Excerpt from Devpolicy.org
Much has been written about the so-called patrol officers, or kiaps, in colonial Papua New Guinea (PNG). That material includes some books by kiaps, recording their memoirs of their time in PNG, and some by historians and others trying to understand the colonial experience and its impacts on contemporary PNG. The accounts by kiaps record interesting human experiences in a country of remarkable diversity, and the inside workings of what was for most Papua New Guineans the main manifestation of government. A few of these accounts also provide insights into major developments in PNG.
In terms of the kiaps as the main manifestation of government, they were quite a small group. As late as 1968 the number of kiaps (officially ‘field staff’ in the Department of District Administration) totalled 521 – inclusive of 19 district commissioners and 121 cadet patrol officers (see p. 4 in Hank Nelson’s discussion paper on defining the dynamic groups in PNG).
In terms of providing insights into major developments that were occurring in colonial PNG, few first-hand accounts by former kiaps are of as much importance as the story 91-year-old Bill Brown is in the process of writing about his 26 years as a kiap, from 1949 to 1975. This memoir is also being published, chapter by chapter, on the PNG Attitude website, where so far 30 chapters are available. In the longer term, Bill hopes to see the memoir published as a book, but there are a number of chapters yet to be written. In the meantime, the 30 existing chapters should be better known and the material made use of by researchers and practitioners.
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