Service Improvement Program (SIP) and District Information Management System (DIMS)

The Department of Implementation and Rural Development (DIRD) has a responsibility to regulate the financial and reporting requirements to the Government of Papua New Guinea for the Service Improvement Program (SIP), Constitutional Grants (CG) and Public Investment Program (PIP) paid to Sub-national levels of government in the provinces, districts, LLGs and Wards.

DIRD has been having difficulty managing stacks of manual files of paper-based acquittal reports presented by the 22 provinces and 89 districts. There is no efficient database management system in place to effectively appraise acquittals and generate reports to track the expenditure and impact of the SIP funds provided for in the development budget.

Vice Minister for Finance and Rural Development and Member for Nuku Hon. Joe Sungi had consultations with the Minister Councilor and Representatives from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in early 2019 and requested for DFAT financial assistance to enhance the capacity and a develop a digitized database management system for DIRD to effectively monitor and provide summary reports for Members of Parliament on the use of SIP, DSIP, CG and PIP funds at Sub-national levels of government.

A number of consultation meetings between DFAT, Vice Minister Joe Sungi, the Managing Contractor of Decentralisation and Citizen Participation Partnership (DCPP), Abt Associates, and the Acting Secretary for DIRD. Funding for the design of DIRD SIP and District Information Management System (DIMS) was secured through a Memorandum of Agreement under the Kina + Kina facility funded by DFAT. DIRD contributed K300,000 as counterpart funding to Abt Associates and DFAT committed AUD1.1 million for the first phase under the new Markets, Economic Recovery and Inclusion (MERI) project.

Catalpa, an international Information and Communication Technology (ICT) service provider was awarded the contract by DFAT to work with DIRD to build and deliver a Minimum Value Product (MVP) of a SIP-DIMS management system by November 2020.
There were three main phases of the SIP and DIMS Data Management System that were identified in the proposal:
Phase 1: Mobilisation and development of a Minimum Value Product (MVP) – 6 to 8 months;
Phase 2: Implementation and Integration (12 months); and
Phase 3: Scale Up and Technical Skills Training (18-24 months).

The initial design mission by the Catalpa Team reported that:

  • DIRDs SIP Management System is largely paper based and that it is both unmanageable and unable to meet DIRDs regulatory and financial management and reporting requirements to the Government of Papua New Guinea (GoPNG);
  • The Department does not have high utility and appropriate district data and analytical system (DIMS) to effectively support the implementation of the SIP nor to measure impact of the Government’s rural investment program (SIP, CGs and PIP); and
  • The SIP-DIMS management system needs to be better linked to the financial management system.

The Catalpa Team in their assessment report recommended that “DIRD needed to consider developing a new fully integrated, fit-for-purpose and user-friendly SIP Management and DIMS System. This system once built, tested and operationalized will have to be rolled out to the 21 Provinces and 89 District in the country. An initial assessment of the ICT readiness for the provinces and districts will be needed to identify the capacity of provinces and districts to use the SIP-DIMS management system to improve the efficiency of the acquittal and reporting process for the appropriation of development funds allocated to Sub-national levels of Government. DIRD should then be able to use the SIP-DIMS Management System uploaded from the provinces and districts to generate reports for Governors and Open Members of Parliament on the use of development funds and its impact on socio-economic indicators for the majority of people in rural areas in PNG.

DFAT and Nuku DDA Kina + Kina Partnership for LLG Resource Centres

The Local-level Governments (LLGs) in the country were instituted, 24 years ago, through the Organic Law on Provincial and Local-level Government (OLPGLLG) of 1995 without budget support to enable the LLGs to establish office infrastructure to provide an operational base to conduct government business of managing the service delivery process for the community governments at the Wards.

In Nuku District, Maimai Wanwan LLG did not have building infrastructure as a service centre. Nuku Central, Palai and Yangkok LLGs used run-down building facilities as service centres. For this reason, Hon. Joe Sungi, Vice Minister for Finance and Rural Development and Member for Nuku approached the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to assist Nuku District Development Authority (DDA) for financial assistance for the District LLG Service Centre project.

Counterpart funding arrangement under the Kina + Kina through the Decentralisation and Citizen Participation Partnership (DCPP) program was provided for under a Memorandum of Understanding between Abt Associates Pty Ltd, managing contractor of DFATs DCPP program and Nuku DDA dated 31st October 2019.

