By MALUM NALU
James Chalmers was the so-called “Livingstone of New Guinea”.
He was a star in the London Missionary Society’s firmament.
For 34 years from the 1860s onwards he preached the Gospel in the
He also loved whisky, enjoyed exploring the unknown territory and had a genuine rapport with the Papuan people.
But not even this charisma and courage could save him when late in his career he and his party were lured into an ambush on
, part of what is now the Gulf
province. Goaribari Island
They were beheaded and eaten by the natives.
It is the Goaribari incident that lies at the heart of Gulf man Peter Memafu’s extraordinary theory of why Gulf is the most-undeveloped
of Papua New Guinea
This is a history that proves that fact is indeed stranger than fiction.
Sorcery, magic, head-hunting and cannibalism were rife in those days.
To possess a skull collection was to enhance one’s standing in the spirit world.
In 1901, on
missionary, Harry Dauncey, found about 10,000 skulls in the island’s long
Memafu’s theory is that if Gulf is to develop, it must first reconcile for the terrible sins of its fathers for the murder of Chalmers and his party.
“Since 1973, PNG had initially attained self-government and eventually gained full independence on September 16, 1975,” Memafu says.
“Seeing as the rest of the country had also gained independence, the Gulf province was no exception.
“However, after almost 35 years of
all development efforts, trials and socio-economic initiatives carried out
within the Gulf province itself have not seemed to work or even progressed at
“Leaders of the Gulf people also need to seriously look into dealing with our ill-fortunes and socio-economic demise of our people and work together to correct all this appropriately before any real development issues or initiatives are discussed or ventured into.
“Gulf’s adversity had begun almost 109 years ago but the misfortunes were only realised much later when PNG had gained its independence in 1975.
“It was April 8, 1901, the date of Rev James Chalmers (known to the natives as Tamate), Rev Oliver Tompkins and eight natives who were murdered at Dopima village of the
“This terrible wrongdoing also signifies Gulf province’s mission history but more evidently it paints some of Gulf’s major unfortunate past mistakes in history and has seriously tainted and cursed the Gulf province for more than 109 years.”
Memafu says succinctly that Gulf “is commonly known to the whole country as the very, very least-developed province”.
“However, when considering some historical facts and events of the colonisation wave throughout PNG, so many Gulf people have extensively contributed immensely towards the advancement in terms of social, economic and political developments of our beautiful country and nation.
“People of Gulf were sent all over PNG to help build and develop the country.
“Before independence the people of Gulf were scattered by the colonisation impact to help build and develop the rest of PNG.
“Our people went to almost all other parts of the country as carpenters, clerks, plantation bosses and laborers, leaders, cargo boys and teachers.
province has produced some of the best brains the nation has had to offer. years Gulf
“Its people have come to serve PNG as chief executive officers, managing directors, departmental heads, senior statesmen and women, leaders, politicians, ambassadors, high commissioners.
“Even two former governors general (Sir Tore Lokoloko and Sir Serei Eri) and two previous prime ministers (Sir Mekere Morauta and Sir William Skate) had come from the Gulf province.
“Gulf under the colonial rule achieved so much progressive development.
“When we perceive Gulf’s social and economic developments during pre-independence and under the colonial rule, there were so much progressive developments that took place all over the province.
“Gulf’s co-operative societies were booming, more and more money and services were going down directly towards the rural people within the village and community-based levels.
“Well before independence, the Gulf province had continued to thrive with all its forest timber resources, its abundant marine as well as its potential prawn and fishery prospects.
“Social services such as education, regular health provisions, law and order including tourism, banking, and post office services, trade stores and as well as basic privileged benefits were once enjoyed by people of the Gulf province.
“Thirty-five years after independence and Gulf is totally deprived of everything.
“One would say that time itself has literally stood still over the whole of Gulf province.
“There is hardly any form of social or economic developments or even any infrastructure improvements in Kerema, or the whole of the province itself.
“Gulf saw the end to co-operative societies, which resulted in less money flowing into all the rural areas.
“All basic services began to decline and came to a grinding halt.
“Poor health and education services were now more evident, while the increase in unemployment and social disharmony just continued to grow and grow with very poor and unmaintained roads, air and sea infrastructure networks.
“Gulf province has become a spectator even though it is rich with so much in abundant natural and marine resources.
“Gulf has enormous potential in prawn resources but unfortunately most of it is been constantly ripped off while all our small businesses and other commercial activities have virtually come to a standstill.
“To date Gulf has not progressed at all and yet the province itself still has vast prospective in one the richest marine and timber resources PNG has to offer.
“It still has an endless venture for tourism and agriculture and now its shores are used as exit points for the lucrative oil and gas fields of the
“The liquefied natural gas project is happening at our doorsteps while we the Gulf people continue to remain passive spectators on our very own turf.”
It is Memafu’s steadfast belief that Gulf province remains under a generational curse from God himself directly related to the shedding of the innocent blood of Chalmers and Tomkins.
He says several biblical references point to bible text or scriptures that may support this curse in the Old Testament in the Books of 2ndKings 24:3, Jeremiah 26:15 and Joel 3:19 as quoted here:“Manasseh has spilled innocent blood and filled Jerusalem – OT 2nd Kings 24:3-4 Surely at the command of the Lord it came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood, which he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the Lord would not forgive.
“As Prophet Jeremiah faces death, he speaks these words: OT Jeremiah 26:15 Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.
“Land becomes defiled because of innocent blood shed – OT Joel 3:19 But Egypt will be desolate,
a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of , in whose
land they shed innocent blood.”
Is there any hope for the Gulf province?
“Yes there is hope in God because He alone pardons our sins and will heal our land when we reconcile with Him by asking for repentance and total forgiveness for all our forefathers’ wrongdoings,” Memafu says.
“The Old Testament Bible in the Book of 2nd Chronicles 7:14 reminds us that, ‘If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land’. “
“Therefore, and in order for the Gulf province to really move forward and start talking about real social, economic and developments issues, we must first correct our past mistakes, our terrible wrongdoings, our generational sins and curses that have allowed God to curse our land and our people who live on it.”