Joe Bomgut and others - Oral History interview recorded on 29 March 2017 at Tatau, New Ireland Province, PNG

Description

Close relatives of Mr Aisoli Salin talk about his life before, after, and during the War, when he served as a coastwatcher and observed Japanese movements and their treatment of the people of the Tabar Islands, New Ireland Province.

Language

Interview

Warning: This site contains stories of war. Some of these interviews may include detailed and graphic descriptions of events and experiences that may be disturbing for some individuals.


Transcript:
[Interviewer]
OK, I would like to thank the Tatau Community for joining us in this meeting. Ah, we'll make a start and before we begin with the research, let me go through the questions which I will be asking you. You are free to start expressing your ideas and comments about this important man, Aisoli Salin, I will be asking each of you to just tell us your names so that it will be in the record. And before that, explain what we are expected to do.
First of all, I will explain this special paper. We always give participants this paper known as a consent form. You need to give permission to us to work with you and to allow us to record your voice, we cannot make up the story, we must get it from you. This paper will remain with our team, if you are happy to participate then you put your signature on the paper. I will now explain what this paper is, we cannot just collect the information from you, you have to authorise us to do that by signing this form. This study was approved by the Ethics Committee at Deakin University where Jonathan and Kirsty and the other lady there by the name of Catherine came from. My University also approved this study so we are happy to come out and work with you. If you are happy with this study, please sign and at the end of this study we will send a copy of the report back to you.
If you feel comfortable speaking in English, you can go ahead use that language. That should be an easy language to use but if you want to explain things in detail or express ideas more, then feel free to use the pidgin language. I guess we are ready so you can start now.
Thank you, thank you Tatau Community on Tabar island. This is the community where the late Aisoli Salin lived. He was from this community Before we begin, I would like to invite those of you who will be participating to say your name before you express your ideas. We will now begin on this side of the house. Your name will be recorded in this machine and what you say will also be recorded in the recorder.
Sorry, can you speak a bit louder?
[Joe Bomgut]
Ah, my name is Joe Bomgut.
[Interviewer]
What was your relationship to Aisoli Salin? Explain your, where you are, just a community member or a relative or a clan member or family member, thank you.
[Joe Bomgut]
Yes, I am a relative of late Aisoli Salin.
[Interviewer]
Thank you, Thank you, can someone else introduce themselves? Any community member, anyone else want to say something or just come here and say your name.
[Pelu Gamel]
Ah, my name is Pelu Gamel and I am Aisoli Salin's son-in-law.
[Interviewer]
Thank you.
[Pelu Gamel]
I am married to Aisoli Salin's daughter. His daughter from his second marriage.
[Interviewer]
Thank you, OK can you come forward and tell us your name? You are a very important woman.
(People Talking in vernacular)
OK, come here and tell us your name. You are a very important woman.
[Rachael Salin]
My name is Rachael Salin, and I am the second child from his second marriage. My mother is Wilma Salin.
[Agnes Losor]
I'm Agnes Losor and I am Aisoli Salin's niece. Thank you.
[Wilma Kadilagowa]
My name is Wilma Kadilagowa and a niece of Aisoli Salin. He was my uncle. This is true.
[Interviewer]
Aisoli Salin was your uncle?
[Elsa Gemel]
Eh, this lady was his niece.
[Interviewer]
What is your name? say it a bit louder.
[Elsa Gemel]
Elsa Gemel.
[Interviewer]
Thank you.
(People talking in the background)
[Elsa Gemel]
I am Salin's niece.
[Bruno Leto]
My name is Bruno Leto, and I am the brother of Aisoli Salin.
[Elsa Gemel]
My name is Elsa Gemel, I am a clan member of Salin. Thank you.
[Moses Tombem]
My name is Moses Tombem; Aisoli Salin is my uncle.
[Pius Lugaga]
My name is Pius Lugaga, I am married to one of Salin's nieces. Aisoli Salin.
[Alfred Lalu Salin]
My name is Lalu Salin, I am the first child of Aisoli Salin and his second wife. Thank you.
[Lawrence Sebeit]
My name is Lawrence Sebeit, and Aisoli Salin is my grandfather. I am the first child of Wilma Salin, who is Aisoli's daughter from his first marriage. Thank you.
[Edward Sale]
Edward Sale is my name and I am his brother in law. Thank you.
[Stanley Lawis Salin]
My name is Stanley Salin from his second marriage and am the second last child in the family.
[Interviewer]
OK, thank you. Thank you we will now begin the interview. The first question is, and anyone is welcome to answer this question. Looking back, how would you describe Aisoli Salin's character? From your experience what would you remember about his personality?
Or if you want, prefer, to start the conversation by talking about his childhood days. You all know that he started off as a young boy in this community. Try to recall what you saw and what you knew about him.
If you were not around at that time, what kind of stories did you hear about him. If you want to say something, move closer to me and share your story.
Ah, when you come here please say your name then explain your story.
[Elsa Gemel]
Elsa Gemel.
[Interviewer]
How are you related to him? My apologies, you have already mentioned this but it would be good to have it on record because you will be sharing your story. Were you his niece?
[Elsa Gemel]
Aisoli Salin's father was my uncle.
