The different developments in Papua New Guinea (PNG) came about as a result of the manipulation of various social, cultural and political forces. However, to be more precise, missionaries and administrators were very influential in the various infrastructural developments and service delivery to the myriad PNG populace. The work of these groups of people complemented each other. Missionaries got clearance from government officials to establish mission stations and in turn government officials came through mission established networks to implement their plans. This paper briefly discusses the ways in which the administrators and missionaries continue to contribute in influencing the various developments in PNG. The author takes the liberty to shift through the different time frames of PNG to collate valid evidences that illustrates how these administrators and missionaries were influential in developing a nation that is culturally diverse, naturally rich with wildlife and a home to a booming population.
Prior to Independence Papuans and New Guineans lived in isolation to each other. The freedom of travel was hampered by rugged mountains, swampy lakes, thick rainforests and internal insecurity. Generally people lived in small knitted communities and protected themselves their enemies. Tribal warfare was rampant because, via fighting, various societies displayed their sovereignty and dominated other cultures. It was in such a background that early missionaries and administrators had to come to enhance community relationships and oversee a development of a society that upholds law, order and respect for human dignity. The article ‘Culture of PNG’ (2008, 16th September) clarifies that, “missionaries and administrators suppressed tribal warfare to allow freedom of movement and integrated villages into the colonial economy as plantation workers and mission helpers. Missionary activities also led to the spread of Christianity and Western education; the building of roads, airstrips, and radio stations; and the shared experience of racial prejudice directed at local peoples by many whites.” In addition, early Australian administrators also established government stations and organised police patrols to demonstrate the power and influence of colonial governments to the illiterate and culturally dogmatic populace. Dr Gabriel Kulwaum (2008, 16th 2008) explains that:
Between 1919 and 1921, Australia retained the administrative system that had been established by the German administration before the War. That is, it maintained a system that involved the appointment in every village of a luluai and a tultul, ensuring the maintenance of colonial control over the villagers. However, the Australians went further and appointed Patrol Officers known as Kiaps, all of whom were Australians, with the responsibility of overseeing the system. The luluais and tultuls received their orders from the Kiaps…The Kiaps played a powerful role: as administrators, as police officers and as magistrates rolled into one position. ... In each District the work of the Kiaps was co-ordinated by Commissioners who were in turn accountable to the colonial Administrator in Port Moresby. This was a hierarchical system designed to maintain a tight control over indigenous institutions.
In this manner the colonial administration was able to develop a system in which the Post – Independent government could serve the needs of its people in a more organised and standardised manner. Currently the government is structured in such a way that the chief of state, Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, is represented by the Governor General. The head of the government is usually the Prime Minister, which in this case is Sir Michael Somare. The populace are represented by 109 members of parliament who are elected by a popular vote to serve a 5 year term (Election Guide: 2008, 18th September). However, the current PNG government is facing a lot of challenges in terms of infrastructural development and delivery of basic goods and services to its populace. For example; there are communities without efficient water supply, rural electrification privileges, good road links, fully functional health centres and community schools. The rural population rarely have access to basic goods like soap, salt and cooking oil. The divide between the privileged and the underprivileged has widened. The rural population, dressed in rags, continue to live each day with unimaginable toil and agony. Unemployment is growing as HIV/AIDS silently annihilate generations and threaten Papua New Guinea’s workforce. Illiteracy is still high. Today’s administrators in Papua New Guinea are faced with a new challenge – the challenge to bring tangible development to the majority of the rural Papua New Guinea population.
Furthermore it is vital to re-emphasise the fact that, although PNG attained Independence in 1975, societies continue to live in their own isolated environments due to Papua New Guinea’s undesirable geographical status. Nevertheless, irrespective of the challenge posed by nature, missionaries, motivated by their love for God, penetrated thick jungles, crossed many crocodile infested rivers and lakes, sailed into isolated island areas and ventured into untouched lands to make contact with the rural people. Schools and aid posts were established and missionaries cleared jungles to link some isolated villages to local district centres. Professor John Waiko (2007: 44 - 45) states, “German colonial authority encouraged the establishment and expansion of German- based missions. Apart from religious instruction the missions taught basic numeracy and German language skills. Most missionaries taught in the language of the people, and recruited indigenous people as teachers. Some missions also provided basic health services.” World War 2 destabilised the establishment of the missions work in Papua and New Guinea. Most missionaries returned to their homes abandoning the new mission stations. After the war was over the mission work continued. This time the mission influence grew noticeably. John (2007:100) summarises the work of the mission in the following words:
After the war the missions which were established in the colonial times were re-established. Expatriate missionaries returned or were replaced and the mission stations resumed their work of providing health, welfare and education services, encouraging self help economic and social projects, and saving souls. Many societies, particularly in the rural areas, continued to depend upon the missions for health and education. The missions also contributed in establishing plantations, small businesses such as village cooperatives and building roads and community centres.
There is ample evidence that suggests that the government of PNG, through its network of various administrators, has failed to deliver to the people of Papua New Guinea. According to a viewpoint article (2008, 18th 2008) someone stated that, “Two weeks ago, his grandmother was carried on a stretcher for six hours through rugged terrain to the nearest hospital in East Sepik. There were no drugs after she was diagnosed with liver/kidney problems so she was sent to Boram Hospital in Wewak for more medication. The irony of it was while his family was in mourning; the people of East Sepik were celebrating Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare’s 40 years in politics. What is Independence when people in the remote areas of Papua New Guinea have remained far away from basic infrastructure like roads and basic health services and have been that way untouched since their forefathers?”
It seems that where the government has failed to minister to the needs of populace the Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) and churches has stepped up their efforts to help the unfortunate and underprivileged. Missions continue to demonstrate their love for God by establishing and operating clinics, community schools, secondary schools and universities. In fact, two of the most competitive Universities in Papua New Guinea, Divine Word University and Pacific Adventist University, are owned and operated by the missions. These Christian institutions continue to nurture and cultivate young people in the area of intellectual development by providing them with skills and instilling in them a value system that upholds justice, integrity and honesty.
Today Missionaries and Administrators continue to influence the various stages of developments in Papua New Guinea. Their influence can be positive or negative, depending on the status of the development. Only time will tell the extent of their influences in Papua New Guinea’s different developmental stages. Up until now, they will continue to be a vital force in bringing PNG from a state of resource-rich-poor nation to a new state of resource-rich-respectful nation. It all depends on their actions.
Culture of PNG (2008, 16th September) http://www.everyculture.com/No-Sa/Papua-New-Guinea.html
Election Guide (2008, 18th September)
John D Waiko (2007) “A Short History of Papua New Guinea.”
Oxford University Press.
PNG Buai (2008, 17th September) Chapter 2: Colonialism and Development:
In "Problems of Devolution of PNG Education" -by - Dr Gabriel Kulwaum, Adminstrator, Manus Province, PNG.
Post Courier (2008, 18th September) ‘The irony of Somare.’
by Jethro Kasse, 2008