Thursday, July 31, 2008

Michael Somare sets a date for Papua New Guinea Independence

Chief Minister Michael Somare’s first target date for Papua New Guinea independence had been December 1974.

But half way through 1975 and still no decision had been made.

At one stage Somare had hoped to fix independence for April 19, 1975, to coincide with the anniversary of the formation of the first elected coalition government in 1972, but for some reason many members argued that no date could be set until the organic law and related legislation had been passed.

Nevertheless, the government still managed to commemorate the anniversary, for April 19 became Kina Day, the day when Papua New Guinea’s own currency was first introduced to the people.

Writing in his autobiography Sana: “Frustration at the delay in settling the independence date grew, and many people were beginning to say that independence wouldn’t happen in 1975!

“Even the press began to play with it that way.

“One headline read:’ ‘Somare angry – I Day in danger…An independence date in September may have to be ruled out.”

April and May 1975 were difficult months for Somare with demonstrations by university students against his decision to have the queen as titular head of state, as well as the National Pressure Group accusing him of trying to push the constitution through with undue haste.

On top of this, Somare had the Bouganville issue on his hands.

“Leo Hannett, whom I once appointed as my personal advisor on Bouganville affairs had started abusing me publicly on the radio and in the press for not listening to the wishes of the Bouganvilleans and their provincial government,” he wrote in Sana.

“He forgot that I had been personally responsible for introducing the legislation that brought Bouganville’s provincial government into being.

“Father John Momis, the regional member for Bouganville and deputy chairman of the Constitutional Planning Committee, had always preached national unity, but now he began to join with Hannett.

“John Kaputin, the member for Rabaul, had also started attacking the government.

“The people encouraging secession were the very people who, in the past, had claimed to be champions of nationalism.

“With all the problems I was facing, I found it difficult to obtain support in the House.

“It was time to work out my tactical moves.

“I asked two of my senior ministers from the Highlands, Thomas Kavali, the member for Jimi Open and minister for lands, and Iambakey Okuk, the member for Chimbu regional and minister for transport and civil aviation, to lobby for Highlands support.”

On May 25, 1975, Somare organised a barbeque picnic at 17-Mile outside Port Moresby to gauge feelings of Members of the House of Assembly (MHAs) about independence.

Somare found that the majority of MHAs agreed to rescind the resolution that he moved on July 9, 1974 “that this house resolves that Papua New Guinea do move to independent nation status as soon as practicable after a constitution has been enacted by this house and that any proposed date for independence is to be endorsed by this House”.

On Wednesday, June 18, 1975, Somare decided at his breakfast table to test his strength – to determine whether he still had the kind of support he had had in the past.

He recalls that if he were to move the date he would be given a good indication of support.

So he told his cabinet that he was going to prepare the date that day.

The threat of Bouganville secession gave him the ideal opportunity to make a quick move.

The clock was ticking away towards that momentous occasion in Papua New Guinea history.

The House resumed at 2pm on that day, Wednesday, June 18, 1975.

It dealt with government business until 3.30pm.

At that time, the Speaker called on him and Somare asked leave to make an important statement.

Leave was not granted so he immediately moved to suspend standing orders.

He received the support of 52 members.

Opposition leader Tei Abal tried to amend the motion but was unsuccessful, losing 52-13 when a division was called.

Somare moved that “the House do rescind the motion of 9 July 1974”.

He then introduced that most-important and historic motion setting the date for independence.

Somare told the House of Assembly: “Mr Speaker, the time has come to make a firm decision on the date for independence.

“Our people everywhere are waiting for us to make up our minds, to take the initiative, to show we are not weak and indecisive.

“We are the nation’s leaders.

“The time has come to lead.

“We have put this off for too long.

“Let us act now.

“I have said this many times and I say it again: ‘Independence will bring strength and stability and unity’.

“Some could not believe me and said ‘giaman’.

“Now we all see the truth because of these events.

“When things happen that threaten our stability, when emergencies affect the well-being of our people, we must act and act quickly.

“That strength and authority will come when we are a truly independent nation.

“There are many things to be done and preparations made.

“Many nations or their representatives will be coming to join us at Independence Day celebrations.

“These important visitors must make their plans and preparations months in advance.

“It is very important we let them know as soon as possible.

“I am asking every member of the house to support me so that we can join together to decide on this date and make this day of independence a time that will bring us all great rejoicing – a day that our children and their children will always remember.”

Somare’s motion calling for independence on September 16, 1975, was debated and adopted by the House on the voices.

It took exactly 45 minutes!
John Kaputin and Josephine Abaijah, who had screamed about independence, walked out of the chamber before it was put to the vote.

Father Momis was not there to vote.

Somare reflects: “It took me months to get the self-government date of December 1, 1973, passed by the House of Assembly but only 45 minutes to set the date for Papua New Guinea’s independence.

“It was one of the happiest days of my life.

“With some of my colleagues, I had labored for three years to effect the constitutional changes necessary to bring Papua New Guinea to nationhood.

“When I decided to go into politics in early 1967, the one purpose I had in mind was to be instrumental in bringing the country to self-government and eventual independence.

“An Australian minister for external territories, CE Barnes, said in 1968 that it would be 50 years before Papua New Guinea became independent.

“At a Pangu Pati convention rally in 1971, I said it was my aim to bring Papua New Guinea to independence during my term in parliament.

“I am happy that in the face of Barnes’ gloomy prediction, it took me just seven years to achieve my aim.”

Ecotourism in Papua New Guinea

Picture above shows ecotourists from Lithuania visiting a village near Woitape in Central Province.