[Interviewer]
OK. Go ahead and share your story.
[Elsa Gemel]
Salin's mother gave birth to him on Simberi island in a small village known as Lavabak…His father's name was Emmanuel Mavis, and his mother's name was Marangbok.
[Interviewer]
He lived and grew up on Simberi island?
[Elsa Gemel]
He was later taken across to Tatau island while he was still young.
[Interviewer]
Did his parents move to this island?
[Elsa Gemel]
Salin moved with his older brother Luga who was his mother's eldest from a different man. Salin had two other siblings, the third child was a girl name Mavbaso and the last-born son was known as Vater.
[Interviewer]
Did Salin move with his full family to Tabar, Tatau?
[Elsa Gemel]
Yes, they came to Tatau and upon arrival, Salin was selected by the family to receive the traditional blessing (kastom). He stayed here for a while and then returned to Simberi and went back to live in their village in Lavabak. While at Lavabak, Salin was enrolled in school and at that time, the missionary arrived in Simberi. Salin began attending school and was then introduced to Christianity and the Bible. OK, Salin then left Simberi and returned to Tatau with his aunty and uncle and they were like his parents. His aunty used to travel with him on a big boat to Rabaul so he can attend school. They travelled by boat to Rabaul. That was the means of transportation he used to travel to school in Rabaul.
[Interviewer]
That's his picture, his photograph in Rabaul?
[Elsa Gemel]
OK, when he was selected to go for studies his Australia, his adopted father and another person travelled with him to Rabaul so they can see him off. The two men who went to leave him were Kangkang Komus and his father Emmanuel Mavis. They were the ones who travelled to Rabaul to say goodbye to him. That's all.
(some people talking in background)
This photograph shows when they went to Rabaul.
(man talking)
His father- Emmanuel Mavis also went to bid him good bye.
[Interviewer]
Where was this picture taken? Which one? This is the father and that's Aisoli?
[Unidentified man]
Yes.
[Interviewer]
Mm. Thank you. Alright.
Before you go and sit down, how would you describe Aisoli's personality? Was he a short-tempered person or what was he like?
[Elsa Gemel]
I wasn't born at that time so I cannot describe him.
[Interviewer]
OK, thank you. Alright. Now, thank you. Just sit here beside me. Does anyone else want to share some stories about Aisoli? Either through your experience or you heard the story from elderly people. Who else want to share something with us?
[Interviewer]
Did you see him?
[Unidentified man]
Most of us sitting here saw Aisoli Salin.
Are you asking if we saw him as a young boy?
[Interviewer]
No, what I am saying is, share something about him if you saw him in person.
[Unidentified men and women]
We saw him when he was a professional… and he just died recently… (woman laughs).
[Interviewer]
Alright, most of you saw him. Can you describe his personality? How did he react to things around him?
[Edward Sale]
He was a quiet and humble person.
[Interviewer]
Did you say, he was a quiet person?
[Edward Sale]
Yes he was. OK, I first saw Salin when he returned from Australia. My name is Edward Sale and I saw him when he returned. OK, when he returned from Australia everyone was saying he visited another place and has just returned. When he arrived we noticed that he was a handsome young man and his family were happy to see him. I saw him and knew him as a quiet man and I never heard anything negative about him. He was a great gentleman and had a great personality.
[Interviewer]
Can you tell us, if you know the type of work he was engaged in when he returned from Australia? Do you know the time he became a teacher? Or just share what you know about his work.
[Edward Sale]
OK, when Aisoli returned from Australia and I think he returned home after the war in 1950. When Salin returned home he asked me to go and live with him at the Co-operative School so I went with him. I went and lived with him in Kavieng in 1950. OK, what I am sharing with you is based at the time Salin returned home to stayed with us, maybe for about a year.
[Interviewer]
Can anyone else share what they know about Salin's work or professional life?
[Edward Sale]
Let me continue on with the story. Salin started the Co-operative in 1950 for the three islands. He started the Co-operative on Tabar, and invited representatives from Simberi and Big Tabar to join us. I was assigned to look after this section of the Co-operative while he was working as a teacher in this school.
[Interviewer]
Which school was he working in?
[Edward Sale]
Ah Salin worked in this school. The school was shifted it here.
[Interviewer]
Where was the school located, on Tatau island?
[Edward Sale]
Ah. Let me continue the story again from the 50s where I worked in the Co-operative. The Co-operative was located on Sos. I started buying copra then I started a store in Sos. I have no idea what was happening in the school. Someone disputed the land where the school was located so Salin had to move the school to where it is located today.
[Interviewer]
So the school was shifted to this location?
[Edward Sale]
Salin left the school while people were moving the building to this new location. When everything was completed he returned to teach in the same school.
[Interviewer]
How many years did he teach in this school?
[Edward Sale]
I have no idea.
[Interviewer]
OK, that's alright.
[Edward Sale]
I returned to Utu, I stopped operating the store and returned to Utu in 56.
[Interviewer]
Can someone else share some more news or stories about Salin?
[Edward Sale]
He went to Madang.
[Interviewer]
Did he travel straight from Tatau to Madang?
[Edward Sale]