The Kina + Kina counterpart funding arrangement with Nuku DDA provided funding for the construction of a new building to be used as a resource centre for Maimai Wanwan LLG located in Ward 8, 21 km south-west from Nuku district headquarters. An existing building that was used as a resource centre for Nuku Central LLG was refurbished under this funding arrangement. Palai and Yangkok LLGs were not included in this cycle of funding to refurbish existing resource centre buildings.

The LLG resource centres project for Maimai Wanwan and Nuku Central have been completed by the contractors engaged by Abt Associates. The completed LLG Resource Centres will be handed over to the Nuku DDA by the Australian High Commissioner towards the end of the year.

Challenges of Managing the Service Delivery Process in Nuku District

The Southern Regional Workshop on the revised Administrative Guidelines for the Service Improvement Program (SIP) was organized by the Department of Implementation and Rural Development at the Pacific Institute of Leadership and Governance (PILAG) from 14-15th August 2019.

The theme of the workshop is “Effective Service Delivery through Partnership”.  A fitting theme for lead institutions of state, the Provincial and District Administrations to foster effective partnerships to improve the management of the service delivery process using SIP funds.

The District Development Authority (DDA) Act 2014 is an instrument that has empowered the District Administrations to build effective partnerships with the private sector (service providers, churches, non-state actors and donor agencies) and willing and active citizenship participation at the Ward-level governments.

The challenges to manage the service delivery process at the districts was highlighted by the Director of the Pacific Institute of Leadership and Governance (PILAG) during his presentation. The message is that PILAG is an institution that is focused on identifying and tailoring training needs to prepare Public Servants to work smarter. This could be achieved through a systematic leadership development driven by leadership values, philosophy and competencies.

The importance of “Building successful partnerships to manage the service delivery process in Nuku district” is featured in the Nuku District Development Authority logo.

The Nuku DDA logo was conceptualized and designed by the District Project Management Team in 2014 to capture the challenges of managing the service delivery process for a collective benefit of the people of Nuku.

Lesser yam (Mami in Tok Pisin) is an important co-staple food crop with sago, the latter represented by the cutting and pulverizing tool used for working the sago palm pith. These crops are cultivated and managed by the village people to provide nourishment for the baby representing the present and future generations of Nuku.

The metaphor of the food crops in development represent the resources available to the district that must be efficiently managed for the provision of basic social and economic services for the people of Nuku.

The household is the basic unit of production, where sago and agricultural resources are managed by the parents and their network of relatives to provide food for subsistence. A Melanesian way of life, where members of a social group work in partnership in food production to sustain members of society.

A Melanesian approach to rural development in Papua New Guinea advocated by Utula Samana. Stakeholders must work in partnership to effectively manage the resources and the service delivery process to achieve the intended outcomes – to improve the quality of life of our people.

The approach we are advocating through the Ward Development Program is to empower members of community governments to be active and willing partners to drive development at the Ward-level. As partners in the service delivery process, community leaders must take on the responsibility to organize their people like they do to produce the food to sustain members of social groups in the village.

We are struggling with maintaining effective leadership and governance of institutions of state at sub-national levels of government. We are reminded by the Good Book that “man does not live by bread alone”. During the Southern Regional Workshop on the Revised Administrative Guidelines for SIP, Reverend Lohia Mou acknowledged that knowledge, experience and wisdom of people in positions of responsibility must be guided by the Spirit of God. This re-enforces the message that we must be mindful of the social conduct, personal values, attitude and behavior of public servants who have been entrusted under a Service Oath of the Public Service Commission to effectively manage the service delivery process. Public service work culture, popular attitude and political leadership were identified as contributing factors to ineffective management of the service delivery process (Reilly et al., 2015).

Personal values and code of conduct must be demonstrated by parents and people of influence in society. We are advocating that children must be guided to grow up and develop good attributes for long-term personal development.

We need to promote good personal values and a positive mindset. We need to develop a culture where lead members of society must become key people of influence to drive change. We need people who are mindful of their roles in managing institutions of state at the National, Provincial, Local-level and Community-level governments.

We need an effective public service, and active non-state actors, development partners, and reputable service providers to drive change in our district. We need an organized and efficient system of management to complement the visions of political leadership.

We anticipate that the outcome of efficient institutions of state and prudent management of the service delivery process will improve the poor social and economic indicators for our people.

The Nuku District Development Authority logo reminds us that we must value collaborative partnerships and be mindful of the role of the lead partners – the institutions of state – that have been mandated to effectively manage the service delivery process.

Green (2012) in his book “From Poverty to Power” reminds us that community leaders must also be active and willing partners to take ownership and drive development at the Community-level government.

