Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 7 December 1938

S.   A. Mercutt, a miner who has been working on the Wattut River was sentenced on the 21st July, at the Supreme Court on Circuit, by Judge F. D. Phillips, to two months' imprisonment for the manslaughter of a native labourer, the sentence to be served locally.

It would appear that while Europeans who have in some instances flogged natives unmercifully are permitted to go free, unnecessarily harsh treatment is meted out to the natives. Professional recruiting agents visit the villages and collect natives who are sold at £10 a head to plantation-owners and mine-owners. These whites make contracts with the natives to which the latter signify their assent by impressing "their thumbprints on the documents. This practice is termed " marking paper ". If their master proves kind and treats them fairly they endeavour to honour the terms of the agreement as far as they understand them, but many of them when subjected to harsh treatment run away, only to be hunted like criminals by the police hoys. When arrested they are sentenced to terms of imprisonment in addition to corporal punishment. As the use of the lash has been abolished in most of the States of the Commonwealth I claim that its use should he discontinued in the territory, particularly in view of the fact that the natives often act in ignorance of the terms of the contract to which they have signified their consent. Their rate of wages is very low. I am informed that the average wage paid to natives employed in the mines is 10s. a month and keep. The keep consists mostly of a ration of sweet potatoes. Indentured natives are not allowed to leave their compounds, and should they go into the towns they are haled before the court and fined. Indentured natives engaged on plantations are not allowed even to associate with their wives. Once the contract of indenture is signed a plantation native seldom sees his wife until the contract expires. To illustrate the striking contrast between the treatment of the natives and that of Europeans it is interesting to read the following paragraphs from the Rabaul Times of the 17th December, 1937, relating to the hearing of cases at theRabaul District Court by Judge Phillips : -

For intent to insult a female a native lad was sentenced to one year's imprisonment with hard labour. On two similar charges a native was convicted to one year's imprisonment and a whipping, and to six months' imprisonment with a whipping - the sentences to be cumulative.

A native indentured as a carpenter was sentenced to three year's imprisonment with hard labour for entering a Chinese trade store and stealing therefrom the amount of £25 5s.

On charges of being absent from their places of employment without permission several natives were convicted. In one case imprisonment for two months was ordered; in two cases fines of 5s. each were imposed; in another case the accused was remanded to Salamaua.

A charge was preferred againsta licensed publican-

And here is the striking contrast -

For failing to keep the bar room locked during prohibited hours. The case was dismissed. [ Leave to continue given.] The following further cases dealt with by the Rabaul District Court were reported in theRabaul Times of the 24th December, 1937 : -

Ten natives appeared before the Rabaul District Court on charges of being absent from their quarters during hours when it is prohibited for natives to be abroad within the town boundaries. Several were sentenced to imprisonment for terms of from fourteen days to one month. Others were fined sums ranging from1s.to 10s.

Several cases of stealing were dealt with during the week. For stealing dynamite a native was sentenced to two months' imprison- meat. Another native, for stealing a tin of tobacco, was given one month's imprisonment. Yambung was remanded to Madang on the charge of stealing a £5 note. Two natives who pleaded guilty to stealing a case of wine were committed for sentence.

An indentured labourer who misrepresented himself as free to enter into another indenture, was given a whipping of five strokes with a cane.

A native was sentenced to four months' imprisonment with hard labour for drinking intoxicating liquor.

I want honorable members to contrast this with the treatment of the hotelkeeper, who probably sold the liquor during prohibited hours, to the native who was sentenced to four months' imprisonment for " drinking liquor ", not for being drunk!

A claim for maintenance was brought against a Malay by his wife and he was ordered to pay her £5 a month.

A sentence of six months' imprisonment with hard labour was imposed on a native charged with spreading false reports. The accused admitted that he had inveigled other natives into playing Sartu, a gambling game, falsely informing them that he had obtained a licence to play the game from an A.D.O. at a cost of £2.