Yes, he did not go there as a teacher, he worked as a school inspector in Madang Province.
[Interviewer]
Thank you. Does anyone know the year he went to Madang?
[Agnes Losor]
I have no idea, I was young when he left.
[Interviewer]
That's alright.
[Agnes Losor]
Thank you. OK.
[Interviewer]
What is your name?
[Agnes Losor]
Agnes Losor. OK, I am Salin's niece. My uncle (Salin) invited me to go with his family to Utu. We lived in Utu for a while then travelled by plane to Madang. We arrived in Madang in the afternoon. When we arrived, we were taken to Tusbub School. We lived in Tusbub and Aisoli Salin worked as an inspector for all schools in Madang. He hardly stayed with his wife because the work was demanding and he had to travel to different schools. He also travelled to Port Moresby, Lae and Goroka. He visited and inspected schools but he also carried the teachers' wages to them because most lived so far away from town. I stayed with them in Madang and uncle transferred to Wewak and we were only there for a week when we received the news that aunty's father (his father in law) was at the point of dying. This man was the father of his second wife. We returned to Madang then travelled by airplane to Kavieng and returned to Utu. Uncle Salin taught at Utu school and we returned to the village and have been here since then. Salin built a church which was a Methodist United Church. While working as an inspector, he was also doing missionary work for the church. We worshipped on Sundays until we returned to Simberi. Since we returned home they were inviting him to go back and teach in our community school, which is named after him, Aisoli Salin. Anyway, he came back and started teaching again in our community
[Interviewer]
Did he spend a lot of years teaching in this community school?
[Agnes Losor]
Yes, he did.
[Interviewer]
Did he teach for long in this school?
[Agnes Losor]
Right here. He taught in this school for a while and stopped working when he was getting old then he retired and came to live in his second wife's village known as Tabak.
[Interviewer]
OK, does anyone else want to make a comment or provide more information concerning this man? Maybe say something about his work in the government department.
[Elsa Gemel]
Yes, but I did not really know Salin.
[Interviewer]
Anyone else in the crowd who feel like sharing something else about him? Does anyone know the time he joined the Legislative Council?
[Moses Tombem]
I know the time he joined the Legislative Council but I do not know the exact year?
[Interviewer]
I am sure you will be able to figure it out if you can recall the year he stopped teaching and find out what he did after he retired from teaching. Where else did he go or what did he do?
[Moses Tombem]
Ah, he could have gone first to join the Legislative Council. He was a teacher then he joined the Legislative Council. Maybe this happened before the Second World War. The story we related to us indicate that he returned from Australia and became a teacher then joined the Legislative Council. Some of these events happened after the war.
[Interviewer]
OK, can you tell us a bit more about him and others can continue after?
[Moses Tombem]
Well. When he returned from Australia he came straight to the village and that was before the War. He was employed as a clerk in Kavieng hospital before the War and got married at that time to his first wife and they had two daughters but no son. Wilma is the first wife and his second wife was Novuk. He then became a member of the Legislative Council. There were three members in the Legislative Council, one was Peter Simogun and the other was Rarua-rarua. I believe these were their names and around this time, McCarthy was the Chairman in Moresby. OK, when he returned from Australia he was a different person altogether, he lived in Melbourne and attended Geelong Grammar School and when he returned he was like an Australian, his attitude and personality changed. OK, Salin mentioned a lot of things to us that were expressed in the Legislative Council but none of those ideas were fulfilled or no changes that were mentioned came into effect, however, most of those things occurred many years later. One of those things he mentioned was, people would be taking a type of strong drink and it never happened during his time but today it is true. He told us that in Australia, people there enjoyed their drink but natives here were forbidden to have those drinks. No one drank the type of special drink he talked about, but after the Somare government was formed, things changed from there. No one in our community worn clothes from the western country nor did anyone wore shoes or trousers, only laplap.
We were not allowed to wear some of these clothes, T-shirts etc but Salin supported us by ensuring the some of these rules were legislated. Another issue was, native men were not allowed to marry an Australian women or western women, he would be jailed for doing that. Salin helped to formulate rules that changed this. There are other things that he talked about which I cannot easily share in public. Out of the three of them he was the only one who went to Australia, the other two were chosen in Moresby to work with him. He was able to suggest a lot of changes that was good for us because of the things he saw in Australia. There were a lot of rules that stopped us from doing things but the knowledge he gained helped him to change some of those especially as a member of the Legislative Council.
[Interviewer]
Do you think you can tell us some of those things?
[Moses Tombem]
Ah, yes.
[Interviewer]
Its up to you.
[Moses Tombem]
It is a bit hard for me to share because there are too many people in here.
[Interviewer]
Alright, that is fine.
[Moses Tombem]