The approach to people-centered development advocated by Samana (1988) in his book “Papua New Guinea: Which Way”, is being facilitated through the DDA Act 2014. If we want development to take place in a district, we must start from the Community-level government areas. However, change will not happen until we improve the deficiencies in the management of the service delivery process.

The expenditure of the DSIP funds by the District Development Authorities in the country has been under scrutiny.  We need to document and share experiences of successful stories of the management of DSIP funds and successful management of the service delivery process in Papua New Guinea.

Effective management of the service delivery process is also driven by the relationships between political leadership and the bureaucracy.

There are five hypothetical scenarios of relationships of political and administrative structures that have been created by the decentralization process:

  1. Good political leadership and good administrative leadership supported by committed public servants with good work culture;
  2. Good political leadership and good administrative leadership with poor public service work culture;
  3. Good political leadership and poor administrative leadership, with poor public service work culture;
  4. Poor political leadership, good administrative leadership and good public service work culture;
  5. Poor political leadership, poor administrative leadership and bad work culture of the public servants.

The first hypothetical scenario provides a perfect setting for effective service delivery. However, this is usually not the case and we are confronted with micromanaging administrative issues in an effort to improve the service delivery process.

We need to learn from our experiences and improve on deficiencies if we are going to effectively deliver the development plan using the District Services Improvement Program (DSIP) funds to achieve the intended outcomes anticipated by our people.


Green (2012). From Poverty to Power: How active citizens and effective states can change the world, 2nd ed. Rugby, UK: Practical Action Publishing and Oxford: Oxfarm International.

Reilly, B., Brown, M., and Flower, S. eds. Political Governance and Service Delivery in Papua New Guinea: A strategic review of current and alternative governance systems. Discussion Paper No. 143. The National Research Institute, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Samana (1988). Papua New Guinea: Which Way? Arena Publications Association. North Carlton, Victoria, Australia.


Stakeholder Interface/Development Advisor

Nuku District Project Management Team

Stakeholder partnerships for Nuku cocoa value chain project

The people of East New Britain and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville have demonstrated that without the income from extractive industries such as logging and mining, the local economy could be sustained through agriculture, in particular cocoa and coconut production. 

Both provinces have experienced a downturn in the local economy as a result of the volcanic eruption in Rabaul and the civil war on the island of Bougainville. Cocoa production was further impacted by the Cocoa Pod Borer (CPB) infestation but is picking up after Cocoa and Coconut Institute (CCI) at Tavilo, East New Britain released recommendations to control CPB, including the release of selected cocoa varieties that are tolerant to CPB infestation. The fight against CPB infestation has been taken seriously by lead partners such as Agmark and innovative “Agriculture business leaders” in the cocoa industry.

Research and Development partners in the cocoa industry are advocating that there is demand for premium quality cocoa from Papua New Guinea on niche export markets. Traditional methods of fermenting and drying using wood combustion dryers generate smoke that taints and reduces the quality of dried cocoa beans.

What this means is that the Cocoa Industry needs innovative “Agriculture Business Leaders” to take the lead in the production of quality cocoa beans to tap into niche markets that pay good dollars for premium quality cocoa beans. An innovative drying facility at Banyo Plantation on North Bougainville is a good example of an Agriculture Business Leader that is taking the lead in the cocoa industry to produce premium quality beans for the niche market. This is being achieved by innovative technology to dry cocoa beans using a combination of steam and solar drying facility. Growers must work in partnership and learn from business leaders in the industry through extension services to produce premium quality cocoa beans.

In the Nuku district, we need to encourage and build innovative “Agriculture Business Leaders” in the agriculture sector to develop the cocoa and vanilla industry.  We have members of a New Zealand Missionary family that have returned to Sibilanga to set up an export market for vanilla; an example of an “Agriculture Business Leader” that we want to emulate. However, there are certain requirements that must be met in order to be a successful Business Leader in the export trade of vanilla. One must have the initial capital to set up infrastructure, set up a network of growers to produce quality vanilla beans for the export market, must produce quality beans to meet phytosanitary requirements administered by the National Agricultural Quarantine and Inspection Authority (NAQIA) to meet the import requirements for respective countries. An exporter must register an export business entity with the Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) and submit annual tax returns with the Internal Revenue Commission (IRC). An exporter must also apply for an export license to trade which attracts a substantial amount of money. An export license must be renewed at intervals set by the Department of Trade and Industry.

