By Malum Nalu
The 1901 murder and cannibalism of well-known missionary James ‘Tamate’ Chalmers on Goaribari Island continues to haunt the conscience of Gulf people more than a century later.
They have pleaded to leaders including Deputy Prime Minister Charles Abel, Governor Chris Haiveta and Kikori MP and Community Development Minister Soroi Eoe to reconcile with family members of Chalmers, as well as those killed on Goarabari in response by the then British administration, if the province is to progress.
The concerns were raised with them at the United Church Papuan Gulf Synod at Iokea village in Gulf last Wednesday.
It has been an ongoing belief in Gulf for many years that if the province is to develop, it must first reconcile for the sins of its fathers, for the murder of Chalmers and his party.
Haiveta agreed with the reconciliation idea.
“Our (Gulf) commitment is for reconciliation,” he said.
“We have to say sorry.
“We don’t even have a memorial, a school, or a building or institution named after Tamate (Chalmers).”
Haiveta said it was quite ironic that a school named after Chalmers had been built in Milne Bay but not in Gulf.
“We (Gulf) are responsible,” he said.
“We killed James Chalmers, not Milne Bay people.”
Haiveta said hundreds more people were killed on Goaribari in response to the murder of Chalmers.
“We must put those souls to peace and rest,” he said.
“This is one commitment that I will carry out.”
Abel said he had a personal connection with Chalmers as his missionary great-grandfather worked with him in Port Moresby and in Milne Bay.
He said it was because of this that a high school named after Chalmers had been built in Milne Bay.
Abel said that people of Gulf must not let the Chalmers murder continue to bother their conscience.
“Don’t torment yourselves too much about it (murder of Chalmers),” Abel said.
“You don’t have to go through too much anguish about it.”
He said the people could go through reconciliation as Haiveta wanted but some things were best forgotten through the message of forgiveness by the church.
By Malum Nalu