It is hard to share some of these stories in public, I would do that if I was on my own. I should share some of the things Salin did while he was here.
[Interviewer]
Thank you. Is there anything else you would like to say, any one is welcoming to share whatever you can think of about Aisoli Salin.
[Sialis Lauis]
My name is Sialis Lauis. I am from Tatau. OK I would like to share something about Aisoli Salin's personality. He was my teacher here in Tatau, that was way back in 1968, 69, around that time. Aisoli Salin was a humble man, he was well educated. He came here to each when the school was relocated to its current location. He taught for some years then left us and went to live on Simberi. Although he was well educated he was humble and taught us at the primary level. He was an ordinary teacher and worked along with his brother in law who was the headmaster of the school. The headmaster's name was Philip Topu. Ah, Salin taught most of us who are here today.
Aisoli Salin was a humble and easy-going man who would not get angry easily. He hardly got angry with me, my father was a close relative and my sister at that time was in the maritime. Salin always picked me during the weekend to go fishing with him. Aisoli Salin was always quiet, humble. Ah, he was filled with humility. In terms of education, he was a man filled with humility, and a man so disciplined. He often applied corporal punishment and smacked us but still guided us well and as a result many of us are able to reach the level we are at today. Most of us remember him as someone who applied a lot of discipline. I was one of those whom he laid on the table and smacked me from my leg to my backside. I did not understand most of these punishments but I now realise that he was doing that for our own good. Secondly, maybe the experience in the war added some of these actions in his character. But whatever he did was done to ensure we did learnt the best things for the good of Papua New Guinea. He had a great vision and wanted us to achieve that, especially to visit the outside world, especially Australia. He came to share his experience and help us right here in New Ireland and especially in Tabar. I believe we should be admiring him for his vision for everyone of us. He did well, he co-operated well with everyone and had high discipline standards and did well as a member of the Legislative Council. I believe he was one of those people who were preparing Papua New Guinea for independence. That is all I want to share with everyone, I could not remember anything else because when my father transferred from the village, then I do not know whether he continued teaching or went to teach in another school here in Kavieng. I never did not hear about his passing but later learnt about it.
[Interviewer]
Do you remember the year he passed on? The year Aisoli passed away?
[Sialis Lauis]
He passed away in 1996.
[Interviewer]
Do you know the date? Did he pass away in this village or further up? In his second wife's village?
[Sialis Lauis]
Oh, Yes.
[Interviewer]
Did they bury him here?
[Sialis Lauis]
Yes.
[Interviewer]
Can we see his grave?
[Sialis Lauis]
Yes.
[Interviewer]
OK, Does any of you know that he worked for a newspaper organisation known as ‘Lagasai' newspaper? Does anyone know this story? According to a report, it was told that he was the editor for this paper. Are you aware of this story? As well as the Rabaul News.
[Edward Sale]
He worked for the Lagasai newspaper in Kavieng and also worked in the review committee for the paper.
[Interviewer]
Explain in pidgin and I will interpret for you.
[Edward Sale]
Ah Aisoli owned the Lagasai newspaper. He started it and everyone supported him then the paper became the New Ireland paper.
[Interviewer]
What about his work and relationship with William Groves? William Groves was an important person and according the record Aisoli was his interpreter. Aisoli supported him in this area. Aisoli was an interpreter for William Groves.
[Edward Sale]
I remembered the time he got married to his first wife. William was around with his wife at that time. I do not remember the date or month but I know he used to stay with them but I do not know the time he went to Australia as well. I used to stay with Aisoli and his wife.
[Interviewer]
Did they stay in the village?
[Edward Sale]
Aisoli and his wife lived here because his father Emmanuel Mavis was a leader known as luluai in the community. His father was Balat, he was a paramount luluai.
[Interviewer]
Was he a paramount luluai?
[Edward Sale]
He was paramount luluai. Aisoli was a balat but his father was a luluai.
[Interviewer]
OK, OK yes, so he lived here.
[Edward Sale]
I do not know the date and year am confused but I know there were two anthropologists and they stayed with Emmanuel Mavis because he was the luluai. Maybe that is the reason why Aisoli lived with William Groves and his wife. I do not know Aisoli's movement after this.
[Interviewer]
That's fine.
[Edward Sale]
All I know is, he lived with William Groves?
[Interviewer]
OK, I will find more information later on this topic but do you now if he stayed with them in their house or only visited?
[Edward Sale]
He probably stayed with the in their house.
[Interviewer]
OK.
[Edward Sale]
(Speaks language) I do not know exactly where they lived maybe in a place known as … which is not far from here. I guess Aisoli stayed there with them and was interpreting everything for them.
[Interviewer]
William. Who would know about any war stories?
[Edward Sale]
Ah, I only know what I am going to share with you, only about his experiences as a coastwatcher.
[Interviewer]
You mean what he did?
[Edward Sale]