I am of the view that it is not possible to convert a simple villager with a primary level of formal education to become a successful entrepreneur in the agribusiness industry. The process requires a shift from the subsistence to a cash economy – from a subsistence farmer into a modern-day farmer. The process that will transform a subsistence crop into a cash crop requires a person with knowledge of the value chain. A farmer is involved in the production chain from the farm gate, handling, processing, packaging and marketing.

In order to grow and market an agriculture product, we need all three partners that I have been advocating on the social media forums in order for change to happen. The state provides the enabling transport infrastructure and extension services, development partners assist with quality control, handling and marketing and the village people must be a receptive and willing participant to support partnerships in agribusiness. This requires a shift in attitude and mindset to enable them to accept and support the involvement of the agriculture business leaders to upscale the traditional way of thinking and traditional approaches to shift from subsistence to a market economy.

We have been trying to modernize our agriculture production systems – from subsistence to commercial agriculture – our living conditions – from bush material type housing to semi-permanent or permanent housing – as well as modernize our learning systems and modernize our attitude to be able to live in modern society and the environment that is demanded by civilized society and a systematic market economy.

In 1973 Anthropologist Diana Howlet raised the question of whether the process that created peasants from tribal people was considered to be in transition, a phase through which people will pass to emerge as “modern”. She used a catchphrase to describe the process of modernizing our rural economy as going through a state of “infinite pause”; from the introduction of rice cultivation in the 1950s, to Robusta coffee, to cocoa and vanilla. If the income from cash crops can’t modernize us then what is it? We have gone through various processes of transition from hunter-gatherer, to civil order through the efforts of early administrators – the Kiaps. Then the cash economy through cash cropping; cargo cult (that money will appear through superpowers); then deviated forms of religious worship, making leaders and pastors live a comfortable life from tithes. We have pyramid schemes – Aim Global, Papa Lain, Money Rain, U-Vistract schemes. Various forms of schemes are designed to capitalize on the ignorance of our people that have been subjected to various processes of transition from a traditional lifestyle to modern lifestyle. Surprisingly, educated people, who should know better, are involved in these schemes and losing their hard-earned income by investing in these schemes designed to make you believe that you will become a millionaire overnight! Is it the infinite pause syndrome? If one thing does not modernize you, then try the next available option. So you go through an infinite pause cycle: looking for that star to fall to modernize your lifestyle.

We need Business Leaders in the agriculture sector to grow the local economy. However, we have yet to modernize our attitude and way of thinking. We must accept and support local business leaders who are trying to be innovative to provide a service to help increase the level of income for our people. We have a problem when we see that certain individuals or family groups become successful. Jealousy and bad energy in various forms is stopping our own people to become Business Leaders. We don’t need retired Missionaries to come and show us how to become Business Leaders. We have potential Business Leaders in the Agriculture sector but our attitude, jealousy and the insecurity of somebody else stealing business from you that is suppressing the much-needed support services that could be provided by our very own Business Leaders. We have a number of Business Leaders in the retail industry but we need more to provide competition which is good for customers. We desperately need Agriculture Business Leaders to modernize the production and marketing of cocoa and vanilla in the Nuku district to grow the local economy. We have to bring services closer to our people to reduce the risks our people take when they travel out to look for goods and services.

With increased cash flow in the local economy, we need to increase retail trade business in order to attract banking services. The satellite township concept has been advocated so that our people can do business and have access to goods and services here at Nuku.

The duty of the Political Governance and Institutions of State (Provincial and District Administrations, Local-level Government and Ward Administrations) is to provide an enabling environment – road transport infrastructure, communication services and improved health and educations services. An additional responsibility is to foster partnerships with the private sector and our people to drive the local economy through agriculture value chain projects.

The challenge to modernize the society we live in is in our hands – we are the masters of our own destiny, a new Nuku we have been advocating is in our hands.

DR JOHN SOWEI (PhD) is a stakeholder interface and development advisor for Nuku District Development Authority.

Reminiscences of rough times: May River and the Mianmin

IN AUGUST 1956, THE PEOPLE FROM MAY RIVER, a right-bank tributary of the mighty Sepik River, invited their upstream neighbours, from the Yellow River to a feast. They neglected to tell their guests that they were to be the main item on the menu and, on a Sepik River sandbank, they slaughtered at least 29 Yellow River people and cooked and ate them. Patrol Officer George Oakes, 22 was based at Lumi where, in his second year of service, he had been thrown in the deep end, including solo patrols into the Yellow River area.

