50. What Suni taught his wife’s parents

Paul Quinlivan’s Snapshots

As mentioned before, the plan to kill all foreigners in the Telefomin area as soon as the signal was given, involved everyone. The concept of someone not obeying simply could not – or should not – have arisen but, in the case of Suni’s wife’s parents it did and we must assume that this was because of what Suni taught them. They were both very old when the killings occurred and, since Suni was an orphan, it is probable that they were ‘people of no account’ in an area where status was all-important. Despite these debilitating personal aspects they stepped forward, when the mob was about to hack Policeman Mulai to death – Mulai being the sole survivor of ADO Szarka’s party – and, invoking what appears to have been an ancient formula for sanctuary (they grabbed an arrow from the men confronting them, they grabbed a piece of a shrub and, holding both aloft, they broke the arrow and twined the shrub around the two broken halves) they protected Mu;ai for several days until they got him back to safety. In my Letter Recommending Awards and Decorations I said:

When Police Constable Mulai, exhausted and a hounded outcast, had almost given up hope of reaching the Telefomin station, Biltemelip and her husband Tofipnok gave him sanctuary, food, rest and safe conduct to the station through lines of armed hostile warriors and saved Mulai’s life. They did this at a time when there was no reason to believe that the Telefomins would not succeed in driving out the foreigners and therefore destroying any hope (they) might have had of future protection.


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