He was a Coast Watcher during the war. I only heard about this story. I think a book has been written about this but I heard about a book maybe it is in the library. I have seen a copy of this booklet and it talks about the coast watcher and the story is true, while he was at Simberi he carried out this work.
[Interviewer]
Did he work with the Japanese at all? Or did someone know the Japanese?
[Edward Sale]
Yes
[Interviewer]
OK, tell us the story.
[Edward Sale]
Ah I guess Moses knows this story.
[Interviewer]
What role did he play during the war? Please tell us your name and tell us the story you know about the war.
[Moses Tombem]
My name is Moses Tombem. OK, when the Japanese arrived they were in control, he saved the country of Papua New Guinea because he was intelligent. When the war was on, the Japanese made a ruling that they will kill them at Tabar. Everyone in New Ireland right through to Namatanai. When this ruling was made Japanese got two, a few people on, two from here and two from Tabar island. They later released the two young people they got from Tabar.
[Unidentified man]
They returned them because they were mixed race.
[Interviewer]
Oh, mixed race? Do you know where they were from?
[Unidentified man]
Sweden. Son of Carl Pettersson. One of the Swedish that arrived here in the 1990s and was married to a lady from Tabar. Namely Sinu. These two were her sons. They lived in Simberi and during the Second World War their sons assisted the Japanese.
[Interviewer]
Thank you. Thank you, please continue about these two young men.
[Moses Tombem]
Well the Japanese had occupied our place. Aisoli Salin begin to study what they were doing and he began to report their plans to the Australians and the Americans. He was telling the Allies everything that the Japanese were doing and planning. The Japanese had rules for everyone and severely punished or whipped those who broke the rules. The punishment was to whip the person twenty times using the cane from the bush. If they admired a lady and the husband wasn't happy he would be whipped eighty times. These were the rules they made and applied. These two mixed-race young men applied these rules. Aisoli Salin started reporting everything the Japanese were doing to the people on the beach of Simberi.
He used to sit on the sand and write his report. Most of the time he would cover himself in the sand in case he would be caught. He usually paddled out in a canoe to meet the allied PT boats to pass on the reports he used to write. Everything on wrote on the report was important to the allies and any instruction he made was followed closely. Aisoli Salin saved New Ireland and Tabar islands through these reports he wrote during the war. He is remembered for his action and his personality. If he wasn't around everyone on our island will be wiped away, there will be no New Irelanders and no Mussau too. Australians knew exactly where the Japanese were. The Japanese killed a lot of people in Luburua.
[Interviewer]
Where is Luburua located?
[Moses Tombem]
Luburua is located on the mainland of New Ireland. A lot of people from Tabar were killed because of the Australians who came to New Ireland. If you go to Luburua, you will see a big hole.
[Interviewer]
Is the hole visible?
[Moses Tombem]
If you go there and ask, people will show you the hole.
[Interviewer]
So man and women were all murdered in that hole?
[Moses Tombem]
Every men and women were murdered there. Australians and Americans were in Simberi so they looked after the people there, while the Japanese were in the lower part of New Ireland and people were murdered in the middle of New Ireland. People were asked to sew one hundred bundles of sago leaves (for thatched roofs) in which was a hard thing to do and those who did not reach the number were whipped with a big stick.
[Interviewer]
What were they required to do?
[Unidentified man]
Sew sago leaves together for making thatched roof on traditional houses.
[Moses Tombem]
Yeah, If you did not act according to their expectations they would whip you 30 times using the cane. The punishment was so painful.
[Interviewer]
Was this done during the war.
[Moses Tombem]
Yeah. That is all I can share.
[Interviewer]
Thank you, what you shared was very important.
[Moses Tombem]
Thank you.
[Interviewer]
Thank you, anyone else want to share a short story?
[Unidentified man]
Our elders have expressed what they had to share.
[Interviewer]
Yes.
[unidentified man]
During this time, councillors were appointed in Simberi. Only elderly men were appointed as councillors to be leaders in the village. Similar leaders were appointed in big Tabar and Tatau and they were called ‘wetpus'. Salin helped in the appointment of these leaders when he returned from Australia. Salin saved New Ireland and we are so thankful that he was educated.
[Interviewer]
Thank you, does anyone else wish to share what they know about this man?
[Pelu Gamel]
OK, my name is Pelu Gamel. I am married to Salin's third daughter from his second marriage. I just want to add on a little bit more on what has been shared with us. I want to fix the story about the place where Salin was born. OK, Salin's mother was from Simberi, Marabok. He was from the Saramugi clan but his sub clan was known as Lavamilis. OK, his clan lived in a place called Lavabak and that is where his father, Mavis who was a leader in the community got married to his mother. Mavis had two wives, one was called Tilium, and the other was called Marabok who was Salin's mother. They lived in Lavabak. Salin's mother was in Lavabak, when the missionaries arrived and instructed the people that they should not have two wives. So the father invited another leader to marry his other wife Tilium. OK his parents stayed on in Lavabak until Salin was born. They then took him to Tatau and accorded him the traditional feast that is done to leaders. They also gave him all the traditional wealth and things that made him a leader in the community. They stayed here on Tatau, that is the story about his birth.