Ecotourism involves visitors coming to interact with the natural and cultural attractions of a place rather than visiting man-made attractions like resorts, fun parks, museums, and so forth.
In some countries ecotourism is also taken to mean tourism that has very little impact on the natural environment, even to the extent of implementing measures like composting toilets, raised walkways and solar power to make ecotourism facilities environmentally friendly.
Australian Aaron Hayes, who runs Ecotourism Melanesia, a Port Moresby-based inbound tour company which specialises in sending tourists into the rural areas of Papua New Guinea, is one those who takes a special interest.
“Here in PNG, we use the word ‘ecotourism’ more generally to mean ‘nature and culture based tourism’,” Hayes expounds.
“Other catchphrases these days are ‘responsible tourism’ and ‘community-based tourism’.
“Responsible tourism denotes tourism that cares for both the environment and the local people by ensuring that the tourism activity treads softly on the environment and also has decent benefits for local communities.
“These days many tourists browsing holiday pamphlets and websites tend to ask tour operators for information about how their tours benefit local communities.
“Community-based tourism involves tourism ventures that are actually owned and operated by people who live in the community area where the tourism activity takes place.
“For example village guest houses and village tours.
“Over at Tufi the Dive Resort takes groups of tourists to see a demonstration of sago-making in a local village beginning with cutting the sago stands and ending with cooking and eating the sago in somebody's home and this is an excellent example of community-based tourism.
“Some community-based tourism ventures like village guest houses are run by individuals and families whereas larger ventures like a Wildlife Management Area or village singsing experience might involve the whole village.
“Community-based tourism enterprises owned by whole villages are generally not sustainable here in PNG because there are too many hands out for a share and the income from the enterprise is generally too low to satisfy every shareholder's expectations.
“Many politicians and donors have given money to kick-start village-based lodges and eco-resorts but how many of them are still operating today?
“Not many.
“Generally they collapse due to poor management, lack of marketing, and disputes which arise when shareholders are not satisfied with the amount of money they are receiving compared to the effort they are giving.
“One sad case is the Kamiali Guest House in Morobe which is owned by the Lababia Village community and situated in a magnificent Wildlife Management Area.
“This place could be the biggest ecotourism attraction in PNG but it is poorly marketed and poorly managed.
“My company refuses to send any more tourists there after a number of our clients reported disappointment with the accommodation and tour activities there.”
These days many tourism destinations in our region have focused on mass tourism that caters for the Australian holiday market, what we call "beach-and-palm-tree tourism".
These tourists don't mind if they go to Fiji or Bali, whichever one is cheaper, as long as there's a beach with palm trees and a nice resort with a swimming pool.
If you look at the pamphlets and advertisements put out by tourism operators in Malaysia, Bali, Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Samoa and even the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland, you'll see that they are all advertising the same thing: a resort holiday by the beach where tourists can relax and enjoy themselves.
“If PNG tries to compete in the beach-and-palm-tree mass tourism market we are doomed,” Hayes warns.
“PNG doesn't have enough postcard-perfect white beaches in accessible locations where resorts can be built, and even if we did there are too many turn-offs in PNG that resort developers will shy away from including the urban crime problem, a generally violent society nationwide, health risks like malaria and TB and the mess created by betel nut everywhere.
“If beach-and-palm tree tourists have a choice between a resort in PNG and a resort in Vanuatu or Queensland, they won't pick PNG because in many ways PNG is less visually attractive and coming here involves higher risk for the traveler.
“Last year my company made arrangements for a wealthy resort developer from Brazil to fly down to an uninhabited island in Milne Bay where he wanted to build a luxury getaway resort.
“But when he arrived in Port Moresby he took one look at Jackson's Airport terminal and said ‘cancel the trip to the island, there's no way I can bring my guests through this grubby looking airport with people spitting red stuff everywhere’.
“And he turned around and left on the next flight out.
“I wasn't worried because I don't think luxury resorts offer much for Papua New Guineans anyway ... most of the money just goes into some millionaire's pocket and the only benefits for local people are those few who get jobs in the resort which are mostly low-paid jobs anyway.”
If the Papua New Guinea tourism industry is smart it will not try to compete in the mass tourism market but will focus on offering "niche" (specialised) tourism products that appeal to travellers with specific interests, including scuba diving, surfing, fishing and even unusual interests like volcano climbing and collecting beetles.
Travellers with special interests tend to stay longer and spend more.
“For example, my tour company Ecotourism Melanesia gets a steady stream of cultural tourists interested in ‘primitive’ cultures,” Hayes says.
“Many of them live in Europe and North America, they are often very wealthy and they spend two or three months every year travelling the world visiting different cultures.
“They read National Geographic magazine and International Travel News and they subscribe to websites like .
“They have visited many countries already and are looking for somewhere new and different to experience so they come to PNG.
“These visitors often stay three to four weeks in the country and visit four or five different destinations and do outdoor activities like hiking from village to village to meet the people and really experience the country.
“They often spend K10,000 to K15,000 per head on the ground while in the country and a lot of this money goes straight into the pockets of local people that my company pays to provide guest house accommodation, village tours, village singsing entertainment, dinghy and road transport, access to special sites and trekking guide services.
“These ‘high-yield’ tourists also spend a lot on local souvenirs like tapa cloth, carvings, shells and paintings that they like to take home with them.
“Compare this with the average beach-and-palm-tree tourist from Australia who goes to Fiji or Vanuatu for five nights.
“This tourist on average spends less than K5000 in the country, and most of that goes into the resort owner's pocket with only a little filtering through to the salaries of the local staff working there.
“There is almost no direct benefit to people living out in the villages.”
Although the overall economic benefit from ecotourism is not as high as mass tourism, local communities get a greater proportion of the money that is spent by ecotourists compared to resort tourists.
If Papua New Guinea could be marketed world-wide as an ecotourism destination offering the best ecotourism experiences in the world such as village-to-village trekking, bird watching and encounters with traditional cultures, we could attract more of these high-yield ecotourists which would better satisfy the needs of all the empty village guest houses all over PNG.
Over the past 10 years, hundreds and hundreds of village guest houses have popped up all over Papua New Guinea but most of them have not had any guests yet, or have only had a few.
“Every week my company receives letters and faxes from village guest house owners asking us to send tourists to their guest houses,” Hayes says.
“As we are only one small company we cannot possibly supply enough tourists to meet the demand from all of PNG's village guest houses.
“This demand will only be met when the number of ecotourists visiting PNG increases and when more tour companies start selling ecotourism as a tour product.
“The main impediment to the growth of ecotourism is the lack of targeted marketing.
“We need to reach the type of travellers interested in ecotourism experiences in ‘frontier’ countries like PNG.
“We need to advertise PNG in places where these types of travellers are likely to see the advertising such in nature magazines and on travel-related websites.
“Ecotourists tend to do a lot of research on the internet when planning their trips but PNG is not advertised on the internet enough, we are still spending too much money on sending tourism officials to travel agent trade shows overseas instead of advertising on the internet where we can get 1000 times the exposure for a fraction of the price.
“I think some tourism officials are hooked on overseas trips and that is why they are resistant to refocusing on web-based marketing.
“At the moment only a couple of private tourism operators are spending money advertising PNG on major information sites like Google and Yahoo! while the government is spending nothing.
“Even the main PNG tourism website is not helping us very much; the site needs a complete make-over to make it more attractive and user-friendly.
“At the moment the first thing you see when you log on to the PNG tourism web portal is a guy with teeth stained black by betel nut... what a turn-off, somebody is not thinking right.
“The lack of marketing is also a problem in village tourism training workshops which are held around the country.
“These workshops focus on how to build and operate a guest house but do not provide enough training in how to market it and manage it profitably.
“Village people get excited and run back to their village and build a guest house and then sit in their empty guest house waiting for tourists to appear by magic.
“Tourism officials keep saying we have to do the awareness and the training before we can do the marketing otherwise if tourists come and we are not prepared for them they will not have a good time and they will never come back.
“That's all poppycock.
“I've never met an ecotourist who didn't have a good time in PNG, no matter what goes wrong ecotourists are always thrilled with the experience of visiting this country and always very forgiving for any problems because they understand PNG is a frontier country with a less-developed tourism industry.
“They like it like that... if everything in PNG were developed it wouldn't be attractive to ecotourists any more.
“Too much tourism training is done by officers from NGOs and government organisations that don't actually run tourism businesses themselves, they are all theorists.
“And when they do cover marketing it's all theoretical gobbledygook without any hands-on skills training on how to design a pamphlet or how to work out the price to charge for a day trip for a group of visitors, or whatever.
“Tourism trainers keep referring to village-based tourism as ‘projects’ - they're not projects, they are business ventures and they have to be marketed and operated so that they will make a profit, that's what it's all about.
“Village people need money to buy supplies and pay school fees; they are not setting up village guest houses for the fun of it.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Knol is open to everyone…and set to displace Wikipedia

