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Tuesday, 9 June 1970

Mr BARNES (Mcpherson) (Minister for External Territories) - by leave - On 2nd June I. undertook to make a statement about the activities .of a group known as the Warmaram group which is trying to bring about reconciliation among the Tolai community in the Gazelle Peninsula. On .1 1 thi May the Warmaram group itself stated its objectives. The statement reads:

Following a meeting held in Lae in the Morobe District last week, a group of Tolais decided . to form a group called Warmaram. Warmaram is a Tolai word which literally means 'to mediate'.

Warmaram is made up of the Chairman, Sam Piniau; Vice-President, Robin Kumaina; Secretary, Paulias Matane; Assistant Secretary, John Vue; and a committee of six - Dr Himson Mulas, Dr Alan Tarutia. Stanley Vuai, Rev. I. Puipui and Father Paivu.

The Warmaram term of reference is firstly that the Tolai people for a long time have been divided. 'We want to find a way in which we can unite'.

And, secondly, the Warmaram and the Tolai shall try to solve misunderstandings amongst themselves by discussion and answering questions on general and specific problems.

The Warmaram is not a Government move. It is a move made by the group themselves who arc deeply concerned about and for the welfare of the Tolai people as a whole.

The group is interested in attending discussions and meetings organised by interested groups in the Gazelle Peninsula. The group realises that this would be a difficult task it is embarking on and urges everyone to co-operate. Because of the difficulties involved in the work the Warmaram requested assistance from the Government in money and kind. Some of the members of Warmaram are public servants. The various Government Departments have agreed to allow these men to participate in this mission. These members are not representatives of the Government - they are just a group amongst the whole Tolai people.

The group consists of prominent Tolais and includes two doctors, two clergymen, a bank officer and public servants, lt has been made clear that the Government looks to a solution of the problems in the Gazelle by negotiation among the people themselves, a further test for local opinion to be held by genuinely democratic procedures at an appropriate time, lt was with this background that the group sought some Administration assistance in achieving their objectives. They sought the release of public servants from their normal duties. They pointed out that public servants with no other source of income would still have to provide for their families. If the project was to take 3 months or so. they would therefore need their pay over this period. They sought the co-operation of the Administration in publicising the group's aims through Radio Rabaul.

These, requests were put to the Administrator in April. The Administrator undertook to consult the Territory Public Service Board about the availability of the Public Service members of the group, but stressed that responsibility for planning the initiative and carrying it out must be a matter for the group and not for the Administration. The Public 'Service Board approved the detachment of the officers of the Public Service concerned to special duties. These duties were to find facts and offer mediation and as might seem appropriate to make recommendations. These are functions that are frequently carried out by public servants in Papua and New Guinea and are part of the regular duties of many public servants there. Two weeks ago, for instance, public servants and police officers in Port Moresby were called on to negotiate and mediate between hostile groups from the Highlands and the Central District after 3 people had been killed. The Warmaram proposals were discussed with me, and 1 endorsed the concept that Tolais, including some public servants, should try to bring together the divided Tolai people. I considered that judgments on the proper functions of public servants in Papua and New Guinea should be made in the light of Territory conditions and Territory practice.

The 6 public servants in the group will continue to receive their normal pay whilst working in the Gazelle with the group. The Administration is reimbursing the Reserve Bank for the salary of one of the Bank's officers who is a member of the group. The Administration also met the cost of travel and accommodation for all members of the group in connection with its initial meeting at Lae and the fares for their subsequent journey to Rabaul. Accommodation at Rabaul was not provided, even for the Public Service members of the group, because it was part of the group's plan that its members should work in their home areas. However, the Administration has undertaken to pay the expenses of all of the members of the group at the rate of $1 per day. In addition limited transport and office services and a modest entertainment provision have been made available to the group. Time has been made available on Radio' Rabaul to the extent of one interview in which all 'members of the War.maram group participated. The purpose of this interview was to make it clear that the Warmaram group was not established to destroy the Mataungan Association, the multi-racial council or any other organisation but te find a way by which all Tolai people could unite and live together in harmony.

It had been claimed in some quarters that the group was conducting 'a secret Government-oriented political operation*. This was wrong. The group is not secret. Its public statement on 11th May demonstrates that. It is not* Government-oriented. The group was formed entirely on the initiative of the Tolais who composed it and, as they have said themselves, its only concern is the unity and welfare of the Tolai people. Again, the group is not conducting a political operation. Its purpose is one of fact finding and reconciliation. In this connection the Opposition has raised certain points, apparently based on a report in the Press of some words said to form part of a letter written solely for confidential circulation within the Administration, a purported copy of which was published in a newsletter in Port Moresby. I propose neither to affirm nor to deny the existence of any such letter or of any such reference. Nevertheless if we are prepared to look at facts rather than news sheet allegations the facts of what the Warmaram group has been doing show that it has been concerned not with political activity directed agains' individuals or against particular groups but with fact finding, exploration, mediation and conciliation.

The objective of the Administrator is to promote action especially by Tolais themselves directed towards the re-establishment of harmony in the Gazelle Peninsula, and that is the concept I have approved. The facts since the group's establishment show that neither the Administration nor the Warmaram group has sought to engage in political attack on any individual or group. The situation in the Gazelle Peninsula which the Warmaram group is trying to resolve is unlike any situation which has ever been encountered in Australia. It has been debated in the House of Assembly al length and 20 elected members spoke. This was the motion that they adopted:

That the House take note of the Paper and appreciates the action of the Administration in giving what support lies within its power to a group who have offered to attempt to find the solution to the problems of the Tolai people, particularly since that group has proposed to use mediation as its method and expresses its recognition of and appreciation to Mr Robin Kumaina and his colleagues who have shown a high sense of duty as citizens in coming forward and offering their services to mediate a solution to this grave division of their peoples, whose solution is or great importance to this country*.

The Government welcomes the examination of this whole matter by the House of Assembly with its knowledge of local conditions. The House of Assembly has reached its own conclusions on the merits of the matter. The Government accepts this resolution as the judgment of the House of Assembly on the matters to which it refers and as the conclusions of the Territory's own legislature on this issue. I present the following paper:

Papua and New Guinea - the Warmaram Group - Ministerial Statement, 9th June 1970.

Motion (by Mr Bury) proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.

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