11. Planters, traders (and Monte) and their former employees

Paul Quinlivan’s Snapshots

The King against Peter James Jameson (Kavieng, 14-22 February 1952) was my very first trial in TPNG and the only one in which I faced two lawyers defending the one man. I issued two reports on it, the first in my speech to the Old Boys Association (this follows as No 12) and this one to the Law Students because of the basic rule that you never ask, in cross-examination, a question to which you don’t know the answer. Nowadays, this one’s value lies in the insight it gives into the type of relationship which grew up in those days but which was not liable to develop when people are appointed from Australia to high positions in the Territory.

Jameson had been Officer-in-Charge of the Production Control Board (PCB) weighbridge at Kavieng and he was charged with stealing £221/5/7, in small amounts, from PNG nationals who sold copra to PCB. The amount may seem small but he used his position to victimise Papua New Guineans and, in those days, Australia’s Good Name’and ‘trusteeship’ were terms often spoken about). It was the most complex trial in TPNG history, with 39 Prosecution Witnesses, so Jameson employed a team of lawyers (Mr Foy, the Kavieng solicitor, and Harold James, a barrister from Rabaul) and their efforts were aimed at proving that an elderly Luluai, Mamawau of Nonopai, was a liar and part of a conspiracy to frame Jameson. During the cross-examination of Mamawus Mr Foy tugged at Harold James’ gown and said, in a stage whisper, “Ask him about his Luluai’s hat”. Normally, a lawyer never asks, in cross-examination, any question he/she does not know the answer to beforehand but, since Foy had presumably investigated what he was now instructing Harold James to ask, he complied, with disastrous consequences. Patrol Officer William Arthur Stokes was the Interpreter. My notes of the cross-examination read:

Q. by James: I put it to you that you are lying.
A. by Mamawus: No. What I have said is the truth.
Q. You say you have been Luluai since long before the war.
A. That is true.
Q. But you were stripped of your Luluai’s hat, at one time, weren’t you?
A. That is not true.
Q. We will call Kasw to tell the court that he wore your Luluai’s hat for some years.
A. That is true.
Q. How could he wear the Luluai’s hat when you were Luluai? What you have said proves that you are a liar! Therefore everything else you have said is a lie!
OBJECTION by Quinlivan
Question WITHDRAWN by Mr James.
Q. Can you explain to the court how Kase could wear your hat when you were supposed to be wearing it?
A. One day a letter came to a man in our village. It was from his former employer and, since it was written in pidgin, all the people assembled and he read it to us. It said, “When you went back to your village and I came to England to serve in the war on the other side of the world, I thought you would be safe”.
OBJECTION by Mr James: “Not interested in employer/employee relations”.
Quinlivan: Witness was asked to explain something and is entitled to do so in his own way. If it becomes clear that he is wasting the court’s time, he can then be reigned in. At this stage, he is only beginning his explanation.
Court OVERRULED Mr James saying, “He will be stopped if or when his explanation becomes irrelevant. Let him proceed”.
A. The letter said: ‘I thought you would be safe but the Japanese have bombed some American warships so Japan has now joined the war and you and your family may now be in danger.

My First Talk is that this danger is very real. The Japanese will try giamining everyone that, because they have coloured skins, they are wantoks, but they have been raping and killing people with coloured skins in Manchuria and China for years.

My Number Two Talk is that, because Australians are helping England fight this war, many people from this side of the world, including the Americans who have just been bombed, will come and help Australia. So although the Japanese may arrive, they will not be allowed to stay long.

My Number Three Talk is that you must get your people to build gardens in a far-away place which is secret so that, when the Japanese come, you can all move to safety until the Australians come back and get rid of them”. What he said had wisdom so everyone agreed to do what he suggested. Then, when the new gardens were built the Japanese came so we moved to the new gardens and stayed there. Before we left, however, I said to Kase, in the presence of all our people: “You have always coveted my hat. Here it is. We are now leaving for our safe place but you must remain here and wear my hat so that you can convince the Japanese that you are the Luluai and they will stop searching for us. When the Japanese are got rid of we will come back and I will want my hat back. Make sure that you do not dirty it while I am away”. “That is why the Japanese never found us. And that is why, for a time, Kase wore my hat but I never lost it”.

Q. How can we know if what you are saying is the truth?
A. Ask the Big Judge here (pointing with his chin to the Bench). He can tell you! It was he who wrote the letter his former servant read out in the village.

JUDGE: I have not been writing down what was said because we have been in a voire dire (a trial within a trial) to see whether the explanation is relevant. That last answer gives us something totally unexpected. It would appear, Mr James, that if you wish to pursue this line, I may have to make an important decision.

COUNSEL FOR BOTH SIDES CONFERRED and it was agreed that the Judge was intimating that he would stand down and order that another judge do the trial again, from the beginning, if Counsel for the Defence wished to take this line of cross-examination any further. Mr James: “I do not wish to pursue this line of cross-examination”. (End of my notes)

It is interesting that, although the discovery that it was Monte who had written the letter did cause a flurry of interest, this was because of the discomfort it caused Jameson’s lawyers, not because Monte had laboriously pecked away on a typewriter because nobody could read his writing and his letter was in pidgin. That was ‘no big deal’ because everyone who had ‘grown into their careers’ in the Territory would, I am sure, have done the same if danger had arisen again. Nor was there any significance in the fact that, since we had discovered this letter, it is probable that he wrote many because he had ‘worked bush’ with many people who would have come into jeopardy. But, as more and more people arrived to take up important positions, this aspect (which originally had had no significance) began to take its place beside another feature of the case which impressed me greatly in those earlier days.

Two Asians and eight Australians were there for much of each of the eight days of the trial and, since I had been told that Kiaps often sat in to see how courts should be conducted, I remarked to Tom Aitchison, the DC, that he must have a lot of spare Kiaps. He laughed and said, “They’re not Kiaps. They’re planters or traders and they want to see the bastard go for a row! Some of them were caught up in the Jap Occupation and owe their lives to growers he fleeced; others employed one or other of the growers and, in their own quiet way, they want to show support”. This was my first trial and I was supposed to have an accountant sitting beside me, piloting me through the exhibits, but he disappeared after the first day because of a foul-up in Moresby. I could easily have become dispirited but the fact that so many busy planters and traders were there, day after day, to give support to people who had been victimised, gave me a continuous boost. And I have often wondered just how many, in other parts of the Territory, helped former employees, etc., in more lasting ways. Mowapo, Andy O’Driscoll’s “monkeymaster”, told me Andy left his estate for the education of his (Mowapo’s) children. And the trusts set up by Fred Archer and Dr Strong are well known. Who are the others who should be remembered because of the quiet works of goodness they did?

You may also like...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.