As of Thursday last week, Google started making Knol available to everyone, starting with those who have a Google Gmail or Blogspot account such as me.
I was quite intrigued by the concept of Knol, when introduced to it by Google, that I went right into it, and once I got the hang of it, created a Knol on Papua New Guinea which I will slowly develop over time.
I may, in fact, have been the first Papua New Guinea to try out this concept which analysts all over the world predict will soon surpass Wikipedia as the No. 1 online encyclopedia.
Given all that PNG has to offer, it is a good opportunity for our writers, academics, medical doctors, professional people and simple villagers to improve their reputations as well as fatten their wallets as Google offers to chance to make money through its internationally-renowned AdSense programme.
For starters, most of the featured Knol articles are on various diseases, although I especially enjoyed the ones on backpacking and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), given my passions for adventure and information technology.
So what is a Knol?
A few months ago, Google announced it was testing a new product called Knol.
Knols are authoritative articles about specific topics, written by people who know about those subjects.
For instance, Malum Nalu, being a Lae boy who loves his home town, has already created a Knol on it.
The web contains vast amounts of information, but not everything worth knowing is on the web.
An enormous amount of information resides in people's heads: millions of people know useful things and billions more could benefit from that knowledge.
Knol will encourage these people to contribute their knowledge online and make it accessible to everyone.
The key principle behind Knol is authorship.
Every Knol will have an author, or group of authors, who put their name behind their content.
It's their Knol, their voice, their opinion.
“We expect that there will be multiple Knols on the same subject, and we think that is good,” Google announced on its official Blog.
“With Knol, we are introducing a new method for authors to work together that we call ‘moderated collaboration’.
“With this feature, any reader can make suggested edits to a Knol which the author may then choose to accept, reject, or modify before these contributions become visible to the public.
“This allows authors to accept suggestions from everyone in the world while remaining in control of their content.
“After all, their name is associated with it!
“Knols include strong community tools which allow for many modes of interaction between readers and authors.
“People can submit comments, rate, or write a review of a Knol.
“At the discretion of the author, a Knol may include ads from our AdSense programme.
“If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with a revenue share from the proceeds of those ad placements.”
A Knol is basically an Internet encyclopedia designed to give people a chance to show off - and profit from - their expertise on any topic.
The service, dubbed ‘Knol’ in reference to a unit of knowledge, had been limited to an invitation-only audience of contributors and readers for the past seven months.
Now anyone with a Google login like me will be able to submit an article and, if we choose, have ads displayed through the Internet search leader's marketing system.
The contributing author and Google will share any revenue generated from the ads, which are supposed to be related to the topic covered in the knol.
The advertising option could encourage people to write more entries about commercial subjects than the more academic topics covered in traditional encyclopedias.
Since Google disclosed its intention to build Knol, it has been widely viewed as the company's answer to Wikipedia, which has emerged as one of the web's leading reference tools by drawing upon the collective wisdom of unpaid, anonymous contributors.
But Google views Knol more as a supplement to Wikipedia than a competitor, writes Cedric Dupont, a Google product manager.
Google reasons that Wikipedia's contributors will be able to use some of the expertise shared on Knol to improve Wikipedia's existing entries.
With a seven-year head start on knol, Wikipedia already has nearly 2.5 million English-language articles and millions more in dozens of other languages.
Knol is starting out with several hundred entries.
The initial topics covered include an overview of constipation by a University of San Francisco associate professor of gastroenterology and backpacking advice from one of Google's own software engineers.
Unlike Wikipedia, Knol requires the authors to identify themselves to help the audience assess the source's credibility.
Google doesn't intend to screen the submissions for accuracy, Dupont says, and instead will rely on its search formulas to highlight the articles that readers believe are credible.
"At the discretion of the author, a Knol may include ads," according to the official Google Blog.
"If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads."
The key idea behind the Knol project is to highlight authors (either singularly or in groups) willing to put their names behind their content on a wide of range of topics, "from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions”.
Google will not edit the content in any way, but, like Wikipedia, readers will have access to community tools that will allow them to submit comments, questions, edits, and additional content - in addition to being able to rate or write a review of a Knol.
Founded in January 2001, the online Wikipedia encyclopedia has more than 8.2 million articles in more than 200 languages, including more than 2 million in English. Unlike Google Knol, Wikipedia is not ad-supported and its operating expenses are funded mainly by private donations and grants funneled through the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, whose laudatory mission is to support the free dissemination of information.
Just how free the information on Wikipedia is has been called into question lately, primarily because of the collaborative nature of its entries.
WikiScanner (also known as Wikipedia Scanner), a tool released by Virgil Griffith in August 2007 that identifies the authors behind Wikipedia edits, revealed that people at the IP addresses of several major companies had made changes to their own or competitors' Wikipedia entries.
It's too early to tell what effect Knol will have on Wikipedia and similar sites, but at the very least adding author identification, ranking, and the profit motive to Wikipedia's group contribution approach certainly seems to have the potential to upset the Wikipedia apple cart.

