Sumsuma

Sumsuma (c1902-1965), captain of a coastal schooner and initiator of the 1929 Rabaul strike. Sumsuma was born in New Ireland District. In spite of having little formal education, he became captain of the motor schooner Edith. In December 1928 he and two other leaders organized the police, plantation laborers and domestic workers in Rabaul to agree to strike for an increase in wages and improved conditions. The strike, on 2 January 1929, failed and its leaders were jailed for periods ranging from six months to three years. This was the only occasion on which there was organized opposition to the colonial Administration or private employers prior to World War II. Sumsuma returned to his village and formed a smallholder cooperative movement to grow coconuts and produce copra. The Administration arrested him on the grounds that he was organizing a “cargo” cult. He was cleared of the charge. After the Japanese invasion in 1942 his people declared him to be “King Sumsuma”. In 1953 he established a Copra Marketing Society which bought a trading schooner.

More about Sumsuma: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/sumsuma-8716

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