Paliau Maloat (1907-1991), usually known as Paliau, was the leader of a post-World War II social movement in Manus District. Born on Baluan Island, Manus, and orphaned at an early age, he had no formal schooling. He worked as a cook in Lorengau, Manus Island, before joining the police force in 1928 during which time he traveled widely with Administration patrols. He was Sergeant of police in Rabaul, New Britain, 1939-42 and collaborated with the Japanese during World War II.
On his return to his village in 1946 Paliau established a movement to improve the material and spiritual well-being of his people. Many traditional practices were abandoned. Marriage payments were fixed and feasts and exchanges discontinued. People were encouraged to save their wages and contribute to a fund for the purchase of Western goods. Villages were cleaned, new buildings well planned and various development projects were undertaken. Paliau rejected Christianity and developed a new religion which included some Christian rituals. He did not acknowledge a splinter group with some “cargo” cult beliefs which was founded by some of his followers. By 1947 Paliau’s influence had extended to many of the villages on the south coast of Manus. Members of his movement established local government councils and Paliau was elected President of the Baluan council and, later, the Manus council.
In 1953 representatives from the United Nations reported favorably on Paliau’s activities but the Australian authorities felt threatened and jailed him on “cargo” cult charges on several occasions. He served in the national parliament from 1964-72 and became a founding member of the PANGU Pati. As his movement stabilized he became accepted by the Administration. In 1970 he was awarded an OBE. The movement waned as alternative forms of political organization, such as provincial government, developed. However, Paliau still had some followers in the early 1990s.