Sway to the tapioca dance

Sway to the tapioca dance from the Trobriand Islands of the Milne Bay province, Papua New Guinea

Old Salamaua cemetery a relic of a bygone era

The old Salamaua cemetery is a relic of a bygone era of the 1920s and 1930s when fevered gold miners from all over the world converged on this idyllic part of the world.
To visit the old Salamaua cemetery is to step back in time, to a rip-roaring period when gold fever struck men from around the globe.
The discovery of gold at Edie Creek above Wau in 1926 sparked off a gold rush of massive proportions, which led to the development of Salamaua as the capital of the then Morobe District.
Thousands of Europeans flocked to the jungles of Salamaua and Wau in search of gold in the ‘20s and ‘30s.
Their legacy lives on today through the infamous Black Cat Trail, later to become scene of some of the bloodiest fighting of WW11.
In those days, foreigners were regarded as insane by the village people because of the joy the strange yellow dust brought to them and the trouble they went to get it
Gold-fevered foreigners from all around the globe were landing at Salamaua!
The goldfields lay eight days walk through thick leech-infested jungle and steep razorback ridges.
There was a real threat of being attacked by hostile warriors.
And when they got to the fields, they were faced with the prospect of dysentery, a variety of ‘jungle’ diseases, and pneumonia brought on by the extremes of temperature between day and night.
Blackwater fever, a potent tropical disease akin to malaria, claimed the lives of unaccustomed European gold miners by the score.
Gold Dust and Ashes, the 1933 classic by Australian writer Ion Idriess, tells the fascinating yarn of the gold fields and of the trials and tribulations faced by the miners.
Idriess, in his book – which remains a bestseller to this day – also writes of many of the colorful characters that now lie on a hill overlooking the sea in the old Salamaua cemetery.
It provides probably the best insight into the history of the development of the Morobe goldfields, and is a must- read for students of colonial history.
Today the old Salamaua cemetery, or what remains of it, is well tended to by the local villagers.
The graves are mute testimony to the days when European man, running a high gold fever, was claimed by a fever of a different kind.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Unforgettable Salamaua

