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Those old-style police were community leaders

ROBERT FORSTER

 

Policeman against warfare (Forster)
A local policeman joins the front rank to show his enthusiasm to put a stop to inter-clan fighting, Minj, 1972 (Robert Forster)

NORTHUMBRIA, UK - This photograph was taken at Minj in the Western Highlands early in 1972 and supports Phil Fitzpatrick’s view that good ‘bush policemen’ made their own special contribution to the development of rural Papua New Guinea.

It also contradicts a post-independence view, put forward by a number of opinion formers, that before 1975 many PNG policemen were self-serving individuals more interested in feathering their own nest than promoting social stability at village level.

The photograph shows armed clan warriors, who have decided to give up more than three months constant confrontation with a neighbouring village, on their way to a peace-making ceremony.

They are led, and this was no surprise to the kiaps who had organised the lull in hostilities, by a senior policeman (two stripes, probably a corporal) who lived close to the feuding communities.

Can anyone looking at this 47-year old photograph doubt his enthusiasm for what is about to take place?

His behaviour is active not passive, he has a front row position among clan leaders, he is part of the initiative – not a spectator - and he is waving his baton with all the eagerness and authority of a conductor leading an orchestra.

Some may say he should not have being taking part so directly.

However it would have been difficult to stop him.

He had nagged local kiaps incessantly in his efforts to encourage the restoration of village stability and must be credited with a positive contribution to the welcome halt in what had been regular and destructive fighting.

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Garry Roche

Around the same time (1972) in the Jimi I remember a Sgt. Noifa, (whose son David Noifa was later a well known Rugby player). When a man from the Karap area was wanted by the police, Sgt. Noifa came from Tabibuga with just one constable and calmly persuaded the clan of the wanted man to call the man in that he could surrender himself to the police. No riot squad, just dialogue and persuasion. The wanted man did surrender.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Among other literary projects, I've started writing a prequel to the Inspector Metau trilogy. It's tentatively called 'Sergeant Kasari Anu RPNGC RN1888'.

Sergeant Kasari was Inspector Metau's mentor in his younger days and appears as an older man in the three books.

Through Kasari (there actually was a policeman called Kasari in the Western District) I'm tracing the life of a young policeman in the 1950-60s.

As part of my research I dug up Bob Hoad's patrol report describing the opening and development of the Olsobip Patrol Post on the southern side of the rugged Star Mountains in 1964.

In it he describes the activities of his seven policemen who were all involved in the airfield construction and the construction of the buildings etc.

It was a pretty rugged affair because of the terrain. Bob and Patrol Officer Warren Dutton were either walking in from Kiunga or flying up to Telefomin and walking down the Hindenberg Wall to the new station site.

Some of the police were actually physically putting up buildings. Others were digging out tree stumps and limestone boulders from the new airfield.

All this was being done in contravention of orders from headquarters that policemen were not to be used as foremen or workers.

Policemen were also walking back and forth from Olsobip to Telefomin carrying mail and bringing back supplies for the Faiwolmin labourers. Other supplies were coming in via airdrops.

I was OIC Olsobip in 1969-70 and it was one of my favourite postings.

Without the policemen the station would never have been established. I imagine the same can be said for many other patrol posts in PNG.

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