By ALPHONSE BARIASI
A FORMER prime ministerial body guard has completed a history of Papua New Guinea/New Guinea and is looking for a willing publisher to get his work out to the public possibly this festive season.
Noah Rippi has written what he says is the first detailed history of PNG, going back to the first settlement – which was not by Melanesians or Papuans! The book is the product of nearly 30 years of dogged research covering historical works stored in the National Library and Archives and the Michael Somare Library at the University of PNG as well as oral history garnered from various other sources.
Rippi says there is no such comprehensive history of the country written by another Papua New Guinean and he hopes Isla Del Oro will be a valuable learning and teaching material for the education department.
Local printing house, Tokiwa Ltd has produced a 377-page sample but the final product will be slightly bigger, Rippi says.
The 20 chapters cover early migration and settlement on the island of New Guinea, principal ethnic groups along the entire Papuan coast from Northern to Western and the contemporary history of the independent PNG.
Rippi points out quite rightly that that our historical knowledge of PNG is basically from the colonial administration to WW2 and upward to Independence; we have very little knowledge about times before then.
Author’s synopsis of Isla Del Oro
The Spanish name Isla Del Oro or Island of Gold was one of the first names given to the island of New Guinea. The name was given by the Spanish mariner Alvaro de Saavedra, a relative of Herman Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico.
Alvaro de Saavedra was sent out form Callao, Mexico, in search of the missing expedition party of Loyasa, which had sailed from Corrunna in 1552. Two of Saaverdra’s vessels were lost, but Saavedra himself with the third vessel succeeded in reaching the Moluccas.
In 1528 and 1529 he made two attempts to return to Mexico, sailing along the northern shores of New Guinea and on each occasion, “traces of gold” were found all along the coastline that gave him the impression to propose the new name Isla Del Oro.
It is very strange to say this but at the time these parts of the island of New Guinea had never been mined for gold, and also, it is impossible to say today, what justification Avlaro de Saavedra had to give such a title to the island.Did he foresee what was to become of the island 800 years later?
Seventy-eight years later, in September of 1606, two other Spanish mariners, Juis Vaes De Torrest and Prado De Y Tovar, took possession over the southern part of Papua New Guinea on Mailu Island in the name of Queen Magarita of Spain.
In 1846, Lieutenant Captain Yule of the Imperial Royal Navy on HMS Bramble took possession of the southern part of Papua New Guinea in Motumotu village, Yule Island.
Thirty-eight years after Lieutenant Yule’s announcement to his government, Captain John Moresby was directed by his government in 1873 to physically check and determine whether the land could be viable for a colony to be established.
In 1877 a pure gold nugget was discovered by a Solomon Islander named Jimmy in Laloki River, near Port Moresby. The discovery of that gold nugget prompted the imperial British Government to take possession of Papua.
On Nov 6, 1884 Commodore James Erlingstone Erskine, the commander of the Imperial British Royal Forces in Australia, raised the Union Jack on Metoreia Hill, Hanuabada, and proclaimed the land under the name of the protection of the Imperial Crown.
The front cover picture is of the author’s great-great grandmother, Kaia Mea and two of her relatives on Yule Island showing clay pots they were working on sometime in 1890. Mea was a well-known potter of Motuan origin.
Rippi, of Delena village in Kairuku, Central, says he is not a historian or author but is keenly interested in the history of the country.
“I just completed Grade 10 and worked with a number of companies and the Special Services Division of the police force.
“I know there remain countless questions to be asked and endless arguments over this book. But there can be no questions or arguments without having firsthand knowledge of how we became a vibrant nation in the Pacific.
“Th principal purpose of this book is to portray a broad contemporary understanding of PNG and to provide accurate information about its historical beginnings, geography, people and unique cultures.”
Rippi says the need for such a book is urgent because after 43 years of political independence PNG stands at the threshold of the modern digital technological world, an age of fast-paced transition and constant progress.
“In the next 57 years, our nation will experience vast changes and play a major role in the Pacific regional economically and politically; if that in essence is the forseable truth, these coming changes must be wisely planned and accommodated. Therefore, it is essential for us to know something about our nation’s past and to understand fully who we are and where we will go next.
Care has been take to present facts and to avoid criticism as much as possible, the author says.
From Sarawak to the Motuan coast
“An important part of this book is based on my untiring efforts in 30 years of research on the origins of my tribal group, the ancient potters and traders; the Melanau or Marehau, Vovodae, Apau and Bario.
My people migrated thousands of years ago from their original homelands of Melanau, Bario, Miri, Niah and Apau on the ranges and coastlines of Sarawak (Borneo and Kalimantant) Island which is currently divided between Malaysia, Borneo and Indonesia.
“My people are currently settled in Delena, Boera, Hohodae and Apau (Hanuabada) and Mailu Islands.
“Where an opinion is expressed, it is my own and does not reflect any other person’s or group’s authority.
“In writing a book of such a nature which is descriptive and interpretative, it is difficult, if not impossible, to be seen to be accurate or authentically original. The material has been derived from various sources, both published and unpublished, including the contemporary writings and reports of former colonial administration officials such a Sir Peter Scratchley, Sir William McGregor, Dr Charles Seligman, Nigel Oram, Sir Hubert Murray, Rev Sir Percy Chartton, Chief Ahuia Ova, Bishops Navarre, and Verius, and others who gave so much of their time and lives and also who were experts by their own right. These people shaped our country for civilisation and towards political independence.
“I also took the initiative to write the chapter ‘Forbidden Bite – Melanesian Way of Life.’
“I believe our unique customs and traditions are disappearing faster than I had imagined could happen in my lifetime. We seem to have adopted other cultures which in my opinion, we still don’t understand. Let us not be ignorant but take full responsibility to protect and preserve what we know as the Melanesian Way. It is unthinkable to lose our identity.”
A vanished civilisation?
Rippy says he was amazed to discover that New Guinea had been settled by an ancient higher civilisation, possibly a millennia before our ancestors Ancient relics discovered in the 1800s by European explorers, gold prospectors and missionaries point to a culture of Egyptian, Arabian or presumably European origins, he claims.
“Most of these ancient relics found including statues were taken away by Europeans in the 1800s since our ancestors could not understand the importance of those relics.
“This ancient civilised culture somehow disappeared, collapsed or moved on elsewhere. I presume that collapse must have been caused by volcanic activity. Some of the most probable sites of those ancient culture’s settlements could be located in Ivane, Kosipe in Goilala district, Lakekamu inGulf, Jarima, Mt Yule, Kuk Valley in the Highllands and Oro.
“Two important ancient sites I discovered are yet to be excavated, including a tall standing statue. I also never had time to search for Captain Louis Vaez De Torres’ ship’s anchor which broke off and was left near Varivara Island, Redscar Head in September 1606.”
By ALPHONSE BARIASI