Barry Blyth Holloway: Champion of PNG Independence

Barry HollowaySir Barry Blyth Holloway. Patrol officer and Papua New Guinea politician. Born Kimberley, Tasmania, 26 September 1934. Died Brisbane, 16 January, aged 78.

The generation of Australians who grew up in the 1940s and 50s heard much from their older brothers and fathers about war.

The best of them volunteered for their own challenge. At an astonishingly young age, they travelled to the remotest corners of their country’s big tropical colony to administer vast areas and populations of Papua New Guinea.

They were magistrates, police chiefs, road and bridge builders, health and education supervisors, all roles wrapped in one, that of the patrol officer or “kiap”—a word derived from the old days of German New Guinea.

This afternoon, appropriately Australia Day, the best of those best is being buried at St Michael and All Angels Anglican Church in the tiny north Tasmanian township of Kimberley, alongside his parents.

He is Barry Holloway, the most prominent Australian to stay on in independent PNG and the best-known of a generation of patrol officers who effectively ran the country until independence in 1975 and maintained a key role afterwards. He was still playing a central role in PNG life until recent days, almost succeeding in recapturing his Eastern Highlands constituency at last year’s election, aged 78.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said in a tribute to the man his country knighted: “At independence, he was one of the first to take out citizenship. “He had no hesitation in embracing the new nation of Papua New Guinea.”

Sir Barry, a hard-living, empathetic intellectual, typical of the best of the kiaps, arrived in the then Australian territory in 1953, aged just 18, following a six-week orientation course.

He told ABC radio: “We were given basic, multi-functional activities to do, such as learning how to map, how to handle government stores, and all sorts of clerical work, which really dampened our spirits somewhat, because we were coming up for high adventure.”

Which he certainly found. He was one of about 1000 kiaps who each ruled and helped develop vast areas of the country during the 25 years leading to independence.
He described an early assignment to settle a tribal conflict involving hundreds of fighters.

He was accompanied by a handful of PNG police armed with .303 rifles, which he said appeared to the combatants to be mere sticks. “We demonstrated the power of the rifle by lining up about five shields, and showing how the bullet would come out causing a great gap at the other side.”

Sir Barry established himself as a political systems reformer, so impressing Paul Hasluck, as minister for territories on a visit to his Kainantu district in the Eastern Highlands that Hasluck put him on his aircraft and flew him to headquarters to brief senior officials.

He was also a founder, with Michael Somare, of the Pangu Party that pressed strongest for independence. Tony Voutas, a fellow patrol officer and then a fellow MP, and also a founder of Pangu, described Sir Barry as “a combination of a political mastermind and an exceptionally generous person”.

“He made a substantial personal and financial contribution in 1966 and onwards to a nascent ‘Left Bank salon’ in the new Port Moresby suburb of Hohola, built for Papua New Guineans recruited into the public service.”

The political salon was centred on the basic fibro houses of the then union activist Albert Maori Kiki and of Sir Barry, about 150 m apart. Voutas said: “The Information and Broadcasting Department’s new recruit, Michael Somare, had an identical house about 400m away.”

To push for independence before the 1968 elections was an especially brave move by Sir Barry, Voutas said, “As his electorate was in the Highlands, where many people were as frightened of self-government as if it were an apocalypse”.

But Sir Barry won his seat, and later became Speaker, from 1972 to 1975. He was appointed to the cabinet at independence, and held a series of senior portfolios during his 20 years as an MP. These included education and finance—thus effectively making him the country’s treasurer.

He eventually fell out with Sir Michael and formed a new party, with the late Anthony Siaguru.

Sir Barry had three wives, Liz from Australia, and Ikini and Fua from PNG, 12 children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

From: The Australian, 26 January 2013 


Leave a Reply