Photographic memories

November 30, 2013 at 11:41 pm (Angoram, artifacts, Bob Mackie, Commentary, Deborah Ruiz Wall, Don Bosgard, Dr Jan J Saave, East Sepik District, expatriates, Fr Fons Ruijter, Goya Henry, H.B.G. Larkin, Jim McKinnon, John Bowers, Kami Raymundus, Kevin Trueman, Michael Somare, Papua New Guinea, Paul Dennett, Peter Johnson, Photos, Sepik floods, Somare, Temlett Conibeer, W.M. Hughes)

Don Pybus in Sydney

Don Pybus in Sydney


Dieter with Peter Johnson, Sepik Ironman Competition, 07/06/2009

Dieter with Peter Johnson, Sepik Ironman Competition, 07/06/2009

Greetings from Goya 1968

Greetings from Goya 1968

A.C.T. Marke & John Kelly in the wilds of PNG

A.C.T. Marke & John Kelly in the wilds of PNG

1958 Leeton, contemplates a world trip  1961 Troppo on Kar Kar Island  1963 Driekikir

1958 Leeton, contemplates a world trip 1961 Troppo on Kar Kar Island 1963 Driekikir

Bill Eichhorn, MBE » Bill Eichhorn, successful entrepreneur and politician at home on the Keram River

Bill Eichhorn, successful entrepreneur and politician at home on the Keram River

Dave Wall at Kekten Village

Dave Wall at Kekten Village

William & Rosa Batak, Kekten Village

William & Rosa Batak, Kekten Village


Ralf Stüttgen

Ralf Stüttgen

Sago 3   Sago 2   Sago Memories, thanks to Bob Beeke   Jock   Bob Beeke   Angoram Hotel


kami,Torembi Village

kami,Torembi Village

Dave Wall & Jan Saave, some years after they left PNG

Dave Wall & Jan Saave, some years after they left PNG

Sue Treutlein & Bob Mackie at the Angoram Club

Sue Treutlein & Bob Mackie at the Angoram Club

Sanam Kabasse & Dave Wall

Sanam Kabasse & Dave Wall

Wewak Hospital

Wewak Hospital

Hand-written letter from W.M. Hughes to H.B.G. Larkin 2

Michael Somare, Angoram, 1973

Graeme Jones, Robyn Faulkner, Co-op Manager, Dave Bretherton, Jan Matysek, Clare & Des Hill, Bruce Ross, Pat Bretherton, Ella Lucas, Ronnie Lucas

Graeme Jones, Robyn Faulkner, Co-op Manager, Dave Bretherton, Jan Matysek, Clare & Des Hill, Bruce Ross, Pat Bretherton, Ella Lucas, Ronnie Lucas

outside the church 2

On the left, Eva Waramapi

On the left, Eva Waramapi


  1960sAngoram 1960s

The Rev. John Spender

The Rev. John Spender

David Augustus Wall & John Bowers in Como, early 1980s

David Augustus Wall & John Bowers in Como, early 1980s

Cedric Wyatt, Rick Wyatt, CWyatt - a legend in his own time!

Cedric Wyatt, Rick Wyatt, CWyatt – a legend in his own time!

Bob Becke with May & Harry Marchant, Two called to the bar at the Angoram Club, Jim McKinnon, Esther & Jim Stevens

Bob Becke with May & Harry Marchant, Two called to the bar at the Angoram Club, Jim McKinnon, Esther & Jim Stevens

Jock McIntyre & Bob Becke, Western District, PNG, 1960

Jock McIntyre & Bob Becke, Western District, PNG, 1960

Angoram Hotel Sepik.  Houseboat and powered canoes for guided tours along the mighty Sepik River. Angoram, Sepik District, New Guinea Photo Uwe Steinward (C) GNG 70

Angoram Hotel Sepik. Houseboat and powered canoes for guided tours along the mighty Sepik River. Angoram, Sepik District, New Guinea Photo Uwe Steinward (C) GNG 70

png3bnew-shots-224new-shots-208paul-david-danAngoram 1960s

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Great things in store for Angoram, and other parts, perhaps?

October 17, 2013 at 7:11 am (Angoram, Commentary, East Sepik Province, Michael Somare, Papua New Guinea, Sepik River)


Sir Michael promises a lot – the big question is will anything eventuate? Only time will tell, but don’t hold your breath!

We should all have faith, hope and charity, but perhaps in this case hope will predominate. One can never tell what might happen!

However, now that the Father of the Nation has stepped foward we have no need to worry too much about comments by Phil Fitzpatrick, and others.


PNG politicians by in large don’t need to worry about the local health and education facilities in their own country, because if they or their families get sick they can always seek treatment overseas, and the appalling local education opportunities don’t really matter to them and their children as expensive schools and universities beckon in foreign parts!