Oakes,  born in  New  Britain in  1934,  had,  along with his mother and younger brother,  been evacuated to Sydney on the Macdhui in July 1941. His father, the Rev Dan Oakes, died on the Japanese prison ship Montevideo Maru when it was torpedoed in July 1942. Oakes returned to PNG as a Cadet Patrol Officer in January 1954 and was first assigned to Mendi. Two years later, he was posted to Lumi.

He later wrote: About the beginning of August 1956 some bodies were found floating in the Sepik River with parts … cut out. They were identified by their tattoos as coming from a long way up the Sepik River. … About the same time, Kit Kitson, a recruiter… returned to Lumi with the story that some Yellow River people had been killed and eaten by May River people. Under the headline ‘Head-hunters kill 28 in New Guinea massacre’, the Sydney Morning Herald of 22 August 1956 reported: One native, with a gaping wound in the forearm staggered into Lumi … He told the Lumi District Officer that the victims were members of a fishing party. … The witnesses who brought the story back to Lumi carried bundles of sweet corn to indicate the numbers of men and women who had died.

Then came another shocking headline in an Australian newspaper, ‘N. Guinea Woman sentenced’: An Administration post-office employee, Patricia Robertson, was sentenced today to three months’ imprisonment … charged with having disclosed the contents of an official radiogram … [she] had sent the Sun a message about the murder of 28 natives in the Lumi area.

It was a bizarre event, a white woman, a teletype operator employed by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, had been sent to gaol, and the town of Port Moresby was horrified. Robertson was sentenced on   Friday   31   August and,   because the gaol had no suitable accommodation, spent the weekend in the gaoler’s residence with Inspector George Gough and his wife while “works department carpenters worked around the clock … erecting accommodation … at Bomana Gaol” near Port Moresby.

Meanwhile George Oakes was recalled from a patrol west of Lumi to accompany Assistant District Officer Frank Jones to the Sepik River, which they reached on 28 August 1956. There they waited for ADO Mert Brightwell to arrive, by boat from Ambunti so they could travel to the crime scene of the mass slaughter. Jones,  in  charge  of  the  Lumi  Sub-district,  during  his  previous  term  as  ADO  Telefomin,  had crisscrossed the ranges and valleys in pursuit of the murderers of patrol officers Harris and Szarka and policemen Buritori and Purari, after another notorious incident.

Jones was to lead a dawn raid to capture the last of ringleaders in 1954. Following long leave and marriage, he took over Lumi at the end of January 1956. Mert Brightwell became a Cadet Patrol Officer in June 1947 following war service as a RAAF Wireless Operator/Air Gunner. Posted to Ambunti, in 1954, when it was still a Patrol Post in the Angoram Sub-district, he spent months escorting an oil-search expedition to the Sepik headwaters, before assuming control of the newly created Ambunti Sub-district, in June 1956. He had wide shoulders,  a  barrel chest and no neck  –  attributes he credited to his long line of furniture-removalist forebears. But, despite his stature, Mert was light on his feet and the life of the party when he would sashay from behind a screen, a straw boater in one hand, cane in the other, tap-dancing through his own sung-rendition of Father In His Life Was Ne’er A Quitter.

Far away in Port Moresby, a bizarre event was in train. Young Patrol Officer Tony Redwood “was called to headquarters at Konedobu, told [he] had been selected to lead the May River patrol [and] was sent to Police headquarters to select 12 native police from anywhere in the Territory, the best [he] could identify.” It was bizarre because, less than three years earlier, in November 1953, the Department had been publicly  criticized  when  junior  patrol  staff  Harris  and  Szarka  and  two  police  constables  were butchered near Telefomin. This led to a headquarters edict, in force in 1956 and for many years after, that Telefomin patrols must comprise at least two officers, one “an experienced Patrol Officer, Assistant District Officer, or District Officer.” The May River headwaters were in the Telefomin sub-district.

Redwood had just commenced his second term, was posted to the District Office in Port Moresby and was located more than 1,200 travel kilometres from May River. He had no river experience, and he no special attributes other than youthful exuberance. By contrast, there were ten seasoned patrol officers and two others of Redwood’s vintage readily available in the Sepik District. One of the latter, Oakes, had just completed a 44-day patrol of the Yellow River, and knew the area. The instruction “to select 12 native police from anywhere in the Territory, the best [he] could identify” – at Police headquarters – was also bizarre. Redwood could only have undertaken a cursory search of some of the 3,500 members’ files – a random paper exercise. But he was lucky; one of the constables selected proved to be outstanding.

