Iambakey Okuk (1945-1986), politician and businessman. Okuk was born in the Western Highlands District and educated at Mt Hagen and Goroka primary schools and Sogeri High school. He served an apprenticeship as a mechanic with the Department of Works in Port Moresby. Okuk was an early leader of the anti-expatriate highlands National Party which was founded in 1970. He became the member for Chimbu in 1972 and held the portfolios of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries, Transport, and Education in Somare governments between 1972 and 1976. He was dismissed from the Ministry in January 1976 and became leader of the National Party in 1977 and the Opposition in 1978. From March 1980 until August 1982 he was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Civil Aviation and Transport in the Chan Government. Okuk lost the Chimbu seat in 1982 but won an Eastern Highlands seat at a by-election in 1983. He was disqualified from holding this seat in December 1984 but regained it in May 1985 and was Minister for Primary Industry in the Wingti Government from November 1985 until his death in November 1986.
Okuk was aggressively capitalist and attacked the Leadership Code as ”socialist”. He was a consciously disruptive force in the national parliament. His turbulent political career included the unauthorized purchase of aircraft on behalf of the government in 1980. He was knighted in 1986.
Francis Ona (1953–2005), rebel leader of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA). Ona was born in Guava village in central Bougainville and educated at Catholic schools on Bougainville. He joined the Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) mining company in November 1976 where he worked in the surveying and equipment sections. In November 1988 Ona resigned from BCL to lead the BRA. The BRA embarked upon a campaign of terrorism and sabotage which forced the closure of the mine in May 1989.
Paliau Maloat (1907-1991), usually known as Paliau, was the leader of a post-World War II social movement in Manus District. Born on Baluan Island, Manus, and orphaned at an early age, he had no formal schooling. He worked as a cook in Lorengau, Manus Island, before joining the police force in 1928 during which time he traveled widely with Administration patrols. He was Sergeant of police in Rabaul, New Britain, 1939-42 and collaborated with the Japanese during World War II.
On his return to his village in 1946 Paliau established a movement to improve the material and spiritual well-being of his people. Many traditional practices were abandoned. Marriage payments were fixed and feasts and exchanges discontinued. People were encouraged to save their wages and contribute to a fund for the purchase of Western goods. Villages were cleaned, new buildings well planned and various development projects were undertaken. Paliau rejected Christianity and developed a new religion which included some Christian rituals. He did not acknowledge a splinter group with some “cargo” cult beliefs which was founded by some of his followers. By 1947 Paliau’s influence had extended to many of the villages on the south coast of Manus. Members of his movement established local government councils and Paliau was elected President of the Baluan council and, later, the Manus council.
In 1953 representatives from the United Nations reported favorably on Paliau’s activities but the Australian authorities felt threatened and jailed him on “cargo” cult charges on several occasions. He served in the national parliament from 1964-72 and became a founding member of the PANGU Pati. As his movement stabilized he became accepted by the Administration. In 1970 he was awarded an OBE. The movement waned as alternative forms of political organization, such as provincial government, developed. However, Paliau still had some followers in the early 1990s.
Oala Oala-Rarua (1934-1980), public servant, trade union leader, politician and diplomat. Rarua was born in Pari, near Port Moresby, and educated at London Missionary Society schools. He matriculated at UPNG and became Special Assistant to Assistant Administrator, Dr John Gunther 1960-64. In 1965 he became the first secretary of the Federation of Workers’ Associations. Rarua was a foundation member of PANGU Pati in 1967 but was expelled shortly afterwards. From 1968-72 he represented a Central District electorate in the House of Assembly and was appointed Assistant Ministerial member for the Treasury. He became PNG’s first High Commissioner to Australia 1975.
Nahau Rooney (1948- ), politician and businesswoman. Rooney was born on Manus Island and educated on Manus and at Busu High School Lae and Port Moresby Teachers’ College where she completed a teacher-training course. In 1976 she joined the PANGU Pati and from 1977-87 represented a Manus electorate in the House of Assembly. Rooney was Minister for Corrective Institutions and Liquor Licensing (August 1977-March 1979), Minister for Justice (March 1979-September 1979), Minister for Decentralisation (January 1980-March 1980) in Michael Somare‘s Governments. In 1985 she joined Paias Wingti and other members of his faction in defecting from PANGU and founding the People’s Democratic Movement of which she became the first secretary. She served as Minister for Culture and Tourism in Prime Minister Wingti‘s Government from November 1985-March 1987.
In 1979, while Minister for Justice, she was sentenced by the Supreme Count to eight months in jail for interfering with the administration of justice. When Prime Minister Somare assumed the Justice portfolio and overturned the decision there were mass outbreaks of prisoners and student demonstrations, and five judges, including the Chief Justice, resigned. In 1987, when she failed to be reelected to the House, she became a successful businesswoman. Rooney is one of only three women who have been elected to the House of Assembly and the only woman to have been a Minister.
Utula Samana (1951- ), public servant and politician. Samana was born in Lae, Morobe District, and educated at Lae High School and UPNG from which he graduated with a B.A. He was the Provincial Planner for Morobe Province from 1978-79 and Premier of the Morobe Provincial government from 1980-87. He was elected to the House of Assembly to represent a Morobe electorate in 1987. Samana was the founder and parliamentary leader of the Morobe Independent Group which changed its name to the Melanesian United Front in 1989. He held Public Service and Agriculture portfolios from 1987-88 and was Minister for Education from 1991-92. Samana was defeated in the 1992 elections and appointed Secretary of the Department of Agriculture. His publications include Papua New Guinea: which way?.