As for saying anything in support of their Melanesian brothers and sisters in the Western part of New Guinea under the brutal genocidal rule of Indonesia; PNG politicians are usually found wanting!

The past Australian Colonial Administration can usually be blamed for all the present ills – I see no merit in this, but one could perhaps argue that post-colonial Australian relations and aid have done little to encourage better government in PNG.

Like the Ancient Mariner of old, Australia has made the whole island of New Guinea an albatross hanging around its neck!

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From the PNG Press!

October 3, 2013 at 5:05 am (Angoram, Commentary, East Sepik Province, Michael Somare, PNG, Press Freedom, Wewak)



(Click on the above links to read these interesting items.)

Two pieces of news from The National Newspaper: One reader described the first as gobbledegook, and the second as a sick joke! .

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Julia, tell Kevin to go to hell!

February 17, 2012 at 1:23 am (Commentary, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Michael Somare, Peter O'Neill)

Yesterday in Parliament Christopher Pyne quoted Oliver Cromwell in an outburst against Prime Minister Gillard: “In the name of God. go!”

This is what Julia Gillard should say to Kevin Rudd in so many words, challenge or shut up. If he does have the numbers he’ll become PM, if he doesn’t, he’ll lose, and if this happens remove him from the cabinet. As PM she can’t allow the present situation to continue.

If Rudd wants to continue to be a happy little vegemite as the Australian Foreign Minister, Gillard must demand that he publicly declare his loyality to her, if not, out he goes from the cabinet.

Under the Westminister system no one has a right to be Prime Minister. The holder of this office is there if she or he has the numbers in the House of Representatives, failing this forget about it.

Many may not have liked the way Rudd was removed and they had the chance to say so in the last election, but the fact is Gillard did manage to sustain her Prime Ministership and form government after the election.

Personally, I don’t think either Julia or Kevin are necessarily the Almightly’s gifts to the Australian nation, but this is hardly the point. On a scale of one to ten I’d be inclined to give them both a poor pass, perhaps 5 1/2 each. The political reality is that one of them has the numbers in the House.

Reading over this piece I notice that God and the Almighty feature a bit. We know Julia doesn’t go along with Him or Her, while Kevin seems very involved as a church goer – a lapsed Catholic now of Anglican persuasion, or as he describes himself, a non-denominational Christian, though then again, it was reported that he took communion at the Catholic Mary Mackillop Chapel in Sydney. I wouldn’t vote for either solely on theological grounds, but in some ways, I find Julia’s upfront Atheism more attractive than Kevin’s wishy-washy Christianity.

In Papua New Guinea there are two claimants to the position of Prime Minister, Michael Somare and Peter O’Neill. One has a court decision in his favour and the other one one has a majority in the House of Assembly. This means that reasonable arguments can be mounted in suppost of both claimants.

What’s the situation in Australia today? There are two claimants, one has the numbers and the position while the other appears to have nothing but a strong desire to be PM and a sense that he’s been robbed of it previously.

Well, my advice to Kevin is, move or be damned.

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The changing face of Michael Somare – idealist to pragmatist(?)

February 4, 2012 at 3:42 am (Angoram, Commentary, Corruption in PNG, East Sepik District, East Sepik Province, Michael Somare, Papua New Guinea, Peter O'Neill, Sepik River, Wewak)

Michael Somare

The years are rarely kind to any of us both physically and spiritually and friends and admirers are usually like rats on a sinking ship who can’t get away quickly enough  from the declining fortunes of their fellow beings. (Excuse the rather poor figurative language, but I hope you get my meaning.)

With the present state of Sir Michael Somare’s health and his recent political manoeuvrings, he himself, and people at large are forced to face his mortality and assess his undoubted influence on the fortunes of Papua New Guinea now and over more than the past forty years.

The photographs of Michael Somare above: the first taken in 1973 at the Angoram Hotel and the next one taken at the Wewak Yacht Club in 2009 – radiating from the first snap is the face of a young, dynamic, enthusiastic, smiling, and likeable man, while in the second snap the young man is no longer there, but one can still see a man smiling, perhaps less enthusiatically, but still, I think, likeable, with the old Somare charm intact. I also see something of sadness and disillusionment in the older Somare’s face.

There are those who revere him as the father of the nation and others who say: “perhaps originally he came into political life to do good, and he’s certainly done well for himself and his family.” Between these two extremes maybe, lies the man.

Somare has always had that rather intangible quality of personal charm, an immense asset for a politician. So many people I’ve talked to over the years I know have not been impressed with his performance in power and after talking to him often describe him as such a nice man. Charm, of course, can be such a beguiling characteristic and in the words of Evelyn Waugh’s character, Anthony Blanche, in Brideshead Revisited, “it spots and kills anything it touches.” An “English blight” in Anthony’s terms, but perhaps more universally applicable. Of course, in its positive aspect the charm of an idealist is an embellishment to the human condition.

