Friday, June 11, 2010

The curse of Gulf province






Since 1973 Papua New Guinea had initially attained self-government and eventually gained full Independence on September 16th 1975.

Seeing as the rest of the country had also gained independence, the Gulf province was no exception.

 However, after almost 35 years of Independence, all development efforts, trials and socio-economic initiatives carried out within the Gulf province itself has not seemed to work or even progressed at all.

The motive behind writing this article is to identify the likely causes of Gulf province’s mishaps and correctly identify the remedies behind all our misfortunes experienced throughout the province over the last three decades.

 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 Papua New Guinea had gained its independence in 1975.

 It was 8th April 1901, the date of Reverend James Chalmers (known to the natives as TAMATE); Reverend Oliver Tompkins and eight natives who were murdered at Dopima village of the Goaribari Islands.

This terrible wrong doings 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.

The last brief phase of Tamate's service to New Guinea was spent visiting existing mission stations.

He was much encouraged by the arrival of a dedicated young helper, Oliver Tomkins. Together they planned an expedition to the Aird River delta.

The natives in that region were reputed to be fierce and unapproachable, even by Papuan standards.

No white man had ever seen them.

For a long time, Tamate had desired to make the dangerous trip there in order to win them for Christ.

On April 4, 1901, the mission steamer sailed to Risk Point, off the shore of the village of Dopima.

Immediately, natives surrounded the ship.

 Tamate promised to come ashore in the morning.

The next day, both Tomkins and Tamate went ashore, saying they would return shortly for breakfast.

After a certain interval had passed, as if by pre-arrangement, the natives who remained on the ship looted it, taking all of the stores of presents and Tamate and Tomkins's belongings.

The captain alarmed by the prolonged absence of the two missionaries and by the conduct of the natives, was further concerned when he saw a large number of warriors getting into canoes.

He suspected that the missionaries had been murdered and that the next targets were he and his shipmates.

He sailed away to report to the governor. 

His suspicions were confirmed a short time later by British investigators and the testimony of captured natives from the guilty village.

The missionaries had been clubbed, beheaded, and eaten.

 Both men were killed on 8 April 1901.

There is a stained glass window to their memory in the college chapel at Vatorato, Rarotonga including a copper beating at the Ela United Church in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

The news of Chalmers' and Tomkins' murders made headlines all over the world. Those who had worked closely with Chalmers were shocked and grieved at the news of his death, but felt strongly that he would have wished to die as he did - engaged in service to the natives of New Guinea. As an old friend wrote:” Hitherto God had preserved him; now he allowed the blow to fall, and His faithful servant to be called up home."

And on 18th March 1902 in Edinburgh, Scotland, a writer named Cuthbert Lennox wrote and published a book called “JAMES CHALMERS OF NEW GUINEA” and quoted Mr John Oxenham’s expression in the confidence that:” His name, Shall kindle many a heart to equal flame, The fire he kindled shall burn on and on, Till all the darkness of the lands be gone, And all the kingdoms of the earth be won, And one."

The writer will rejoice if this little volume, like a torch, renders humble service in helping to pass on the kindling flame to "many a heart."



Gulf Province is commonly known to the whole country as the very, very least-developed province.

As compared to the rest of Papua New Guinea Gulf province is compared so poorly to the rest of the whole country.

However, when considering some historical facts and events of the colonisation wave throughout Papua New Guinea, 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.

"I use to wonder why so many Kerema compounds sprung up in the several provinces across Papua New Guinea including Cairns, Australia.

“Then I realised that these compounds were used by Keremas who were carpenters, builders and other skilled tradesmen who were sent out to help build the rest of PNG."



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 Papua New Guinea.

Our people went to almost all other parts of the country as carpenters; clerks; plantation bosses and laborers, leaders, cargo boys and teachers.

Over the years Gulf province has produced some of the best brains the nation has had to offer.

Its people have come to serve Papua New Guinea as chief executive officers, managing directors, departmental heads, senior statesmen and women, leaders, politicians, ambassadors, high commissioners.

Even two former Governors General and two previous Prime Ministers had come from the Gulf province.

Gulf under the colonial rule achieved so much progressive developments.

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 (35) years after independence and Gulf is totally deprived of everything.

One would say that time itself have 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 begun to decline and come 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 Southern Highlands.

The Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) project is happening at our doorsteps while we the Gulf people continue to remain passive spectators in our very own turf.



