Friday, November 30, 2007

Cecil Abel

The late Cecil Abel (later to become Sir) was one of the many unsung heroes of the infamous Bully Beef Club, Pangu Pati and Independence in 1975.

Sir Cecil (KBE, OBE, DipAnth), who died on June 26, 1994, aged 91, was a son of the famous pioneering London Missionary Society (LMS) missionary Charles Abel of Kwato Island, Milne Bay Province, and was one of those who “stimulated” the minds of members of the Bully Beef Club and Pangu Pati – paving the way for Independence.

He was born on February 1, 1903, on Kwato Island.

Cecil Abel did his primary schooling on Kwato; high school at North Shore Grammar School in Sydney, Australia; and university at Cambridge in England.

He returned to Kwato and was asked by Administrator Sir Hubert Murray to teach political science at the Administrative College in Port Moresby.

Little did Sir Hubert know that the idea of home rule – independence – would be contemplated right under his nose by Cecil Abel and the Bully Beef Club.

He was a member of the second House of Assembly from 1968 to 1972.

In November 1968, Cecil Abel outlined Pangu’s economic policy: “The Pangu Pati believes that we must find the true economic basis for a multiracial society. We must aim for a reasonable equality of wealth between black and white, or rather, between haves and have nots. We are concerned at doubling the national income and we are equally concerned that all groups share in this growth.”

He went on to state that a viable economy depended on five points:
  • Increasing overseas capital investment;
  • Raising exports in both primary and secondary sector;
  • Reducing imports and encouraging import replacement;
  • Greatly increased secondary industry; and
  • Movement to subsistence to cash economy.

In 1966, a young man named Michael Somare came to the Administrative College in Port Moresby for studies, met many like-minded men and together they began to plan the future of the country.

Albert Maori Kiki was in his second year at the college, while Joseph Nombri, Sinaka Goava, Gavera Rea, Jack Karakuru, Cromwell Burau, Bill Warren and Lukas Waka were among the students.

Ebia Olewale was president of the Students’ Representative Council at Port Moresby Teachers’ College.

“We talked politics all the time,” recalled Somare (now Sir Michael) in his autobiography Sana.

“Our teachers encouraged us to take a lively interest in current affairs and to freely discuss the political and economic future of our country.

“We had some outstanding teachers to whom all of us owe a great deal.

“David Chenoweth was the principal.

“Tos Barnett, who is now my chief legal advisor in the office of chief minister, Cecil Abel and Ted Wolfers were among those who stimulated our minds.

“I was delighted when Albert Maori Kiki was elected president of the Students’ Representative Council.

“He provided the strong leadership that was needed.”

At night, the group would meet at Kiki’s house in Hohola, and thus was formed the Bully Beef Club.

On June 13, 1967, the Pangu Pati was founded with the support of nine members of the House of Assembly: Paul Lapun, Pita Lus, Nicholas Brokham, Wegra Kenu, Paliau Moloat, Barry Holloway, Tony Voutas, Siwi Kurondo and James Meangarum.

The founding members, in addition to the nine members of the House of Assembly, were: Cecil Abel, Albert Maori Kiki, Joseph Karl Nombri, Elliot Elijah, Sinaka Goava, Ilimo Batton, Reuben Taureka, Kamona Walo, Cromwell Burau, Oala Oala-Rarua, Gerai Asiba, Ebia Olewale, Pen Anakapu, Epel Tito, Basil Koe, Gavera Rea, Vin Tobaining, Thomas Tobunbun and Michael Somare.

A little later two more members of the House of Assembly – John Guise and Edric Eupu – joined the parliamentary wing of Pangu.

“The moment the party was formed,” reflected Somare, “I knew that I would have to give up my career as a civil servant.

“The next years of my life, for better of worse, would be devoted to politics and the struggle for independence.”

Cecil Abel was one of those who laid the groundwork for the Bully Beef Club, the Pangu Pati, and lived to see Papua New Guinea gain independence from Australia on September 16, 1975.

He was awarded an OBE for services to politics and Papua New Guinea at the age of 72 and at aged 79 was awarded his Knighthood.


  1. A wonderful character who dived into Admin College at times. Cecil exasperated me as Registrar in 1966 by ordering off his own bat from London a carton of woollen neckties for the students; black, with red, white and blue stripes, I still have one. Then gloriously and without fanfare he created the very large mural above the entrance to the Hall. It looked out over our equivalent to a quadrangle, not that anyone left the shade to walk on it.