OK. Now let me share the story about the war. I heard this from our elders they told us that one of our leader name Moses Sola, who lived in Simberi said that when the Japanese came they really spoilt our island and our people. They demanded that our people sew their thatched roof sago leaves in unrealistic time. Most of our people started sewing these sago leaves from sunrise until sunset and if they did not reach the required number they whipped them. Each man had to sew one hundred thatched roofs and if they did not reach the target they were whipped. This was heavy work, each man had to go and collect the sago leaves and bring them back to the village and sew them. The Japanese were on Simberi island but they required people from Tatau to sew the sago leaves for them and bring them across to Simberi island so the people would travel by canoe and bring the across.
OK, when Salin returned from Australia he returned to the village and lived on Simberi where is started writing reports about the Japanese. He stayed on the beach and wrote his report but when Japanese were approaching, he pretended to be sick so the left him alone. In the afternoon he worked with another foreigner, named Con Page, and Con Page was later killed by the Japanese.
[Pelu Gamel]
OK, when he returned from Australia and came back home. He did not start writing the reports right away, he remained silent and was carefully studying where the Japanese where going and what they were doing and planned to do and that was when he started the process of writing those reports that were passed to the allied group. After gathering all these reports he would use the Con Page wireless radio to contact the allied group. After doing that, he would paddle out with Sola and other big men to pass on the letters/reports he has written. These reports informed the allied what the Japanese were doing to the communities on the island and what they planned to do next. These letters/reports informed the Australians and Americans very well on how to move. That is how the Australian and American armies came in and attached the Japanese soldiers. That is all thank you.
[Unidentified man]
What was the name of the boats that came to receive the letters/reports?
[Pelu Gamel]
Our big man called them PT boats. I don't know if that is correct but they told us the boats were called PT boats. These were the boats that would come to Simberi and Salin and his friends would paddle out and pass these letters/report to them.
[Unidentified man]
The army from the allied were the ones who received these letters/reports.
[Interviewer]
Was this done only at night?
[Pelu Gamel]
This was done in the evening.
[Pelu Gamel]
OK, that is all thank you.
[Interviewer]
Thank you.
[Pius Lugaga]
I guess I have to say something because I am married to Salin's niece.
[Interviewer]
That's good.
[Pius Lugaga]
My name is Pius Lugaga.
[Interviewer]
Pius?
[Pius Lugaga]
Yes.
[Interviewer]
OK, good you may start.
[Pius Lugaga]
OK, I will share the bit that he shared with me about the Second World War when he came to stay with me. OK, the Japanese occupied two stations. Maragon station and Pikino station. They set their camps in these two stations on Simberi island. When the Australian war planes flew by, they would shoot and attack the Japanese camps only. The Japanese built a glass house in their camp at Maragon but in Pikino they just had ordinary shelters and that is where they kept the two mixed-race to translate and support them. Salin told me that when he returned from Australia he started to write his report in his note book. He continued doing that until the war came. When the war came he started to identify where the armies where coming from. He knew everything that happened on our island during the war. He knew people on our island who supported the Japanese to destroy our people in our communities.
When the war came to Simberi where Salin was born in Lavabak, there was a big house built there for the kiap. Two Australians who were in fact kiaps came around that time to live in that house and when they came they saw Salin but they did not know him and were not aware that he had studied in Australia and he could speak the English language. He approached them and gave them his note book, they looked through the book and were surprised, they stared at him then they began reading the report in the notebook. They realised how bad the Japanese were treating the locals. After reading everything, they asked him, where did you go to school and he told them and then he explained that what he wrote was to show the bad treatment his people were receiving from the Japanese. The two kiaps took the report and went with some men who were going to be killed in Nango, instead they took the report with these men all the way to Emirau to the Americans, who set up their camp on Emirau island. The Americans received Salin's report and planned to act on it. They sent the PT boat back to Simberi with the men who travelled with the kiaps. These men's lives were spared otherwise they would have been killed in Nango. The Japanese captured everyone who lived with these kiaps and killed them.
I think that's all. Thank you.
(Discussion)
Not transcribed
[Pius Lugaga]
These people returned to Kavieng on MV Tabar which was owned by Mr Patten who lived in Kulungit.
[Interviewer]
Who was Mr Patten, was he the plantation manager or who was he?
[Pius Lugaga]
Yeah, yes, yes. He was the plantation manager. He managed the plantation.
[Interviewer]
What did he manage?
[Pius Lugaga]
He managed Tomlambat plantation. In West Coast Tatau.
[Interviewer]
