Here they lie segregated

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday, May 6, 2011

DAVID NALU decries the lack of recognition by the colonial regime of efforts of the Papuan soldiers, carriers and indigenous Australians who lost their lives in WWII


BENEATH giant rain trees that lined the perimeter of the cemetery were hundreds of neatly lined granite headstones on an immaculate, manicured lawn. They reflected faint light in the cool misty morning air.
This was Bomana war cemetery, at the ANZAC day dawn service on the April 25, 2011, to commemorate Australian and New Zealand service personnel that lost their lives in major conflicts and especially World War II which was more relevant to PNG.
It was a quiet, perfect and sombre moment to reflect on life generally, and to remember our own fragile mortality and to remind one’s self of where we fit into the massive scheme of the things in history, time and space.
As the ceremony drew to a close, I left the crowd and wandered down the rows of graves, with the lone bugle call of the “Last Post” resonating in the background, in the early morning misty dawn and amidst the morning cries of the “kigahoc” birds in the tree tops.
I wandered on, a little bemused yet saddened by the names and ages of those who lay there – engraved on the upright, granite headstones that marked their graves.
Maybe it was the sombre moment, but what struck me next and welled silent tears, was when I crossed the line of the graves of the unknown soldiers. 
For them – the daily prayers, offered by their mothers to the Almighty, for the return of their sons, was not to be, the inscriptions on granite slabs simply read, “Known only unto God” – a stark reminder, of the often senseless nature of war. It was these very thoughts that ran through me, and welled those silent tears. My thoughts went out to the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters that will never really know what became of their loved ones.
Driven by the call of the British Empire, they left the comforts of their home and took up arms to rage a war in tropical jungles in a foreign land against a fearful enemy often magnified and exaggerated out of the proportion by the wartime propaganda machine.
Despite all that war historian and books will tell you – one really has to wander what the war was really about – what was it really for. You’d have to be almost insane to leave the comforts of your home, bundle off to a foreign land and fight a meaningless battle against an enemy you did not know nor really understand what had driven them to war.
However what has always been painfully apparent at these ANZAC memorial services was the lack of appropriate recognition by the colonial regime, of the significant contribution of the Papuan soldiers, carriers and even indigenous Australians who served and lost their lives. They only feature, only in the far corner of the cemetery, amounting to 30 so headstones, but segregated away from the mainstream.