47. Taking a sample –– and a need for praise

Paul Quinlivan’s Snapshots

It is easy for many kinds of scientists to take a sample which will show precisely what was the current state of affairs at a given moment in the past. But it is seldom that this is possible in human affairs. The Telefomin Massacres are one such occasion and the insights they give us are important because they give an unbiased picture, both of the people of Wewak in general (see No. 52) and, in particular, of the calibre of those who did the training of police, medical orderlies and interpreters in those earlier times.

We have already seen, in No. 33, that Medical Orderly Bunat of Moin, Sepik, was so well trained that, although he was under heavy fire at the time, he carefully boiled his syringes and followed proper procedures which kept his patients alive for hours beyond the point where, without him, they would have died. In No. 34 our heading was ‘Two Policemen Who Showed that They had Been Well Trained’ and I suggested, in No. 45, that not even an experienced General could have handled the tragic situation better than Lance Corporal Sauweni did. It makes one wonder who did the training, in each case, and readers who were personally responsible, or who know that their father or uncle was, should take a bow! And, as I said in No. 45, ‘training’ includes, to a very marked degree, those who allowed the trained person to blossom because, without nurturing, training of this type withers and dies!

There must be many readers who can feel proud for having helped produce that result but, unfortunately, I can name only one. Since that one is Des Clifton-Bassett, late husband of our editor, Marie, I quote this part of my final report to the Crown Law Officer with very great pleasure (the first line refers to comments in five-month old issues of the Australian press which, at long last, were beginning to filter through to me and the ‘no other place’ in para 31 refers to former British, Spanish, Dutch or French colonies):

(28)…….Since the view has been expressed that the police detachment there was ‘out of control’, I would like to express my thoughts regarding them.
(29) I was impressed both by the physique of the police and by their intelligence. I understand that Mr. Clifton-Bassett who opened the station hand-picked them.
(31)…….Without casting aspersions, I suggest that in no other place where police roam among a foreign and hostile people under arrogant headmen with whom they could hardly converse and who they had to control, would the catalogue of their misdeeds be three instances of assault only …….

In Suni’s case the same comment applies but there is another level of interest because of the Supreme Court of New Guinea’s attitude towards official interpreters.


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