In the Supreme Court before His Honour, Judge Phillips, two natives from the Waria River area, Upia and Arahuva, were found guilty of wilful murder and sentenced to death. The murder took place four years ago.

It is quite safe for mo to say that both natives would be hung. I conclude by quoting from the Rabaul Times some of the remarks of Judge Wanliss in summing up the case in which the plantationowner to whom I previously referred was charged with having flogged Sambung, the native. A portion of His Honour's summing-up reads as follows : - I have stated what the evidence was as to the state of the boy's body after the flogging. Mr. Lambert says when ho examined the boy he was really in a dying condition. His left buttock was very shrivelled and discoloured and evil smelling, the whole area of the right buttock devoid of skin and bleeding, and that the left buttock was a mass of gangrene; the right buttock had no gangrene, but he says the boy was skinned and bleeding. This is the state of the boy who, according to the accused in his evidence, after the flogging was normal. I need not go into the symptoms described by Mr. Lambert, but he said the respiration was shallow, the pupils dilated, and other conditions which simply meant that the boy was dying. He did die. It was suggested by counsel that the defence, which was hard put to it to raise a defence, that it was not proved that death was caused by the logging. To my mind it was abundantly proved and there was no suggestion of any other cause of death. It was suggested that ifhe had not been taken in the pinnace to Lorungau he might have survived. The only possible chance he had of living was to be taken to Lorungau, where he would receive attention. If, as it was the case, it was necessary to take him in the pinnace, he had to be taken. He had to be taken in the pinnace or left to die where he was. The suggestion also that death was due to other causes also fails. The cause of death was the flogging. The shock, gangrene,&c., are all attributable to the flogging and nothing else, and if ever a native was flogged to death this one was. Now, I have stated that in my opinion the first assault or the first fight was the fault of the accused. The boy may have been, as he says, cheeky. That is quite possible, although he had only the accused's word for it. There is the possibility that the boy was the attacker in that case, and as it is a possibility I am going to give the accused the benefit of that, but that is no excuse for what happened afterwards. The flogging, unfortunately, was a considered act, done after the heat of the struggle, after the other part to the struggle had gone and after Sambung had been brought back for reasons of revenge and punishment. The revenge or punishment was brutal, cowardly and deliberate. The act was one which is a disgrace to the white race, and one of a type that discredits the Territory. These things, when they happen, do more harm than many cases of violence by natives, and I cannot treat it as other than a very serious offence.

I refer honorable members to the evidence published in the press. While this native was being flogged, the accused said to the flogger, " You are not hitting hard enough ", and thereupon took the walking stick with which the native was being beaten, and mercilessly flogged the boy himself. He then returned the stick to the native, who continued to beat the boy. When the flogger became tired, the accused called in another native to proceed with the flogging. Every now and again he would stop the flogging and ask the boy, " Now, who is your master"? The native refused to admit that the accused was his master, because, as I have already pointed out, he believed that the plantation-owner who sent him to. deliver the launch was his master. Yet,because he said, when he wag given several tasks to do by the accused, that his master had told him that he must return by Monday, the accused claimed that the native had given him cheek. He told the boy that he was his master, and knocked him down, as he admitted, with a backhander. In falling, the native scuffled with the accused, who fell over.

When he picked himself up, he found that he wasbleeding and, as he stated in court, when he saw his own blood mix with the native's blood, he became incensed. He then "spread-eagled" the native, whereupon four men held down the boy while this beating took place. The result was that his flesh was cut and bruised from his shoulders to his buttocks. His wounds became gangrenous, and these complications caused his death. I repeat that when incidents of this kind are allowed to occur in a territory, over which this Government has been given a mandate by the League of Nations, Australia is discredited. It is a disgrace that wepermitthese floggings, and allow natives to be sold into slavery to work for a pittance of from 10s. to £1 a month and the standard of keep which I have indicated. I hope that the Minister will reply to the allegations which have been made inthe letter which I have received from Mrs. Wallace and also to the statements in the Rabaul Times.







Suggest corrections