The Wisdom of Tei Abal

May 22, 2013 at 5:39 am (Andrew Peacock, Angoram, Australian Politics, Bill Morrison, Commentary, Deborah Ruiz Wall, Gough Whitlam, Indepentence for PNG, Papua New Guinea, Sir Tei Abel, Wally Lussick)

Wisdom of T. A.

This piece in the Post-Courier, December 1, 1973 is based on an interview with Tei Abal, Leader of the Opposition.

The interview was in Melanesian Pidgin.

Tei Abal was a man with very little formal education, but a man who knew his own people well.

Looking back, I imagine the names of Andrew Peacock, Bill Morrison, and last, but certainly not least, Gough Whitlam, these people readily come to mind, as Australian politicans who were more than ready to push PNG to independence. This is without mentioning locals like Michael Somare and John Guise.

Wally Lussick in 1973 was Tei Abal’s private secretary and advisor, and in my book knew far more about PNG and its people than any of the above named Australian politicians.

Deborah Ruiz Wall, a newly arrived Filipino in PNG was Mr Abal’s press secretary and research officer. She was not by anyone at the time considered a conservative, having been active in the student protest movement in Manila and very anti Marcos. But she fully agreed with her boss that PNG was not ready for independence, and should not be pushed into it.

The people of PNG were not asked. Had they been asked in a referendum, I’m sure that the vote would have gone strongly against early independence.

The shame of the whole thing is: the wisdom of Tei Abal was not heeded in the corridors of power!

With the wisdom of hindsight, and given the mess PNG is now in the question could be raised again: was the country ready for independence?

I’d like to conduct a survey in the Town of Angoram and put this to the people there.

It’s probably little comfort to you now Tei, wherever you are in the afterlife, but you were right, and Whitlam was wrong!



  1. Antony Ruhan said,

    Whitlam’s decision to cede West Papua to Indonesia was one of the most uninformed and destructive acts ever made by an Australian politician.

    • deberigny said,

      Anthony, I agree!

      • deberigny said,

        Just a little correction; really a big correction!

        ‘Sukarno made the take over of western New Guinea a focus of his continuing struggle against Dutch imperialism and part of a broader Third World conflict with the West.[28] Indonesia launched seaborne and paratroop incursions into the territory but with little success.[29] The Dutch knew that a military campaign to retain the region would require protracted jungle warfare, and were unwilling to see a repeat of their futile efforts in the armed struggle for Indonesian independence in the 1940s, and they agreed to American mediation. The negotiations resulted in the UN-ratified New York Agreement of September 1962,[30] that required authority to be transferred to a United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) and then to Indonesia from 1 May 1963, until such time as Indonesia allowed the Papuans to determine whether they wanted independence or be part of Indonesia. Accordingly in 1969, the United Nations supervised the “Act of Free Choice” in which the Indonesian government used the procedure of musyawarah, a consensus of ‘elders’. Deeming Papuans to be too “primitive” to cope with democracy, the 1,054 elders (officials appointed by the Indonesian government) represented were forced at gunpoint to be a part of Indonesia.[31] Soon after, the region became the 26th province of Indonesia with full United Nations and international recognition.’

        Source: Wikipedia

        So this happened before Whitlam was PM!

    • Alan Pretty said,

      Here here!

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