Is the whole of Gulf Province cursed and if this so, what does the Word of God tell us about this curse?

It would appear that the whole of the Gulf province remains under a generational curse from God Almighty Himself.

 This curse or misfortune as referred to within the context of God’s Word is directly related to the shedding of innocent blood (i.e., the blood of the two Reverends namely, Oliver Tomkins and James Chalmers or AKA Tamate).

Several biblical references point to bible text or scriptures that may support this curse in the Old Testament (OT) Bible 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, Edom a desert waste, because of violence done to the people of Judah, in whose land they shed innocent blood.

How did this curse come upon the gulf province?

In order for God’s curse to take effect over the land and its people, the land itself would have to be owned by the people living on it.

In this case and during the time that innocent blood was shed, the land itself did not belong to the natives but remained as a colony property of Great Britain and later was transferred as a territory of Australia between 1901 and 1974.

When did the generational curse start?

In this instance it may be understood from the biblical context that the curse would only come upon the people if they legally owned the land.

However in such cases the curse had not taken effect until 1975 when PNG gained its independence from Australia.

 For more than 74 years after the murders of these missionaries the land remained the colony of Great Britain and later Australia until 16th September 1975 when it was handed over to its native owners.

Was PNG blessed and/or cursed all at the time of Independence?

September 16th 1975 Independence had been a huge blessing to the rest of Papua New Guinea which had helped freed us and our land from our colonial masters.

However, in the case of Gulf province, the land was already doomed because little did we know that it had taken on a generational misfortune because of the innocent blood of the slain missionaries.

After our Independence, all colonial land within Gulf (including many parts of PNG) were given back to the traditional landowners but some of the land had already being tainted with God’s curse that had followed through after 10 decades of our generations.

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 wrong doings.

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.”

Having read and was told of the story of Tamate or Reverend James Chalmers who was one of the slain Missionaries so many times and in many different versions we as the Gulf people must really be held responsible for their deaths.

And it would only be fair that the Gulf provincial government also take on the leadership responsibility of the Centenary Reconciliation Event for the province and country as a whole.

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 wrong doings, our generational sins and curses that has allowed God to curse our land and our people who live on it

Gulf people need to stage one big centenary reconciliation event through the efforts of the mainline Churches, the Provincial Government and the people of Gulf Province in the township of Kerema.

In 1999, a very small church whose membership constituted of five families had taken upon themselves the task to prompt the reconciliation process. 

They went ahead as far communicating on behalf of the Gulf Christian churches, the non-churches people and the government of Gulf province to prepare the groundwork.

The appended “Trumpet Newsletters” of the months of July, August and September 2000 further elaborates and clarifies their commitment. 

Thus the Battlefield Baptist Church had attempted to initiate the event’s planning on everyone’s behalf but did not get the support and so things did not eventuate as planned.

The planning of the event will also need to be properly co-ordinated by a specially appointed provincial events committee by the Gulf provincial government.

 The committee will need to work with other mainline churches in the Gulf province and also overseas through the British High Commission and the London Missionary Society where banner of the late Reverend James Chalmers and Oliver Tomkins had come to serve under and eventually lose their lives.

The proposed events committee in this instance will need to officially contact and notify in writing the descendants of the two slain missionaries of April 8, 1901,  through the British High Commission and by officially inviting them (including the British High Commissioner) to witness and participate in the staging of the centenary reconciliation event. 

Thursday 8th of April 2010 has been proposed as the date of the “centenary reconciliation event” to be held in Kerema town on an annual basis.

Furthermore the date also represents the time of the deaths (shedding of their innocent blood) of the two missionaries.

As the book called “JAMES CHALMERS OF NEW GUINEA” has a poem written for Tamate and quoted earlier as saying… “His name, Shall kindle many a heart to equal flame, The fire he kindled shall burn on and on, Till all the darkness of the lands be gone, And all the kingdoms of the earth be won, And one."…The Bible text of 2nd Chronicles 7:14 and Tamate’s poem must be fulfilled by every Gulf person or persons who are either part-Gulf or married to Gulf and if not present at the centenary reconciliation event must honour this day with a dawn service at wherever they can congregate and by lighting two candles in the early hours of the 8th April every year until repentance is achieved by every Gulf person.



We are all aware that many development attempts, both political and otherwise have been made on so many occasions to address the various socio-economic improvement issues relating to the Gulf province.

