9. “It Is is Not For Anyone to Invent”

Paul Quinlivan’s Snapshots

The next two snapshots are for the benefit of younger readers who may sometimes fear that, perhaps, their father or uncle who was in the Admin. may not always have been as upright as family pride demands. When I arrived in TPNG in January 1952 Canberra’s policy was that rehabilitation and reconstruction of TPNG had to be completed by 1957/58 and that, from that date on, the Territory would have to operate within its own resources. It was therefore necessary for solid foundations to be laid which meant that any possible misconceptions had to be eliminated. As far as I could see, the method used was to circulate two of Monte’s judgements, the Hamilton Case (2-5 March 1948) which effectively weeded out any ‘Sanders of the River’ types, and the Pringle Case (6-12 April 1951) which we will see next. 
Harry Edward Hamilton was a Kiap who became obsessed with the problem of how to maintain order in his sub-district (Kaiapit). In a later issue we will see how Kiaps were expected to deal with the problem of ‘control’ but he decided to invent his own solution. Colonial governors, of every nationality, have devoted much thought to this; Julius Caesar, for instance (if you look at page 329 of Colleen McCullough’s Caesar), chopped both hands off more than 4,000 valiant patriots so that, by spreading the handless beggars throughout France, he could make sure others toed his line.

Hamilton decided to bring Tuwara into line by ‘putting shame on him’ by having his (Tuwara’s) female relative masturbate him in public. Hamilton was charged with ‘procuring an indecent assault’ and, at trial, he claimed that some of the local people told him they approved of what he had done. In his written judgment Monte zeroed in on this claim and said, “Many Natives consider it unwise and lacking in tact to disagree with a Government officer. One Native Constable (however) had the moral fibre to consider your conduct unseemly …(T)he punishment prescribed by law is sufficiently drastic. It is not for anyone to invent or inflict punishments outside the law and everyone who does so, whether his motive be lofty or base, does so at his peril…”

Two sets of words are vitally important: “It is not for anyone to invent” and “whether (your) motive be lofty or base”. Monte accepted that Hamilton had been overworked and under great strain, that he had done good service both before and during the war, and that he would probably be dismissed from the Service and deported, but he said that, to discourage others from inventing their own forms of ‘control’, the minimum punishment he could inflict was three years imprisonment. It had a strong dissuading effect. And, coupled with the fact that Monte was always repeating his Reichstag Fire Speech about ‘people having access to someone they can complain to’ and with Gunner Gore constantly repeating Sir Hubert Murray’s threat that if anyone prevented a complaint getting to the highest authority he would be instantly sacked, readers may rest assured that if someone in the Admin had cooked up a new type of control (such as handcuffing someone to the flagpole, or locking them in the cells without entering the fact in the Station Occurrence Book, or whatever) he would have been found out. And, if it was something more than a simple, honest mistake, he would have been tried with maximum publicity. So if your revered relative was not convicted and severely punished you can be pretty sure that he was a decent man of whom you can be proud.

 

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