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16 March 2019


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Philip Fitzpatrick

Bill Gammage's book about Jim Taylor and John Black's 1938-39 Hagen Sepik patrol, 'The Sky Travellers' is worth reading if you are interested in the relationship of the kiaps and their police and how the latter used this to their advantage. Here is an extract:

"The police, knowing that the 'mastas' civilising mission meant conquest, were more warriors than citizens. Warriors fought people who showed hostility, including refusing to trade. This slightly extended the 'mastas' doctrine of force but was precisely what the police or their fathers experienced when 'mastas' first came. They thought their behaviour ethical: Kobubu spoke of it freely, and carriers said that Jim and John endorsed it. Yet carriers and clanspeople were clear that thefts and shootings usually occurred when whites were not there, and the police hid much. They knew that in 'mastas'' terms they did wrong."

Joe Herman

Excellent piece Phil. I think the village elders and the administrators had parallel experiences.

The discussions at the station during the day and the hausman in the evenings were different as if they were talking about two entirely different events.

Neither one was either right or wrong.

Concerning fear, the policemen were the effective agents in driving it into the society’s very core physic. I did not understand the command structures but do remember watching public beatings by policemen.

It did not stop there, one afternoon a policeman shot my uncle’s unsuspecting pig on the newly built road side. We only guessed what his next target might have been.

I think it was in the early 1970s the police force had its own department command structure. There was a brief relative calmness and sense of optimism. I remember riding with Inspector Ben at the Wapenamanda Police and got to know some of the policemen.

This was short-lived when the mobile and the riot squad units were introduced. These policemen stopped and terrorized anyone on the roads at will.

It is now a common and painful scene endured by many villagers when the police drive up and burn down an entire village and inflict property damages when they cannot arrest a suspect who might have hidden in the area or just simply to keep the fear alive.

Adding to this are the “rogue policemen’s” behavior. They have morphed into legalised monsters with little accountability.

Mathias Kin

Well written Phil. I must say some of the police at the time were arrogant and took part in acts their superiors would never allow.

Two of the shootings featured in 'My Chimbu' were cases where the man in charge took the first shot killing the first warrior.

Then the others, including other kiaps in the patrol, also shot at indigenous people killing many people.

These killings were never reported properly in patrol reports. In 'My Chimbu' these previously unheard Chimbus who suffered the loss of a loved one have spoken.

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