AmbuntiRedwood related that “several days later [he] was on the plane to Wewak, where [he] spent a week organizing supplies and assembling [his] police group as they arrived from all over.… flew into Ambunti … and left there several days later in the workboat for the three-day trip up the Sepik to the May River.” George  Oakes tells us that  Redwood’s patrol took  93  days.  My own records show  that he established May River Post on 1 November 56, and left it on 18 January 1957, when he contracted hepatitis.

Redwood recalls that it took [him] about a month to capture the culprits (about 42 he recalled). In fact, 40 men from the May River were sentenced on 11 February 1957 and went to prison for long terms. The Yellow River people were spoiling for revenge, the mountain-dwelling Mianmin were poised to  strike,  the  May  River  community had  been  left  defenceless;  May  River  Patrol  Post  had  to become permanent. By March 1957, Brightwell was about to go on leave, and I had just arrived at Ambunti. Peter O’Sullivan, in Wewak, had drawn the short straw and was posted to May River. Brightwell’s plan was simple. We would take O’Sullivan to May River, and, at the same time, re- supply the post. We would then head upstream, visit Green River Patrol Post, and turn around at the Dutch border – 1,000 km from the mouth of the Sepik. Brightwell would then go on leave. ML Mala Anything that could not get wet had to go inside the cabin; bags of rice, sugar, salt and wheatmeal – tea, ships biscuits, twist tobacco. And on either side of the stern, a 44-gallon drum – one benzene, the other kerosene. The overflow, cargo that could withstand rain, and police, a medical orderly, some wives, went into the 50-foot (plus) canoe strapped to the starboard side. We slept on board, on canvas bed sleeves stretched over the cargo. We were into bed before dusk, before the mosquitoes, and we stayed under the net till morning. Then, with still no room in the cabin, it was up to chairs on the wheelhouse roof, and breakfast ‘cooked’ on a single-burner brass primus.

There were no home comforts on the workboat. The river was churning mud and we floated on it, we drank it and we washed with it. A canvas flap at the stern gave some privacy for the morning shower – a bucket, tossed into the river, filled with water and retrieved with a rope. The ‘hangout’ seatless toilet: a thick rope with numerous large knots and tied to a cleat. Redwood described May River as a “desolate place … [the] base camp on the highest ground in the area, on the river bank. The rest was swamp, all movement was by canoe, and all villages had elevated houses.” And the operation: “Hard slogging. Early morning raids to trap them in the men’s house, pursuits for hours through the swamp, and the like. Millions of mosquitoes, and croc ridden. My nearest colleague, Max Allwood at Green River.” Redwood did not use enough words – it was much worse than he described. He had only had four months to get to May River and build a base at the end of a shaky supply line – three and a half day’s travel by workboat from Ambunti. At the same time, he had to establish the detail of murders, victims and culprits, and then thrash through the swamps to catch the murderers.

Not surprisingly, May River was not much of a station. The bush material houses, hemmed in by jungle, perched above a tepid stream and a muddy bank. The atmosphere was hot, humid and dank. The myriads of daylight mosquitoes seemed to have teeth. At dusk, they seemed a different breed: they were stingers. Compared to May River, the dreaded patrol post at Green River was a tourist resort with a weekly aircraft,  regular  mail,  groceries  –  even  frozen  meat  and  fresh  bread.  There  was  a  permanent material house, tank water and solid ground to walk on.

A few months later I was asked to deliver an urgent letter upriver to Peter O’Sullivan. Another upset. It was a ‘Dear John’ letter from his friend Sue Rowlison, soon to become Sue Becker, later Australian TV fitness guru and host of the BBC program Boomph with Becker. Redwood  was  back  in  the  limelight  in  May  1957  when  a  question  was  put  in  the  Australia Parliament:

Will the Minister confirm or deny reports that 24 New Guinea natives who were sentenced to death by the Supreme Court at Wewak yesterday were defended by a patrol officer who had participated in the apprehension of the accused? Are patrol officers generally regarded as legally qualified and as being sufficiently competent to defend persons accused of murder and was the defence counsel in this case so qualified to appear for 25 natives on a murder charge?

The Administrator telexed his advice to the Minister:

Accused defended by Patrol Officer Redwood who did not participate in any way in apprehension … Patrol officers are not legally qualified legal practitioners but undergo legal training and have considerable experience in presiding over legal proceedings as magistrates. The Minister had a final waspish word, however, noting on the file:

I think the Administrator’s action in leaving the defence of the accused in the hands of a 22-year old officer with three years of experience is indefensible … in future more senior and more qualified experienced officers and, in major cases, qualified counsel should be engaged for the defence. Redwood’s clients, the Mianmins, were the graziers and their neighbours were the herd, which the Mianmins periodically culled, slaughtered and ate – saving only the comely females for breeding stock. Their foray into the Atbalmin in December 1956, when they killed and ate 17 men women and children and abducted two females, provoked a strong patrol.