Salamaua, Morobe Province, played a pivotal role in the history of Papua New Guinea.
World-famous Salamaua Point, scene of some of the bloodiest fighting of World War 11 in PNG, on September 11 in 2003 marked the 60th anniversary of its recapture from the Japanese.
This jewel in Morobe’s crown, an icon that time has forgotten, is now more or less a forgotten ghost town.
In 2002, Kokoda celebrated its 60th anniversary with commemorative ceremonies in both PNG and Australia, which rekindled interest in its history.
What many do not know is that the Japanese launched their attack on Port Moresby over the Kokoda Trail from Salamaua, and when the attack failed, turned the port into a major supply base.
It was eventually attacked by Australian troops flown into Wau.
Japanese reinforcements failed to arrive and the town was taken in September 1943 in what has become known as the Battle of Salamaua.
Salamaua – the “town of gold”- has never regained its shine.
The Australians recaptured Salamaua in September 1943 but by then, it was too late, as places like Lae and Port Moresby had taken its glory.
Veterans in both Australia and PNG called for similar recognition to be accorded the battlefield of Salamaua as it marked the 60th anniversary of its recapture in September 2003.
It was the main port and airstrip for the goldfields of Wau and Bulolo during the gold rush days of the 1920s and 1930s.
It was headquarters for the all-powerful New Guinea Goldfields Ltd, had its own shops liked the famed Burns Philp, New South Wales and Commonwealth banks, named streets, hospital, bakery, theatre, bars where characters like the legendary Errol Flynn once strutted his stuff before becoming a Hollywood legend, and was a famed port of call for swashbuckling gold miners from all over the world.
It was here that expeditions into the undiscovered hinterland – including the famous exploration into the Highlands of New Guinea by the Leahy brothers and Jim Taylor – were launched.
Rivalry between Salamaua and Lae for the capital of New Guinea following the demise of Rabaul in the 1937 volcanic eruption was legendary.
But for all that Salamaua has contributed to the development of PNG and the world – through the millions in gold that was taken out - it is one of the greatest ironies that it is now a forgotten backwater, left to the mercy of the vast Huon Gulf which threatens to swamp its narrow isthmus any moment, despite repeated calls for a seawall to be built.
Development is limited despite efforts by the Morobe Provincial Government, there is little economic activity, and the price of outboard motor zoom has skyrocketed recently contributing to massive inflation.
The people, to this day, are resentful at the mining companies that made millions from their land and left them with nothing, and at both being made victims of a war that was not their doing.
Never mind that these days its beautiful bathing beach and coral reefs are havens for people from Lae – mainly the expatriate community - who have built weekend houses on the peninsula to get away from the traffic, phones, and bustle of the city.
The discovery of gold at Edie Creek above Wau in 1926 sparked off a gold rush of massive proportions, which led to the development of Salamaua as capital of the Morobe District.
The rigorous walk between Salamaua and Wau took up to a week, the flamboyant Errol Flynn writing of how the gold fields had to be approached from Salamaua by 10 days’ march through leech-infested jungle, in constant fear of ambush, and at night wondering “whether that crawly sound you heard a few feet away might be a snake, a cassowary or maybe only a wild board razorback…I have seen Central Africa, but it was never anything like the jungle of New Guinea”.
Lae was but a “company” town and was very much a satellite of Salamaua.
Salamaua sprang up before Lae and because it was the administrative and commercial centre of the District and also the port for the goldfields, it continued to dominate its sister across the Huon Gulf right up till WW11.
Shipping interests refused Lae as a port, probably because they had already established themselves at Salamaua before Lae developed.
The powerful New Guinea Goldfields Ltd – following a dispute with Guinea Airways – purchased its own plane and established its own aerodrome on Salamaua in 1929.
The government also resisted pressure to have Lae built up as the chief town of Morobe District, and at times, even affirmed its preference for Salamaua by stubbornly refusing to use either the aviation or shopping facilities at Lae.
Following the disastrous volcanic eruption in Rabaul in May 1937, a protracted and bitter debate over the merits of Salamaua and Lae ensued, when Australian minister for territories W.M. Hughes – who in his days as prime minister had been responsible for New Guinea coming under Australia’s mandate - chose Salamaua as both port and capital.
Hughes was accused of being bribed by Burns Philp and New Guinea Goldfields, the Australian government was accused of apathy and irresponsibility in its attitude towards New Guinea affairs, and the Pacific Islands Monthly and Rabaul Times led the anti-Hughes and anti-government debate.
It became a matter of great controversy that that Canberra press corps, which had been faithfully reporting new developments for six months, in December 1938 produced a satirical newspaper Hangover containing a parody of the controversy under the title “Lae off Salamaua: Capital crisis causes crater cabinet confusion”.
The article reads: “A new crisis has arisen overshadowing the budget, the coal strike, and Hitler. Alarming tensions were created when the Prime Minister received the following urgent message from Mr Hairbrain, M.H.R: ‘Lae off Salamaua, Joe! Natives hostile!’Mr Hairbrain’s message has created the profoundest sensations in Federal political circles. It is feared that the natives may try to make capital out of it. The situation is fraught with grave possibilities and impossibilities. Mr Lyons summoned cabinet immediately. ‘Wow!’ said the Prime Minister as he staggered from the cabinet room after the tenth day with the problem apparently nearer no solution. ‘That’s it!’ yelled a chorus of weary ministers. ‘Why the hell didn’t we think of Wau before?’ Mr Hughes collapsed. The crisis had passed.”
Rabaul, however, continued to remain as capital of New Guinea until 1941 when renewed volcanic forced the transfer to Lae in October 1941 right up to the Japanese invasion in January 1942.
War, however, had begun in the Pacific with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941.
Rabaul was bombed on January 4, 1942 followed by Lae, Salamaua, and Bulolo on January 21.
This was the beginning of the end of Salamaua’s ephemeral reign as the “town of gold”.
To go into detail about the long and bitter fighting that took place between Salamaua and Wau in 1942 and 1943 would fill pages.
Many hundreds of Japanese, Australians, as well as Papua New Guineans were killed in the two years of fighting.
To this day battlefields like Salamaua Point itself, Mubo along the famed Black Cat Trail between Salamaua and Wau, The Pimple, Green Hill, Observation Hill, Bobdubi Ridge, Komiatum Ridge, Nassau Bay, Tambu, Mount Tambu, Ambush Knoll, Orodubi, Salus Lake, Lababia, Davidson Ridge, and Roosevelt’s Ridge bear the scars of those bloody battles.
Briefly, the Japanese landed at Lae and Salamaua on March 8, 1942.
The New Guinea Volunteer Rifles and survivors of the 2/22nd Battalion from Rabaul destroyed all military supplies and withdraw into the hinterland where they observed the Japanese build-up.
In May, Kanga Force, which included the 2/5th Independent Company, was airlifted into Wau to operate as a guerrilla force against the Japanese in the Markham Valley.
On June 29, Kanga Force raided Salamaua inflicting heavy casualties and capturing the first Japanese equipment and documents taken by the Australian Army.
On August 31, a strong Japanese group arrived at Mubo but with the Japanese on the offensive along the Kokoda Trail and at Milne Bay, reinforcements were not available for Kanga Force until October when 2/7th Independent Company joined.
The 3rd Australian Division slowly fought its way towards Salamaua in a series of exacting and grim battles from April to August 1943 in a campaign largely overshadowed by the Papuan campaign the preceded it and by the capture of Lae that followed.
The Salamaua campaign was designed to screen the preparations for the Lae offensive and to act as a magnet to draw reinforcements from Lae to Salamaua.
The capture of Lae, the centre of the Japanese defensive line in New Guinea, was the allied target after the defeat of the Japanese in Papua.
General Sir Thomas Blamey, the Australian Commander-in-Chief, directed that Salamaua be starved out after Lae was captured.
On August 26, 1943, Major General Savige and his 3rd Division headquarters were relieved by General Milford and his 5th Division headquarters.
The 5th Division conducted the final operations around Salamaua, which was occupied by the 42nd Battalion on September 11, a week after the Lae offensive opened and five days before the 7th and 9th Australian Divisions entered Lae.
The legendary Australian cinematographer, Damien Parer, captured some of these dramatic moments for posterity in his famous works “Assault On Salamaua” and “Frontline At Salamaua”. Following Kokoda’s 60th anniversary, many Australian veterans of Salamaua also want their battlefield to be accorded the same recognition, as it too had its 60th anniversary in September 2003.
The same call has been echoed by old men in the Salamaua villagers – many of whom have died without being justly compensated – who served as carriers for both Australians and Japanese during WW11.
Maybe then, at least for a day, Salamaua will rise again.

