KEITH JACKSON | Extracts from his Radio Bougainville diary
TUE 2 JAN
Lyall Newby, Director of the Department of Information and Extension Services (DIES), rang and, amongst other matters, complained that other Territory departments were starting to take over traditional functions of DIES and that staff from our department were transferring to these better paid positions. I suppose he needed someone to grumble to but we haven’t experienced the problem at Radio Bougainville.
WED 3 JAN
There’s a rumour abroad that a Highlander was shot and killed with a bow and arrow by a Dapera villager. It is unfounded but 30 Highlanders went to Arawa Hospital and demanded to see the “body”. Arawa market was tense during the morning and police were present. There were also reports of conflict but nothing happened.
The police asked us to run a story scotching the rumour about the "death". After consulting with District Commissioner Bill Brown I decided a news report would exacerbate rather than assuage fears. So we canned the story. It will be used later if a deteriorating situation makes it necessary.
Barry Middlemiss, Australian-born secretary of secessionist group Napidakoe Navitu, told me MP Paul Lapun had been “foolish” in taking a stand against Navitu’s resolutions opposing Michael Somare’s pending visit. He expects demonstrators would meet Somare wherever he went in the Kieta-Arawa area. I also believe Navitu officials are trying to organise protests at Boku and Wakunai.
FRI 6 JAN
Middlemiss rang and said Napidakoe Navitu had reversed its decision on not wanting Somare to visit. Demonstrations, he said, would be “silent protests”.
SAT 7 JAN
Kieta Council president John Dakeni gave me a press release on meetings he’d had with Napidakoe Navitu about Somare’s visit. However, he would not detail what plans had been made for action against Somare. Middlemiss had told me such plans would be passed by word of mouth – not through the media.
MON 9 JAN
The Chief Minister is now in Bougainville. Joseph Kariup, our freelance correspondent in Buka, rang through with a first class voice report of Somare’s arrival and first day in Buka. I decided to pay him a bonus at the equivalent rate for three stories ($2.25).
TUE 9 JAN
To Aropa airport in the afternoon. Somare arrived at about a quarter to four. There were no demonstrators. Met our reporter Luke Umbo, who is travelling with him, and arranged to have a discussion with Somare at Davara Motel later in the day. When I did, Somare agreed to give a talk on Radio Bougainville on Saturday reviewing his visit.
I was told of an incident where a Bougainville Copper village relations officer, Bill Birkett, gate crashed a cocktail party for Somare at Buka and abused him for “not opening the mine”. Birkett, who is leaving the company next month, will be flown to Kieta to apologise to the Chief Minister.
WED 10 JAN
An estimated 2,000 people attended a fiery four-hour meeting with Somare outside Kieta sub-district office. I was there for the duration and phoned a story to Moresby. More stories were sent through during the afternoon. I wrote a 68-liner for our local bulletin and Aloysius Nase prepared a 40 minute special program put to air at 8 pm.
A Wabag man has been found murdered near Nairovi. Seems like a payback by Tolais for a man who was killed in Kieta at Christmas.
THU 11 JAN
Controller of Broadcasting Jim Leigh rang about the killing of the Wabag man. I told him we had run facts of the story but would not be revealing ethnicity of killer(s) if and when they were found. We’ve had so many rumours recently that it pays to run factual stories when they’re available. At the same time it seems like good policy to ignore rumours except where they pose a threat to public order.
It was a dramatic afternoon with Somare flown out of Panguna by helicopter after MP Paul Lapun and Father John Momis expressed fears for his safety. I got the story from Gus Smales of the Melbourne Herald and an AAP journo and phoned it to Central News Room in Port Moresby in time for the afternoon transmission to all stations.
It seems 80 villagers carrying weapons had appeared at the Panguna minesite and the meeting was cancelled. Somare departed leaving behind many resentful people. The men said they intended the Chief Minister no harm and the weapons were symbolic.
The more considered view now is that the cancellation of the Panguna meeting and Somare’s premature departure was a mistake.
FRI 12 JAN
Early call from headquarters about my story on Somare at Panguna. HQ concerned about inconsistencies with the ABC version. These were more apparent than real and the Post-Courier report seemingly confirms my report.
Leigh rang and said a contact of his in Moresby told him that Western Highlanders here are planning payback for death of a Laiagam man. Checked with the acting District Officer but he had heard nothing.
SAT 13 JAN
Arrived at Davara Motel about 11.15 am preparatory to arrival of Chief Minister Somare who was about two hours late. Eventually he turned up and I had lunch with him and recorded a 12 minute talk reviewing his visit to Bougainville. He also invited me to dinner and drinks tonight.
As Somare entered the Davara dining room he was angered when a European called out, “Look at that kanaka in a laplap”. It did not develop into more of an issue – although it easily could have. Some of the expats brought in by the copper company are deadbeats.
I sat next to Alexis Sarei at dinner. We had an animated discussion about many different things including Kivung Bilong Wailis (our radio forum devoted entirely to listeners' letters on current political and social issues) which he said was sometimes unnecessarily harsh. I said this was true, but that was also how people wrote.
I told him I was reluctant to censor listeners, especially given the station’s previous reputation, but that there is a standing instruction that letters be toned down if necessary. This is done from time to time but I suppose it could be exercised with more precision.
Alexis was a wonderful dinner companion; we had a great discussion about politics, with self-government now just around the corner.
Part way through our conversation, I headed for the toilet. Midstream, a guy I didn’t know sidled alongside me and said hoarsely, “Be careful what you say, you’re a government officer” and quickly disappeared. I presumed he was a spook, but he wasn't either of the two Kieta-based officers, who I know well.
Footnote: More than 46 years later I still don't know the identity of my pissoir visitor. There were three intelligence agencies in Papua New Guinea at the time - Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Police Special Branch and an outfit operating within the kiaps' department. I must remember to ask Bill Brown - KJ