Oh, OK. That's good, is that you want to share?
[Pius Lugaga]
Yeah. What am doing to say what told to me by the elderly folks. They said, he was lost in a boat at one stage and the boat was washed ashore on Lavongai and he came back to Kavieng. Thank you that's all I wanted to share.
[Interviewer]
OK, thank you, very soon we will stop this interview session. I would like to ask the final questions.
[Moses Tombem]
Are you directing the question to me?
[Interviewer]
Ah, if you want to, maybe I should start with you and others can give their answer when you are done. The question is in English and it reads, Would you say that Aisoli Salin changed your life in anyway?
[Moses Tombem]
Yes.
[Interviewer]
OK, can you explain?
[Moses Tombem]
Salin's education changed our focus in life. When he was educated, his personality and education helped us to see how we can live a different type of life. He did a lot for us, his own people.
[Unidentified man]
That was the first school in Tabar, the school is known Tambucha Community School and the group of islands in Tabar, Big Tabar, Simberi, all of them they attended the school.
[Moses Tombem]
That is all from me but I would like to talk about the war again.
[Interviewer]
We have now seen that education is important and that was the thing that helped Salin. Can you talk about the main changes that occurred during the war?
[Moses Tombem]
Our people speak English today but in the past people on Tabar island did not know English they only used our mother tongue.
[Interviewer]
OK.
[Moses Tombem]
Ah, I can now talk with you and tell you something about Aisoli Salin. Thank you.
[Interviewer]
Thank you very much. Salin did a lot to bring civilised change to our way of living and way of doing things. He did a lot for our country and for New Ireland.
Not transcribed
[Unidentified man]
Ah, As mentioned earlier that I was so close to him during my school days. He never mentioned anything to me, of his hope, dreams and vision for Papua New Guinea. Looking back and recalling his personality and the development he implemented, I can say, with the education that he received he did a lot for us. Aisoli Salin was an educated man and had big visions not only for him but for the people and our country and our province. I will share something about him concerning his work for everyone. When he was in the Legislative Council that is the governing body that established the law into developing a country to become such as Papua New Guinea, I believe that he contributed a lot to building Papua New Guinea. He contributed a lot with confidence. He also worked so hard to develop New Ireland. New Ireland has developed and I am sure some leadership and I believe he contributed a lot towards the growth of the province as well. They can talk about gaining autonomy but they need to know that educated New Irelanders set the foundation. We also have other education leaders who have also served in New Ireland and they are from Tabar, one: Samson Gila, and he became the Premier of New Ireland province. Those were the type of people who shown the quality of our leadership and had the wisdom to lead the province. Another one was Paul Toiyan who was a police commissioner in charge of the police department throughout the country. He admitted what he tried to do. He was also from Tabar island. I believe that, the kind of education that Aisoli Salin received made him a great leader. Education, I believe is the base to have good leadership as shown in Salin's life. He was involved and contributed immensely from the highest level of forming the government to ensuring that the Education system in New Ireland was in order. Right now in New Ireland, we have Lamila Pawut. I believe that he was one of Salin's students and he is now the New Ireland Provincial Administrator (PA). Aisoli Salin has left a very important legacy for us to see that education makes very good leaders. We do have some of those qualities which Aisoli Salin invested in us and I believe that this is the school that has given a lot out of his knowledge since he came to teach here.
In terms of the war, he did a lot again to save us and we are now enjoying the freedom. In fact, Tabar island I would say was not infested with Japanese. It was Simberi island. Everyone here will confirm that no shooting occurred on Tabar Island, no bomb was dropped here, no guns fired here, but everything Simberi received and experienced all these during the war. We are enjoying the fruit of his labour, he directed the allied army to go to Simberi and we were truly saved. Aisoli Salin invested a lot on us. Thank you, that is all from me.
[Interviewer]
Thank you, thank you so much, OK, you can come even though we want to close now.
[Lawrence Sebeit]
I will share what I know.
[Interviewer]
Yes, fine. OK.
(People talk in the background in vernacular)
[Lawrence Sebeit]
OK my name is Lawrence Sebeit. I am the first grandchild of Aisoli Salin. My other is Aisoli's first born daughter from his first marriage. I will share what I know about the Japanese that settled in Simberi. This version was related to me by my grandfather Aisoli Salin.