 The province is under a 109 year generational curse that came into effect when PNG got its independence from Australia in 1975.

 After almost 35 years of independence it is now more evident that the curse has affected the Gulf people and their land after their forefathers had taken the lives of missionaries by shedding their innocent blood on our land.

The four  groups people who are; 1) the people of Gulf province themselves; 2) the British High Commissioner and representatives of London Missionary Society missionaries; 3) the Government of Gulf Province; and, 4) the relatives of the descendants of the murdered missionaries gather for the occasion; and other invited dignitaries’ will be required to attend this important centenary reconciliation event for the whole of Gulf province to move forward spiritually, physically and socio-economically.

The reasons behind hosting such a centenary reconciliation event for the whole of Gulf province is so vitally important as other provinces such as Rabaul, Milne Bay and even countries like Fiji who had recognised their demise have done their reconciliation events that brought with it complete healing and restoration in the land and its people.

Their actions have also allowed God to restore and move them forward in their spirituality, physically and also allow them socio-economical breakthrough in many tangible developments.

April 8, 2010, is the date that has marked exactly 109 years since Reverend Tamate and Tomkins were killed in the Gulf province.

When is the time to say sorry and repent from the wicked ways of our forefathers?



  1. This is very interesting.

    In fact I agree that the Gulf province needs a shake up in their christian beliefs. Attitudes need to change and draw away from the cargo-cult mentality.
    Sorcery has taken over as the in-thing for the young people to see who is more powerful then the other.

    Those who go to church are not really commited as they fear sorcery after moments walk out of the church.
    It's like they hold two beliefs at once. With GOD we all know there is no compromise, no negotiations with the prince of darkness and his ways.
    You see this every weekend after church, something happens and all that time spent in church is thrown out the door. One would say, they are faithless.
    Thus is the reason why many of our educated elite don't bother going home for fear of their children and or families. But maybe they too need to be strengthened and have faith to say well "God, it's in your hands. I want my children to know where they come from, to enjoy their home without fear in the hope that maybe in the future, they can come home and build it for the better. It's in YOUR HANDS as you give and take".

    Gulf province needs the gospel at this moment and it needs it fast.

    Our leaders need to be God fearing and of great faith regardless of their family status and customary obligations.
    They need to hold fast and only then can God turn to us.
    I am a Gulf person and I have regularly gone home. It kills me to see the infrastructure deteriorate everytime I return.

    I remember when I was a kid, IHU station uses to be bustling with people going about their business. Regular flights, in fact three to four flights a day into Ihu airstrip.
    Ships docking at the government wharf. Sometimes 4 at once.
    Expatriates frequenting on fishing trips or just touring.

    It has to start with us to bring that message back home.
    I dream one day that Gulf Province will be a province to be reckoned with at the top and not competeting with the Western Province for the second last place.

    1. Yes we all dream one day , but it has to start from us now , to days generation . I wish all the educated people of Ihu should come together to do some thing like do awareness or donate books to Ihu High school library.

  2. i am a relative ot tamate, he had no known descendants, he was an uncle on my mothers side, my grandfathers uncle , he was named after him david chalmers macgeachan

  3. It seems that most people believe in superstitious powers and condemn Gulf Province's lack of Development on the actions that our forefathers committed to Tamate on Dopima Island, by Goarebari people of Kikori. I have heard stories from elders that after his death there was a raid conducted by Australians where most of the Island's inhabitants were wiped off or killed. Those who were captured were brought to Kikori Station and were forced to drink their own urine and waste. These are true stories which were not reported because our people could not tell their own stories at that time. Now we have only one sided stories flooding the air which is unfair. We Papua New Guineans have payback systems which everyone has to understand. If you hit me, I will turn and hit you too. Nobody ever reported the real reason as to why they killed him. Christianity was not our religion in those times and imagine if you are a Missionary forcing me to close my eyes and pray. If I did not what would you do? Im sure you will force me to close my eyes too. In those times Missionaries thought that every community they explored acted the same. Also remember that our communities had highest regard for their Chiefs who were like Gods or Kings to them. Whenever anyone disrespected a Chief or King the Rule was to KILL. The main reason why Gulf Province cannot Develop is because of Geographical factors with big rivers swamps and Mountainous Areas which makes it hard for service delivery. The second biggest hindrance is Language barrier. Gulf Province alone compared to other provinces is like a Nation with so many small countries.Those are the two main factors and there's nothing to do with James Chalmers Death.