John Guise

John Guise (1914-1991), policeman, trade union leader, politician and Governor-General. Guise was born at Gedulara, near Dogura, MBD, of mixed Chinese and Melanesian ancestry and educated at Dogura mission schools. He started work as a Burns Philp Pty Ltd (BP) waterside laborer at Samarai at the age of 14 and remained with the company until the Japanese invasion in 1942. During the war he worked for the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit as a clerk in the Signals section. He joined the police force in 1946 and left with the rank of sergeant-major in 1961. In 1958 he was President of the Port Moresby Mixed Race Association but left it because he believed it discriminated against full Melanesians.

From 1961-63 he represented Eastern Papua in the newly established Legislative Council and rapidly became one of its most articulate members. In 1962 Guise chaired a Select Committee which recommended the establishment of a House of Assembly with a majority of elected PNGan members. In 1964 he was leader of the Elected Members Group and he represented MBD from 1964-75. In 1965 he initiated the Milne Bay District Workers’ Association (MBDWA) and became its first president. In 1966 he organized a successful strike for higher wages amongst waterside laborers employed by Burns Philp in Samarai. In 1967 Guise chaired a Select Committee on Constitutional Development on which he advocated a presidential system of government rather than the modified Westminster system which was later adopted. In 1968 he became the first PNGan Speaker of the House of Assembly. In 1972 he was Deputy Chief Minister in the Michael Somare cabinet and supported Somare’s position on early self-government and Independence and a multi-racial society.

In the early 1970s he gradually withdrew from the trade union movement and left the MBDWA in 1975. He was the first Governor-General (1975-77) of the newly independent state of PNG and knighted on being appointed Governor-General. In 1970 he was awarded an honorary LL.D. from UPNG. From 1977 to 1982 he represented MBP in the House of Assembly. On a number of occasions Guise represented the government and the Anglican Church at important overseas meetings. His published articles include: ”Blueprint for a Future: 20 year leases only?”, “Political Progress in Papua and New Guinea, 1918-68: a personal account”, and “A Policeman’s Lot: representation for the army too”.

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