Black Cat Trail war relics

The thick jungle between Salamaua and Wau, Morobe Province, is littered with relics from World War 11.
Students of history as well as WW11 enthusiasts would not be disappointed at what is there to be seen.
Live bombs from 1942 and 1943 are prolific along the old Black Cat Trail between Salamaua and Wau.
Villagers told me of huge unexploded bombs in the jungles and rivers that they avoid like the plague.
Australian and PNG bomb experts have yet to defuse these bombs.
In 1997, during the El Nino, bushfires sparked off by dry bushes detonated WW11 bombs as terrified villagers fled.
Huge bomb craters from WW11 testify to the ferocity of the battles along the trail between Salamaua and Wau.
At Skin Diwai – a major Australian base during WW11 - locals showed me unexploded bombs, live ammunition, Australian army boots, as well as the bush covered wreck of a DC3 supply plane.
All along the Black Cat Trail, you can see the helmets of Australian, US, and Japanese forces that fought here in WW11.
Those dark days of WW11 are well and truly over but their legacy lives on in the jungles between Salamaua and Wau.
The jungle also conceals many secrets of the gold mining days of the 1920s and 1930s.
Local lore has it that somewhere between Wau and Salamaua lays the wreck of a gold-laden plane.
Whether true or not, the fact is that locals avoid the thick jungle, saying that it is masalai (spirit) place where dark forces await unwary human beings.

Memories of the Black Cat Trail

Exactly five years ago, in July 23, I walked the infamous Black Cat Trail between Salamaua and Wau in the Morobe province. These are my memories:
The old Black Cat Trail between Salamaua and Wau, Morobe Province, makes the Kokoda Trail seem like a Sunday arvo stroll in the park.
This is because it is not an established trail like Kokoda, on which hundreds of trekkers regularly tread, but a forgotten World War 11 course that passes through some of the toughest and most-hazardous terrain in the world.
Leech and snake -infested jungle, moss-covered rocks and fallen tree stumps, precarious cliff crossings, and potentially-dangerous river crossings make the Black Cat arguably one of the toughest tracks in PNG and the world.
Should there be an accident, unlike Kokoda, there are no radios to call for a helicopter to come and evacuate you.
It is recommended only for the very-fit and experienced trekker.
Some Australian soldiers have described the Black Cat as the hardest walk they’d ever done.
The Lonely Planet guidebook quotes a local expat as saying the Black cat is “suitable only for masochists and Israeli paratroopers”.
After walking from Salamaua from Wau over five days from July 22 tt 26 in 2003, I can only say know that I do not know how I survived.
The idea of walking the Black Cat Trail came to me after my painful struggle over the Kokoda Trail in June 2003.
The Black Cat has always fascinated me, since I take an avid interest in WW11 history, and that my mother is from the Salamaua area.
In September 2003, Salamaua marked the 60th anniversary of its recapture from the Japanese in 1942.
“So why not”, I proposed to Morobe Tourism Bureau project officer Heni Dembis, “we walk the Black Cat Trail on the week of Remembrance Day?”
On Monday, July 21, 2003, we found ourselves heading down the Huon Gulf on board a 40 horsepower dinghy from Lae to Salamaua.
Pouring rain eventually gave way to sunshine as we dropped off some students at Salamaua High School on top of Kela village, before crossing the bay to Laugui village at Salamaua Point.
We spent a relaxing afternoon visiting the old graves around Salamaua, which date back to the gold mining days, as well as Japanese tunnels and anti -aircraft guns on the hill overlooking the isthmus.
After that, we went to the new-look Salamaua Haus Kibung, which after many years of inattention is now getting back its glory.
We checked into one of the chalets, which at K20 per person a night is quite a good deal, seeing that it comes complete with electricity, gas cooking facilities, and bathroom and toilet facilities.
After dinner, we chatted well into the night with caretaker Mathew Gomuna, a cheerful fellow from Garaina and some of the locals.
Mathew also lined us up with Lionel Aigilo, a young guy who would take us from Salamaua to Wau.
Come Tuesday morning, heavy rain started pouring, and we had to wait until 10am before we left Laugui with Lionel and his hardy uncle Solomon Jawing.
We followed the coconut avenues past the colorful cemetery, walked further inland through thick mud, where we crossed the flooded Francisco River.
I found the going tough against the swift current; however, Lionel and Solomon were on standby in case I was swept away.