ADO Ron Neville, Patrol Officers Geoff Booth and Paul Conroy, Medical Assistant Allan Kelly and 34 police undertook an operation in January and February 1957 during which the patrol was twice attacked, a police constable wounded, two Mianmin shot and 27 taken into custody. ADO Len Aisbett and CPO Jim Fenton established the link between Telefomin and the May River Post in July-August 1958 – a 40-day patrol that worked its way through the Mianmin in the May River headwaters then travelled for three and half days in no-man’s-land before meeting up with PO John Cochrane and his powered canoes some 50 km upstream from May River Patrol Post. Mianmin peopleThe Mianmin – garbed only in narrow cane waist bands, 15 centimetre working- dress phallocrypts, testicles in the breeze – considered the May River people to be under-clad “bush kanakas” – their attire being a small marine shell perched snail-like on the end of the penis.

Some six months after Aisbett’s patrol had passed through, a group of Mianmins made the next foray, selecting “the small settlement of Suwana in the Abaru group near May River Patrol Post.” It took the raiding party the best part of five days, trekking, then drifting down the river on rafts and then trekking again to reach their objective. The Miamin surrounded the village at dawn, killed three men and one woman, cut up the bodies and set off for home with seven female captives and the butchered bodies – leaving only the heads and entrails behind. One of those women had difficulty keeping up so she was killed and parts of her body taken to be eaten. Another of the abducted women subsequently escaped and reported to May River Patrol Post.

We  sent  a  small  expert  team  from  Telefomin  to  Ambunti  by  air:  Patrol  Officer  Jim  Fenton, Interpreter Suni and Constable Kusinok (a Telefomin). Their brief was to proceed to May River post and assist the OIC, Jack Mater, in the investigation and pursuit of the Mianmin raiding party. Hopefully,  that  would  save  many  days  of  slogging  through  the  Telefomin  ranges,  give  the Mianmins a lesson about the government’s reach and accord with the headquarters edict of patrols by two officers.Using outboard motor powered canoes, Mater led the patrol to the headwaters of the May River, and then they took to the hills. In all, it only took 14 days to reach the Mianmin settlement and surround it. At dawn, they apprehended the 15 Usage men involved in the massacre, including the men who did the killings. The operation went without incident and, thanks to their A510 portable receivers, District Officer Des Clancy in Wewak and me in Telefomin kept in daily radio contact with Mater and Fenton.

Mater later paid tribute to Senior Constable Augwi’s role in the operation, saying he was “the most outstanding NCO I have seen … largely responsible for the successful arrests of nine of the 15 prisoners.” He may not have known that Augwi was also very well travelled, having visited London as part of the RP&NGC 1953 Coronation contingent. Augwi had sailed to England via Sydney in April 1953, returning by air to Sydney from London in June, and travelling back to Port Moresby by the MV Shansi. Interpreter  Suni  MBE  LSM,  originally  from  Olsobip  but  adopted  by  an  Eliptamin,  missed accompanying only one Administration patrol to the Mianmin: Jim Taylor’s in December 1939. Instead, as a youthful camp follower, he had accompanied John Black from Telefomin to Wabag.

Suni did not see Telefomin again until a brief wartime stint when he and Mick Leahy were part of the US team that was dropped in by gliders. He next visited Telefomin, by a special Qantas flight from  Goroka  in  December  1948  to  join  Des  Clifton-Bassett  at  the  newly  opened  government station. That assignment, supposed to last for six months, continued for more than 30 years. Suni was to visit the Mianmin on many occasions, including with the first ever patrol to focus on the Mianmin led by Harry West in May 1950.

Nautical footnote: In October 1964, Captain Wally Blumenfeld RAE (32 Small Ship Squadron) took the AV1354 Brudenell White – an ex-World War II US LSM – up the Sepik River to the May River junction – a distance he calculated to be 595 km. The vessel was 62 metres long, with a beam of 10.4 metres, and no other ship of that size had ever reached so far up this river. Blumenfeld recorded that the deepest water under the keel was 30 fathoms (55 metres) when the vessel was passing through the “Yambon gate”, 11 km upstream from Ambunti, where there was a 5 to 6 knot current. Overall the current varied between 1 and 6 knots and was 2.47 knots at the May River Junction.

