Mataungan Association

In May 1969 a group of Tolai, the local people of the Gazelle Peninsula in East New Britain, formed the Mataungan Association (MAS) to oppose the setting up by the Administration of a multi-racial Gazelle Peninsula Local Government Council. Early members included Oscar Tammur, a Tolai member of the House of Assembly, and John Kaputin. The MAS boycotted the Council elections and organized demonstrations and mass meetings. In December 1969 violence broke out and some MAS members who physically assaulted supporters of the Council were jailed.

By 1970 the MAS was opposed to other Administration policies, particularly land policies. The Administration proposed to lease land to the local people for cocoa and copra production. The MAS argued that the land belonged to the Tolai, not the colonial Administration. In July 1970 the Administrator was authorized to use the army against the MAS if further disturbances occurred. The army was not used and the order was revoked in May 1971. In 1970 Tammur was jailed for non-payment of tax to the Council. In 1971 Kaputin established the New Guinea Development Corporation which became the business arm of the MAS and the MAS was claiming for Tolai cocoa growers ownership of cocoa fermentaries which the Administration said were owned by the Council. The dispute led to further demonstrations and violent clashes with police.

Also in 1971 the MAS called for self-government for East New Britain and announced that it would set up a local council of its own. After the 1972 House of Assembly elections the three successful MAS candidates supported the National Coalition led by Michael Somare. In 1972 the national government introduced legislation to abolish the Gazelle Local Council, to give a special form of “local self-government” to the Gazelle Peninsula and to assist the New Guinea Development Corporation through the provision of Development Bank loans. In 1973 legislation was adopted under which three organizations, including the MAS, were given power to collect taxes from their supporters. This concession by the national government was regarded by the MAS as a victory and opposition to the Administration subsided. In 1973 the MAS had an estimated 15,000 registered supporters. The business arm was profitable. In 1977, in the first national elections after Independence, the MAS returned three candidates to national parliament.

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