Monday, July 27, 2009

Fuzzy Wuzzy recognition 'too little, too late'- ABC Australia


The subject of the "Angels'" place in history and the rewards they may deserve and may or may not have received is fully canvassed in the recent ABC program and its massive response, and I just want to add the following.

The invasion of the Japanese into what is now PNG was one prong of the overall policy of subjugation of all of Australasia to the will and the economic benefit of the Japanese nation under the Emperor and the proposed " Greater Asia Co-prosperity Sphere."

We know just how prosperous and well-treated the other invaded nations, Burma, Malaya, Indonesia etc.. all became under the Japanese regime. So it is unfortunate that the myth that  PNG was "forced into a war not of its own making" is widespread. PNG was, even if people were not widely-aware of it, defending itself  as much as Australia and other Pacific nations from a fate very different from that which awaited PNG under the colonial rule which existed prior to the arrival of the Japanese.

Secondly,the Australian RSL and the Friends of the Kokoda Trail and those who make a living from guided tours to this widely-publicised, new middle-class ikon seem not to be aware that the labour force which we now call the "Angels"- courtesy of a famous poem published in "Australian Womens' Weekly" at the time,-were conscripts, taken from villages all over coastal and inland Papua, except for the then-uncontrolled Southern Highland District. Thus there is no logic in believing that the development of the tourist-trade associated with the Kokoda Track is in itself a worthy reward for the "Angels" and their descendants. Whilst the people of the villages along the Track and of all the villages of the then Northern District, both "davara" and "gunika" bore the brunt of the invasion and subsequent fighting, the majority of the "Angels" were drawn from across the breadth of the then Territory of Papua

 In 1942, the command in Port Moresby instructed its agents, the civilian Resident Magistrates in charge of each of the administrative Districts of the Territory of Papua to send Patrol Officers out to forcefully recruit, under threat of sentence of imprisonment, all able-bodied males of ages judged by the recruiting officer as being between 18 and 40. These recruits were accompanied by police to the nearest available Medical Officer who checked them for fitness. All those who passed were then signed on for service as labourers and sent off to Port Moresby. Men from west of Daru right around through Goaribari and Purari, Orokolo, Kerema, Mekeo, Moresby,Abau and all through Mailu, Milne Bay, East Cape, Gosiago,the eastern islands and the Northern District were conscripted to do the will of the Army. The only way out was to desert, and this was difficult for those whose homes lay at any distance from the borders of Central. A few did run away, but not very many. These men were conscripts, just like the young, white "Chokkoes" they initially carried for and supported, and whilst perhaps unknowingly at first, nevertheless they were serving the interest of their own land and people in the arduous and dangerous work many of them were involved in.

Whilst the remaining "Angels" may justifiably be said to deserve no less a material reward than that applied in the case of those who served in the PIB and the Police during the war, a reward which is well within the ability of a grateful PNG to bestow upon them, is it not enough in the way of atonement for present-day PNG and the "Angels'" direct and indirect descendants that nearly fifteen billions of Australian dollars have been spent on the development of PNG since 1945? And that despite occasional hiccups, the relationship remains a firm and friendly one, a relationship nowadays of equals as opposed to the didactic and patronising one of the days of the Admin., and exclusive social clubs?

Australian dollars are still being spent, today, towards the social and economic development of a land, once a host of rival tribes, now a young, modern nation-state with its own chosen constitution, its own laws and its own internal and foreign policies.

Surely Australia has honoured – ( and so far as it is possible to tell, will continue to honour)- by these commitments to the people, any debt it may owe on account of the "Angels."




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