Michael Thomas Somare (1936- ), PNG’s best known and most successful politician. Somare was born in Rabaul where his father was Sergeant of Police (1922-45). He returned to his father’s village of Karau, Murik Lakes, Sepik District, at the age of six. Between 1943 and 1945 Murik Lakes was a major Japanese base and at the age of nine Somare attended a school set up by the Japanese to teach local children simple arithmetic and Japanese language. After the war he attended Boram school, Wewak, and Dregerhafen school, Finschhafen. Somare graduated from a teacher-training course at Sogeri High School in 1957 and taught at the Administrative College, Port Moresby, until 1962. In 1962 he returned to Sogeri on a Public Service scholarship to undertake a Queensland Junior Certificate course. In 1963 he was Assistant Area Education Officer at Madang and in 1964 he was a Broadcast Officer with the Department of Information and Extension Services at Wewak. In 1965 he won a scholarship to the Administrative College in Port Moresby where he matriculated. From 1966-68 he was a journalist.
Sumsuma (c1902-1965), captain of a coastal schooner and initiator of the 1929 Rabaul strike. Sumsuma was born in New Ireland District. In spite of having little formal education, he became captain of the motor schooner Edith. In December 1928 he and two other leaders organized the police, plantation laborers and domestic workers in Rabaul to agree to strike for an increase in wages and improved conditions. The strike, on 2 January 1929, failed and its leaders were jailed for periods ranging from six months to three years. This was the only occasion on which there was organized opposition to the colonial Administration or private employers prior to World War II. Sumsuma returned to his village and formed a smallholder cooperative movement to grow coconuts and produce copra. The Administration arrested him on the grounds that he was organizing a “cargo” cult. He was cleared of the charge. After the Japanese invasion in 1942 his people declared him to be “King Sumsuma”. In 1953 he established a Copra Marketing Society which bought a trading schooner.
James Lindsay Taylor (1901-1987), Australian Administration officer, explorer and farmer. Taylor was born in Sydney and educated at Sydney Technical High School and the University of Sydney. He served in the Australian army in France during World War I and in the New South Wales police force from 1923-25. In 1926 he became a patrol officer in the Australian Mandated Territory of New Guinea. He was Inspector of Police in Rabaul from 1928-32 and Assistant District Officer from 1931-42. In the 1930s he played a major role in colonial exploration and contact in the highlands.
In 1933 Taylor and Michael and Daniel Leahy, in an expedition jointly sponsored by the Administration and the Bulolo Gold Dredging Company, became the first Europeans to enter the central highlands and to explore the Chimbu (now known as Simbu) and Wahgi Valleys. During this expedition he met Masi Pisinga, leader of the Biaman Senglap clan, whose 16-year-old daughter, Yirima, he later married. In 1938 the Administration asked Taylor and John Black to lead an expedition to explore mountainous country between Mount Hagen, the Dutch and Papuan borders and the Sepik River. Accompanied by 20 police and 230 carriers, and aided by aircraft and radio, they spent 15 months in 1938-39 exploring the country between Mount Hagen and Telefomin. At Hoiyevia, near the Papuan border, the party split into two to take separate routes to Telefomin. Taylor set up a radio camp and airstrip at Wabag, then followed the Strickland River, where he almost drowned, and crossed the Sepik watershed to Telefomin where he met Black. Taylor and Black again took separate routes. Taylor traveled down the May River to the Sepik, by boat to the mouth of the Sepik and back to the headwaters of the Karawari, from where his party walked for two months through mountainous country to Wabag. He then went west to Hoiyevia, recrossed the central range, and returned to Mount Hagen. Taylor’s strategy was to follow, where possible, existing tracks and make friendly contact with villagers whom he then used as guides. During this lengthy patrol Taylor and Black covered much country previously uncontacted.
Taylor served as a Major with the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit during World War II and was Director of Native Labour from 1945-46. From 1947-49 he was a District Officer in the highlands. In 1950 he and his wife established a coffee plantation near Goroka in the Eastern Highlands where he lived until his death in 1987.
Margaret Taylor (1950- ), first PNGan woman lawyer and diplomat. Taylor was born in the highlands village of Nengamp, in the Waghi Valley, of an Australian father (James Taylor) and Melanesian mother. She was educated at the Catholic primary school in Goroka and St Scholasticus boarding school in Sydney, Australia. In 1970 she became the first PNGan woman to enrol in the Faculty of Law at UPNG. In 1971 she transferred to the University of Melbourne, Australia, from which she graduated LL.B in 1973. From 1974-76 Taylor was private secretary to Michael Somare, the Chief Minister in PNG’s national parliament and the country’s first Prime Minister after Independence in 1975. In 1976 she undertook a 12-month course at the Legal Training Institute in Port Moresby and became the first woman to be admitted to the PNG Bar. In 1977 she spent six months with the Public Solicitor’s office in Mt Hagen in the highlands, and six months representing PNG at the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. In 1989, after working with a law firm in Sydney, Margaret Taylor became the first PNGan woman to be admitted to the Bar in Australia. In 1985 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and studied at Harvard Law School in the United States. On her return to PNG she practiced in the highlands until 1989 when she was posted to Washington as ambassador to the United States of America, Canada and Mexico. In addition to her diplomatic responsibilities she became heavily involved, in the early 1990s, in environmental issues.