36. The kiap’s wife says: ‘It happens everywhere!’

Paul Quinlivan’s Snapshots


I have just described why I feel that this is especially relevant in a sequence about Telefomin but I should also explain how it came to be written. From the 1960s on, as the foibles of ‘Big Time Operators’, War Surplus Materials Collectors and other post-war characters declined, the needs of the South Pacific Post changed. At the same time, it changed from being a weekly to a daily with a need to curry favour with the increasing number of planters and the multiplying number of public servants, all of whom were now called ‘temporaries’. Since the kiaps were ‘permanents’, there was a move towards anti-kiapism (by referring to them as ‘petrol officers’ and so on) and, after one particularly unfair outburst I wrote this article. It was not published so, years later, when the editor dealt rather roughly with a call by Michael Somare for a return to the ‘good old days when the kiap could be relied on’, I sent it in again. This is its first publication. It reads, in part:

It is important to note that a patrol officer does a lot more than patrolling. In fact, the picture which that word conjures up in my mind is not of a man at all, but of an Australian woman nursing her new baby, at Kundiawa, in the most heavily populated area of the Territory. In those days, the Station was in two parts, the Kiap’s part and, half a mile away, the hospital. Monte was staying with the kiap, ADO Bill Kelly, and I was staying at the hospital with one of the European Medical Assistants. On our last day there we finished quite early and the two Defending Officers flew out to return to their various posts. Then, since the Court had finished and there was no reason why I could not be seen hobnobbing with the Chief Judge, Margaret Kelly invited me to dinner. It was a lovely evening but, at one stage, there was a scratching sound near the open window and Bill excused himself and went out. He returned and said something to Margaret and the evening continued as if nothing had happened. Next morning, however, when I got up I found that the two European Medical Assistants had left to attend wounded men in another valley. And when I told Monte this, he told me that the diversion the previous evening had been the Sergeant of Police telling the kiap that tribal warfare had suddenly broken out in a valley on the other side of the mountain range so Bill Kelly had gone off, ‘at first light’ with three unarmed native police, to quell it.

This meant that, apart from the Lutheran missionary a considerable walk away and the Catholic missionaries at Mingendi, twice the distance in the opposite direction, Margaret and her baby were the only whites in the area, apart from the Chief Justice and myself, and we were waiting for a charter flight to take us out. So we decided to cancel our charter and wait until Bill returned. It was the gentlemanly thing to do and, in my case, it was the desirable thing to do because I loved Kundiawa and I was entitled to a day off. The only problem with this masterful piece of decision-making was that we were not able to use the wireless transmitter so we had to let Margaret in on our decision. She exploded! Very courteously but quite emphatically, she said that she and her baby were in the safest place on God’s earth and that the Chief Justice and I should catch our charter flight out because people were waiting for us at the next ‘Court Town’. This – the kiap being suddenly called away – was a perfectly normal situation, she explained, and it happened on every station in the Territory.


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