Serei Eri (1936-1993), teacher, administrator, writer and Governor-General. (Eri was known by the given name Vincent until he became Governor-General). Born at Moveave, Gulf District, and educated at Catholic mission schools and Sogeri High School, he trained as a teacher and from 1956 to 1962 taught in the Gulf District. In 1962 he became Acting District Inspector of Schools. In 1965 he founded the short-lived Local Teachers’ Association. He entered UPNG in 1967 and graduated B.A. in 1970. In 1971 he became Acting Superintendent of Primary Education and Vice-President of the Papua and New Guinea Society. In the 1980s he was involved with the People’s Action Party (PAP). In 1989 he was appointed Governor-General and knighted. In 1991 he was forced to resign from this post because he contravened the Constitution by refusing to dismiss the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the PAP, Edward (Ted) Diro, who had been found quilty of violating the Leadership Code. Eri is the author of Crocodile, the first novel to be published by a PNGan.
James Elphinstone Erskine (1838-1911), British naval officer who proclaimed a protectorate over southeastern New Guinea at Port Moresby on 6 November 1884, on behalf of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. Born and educated in Scotland, he joined the British navy in 1852, became a Captain in 1868 and Commodore on the Australian station in 1882. The ceremony was witnessed by a number of Papuans. Erskine promised them that their lives and land would be protected by British officials. His speech was translated into the local language, Motu, by the London Missionary Society (LMS) missionary W. G. Lawes. Erskine also proclaimed the protectorate at villages along the coast where, with the help of LMS missionaries, he selected ”chiefs” to whom he gave ebony staffs as emblems of office. He told the “chiefs” to report complaints about Europeans or Papuans to Administration officials and restrain the people from taking action themselves. He returned to England in 1886, was appointed Rear Admiral in 1895 and retired in 1908.
Friedrich Hermann Otto Finsch (1839-1917), German naturalist, ethnographer and explorer. He first visited eastern New Guinea and adjacent islands between 1879-82 collecting specimens, particularly birds, and recording the customs of the people. While collecting along the coast of Astrolabe Bay in 1881, he investigated the economic potential of the region on behalf of German commercial interests. In 1884-85, under the guise of scientific investigation, he led an expedition sponsored by German financier, Adolph von Hansemann, to select sites for settlement on the northeastern coast of New Guinea for Hansemann’s New Guinea Company. In November 1884 he named the northeast coast Kaiser Wilhelmsland and raised the German flag in the Bismarck Archipelago and on the New Guinea mainland. In December 1884 Germany claimed the area as a protectorate. In 1885 Finsch explored the mouth of the Sepik River and named the Bismarck Range after the German Chancellor. Finsch’s natural history papers, particularly those on birds, were published in a number of scientific journals. The port of Finschhafen, the site of the first German settlement, bears his name.
Johann Flierl (1858-1947) was a German Lutheran missionary who worked for several years in Australia before arriving at Finschhafen, on the northeast coast of New Guinea, in 1886. He established a station at Simbang and in 1892 at Sattelberg. In 1930 he retired to Australia. His son, Wilhelm Flierl (1892-1966), was born in Finschhafen, and except for the years 1922-27 when he was in the United States, he served as a Lutheran missionary in New Guinea from 1914 to 1963.
Emma Eliza Forsayth (1850-1913), Samoan entrepreneur, trader and plantation owner (also known as “Queen Emma”). Emma Forsayth was educated in Sydney and San Francisco where she married James Forsayth. By 1878 she had left Forsayth and moved, with her de facto husband Captain Thomas Farrell, to Mioko in the Duke of York islands, northeast of the main island of New Guinea. There they established extensive copra plantations and, by 1884, when the Germans annexed the northeast of New Guinea, they were prosperous settlers. On Farrell’s death in 1886 Emma inherited the property. In 1893 she married Captain Karl Paul Kolbe. In 1907 she transferred part of her flourishing commercial empire to her son Coe Forsayth and moved to Australia. In 1913 she moved to Monte Carlo, France, where she died.
Saimon Gaias ((c1920- ), first bishop of the United Church when it was established in 1968. Born in Valuana, ENB, and trained at the New Britain Methodist Theological College, Gaias worked among the Baining people in ENB before World War II and during the Japanese occupation. After the war he studied at Leigh Theological College in Sydney, Australia, before returning to the Baining people as an ordained minister of the Methodist church. He represented the Methodist (later the United) church at gatherings in Fiji, India, Africa, Britain and America. He was knighted in 1988.
John Guise (1914-1991), policeman, trade union leader, politician and Governor-General. Guise was born at Gedulara, near Dogura, MBD, of mixed Chinese and Melanesian ancestry and educated at Dogura mission schools. He started work as a Burns Philp Pty Ltd (BP) waterside laborer at Samarai at the age of 14 and remained with the company until the Japanese invasion in 1942. During the war he worked for the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit as a clerk in the Signals section. He joined the police force in 1946 and left with the rank of sergeant-major in 1961. In 1958 he was President of the Port Moresby Mixed Race Association but left it because he believed it discriminated against full Melanesians.
