From Weekender in P Courier 13 Feb may be of interest
2005 02 13 Tabua’s plea to clear legacy of deaths in Goaribari
COLONISATION by the British in some parts of the world in the 1800s may have helped tame some savages and set nations on the path to civilisation. The bravery and the foresight of early officials of the British crown cannot be denied.
But along the way, during very difficult times, some administrative flaws occurred which, centuries later, are beginning to stick out like a sore thumb. There are no headaches bigger than those that concern the fate of families that have no roots.
One such case emerged recently. It is the fascinating story of police Sergeant Major 12782 Tabua Onemai. In a bizarre twist that promises to be a hot trail of curious intrigue, Onemai is a Malaita name from the Solomon Islands, Tabua is a well-grounded Fijian name, and the man came to Papua as a contracted Fijian policeman with 14 others, sent by one British protectorate to help another.
Where Tabua (pronounced Tambua) begins is as rough as the many waves he negotiated between the Solomon and Fiji islands. The saga may yet complete a full circle but his story will undoubtedly trigger the cases of other forgotten peoples.
Tabua Onemai, as a police constable, arrived with others in Samarai on August 25, 1890. They were the forerunners of the present day Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. (The Protectorate of British New Guinea was proclaimed in November 1884 and administered by special commissioners until 1888, when it became the Crown Colony of British New Guinea).
The first commissioner, General Sir Peter Scratchley was appointed in November 1884; his most pressing task, the establishment of law and order. But little was achieved by the time he died a year later.
Sir Peter was replaced by Special Commissioner John Douglas, ex-premier of Queensland, who in his annual report of 1887 called for the creation of a small but efficient body of men to act as police; in the first instance, they should be south sea islanders.
In June 1888, Britain assumed full sovereignty over British New Guinea to make it a Crown colony. Douglas returned to Thursday Island and Sir William MacGregor was appointed the first administrator.
In 1989, MacGregor sent to Sir Arthur Palmer, Governor of Queensland, a draft Armed Constabulary Ordinance based on existing Fijian law, prepared in consultation with Francis Winter, chief magistrate in Port Moresby.
Sir Arthur approved the formation of the armed constabulary and in May 1890, Ordinance 1 of 1890 was passed by the Legislative Council.
On May 20, 1890, MacGregor wrote to an old colleague, Sir John Thurston, then Governor of Fiji, asking him to recruit Solomon Islanders and Fijians for service in the armed constabulary of British New Guinea. Thurston replied on August 5, 1890. The men arrived in Samarai on board the warship Rapid.
On October 1, 1890, George Wilford was appointed the force’s first commandant. MacGregor made his first inspection of the force in Port Moresby on October 11, 1890. Sergeant Naivolovolo and Corporal Ifereimi returned to Fiji at the end of their contracted 12 months. Constable Tabua and other foreign recruits remained to complete their three-year period of service. By 1894, Tabua was the only original foreign recruit remaining.
Tabua was sent to Western Division, initially at Mabudauan station, then to Daru, where he spent his last years. Early journals indicate he was senior warder at Daru jail. Due to failing health, Tabua received his last pay on Sunday December 4, 1904, from the resident magistrate. He died in 1907, a year after control passed to Australia and British New Guinea became the Territory of Papua. MacGregor recognised the danger inherent in keeping young physically active men from contact with women. When the recruits from Fiji arrived, commandant Wilford was instructed to encourage them to marry Papuan women and several of them did. Constable Tabua married Marianne from Samarai and had four children by her. In his final years at Daru, he married Kokoi from the Bituri area of Daru who added three more children.
The Tabua family have produced leading personalities; Robert Tabua was the first MP for Western Province from 1964 to 1968, and Tomkins Tabua became the province’s first national doctor. Livingstone Tabua was among the first people to graduate from the University of Technology. Clarence Tabua, who lives in Daru, says the family have been mistreated and have no opportunities to run businesses.
The colonial administration would not hear anything further of their ancestor and just dumped him. The family searched for a reason, and the only plausible likelihood they could find was the Goaribari island massacre in which the acting chief magistrate in Port Moresby C.S. Robinson ordered a punitive expedition for the killing and cannibalism of missionary James Chalmers. Tambua Onemai was a member of the expedition that killed 50 Goaribari men. There were other punitive expeditions but this one on April fool’s day 1901 attracted such outrage in Australia and elsewhere that Robinson, while awaiting court martial, took his own life at Konedobu. Tabua was brought back to Daru and demoted to corporal.
The findings of the court martial were never made public. The Tabua clan, now into its sixth generation in PNG and numbering 200, would like their great grandfather exonerated so that they can be redeemed from the social and political discrimination.
“We are branded as foreigners and murderers.”
But Tambua Onemai did not summarily open fire. He was a non commissioned officer carrying out lawful orders.................