We walked through gardens, swamps, and creeks before engorging on a classic lunch of Lae Biscuit and Sita tinned meat, washed down with spring water, on the banks of the flooded Francisco.
We continued upstream to Komiatum village, and at 3pm arrived at the confluence of the Francisco and Tambu Rivers,
This was when the hard slog started as we climbed through thick kunai up towards Mount Tambu.
Every now and then, we would come across shady bamboo, rewarded by panoramic views of the valley and sea unfolding before us.
Massive bomb craters from WW11 indicated the ferocity of the battles here in 1942.
Solomon recounted a story, which was repeated several times, of a Japanese assault of the Australian defenses in 1942.
The Japanese were charged down by a huge masalai (spirit) pig, which ravaged them and forced them to flee.
We continued up Mt Tambu, every now and then turning back to feast our eyes upon the panorama that continued to unfold, as well as the magnificent flora and fauna.
Hornbills and prized black cockatoos flew across the afternoon sky – a welcome sight for our sore bodies.
Wild pigs, cassowaries, cuscus, tree kangaroos, and other wildlife are profuse in these mountains of Salamaua.
We reached the top of Mt Tambu at about 6pm and continued on to a mountain spring, in which we all washed and quenched our thirst, before descending to the hamlet of “Niukamp” (New Camp).
We had dinner of bananas, rice, tinned meat, and hot cups of coffee before resting our tired bodies.
Wednesday July 23, 2003 – Remembrance Day – is a day that I’ll always treasure as I firmly believe our small group honored the 60th Anniversary of Salamaua in its true spirit by trekking the Black Cat Trail.
Our thoughts were with the many soldiers and carriers of WW11 who lost their lives on this treacherous path in 1942 and 1943.
We were up early that morning, while the rest of PNG was probably still in bed, and descended down Guisep Creek, and made numerous creek and river crossings before arriving at Mubo.
From Mubo, we precariously edged our way past steep cliff faces as the flooded Bitoi River raged below, to an easier crossing further upstream.
We passed through a network of gardens, pebbly fords and steep jungle scrambles past landslides and difficult sections of the river before climbing up the steep ascent to the fortress- like village of Gaudagasul.
The villagers – who only have visitors once in a blue moon - welcomed us with open arms and literally stuffed us with food.
There were dishes of bananas, kaukau, taro, tapioca, and choko to go down with our rice and Diana tuna.
After that, we talked well into the night, encouraging the locals to start building village-style guesthouses for trekkers who would pass through their village.
The response was very encouraging.
We pressed on the next morning through thick rainforest as the track steepened and deteriorated markedly.
My bulk and weight of the backpack on my shoulders caused the track to give way in many places, and on more than one occasion, I had to grapple on to salat – stinging nettles – for dear life.
We continued like this, scrambling down to creeks, back up again, over and around slippery log falls, landslides, and salat.
On several occasions, we heard the calls of bird of paradise, which tantalisingly weaved their way through the forest canopy.

Wildlife was in abundance and the forest was alive with raucous calls of other unseen birds.
One time, as I was climbing up a creek, I almost put my hand on to a brown snake which Lionel and Solomon later told me was poisonous.
Talk about a close call!
Suddenly, Lionel gave out a yell, thinking that a snake had bitten him.
After close inspection, no, but it was a leech.
Thus marked our entry into leech country.
The insidious creatures crawled on the forest floor like tiny dragons, and once they sniffed out blood, clung on to our legs and sucked until fattened.
Shoes and socks were no hindrance as they worked their way in and continued in the same vein as miniature vampires.
Lionel and Solomon, who walked barefoot, had their feet absolutely devoured by the slimy leeches.
Every now and then, we had to stop, and scrape the leeches off with knives.
The leeches, however, were a blessing in disguise as they forced us to pick up the pace despite the heavy backpacks on our shoulders.
Many a time, I felt like opening my backpack and throwing all my wet clothes into the bush, as they were the ones really adding on extra kilos.
We persevered, and after eight hours of torture, came to a kunai clearing which marked our entrance to Skin Diwai.
We could push our weary bodies no more, and literally collapsed in a heap at Skin Diwai.
In June 2003, three British backpackers dared to try the Black Cat, and two of them ended up very sick at Skin Diwai from either malaria, pneumonia, exhaustion, or a combination of all three.
The third Pommie continued on to Biaweng village and eventually, Wau, where he managed to get a helicopter to come and ferry out his two sick buddies.
Skin Diwai is a detour from the main Black Cat Trail – which continues on to Bitoi and eventually Wandumi village outside Wau - and is now the preferred choice of locals.
Skin Diwai was the site of a major Australian base during WW11 and is littered with live bombs, ammunition, other war junk including boots, and even the wreckage.
Being one of the high points between Salamaua and Wau, Skin Diwai is freezing cold, and we slept as close to the fire as possible that night.
Keen to hit Wau the next day, come rain or sun, we were up at the crack of dawn and started walking at 6am on Friday, July 25.
Like the previous day, this was a walk through leech-infested country, slippery logs and rocks, as well as numerous other obstacles straight out of a commando-training manual.
We pushed our bodies to the max and at 1pm, after seven hours of hellish jungle, we descended into kunai country and were rewarded with our first glimpse of Wau.
“Wau! Wow!” went through my mind as I glimpsed down on this famous gold mining township.
We went down the roller coaster path to Biaweng village over the next two hours, sliding all the way down a graded track from the mining and WW11 days.
Despite our sheer exhaustion, we all felt a sense of achievement, and celebrated with cans of Coca -Cola and from the village trade store.
An early night, and at 5am on Saturday, July 26, we started walking to Wau which we finally arrived in at 8am.
From Wau, a PMV ride to Bulolo, and another to Lae where Lionel, Solomon, Heni, and myself celebrated with a barbeque and a couple of cold beers before I departed at the crack of dawn the next day for my flight back to Port Moresby.