I well remember meeting and speaking to Michael Somare in the town of Angoram on the Sepik River in the early 1970s, and being most impressed with his personality, and in Konedobu, Port Moresby, with the concern he had in approving the proposed Ok Tedi Mine (BHP) in the then Western District.

Sir Michael was, and I’m sure still is, an extremely sensitive man. In 1972, I was on my way to the Philippines to marry my future wife, and as a help to me he gave me a letter of introduction to the Australian Ambassador in Manila. Subsequently, Deborah, my wife, returned with me to PNG and got a job as press secretary to Matthias Toliman and then with Tei Abal of the United Party, a  political rival of Somare’s Pangu Party. I felt that Somare considered that this in some way was an act of disloyalty to him on my part. Years after in 2009 in Wewak I mentioned this to him and in his usual charming way he brushed it off as of no consequence.

Some consider that Somare has always had a sense of his own importance as PNG’s Prime Minister, and online references maintain that in 1975 he wasn’t impressed with Australia’s gift of an official residence, and he asked for and got a much grander building, but in point of fact, what actually happened was that Somare refused to live in the residence on offer because he wanted to continue to live humbly where he had been living. This is an example of the young idealistic Somare who is well remembered by many old PNG hands.

However, by 2005 his sense of his own importance was greatly enhanced, and his sense of dignity was, he considered, directly violated by security officers at Brisbane Airport when he was asked to remove his shoes and go through a routine security check.

What and when was it that muddied the Somare political waters – please forgive the mixed metaphor? Somare was a man who embraced his Murik Lakes Sepik identity with his appointment to the position of Sana or peacemaker in the village of his forebears. But the big man of the Murik Lakes seemed only too ready to grant questionable logging rights to Malaysian interests in and around his own village backyard in the Kaup area. There are a lot of environmental issues surrounding deforestation in this logging concession. The Thomas Barnett Commission in 1989 exposed the practice of Rimbunan Hijau, the Malaysian logging company in bribing PNG politicians. Prime Minister Somare was implicated in this. Questions about tax evasion have surfaced throughout the career of Sir Michael. Questions did emerge but I still like to maintain that a man is innocent until proven guilty.

Somare’s family own houses in Queensland, and it is rumoured that Sir Michael owns a rural property in New Zealand. There is a mansion being built for him in Wewak by overseas interests. Be he nameless, but a very prominent late PNG judicial officer is reputed to have said: “I know I shouldn’t say it, but I wish someone would kill Somare, he’s so greedy.” Here again there is much rumoured about what Sir Michael owns and how he got it. Lots of things he owns were actually given to him by various people. In the seventies Reg Ansett gave him quite a bit of property around Wewak. This said, it’s not surprising that there are those, and among them many PNG villagers, who wonder how many of their past and present politicians can sleep straight in their beds, when they have presided over the demise of much of government services and structures in the country after Independence: a breakdown of law and order and the delivery of education and health, corruption in the public service, with a subtle conniving request being made for additional payment if you want something like a passport, a visa or a work permit. It is generally believed that the government has no idea who is exactly in the country. The corruption of politicians is an open scandal, but what is surprising how few of them are successfully prosecuted.

Of course, if you’ve got the cash you don’t have to worry too much. Send your children to Australia for education in expensive private schools, and should you have an aspiring daughter La Sorbonne University in Paris even beckons. If you have any major health problems, the elite classes know exactly how to handle them – get off to Australia or Singapore.  Sir Michael Somare’s recent heart treatment in Singapore cost the country millions of kina and huge reimbursements were claimed by minders, family, and visitors to Sir Michael. A reliable PNG source has disputed much of this, telling me that a big part of Sir Michael’s medical expenses were paid for from his  own superannuation fund.  Not that I blame Sir Michael for not putting himself in the hands of the local health service. As a little aside, I found on my recent visit to Wewak the local hospital didn’t even have a working X-ray. Here is a legitimate question that could have been asked of Somare, why have health services deteriorated so much in the country?

According to a recent report made by Sir Mekere Morauta as Minister for Public Enterprises, there are millions of kina unaccounted for in PNG under the stewardship of Somare. Perhaps this is true, and I wonder how many other PNG prime ministers would have a lot to answer for  under their stewardships.

I have some faith but little hope that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill will deliver on his promise, “of a full-out war against corruption.”

If half of what is said about Somare is true, I still don’t like to see a man like him kicked while he’s down. Sir Michael’s health is failing, members of his family are in trouble. He may be a great disappointment to many people and the recent political impasse in Papua New Guinea has been badly handled by him – his actions of calling out the army to support him are highly questionable to say the least, but the way his parliamentary seat was taken from him can’t be defended.