This is what he told me about the Japanese in Simberi, they ensured that everyone had to work in the garden. Our people on Tabar island had a hard time because the Japanese required them to sew sago leaves for thatched roof. The people were punished severely. They had to complete the sewing of the sago thatched roof materials on time and must transport them to Simberi island on time as well. As time went on, the Japanese ran out of food, because the America bombed their base in Japan. Their supply came all the way from there and they were but when their base was destroyed these group was stranded on our island. They got our people to make their gardens. My understanding when grandpa shared these stories with me was that he saw the bad experiences our people were going through and he did his best to document everything so help can be provided. He lived in Maragon village but he observed everything. He had to find a smart way of doing things, he also wrote messages on a piece of a broken canoe and when he saw the American war plane flying by, he lifted the piece of broken canoe, walked down on the beach and put it upright. The plane noticed it so they circled around and came back and used their binoculars to read the message. He used charcoal to write the message. The Americans and Australians knew where to get information and they all lived on Emirau island. When they received the message they left and after a while they sent the PT boat to the very spot where Aisoli held up the sign. Grandfather told me that the name of the boat was a PT boat.
They arrived and secretly got my grandfather who was living in Maragon with his first wife and his first daughter, who was my mother. My mother was a young girl. When the Americans arrived, they took my grandfather, as others have said, they tied his hands and blindfolded him as well. They took him on the PT boat across this vast ocean and travelled with him all the way to Emirau island where the Americans and Australians were based. When they arrived they escorted him to their tent and stood him right in front of the commanders and generals of the American and Australian armies. They removed the cloth from his eyes and the general army commander asked him, did you write this report in the note book and the message on a piece of wood? Grandfather answered and said, yes I did and they asked him, where did you go to school? They wanted to know where he was educated, they stared boldly at him and he told them. They then asked him, do you know us? And grandfather said, I know your names, you are Mr Bell and that one is Mr San.'
They then interviewed him and got all the information about the Japanese hideout and what they were doing. Then they took my grandfather by boat again and returned with him to Simberi and they destroyed the stronghold of the Japanese army, cutting their food supply on the island. My grandfather was the person behind all this, he showed them everything.
After destroying the enemy they travel to Pokenvereu [?]and killed the two policemen that supported the Japanese army.
[Interviewer]
Are you referring to the two mixed-race boys?
[Lawrence Sebeit]
Yes, These mixed-race boys were from Tabar island. They belong to the Manambou Clan. They were from Tabar but they supported and helped the Japanese so my grandfather (Salin) informed the Allied soldiers and they shot the both of them. After killing them, they took their dead bodies out on the ocean and sunk them there. The relatives were told that they will not bury them beside in their Clan's cemetery according to tradition because they terrorised the community supporting the Japanese so they have to be sunk in the sea this way.
I will stop here.
[Interviewer]
Thank you.
[Lawrence Sebeit]
Thank you.
[Interviewer]
This time I would like to invite anyone in our midst to share any other story.
[Joe Bomgut]
I am Joe Bomgut, and I am an ex-policeman. I spent a good part of my working days in Madang so I want to share what I know about Aisoli Salin as a worker in Madang. Salin was well known in Madang, everybody knew him and everyone I would meet on the street in Madang, they would ask me about him because they knew I was also from Tabar. They would say, did you know this man? His name is Aisoli Salin? I would always say ‘yes' we are from the same island. The retired teachers or elderly teachers and headmasters would always ask me. Other professionals such as the District Commissioner or leaders in the government knew him too and would ask me about him. Some would say, he was our teacher.
This is what I know about him, Aisoli Salin was an important person, who was humble and everyone respected him in Madang. He was highly regarded in the work place. He was an intelligent person and his words were full of wisdom. Even here in our community, old men and women listened to his advices. He was well liked by those he came into contact with.
Some of these people who approached me would say, he was my teacher, others would say, he was my school mate and others would say, we knew him. When I returned home, our own educated person Paul Toyan, the former governor also asked me if I knew Aisoli Salin and I said yes, I knew him in Madang. Salin was well respected in Madang.
That is all from me.
[Interviewer]
Thank you.
[Joe Bomgut]
Thank you.
[Interviewer]
Thank you.
OK thank you everybody. That is the end of our long group discussion, which was conducted on 29, Wednesday 2017 in the school building at Aisoli Salin's Primary School on Tatau Island, Tabar.
Thank you everyone.

Click to show/hide Additional Interview Details

Family Relationships

Interviewee

Joe Bomgut
Pelu Gemel
Rachael Salin
Agnes Lossor
Wilma Kadilagowa
Elsa Gemel
Bruno Leto
Moses Tombem
Pius Lugaga
Alfred Lalu Salin
Lawrence Sebeit
Edward Sale
Stanley Lawis Salin
Lauis Sialis

Interviewers

Interview Location

Interview Date

29/03/2017

Interview Duration

01:34:03:00

Interview Translator


Rights Holder

© Deakin University
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike licence

Files

http://pngvoices.deakin.edu.au/files/temp/bomgut-group-photo-2017.jpg

Citation

“Joe Bomgut and others - Oral History interview recorded on 29 March 2017 at Tatau, New Ireland Province, PNG,” Voices from the War, accessed December 10, 2018, http://pngvoices.deakin.edu.au/items/show/428.

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