A Tony Redwood footnote While I was the Patrol Officer at Kainantu in the Eastern Highlands (Harry West was Assistant District Officer), the Police Sergeant Major, a veteran of the 1936 Hagen-Sepik patrol, reported a rumour that the station carpenter, from the Mekeo, had a revolver in his house. While I was the Patrol Officer at Kainantu in the Eastern Highlands (Harry West was Assistant District Officer), the Police Sergeant Major, a veteran of the 1936 Hagen-Sepik patrol, reported a rumour that the station carpenter, from the Mekeo, had a revolver in his house. At my behest,  the brand new  Cadet  Patrol  Officer  Tony  Redwood and the  Sergeant  Major investigated. The carpenter did not have one revolver, he had two, and, as the officers arrived, he stormed from his house waving the weapons. Redwood took off. Almost six feet tall, with some puppy fat, he was a large, fast-moving target, but he could not outrun the fusillade. Fortunately, the carpenter’s Wild West gunslinger style sent the bullets in all directions and Redwood survived to later participate in the May River expedition.


This  memoir  is  drawn  in  part  from  May  River  Cannibals  by  George  Oates  (Una  Voce  No  3 September 2009) which describes the prelude to the establishment of the May River Patrol Post. Oakes put that story together from his patrol reports, his memory, and from an email he received from Tony Redwood. I have also drawn on Jim Fenton’s records and communications (including his copy of Ambunti Patrol Report 13 of 1959-60), on my own records and on other archives. W T (Bill) Brown MBE is a former District Commissioner with the Administration of Papua New Guinea. He now lives in Sydney

Potential for Corruption in LLGs

The provincial budget of ESP is LLG based. So budgets are done according to each LLG. There is no budget for Wards simply because there is no money to push budgets right down to that level.

But down at LLG level we have an issue of lack of oversight. So a lot of money simply gets stolen. What that means is that the claim is produced, a cheque is raised and the money is spent but the work promised in the claim never gets done.

In 2018 cheques were drawn for amounts ranging from K50-K200,000 for the maintenance of roads in almost all LLGs. We have 29 LLGs. For example, Boiken K100,000 and Turubu K200,000. Which roads got fixed with this money? The Wewak DDA also used DSIP to fix other roads in the district that I am aware of.And it is the same story all across the province.

For Maprik Urban we spent K100,000 to repair a bridge. Which bridge in Maprik Urban got fixed? Angoram district powerhouse maintenance K70,000? Wosera Gawi Emergency Maintenance K200,000. What was that for?

Government House Maintenance Wewak District, Turubu, Wewak Rural, Maprik District, Maprik Wora, Albiges Mamblep, Bumbita Muihan, Yamil Tamawi, Keram, Marienberg, Yuat, Drekikia, Kawanga, the list goes on, each spent K50,000 to fix a government house in that location. From the reports I am getting on the ground from LLG Presidents, 90% of the work never took place.

This is deeply alarming. It means the people’s money, meant for their services is being spent for the benefit of a select few. Your money is being stolen and the people writing and cashing the cheques are all public servants.

This is totally unacceptable. I realize that as elected representatives, we are almost powerless to do anything.

During our meeting last week where we discussed law and order issues with the PPC we agreed to set up our provincial public accounts committee to be backed up by a team of fraud sqaud officers from the police and we will look into all these expenditures with a view to determine what happened to those funds. If we have to prosecute and jail perpetrators then so be it. We can’t keep allowing this to happen.

My analysis is that, because funding for the same thing is given through DSIP and functions grants, the DDA is actually taking the full brunt of paying for the infrastructure while the function grant goes missing because too many people are implementing in the same area. So if a national government project also comes into the same space then the confusion this creates also provides the ideal opportunity for corruption.

As responsible leaders we can’t allow this to continue. We must have better oversight and control mechanisms. But more than that we need more transparency around all these transactions so that our people are made aware of what is going on so that we can get an additional layer of oversight from our own community.

I am of the opinion that we have enough money to do our work. We just have to stop the stealing and allow the money to do the work it was intended to do. And we need help from our constituents to question where the money is going to. We need to improve transparency.

So in 2020, all money for roads and bridges will be implemented by PTB using the free machines donated by the Japanese government. We will no longer engage contractors using these K200,000 road maintenance funds. We need to get value for money on all our LLG roads. We have to stop the stealing.

Once the Auditor General clears our 2018 financial report, I will publish it for every Sepik to peruse and ask questions. This is how we are going to do our government business from now onwards.

By Alan Bird, Governor of East Sepik Province, November 2019

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