Preserving Port Moresby’s WW11 history

Some time last year, a friend of mine asked me to be a tour guide for a retired American WW11 veteran, who is also a bit of a history buff.
The old American wanted to be shown all the prominent WW11 sites around Port Moresby, war relics, Bomana war cemetery, as well as the start of the Kokoda Trail at Owers’ Corner.
To prepare for the job, I had to be well-versed in the WW11 history of Port Moresby, so I brought down all my old books down from the shelves, made notes, as well as searched the Internet.
The big day came, and I showed the US veteran such places as Burns Peak, Paga Hill and the wreck of the Macdhui near Tatana Island before we hit the highway bound for Bomana war cemetery and Owers’ Corner.
We made a brief stop at what used to be the site of Schwimmer Drome at Laloki, on the banks of the great river of the same name, where we inspected all the WW11 relics at an impromptu war museum run by Gulf man Thomas Richard Auhava.
By 1944, Port Moresby had six airfields, one of which was Schwimmer.
Jackson was the largest of these, and was named after Australian ace pilot John Jackson, leader of RAAF Squadron 75, who was killed in a dogfight against Japanese planes over Port Moresby on April 28, 1942.
The wartime airfields were Kila Drome (3-Mile) airfield for fighters and bombers; Ward Drome (5-Mile) airfield for heavy bombers and transport planes; Jackson (7-Mile) main airfield still in use today; Berry Drome (12-Mile) fighter and medium bomber base near Bomana; Schwimmer (14-Mile) fighter and medium bomber base; Durand (17-Mile) fighter and medium bomber base; Rogers (Rarona, 30-Mile) fighter and medium bomber and Fishermen’s (Daugo) emergency landing strip on offshore island.
Schwimmer Drome, according to various airmen who served from it, was the “eye and mind” of the 1942-1945 Pacific War, because it was from here that aerial surveillance missions of Japanese positions were made.
The US airmen forming the 8th Photo Squadron commanded by First Lieutenant Karl Polifika, a Russian, first landed at Schwimmer on May 2, 1942, and flew from Schwimmer until July 27, 1944, when the squadron moved to Durand Strip.
There are also other squadrons from the US Air Force like 435th Bomb Squadron, 3rd Attack Group assigned to do fragmentation bombing, 43rd Bomb Group assigned to do long-range bombing missions, 39th Fighter Group and 9th Fighter Group.
Mr Auhava has, over the years, been collecting the numerous war relics in and around the site of the old Schwimmer Drome in a labour-of-love.
He is fighting a lonely battle against scrap metal hunters and dealers, who without any scruples, do anything to get an extra buck.
He has brought a proposal to the National Museum and Art Gallery in Waigani, Port Moresby, for funding to set up a proper museum.
Mr Auhava has been living at Laloki for the last 20 years and knows every nook and cranny in the area.
“Over the years,” says the former PNG Defence Force soldier, “I’ve been collecting these war relics and I’ve been featured in newspapers.
“Because of this media publicity, tourists started visiting, and I’ve decided to start a proper museum.
“The proposal for the museum has been signed by the landowners already and will be handed over to the National Museum.”
The war relics include human bones, helmets, dog tags, tools, hand grenades (defused), bombshells, bullets, coins, jerry cans, 1940’s Coca-Cola bottles and assorted paraphernalia.
One of the prized possessions of the collection is the remains of the plane of Australian air ace, John Jackson, after whom Port Moresby’s famous Jackson’s International Airport is named.
Jackson crashed on the hills overlooking Laloki after a heroic dogfight against Japanese fighters.
Mr Auhava, originally from Iokea village in Gulf province, is a self-taught historian and is a walking encyclopaedia as I found out.
“History is very important,” he extols.
“This generation, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to know anything about the war.
“Historical sites like Schwimmers should be preserved for educational purposes, tourism, etc.
“These relics should be preserved and protected.
“Scrap metal vendors are getting their hands on these war relics.
“If we lose these war relics, we lose history.
“People are just taking them out and selling them to scrap metal dealers.
“I decided to bring them all to one place and take care of them.
“After that, I began to find out about the place itself, its history.
“I borrowed some WW11 books from a historian and did research.
“I realised that it (Schwimmers) was a WW11 US airbase.”
According to Mr Auhava’s proposal to the National Museum, a museum built under the name ‘Schwimmer War Museum’, would be a fitting tribute to the thousands of Americans and Australians based in Port Moresby during WW11.
It would focus on history, war surplus material protection, a site for educational excursions and a shrine for the future generations.
It would also protect war relics from being sold to unscrupulous scrap metal dealers and would promote community tourism values
“I’m submitting a proposal to the National Museum to see if they can gurantee a budget for the (Schwimmer) museum, because these relics are State property which I’ve been protecting,” Mr Auhava said.
“The government talks so much about war surplus materials, and yet, they are not putting their money where their mouth is.
“Looking after these relics is hard work, for which I’m not paid.”