From 1961-63 he represented Eastern Papua in the newly established Legislative Council and rapidly became one of its most articulate members. In 1962 Guise chaired a Select Committee which recommended the establishment of a House of Assembly with a majority of elected PNGan members. In 1964 he was leader of the Elected Members Group and he represented MBD from 1964-75. In 1965 he initiated the Milne Bay District Workers’ Association (MBDWA) and became its first president. In 1966 he organized a successful strike for higher wages amongst waterside laborers employed by Burns Philp in Samarai. In 1967 Guise chaired a Select Committee on Constitutional Development on which he advocated a presidential system of government rather than the modified Westminster system which was later adopted. In 1968 he became the first PNGan Speaker of the House of Assembly. In 1972 he was Deputy Chief Minister in the Michael Somare cabinet and supported Somare’s position on early self-government and Independence and a multi-racial society.
In the early 1970s he gradually withdrew from the trade union movement and left the MBDWA in 1975. He was the first Governor-General (1975-77) of the newly independent state of PNG and knighted on being appointed Governor-General. In 1970 he was awarded an honorary LL.D. from UPNG. From 1977 to 1982 he represented MBP in the House of Assembly. On a number of occasions Guise represented the government and the Anglican Church at important overseas meetings. His published articles include: ”Blueprint for a Future: 20 year leases only?”, “Political Progress in Papua and New Guinea, 1918-68: a personal account”, and “A Policeman’s Lot: representation for the army too”.
John Thomson Gunther (1910-1984), Australian medical doctor, public servant and the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). Gunther won a scholarship to Kings School, Sydney, and graduated in medicine from the University of Sydney in 1934. In 1935 he joined Lever’s Pacific Plantations in Solomon Islands where he became interested in malaria. In 1938 he accepted a research post with Mt Isa Mines where he investigated lead poisoning in outback Australia. He joined the RAAF and was posted to New Guinea after the Japanese invasion in 1942. After the war he was invited by the Australian Minister for External Affairs to become Director of Public Health in New Guinea.
He arrived in Port Moresby in 1946 to find few staff, poor facilities and a high incidence of malaria, yaws, tuberculosis and tropical ulcers. With the help of funds provided under Australia’s “New Deal” for PNG, and new drugs, such as antibiotics, developed during the war, he embarked upon a large scale health campaign. His work with PNGans was hampered by the largely racist white community which expected priority in health service. Gunther revived the prewar Native Medical Assistants Scheme (later Aid Post Orderlies) under which semi-literate PNGans were trained to recognize major common diseases and administer premeasured doses of medicine. He organized a large-scale vaccination campaign against tuberculosis in the highlands. In 1964 he sent students to the Central Medical School in Suva to be trained as Medical Officers. He was in favor of repealing the ordinance under which PNGans were forbidden to drink alcohol. In 1962 he became Acting Administrator. In 1966 he became the first and one of the best Vice-Chancellors of UPNG. In 1972, when Gunther retired to Australia, UPNG was a well established scholarly institution with a high reputation.
Albert Hahl (1868-1945), Administrator of German New Guinea. Hahl was appointed Imperial Judge in the Bismarck Archipelago in the German Protectorate of New Guinea in 1895. In 1899 he was appointed Vice-Governor of the East Caroline Islands and in 1901 he returned to German New Guinea as acting Governor. In 1902 he became Governor and administered the colony from the headquarters, Kokopo, in East New Britain. His main tasks were to encourage plantation development, facilitate the recruitment of local labor and extend German control. Hahl appointed village headmen, known as luluais, whom it was hoped would act on behalf of German district officers. He built administration offices, wharves and roads, expanded the police force and established police posts. While accepting the usual European view that New Guineans were an inferior people, he appears to have had respect for their culture and bothered to learn the local (Tolai) language of the Gazelle Peninsula in which he was stationed. However, he did not hesitate to use force, including German troops and firepower, against villagers who resisted German control. Hahl was on leave in Germany when Australian troops occupied German New Guinea at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. He retained his interest in New Guinea but never returned.
Leo Joseph Hannett (1941- ), writer and politician. Hannett was born on Nissan Island, NSD. He was educated at a Catholic mission school at Rigu, Bougainville, Catholic seminaries in Rabaul and Madang, and UPNG from which he graduated with a B.A. in 1971. He was the first PNGan to matriculate within PNG. His writing career began in Madang seminary when he produced a slim journal Dialogue, the first publication by a PNGan. His plays include Road Bilong Cargo and The Ungrateful Daughter.
Hannett’s political career began with his expulsion from Madang seminary for his outspoken anti-colonial views. In 1969 he defended the land rights of the Rorovana people in Bougainville against the Bougainville Copper Mining Company project at Panguna. In 1968 Hannett was involved in a meeting of North Solomons students, parliamentarians and public servants which formed the Mungkas (black) Society in Port Moresby. In 1973 he gathered support within North Solomons in favor of secession from PNG. However, he did not seek to arm the people and declared his movement non-violent. This campaign resulted in the national government granting North Solomons an Interim Provincial Government. Hannett joined the Interim Government and established its successful business arm, the Bougainville Development Corporation. He was premier of North Solomons province from 1980-84. His published articles include: “Down Kieta Way: independence for Bougainville?”, “Resuming Arawa: discrimination against the whites?”, “The Case for Bougainville Secession” and “My stand on the Bougainville Crisis”.