I often think of the young idealist charming man I met many years ago in Angoram, and I ask myself, if he is still embodied in the old Somare today? I believe there’s a lot still there. The nation needs to remember the sense of unity and direction Somare gave to it in the early post-independence years

No man is perfect, and I firmly believe that Sir Michael has done much to be proud of, but of course, like all us, politicans and others, we all have some character flaws. I suspect in Sir Michael’s case it’s that he’s far too precious in his opinion of himself, and local and international sycophants have played up to this, and the temptation to enrich oneself can become an entitlement in the mind of a precious person.

During a visit he made to Angoram some years ago when he was in the business of promoting a scheme for the commercialization of the production of sago, the area’s food staple, he was questioned by the locals, and his response was to call them bushkanaka. (An abusive term meaning wild and uncivilized native) Hardly an appropriate term to use when addressing his constituents, but like all politicians they can get out of touch, and in the words of Lord Acton: Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

All this being said, I must confess that it saddens me to see the Grand Chief treated the way he’s now treated in PNG.


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Skelim tok

January 28, 2012 at 5:53 am (Commentary, Michael Somare, Papua New Guinea, Peter O'Neill)

I wonder if the present political impasse in PNG could be better resolved by the main players recognizing the determinants of governmental activity in the country.

PNG politics cannot be understood purely in ideological, party, constitutional or executive terms. The main imperatives of political life are associated with the interplay of personalities in a largely patron-client environment.

The protagonists, Somare and O’Neill are both products of their own society. To progress politically, they both know that they must play the game of the big man, strong man, and provider to colleagues and the masses, or at least appear to do so. In this patron-client milieu, one builds up prestige and cultural capital. These are essential bargaining assets that can be used or wasted.

Both men have these political assets to some degree, and I would suggest that Somare until recently was more than blessed in this regard. His power lies in the prestige he has acquired as the father of the nation, and the years he has served in Parliament, and on the world stage.

But what is he doing? As far as can be worked out from afar, he’s busy throwing away his chances by trying to emerge from the present deadlock by lamely calling out the army to support him.

At Sir Michael’s age and state of health, he should bring into play his essential strengths, which are his personal charm and his negotiation skills, and deal directly face-to-face with Peter O’Neill. Both men have legitimate constitutional and parliamentary questions that need to be resolved, and I believe, can be resolved. Politically, it’s not in O’Neill’s interests to just disregard Somare, for the old man still has a large following in the country, and his Sepik followers will never forget it if he is publicly humiliated.

Somare must be allowed to settle his differences with O’Neill with his dignity intact. As a first move his, parliamentary seat should be restored to him, and there must be an end to public name calling by both men.

I don’t know Peter O’Neill personally, but I do know Michael Somare and I have a lot of faith in his ability to negotiate, and I’m sure both men must realize that steadfastness to their own opinions irrespective of the consequences is not the Melanesian way.

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PNG not a place to be sick in!

April 13, 2011 at 7:29 am (Michael Somare) (, , )

It’s interesting to reflect on Sir Michael Somare being in Singapore for a medical check-up. Not that I blame him for that, but I do blame his government and a succession of others since independence for allowing the health service in the country to be appallingly rundown.

Most government hospitals in PNG are in a state of disrepair, and the delivery of health services in rural area, where it exists, is mainly provided by NGOs.

The likes of Sir Michael are fortunate to have the means to go overseas for medical treatment.

At independence Australia left PNG with a Department of Health that provided, at least, basic health care to the whole population, and a system of sub-district, district, and regional hospitals that could be accessed by most of the population. This medical infrastructure was by no means perfect, but it was a practicable and functioning deliverer of health services in the country that has been allowed to deteriorate.

I hope Sir Michael gets first class care in Singpore but I would much rather he was able to get first class care in PNG.

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The waters of the Sepik River are an elixir of political life!

January 7, 2011 at 1:06 am (Angoram, Michael Somare, Papua New Guinea) (, , , , , , )

It wasn’t Sogeri Secondary School that launched the political life of Sir Michael Somare or Cambridge University, Michael Johnson’s political endeavours, nor was it the London School of Economics, that propelled Ben Sana Wyatt into State politics but the waters of the Sepik River.

Sir Michael Somare, PM of PNG and his parents Ludwig Somare Sana and Painari all drank deeply of the Sepik River waters.

Michael Johnson, former member of the Federal Electorate of Ryan in Queensland and the son of Peter and Julie Johnson who brought Michael up on the banks of the Sepik River all drank of the waters.

 Ben Sana Wyatt, MLA, State member of Victoria Park in Western Australia whose parents, Cedric and Janine Wyatt, lived for years on and near the Sepik River are all familiar with the waters of the Sepik.

 All the parents of these political figures consumed vast quantities of Sepik River water and it is this that gave their offspring the fortitude to pursue their political lives.

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