51. The incredible problems faced by Syd Smith and Mert Brightwell

Paul Quinlivan’s Snapshots

In No. 25, and in many other Snapshots, I named kiaps whose ‘notable defences’ had been recorded but the only time that I know of where a kiap had to defend a case before it went to trial was at Telefomin. I do not mean that defending at the Preliminary Hearing is unimportant: when the mixed-race Philip Guise was charged with attempted murder of a European there was a terrible newspaper campaign of the ‘we’ll all be massacred in our beds’ variety so I had to overcome that hysteria by producing a ‘newsworthy defence’ at the Prelim., before I could raise the real defence at the trial; in the Harry Vincent Pierce case I would have stood no chance at the trial (since it would have to be before a prejudiced jury of four Whites) if I had not forced Norman White to defend Pierce at the Prelim … and so on. What I mean is that the rule envisaged a ‘one-on-one’ situation, one Accused with a story that had to be listened to and one kiap to listen. This is a great advance on having Learned Counsel coming from Australia but unable to speak to their client but it did not take account of the fact that the Telefomin Preliminary Hearings had been brought on prematurely – for what reason I never discovered – and there were an unknown number of possible Accused persons. Perhaps I can explain it best by quoting this part of my written advice, as Legal Officer-at-Large, to one of the Defending Officers:

(You) asked me whether it would not be limiting the scope of the defence at the actual trial if ………….(you advised your clients to do such and such). (i)……
(ii)……
(iii) (you) are dealing with eleven separate Natives ……. But you must realise that there are about 140 other Telefomin area Natives here in Wewak …… some of whom will later be your clients and they might not understand or appreciate your motives if you thwarted the knowledge-based wishes of these eleven.

Perhaps I should have first explained that each of the Defending Officers (Syd Smith, who joined the Service 11 September 1935 and Mert Brightwell, who joined 9 June 1947 and who is referred to in Nos. 22 and 25 above) was defending a separate group of men and, since the murders occurred in two totally different valley systems, there was no possibility of intermingling. One was defending the sixty to eighty arrested for attacking Patrol Officer Harris’ party and the other was defending the 140 arrested for attacking ADO Szarka’s party. That makes between 200 and 220 and neither figure includes the 60 or so who were in Wewak gaol having already been convicted and sentenced in regard to the abortive attack on Telefomin station itself and the Baptist Mission. Their difficulties were enormous and it is to their eternal credit that they did so well.

 

You may also like...

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