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Papua and New Guinea - Gazelle Peninsula local government council



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PAPUA

AND NEW GUINEA

GAZELLE PENINSULA LOCAL GOVERN 4 NT COUNCIL

(Statement in the House of Representatives by the Minister for External Territories, the Hon. C.E. Barnes, M.F. on 10th September 1969)

There have been reports during the past week of a

substantial police build-up at Rabaul in New Guinea. This

action has been taken to meet a threat to law and order of

which the immediate cause has been an attempt to close down

the existing Gazelle Peninsula Local Government Council, a

Council duly constituted and •perating according to law.

Until last June the Gazelle Peninsula Local Government

Council was restricted to Tolai and other native people

living in the area. This Council had in the past made a

number of requests for extension of its jurisdiction to cover

areas belonging to the Tolai people outside the town of

Rabaul and for inclusion of plantation and business leases.

In February 1969 the Administrator's Executive Council agreed

to these requests. This meant that non-natives would be

liable to pay council tax and would be able to stand for

election.

The election for the new council was held in May and

June but before this an Association named the Nataungan

Association was formed and advised its supporters to

boycott the election. Elections were however held and

resulted in a Council consisting of 34 native members,

three Europeans and one Chinese.

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Despite this preponderance of native membership

the Mataungan Association continued to oppose the Council

and instigated a car^.paign against the payment of council

taxes. Last month the Council off i ces were entered and

the keys stolen. It was then said that the offices would

remain closed until the Council had been reconstructed in

accordance with the demands of the Mataungan Association.

At the same time some Administration survey pegs were

removed. There was no violence but there was much truculent

talk.

It was at this stage that police reinforcements

were sent. In response to a motion of the House of Assembly

calling on the Administration to take all necessary steps

to ensure that the law was upheld further police went to

Rabaul,

There are a number of causes of unrest in the

Gazelle Peninsula. Some of these are rooted in the long

and complicated history of the area. 'here are deep seated

problems •of land and ec.n.omic development in the face of a

rapid increase in the number of the Tolai people. These

are problems arising from a challenge by certain younger

men to the traditional Tolai leaders and from the need to

find non-violent means of change in a developing society.

The complex nature of the problems is recognised and the

Government is giving them the closest attention.

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Action has already been taken which will help

Tolais in need of land. Over 10,000 acr.s of land in the

Gazelle Peninsula are being made available for settlement

by Tolais. This includes 1,700 acres beooming available

through the purc1 ase of two plantations. These purchase

and settlement arrangements will be made by the Admin--istration or the Development Bank on a commercial basis.

In addition an Administration Bill is now before

the House of Assembly which will make it possible to acquire

alienated land which is inadequately developed - on payment

of proper compensation.

On 5th September the House of Assembly passed a resolution requesting the Administration to establish a

Commission of Enquiry. Yesterday the Administrator informed

the Speaker of that House that such a Commission would be

established. This Commission will in the main be directed

to the present Local Government Council dispute and towards

similar problems which may arise in connection with the

establishment of local government in the urban areas of

Rabaul. Its composition and terms of reference will be

announced later.

The measures already taken should reduce tensions

in the Gazelle Peninsula. The special problems •of the ar.a

and of the Tolal people will be kept under review. Law an .

order must however be maintained if progress is to be made.

The Government has a duty to safeguard the lives and property

of both native people and Australians in the area.