SEATTLE, USA - I had mixed experiences with kiaps. When I was small, fear lingered in my village. The adults told us to keep away from the kiaps. The dominant feeling was that the kiaps would punish us, or even take us away.
These feelings were reinforced as we watched the road between Laiagam and Kandep built. Everyone was required to work on road construction and other government projects.
The police rounded up those who did not show up and beat them or threw them in gaol. This fear drove my movement and I always watched from the periphery of the centre of activities.
As I got older, I lived at Laiagam station, about 20 kilometres from my village, and witnessed some of the changes that were occurring. In particular I remember interactions with individual kiaps.
I thought that kiap Mr Van Ruth at Laiagam was a borderline bully. At times he would set his dog on us and we ran in all directions.
He had the late Paul Lare and three medical orderlies thrown in gaol for making loud noises while walking past his residence. They were heading home after drinking at the local tavern.
Mr Lare was a radio announcer based in Mt Hagen doing some recording with the school children. When he did not show up, we went looking for him the next morning and found out he had spent the night in gaol.
Mail and freight for the expatriate community was flown in by aircraft operated by Territory Air Lines. Driven by curiosity we watched from a distance as these airplanes landed, unloaded and took off. The dirt airstrip and the post office became communication centres for the expatriate community.
One day, in front of the office building located several metres from the airstrip, I heard Mrs Van Ruth say, “arrest him”. At her command, several policemen grabbed a local driver and threw him in gaol. She thought he was driving too fast in front of the office.
Several years later, while we were in high school, Mr Stewart Armstrong at Wapenamanda introduced us rugby league and was our coach. He was one of my best motivators, eventually setting me on a trajectory that led to my playing school representative rugby in both PNG and Australia.
The popular Ipatas Cup rugby league program in PNG sprouted from the seeds planted by Mr Armstrong.
In the late 1970s, I needed a kiap’s signature on a government form. So, I went to Laiagam one Sunday afternoon and knocked on his door to obtain it.
I had never seen the man before. Looking rather irritated, he greeted me with “f…. bloody”, which seemed normal vocabulary because they all spoke like that. Yet he grudgingly signed the document for me.
In the early 1980s, I got to know Mr John Forrest who was working with the Madang Provincial Government. I found him to be one the most professional and courteous people.
At the time I was working in the private sector and Mr Forrest helped me secure funding for a primary school, a clinic and a vocational school in the Upper Ramu Valley.
He knew the system well so he pointed me in the appropriate direction if he could not assist directly.
Footnote: Phil Fitzpatrick has commented, “Nigel wasn't a borderline bully, Joe, he was a full-on bully. Unfortunately he was one of quite a few exceptions to the rule. Laiagam was unlucky to have him there.”