of the West Sepik, that a few characters at Aitape thought they would have some fun and made up a name that sounded dangerous.So ONGU appeared & the rest is history.

Investigators appeared from as far as Moresby and were sure it was far more dangerous than Pangu.

They were sure a Mau Mau organisation was operating but could not find what this clandestine thing was up to.

If you Google "ONGU" you will find a few articles in that clandestine blog of Keith Jackson's, PNG Attitude.

And here it is - KJ

Philip Fitzpatrick

I hadn't really thought about it until I read Robert's book, Barbara.

Prior to that we were simply puzzled about why the PNG government didn't keep the kiap system.

We knew there was tension between Somare and people like Tom Ellis but didn't think it was so pronounced as to be a major problem.

The bottom line turned out to be that the kiaps, whether local or expatriate, posed a major power threat to the new politicians and couldn't co-exist.

PNG might have been better off keeping the kiaps and getting rid of the politicians.

It is a book well-worth reading, not only for history buffs but for modern generations because it exposes the ambitions of the new power-hungry politicians.

Hopefully we'll get more written about the subject.

Barbara Short

Thanks Phil. That has taught me a lot. I was a teacher at Brandi High School in Wewak during those historic times, mixing with Somare, and teaching many boys who went on to run so many aspects of government in PNG during those early years if Independence.

I had great admiration for the kiaps and couldn't really understand why they stopped having kiaps. I think you have explained it.

Today, when I watch all the events taking place in the government of PNG I can see that this struggle for power between the many tribal leaders, political aspirants, is still on-going.

I think that may be PNG's greatest disadvantage... too many political aspirants, but I guess it is all part of working out how to run a country that used to be made up of thousands of self-governed villages.

Sounds like this is an important historical book.

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