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PNG Book Review Series Part 2: Political Biographies

This is Part 2 of PNG Book Review Series. Part one covered three books on racism in PNG during the colonial era. Part 2 reviews “Sana” by Michael Somare, “Playing the Game” by Sir JULIAS Chan, and “Farewell Whiteman” by Ken Fairweather. Obvious omissions are Dame Carol Kidu and Dame Josephine Abijah’s biographies. These two books will form Part 3 of the review series which covers women in politics.

These three autobiographies provide a great combination: a native Papua New Guinean; a mixed raced Papua New Guinea of Chinese and PNG heritage; and a fully blooded Australian who became a Papua New Guinean citizen. And these heritages comes clear in these books: Sana is written cautiously as a Chief wanting to maintain respect; Playing the Game is critical of others whilst almost providing self-justification for the author; whilst Fairwell Whiteman is raw, unapologetic, and frank. All three have this in common: they provide accounts of PNG’s political history, written from lived experiences and conversation. All three men were there at independence in 1975, and served PNG as political leaders.

“Sana” was reviewed by Diane Hirima and Minetta Kakarere. “Fairwell Whiteman” was reviewed by Russel Kitau. Diane, Minetta and Russel have just finished their honors programs with the Political Science Department of University of Papua New Guinea. The reviews were done as part of their assessments. “Playing the Game” was reviewed by Michael Kabuni.

Sana, An autobiography of Michael Somare: review by Diane Hirima and Minetta Kakarere

Sana is an autobiography of Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare, first published in 975, the year Papua New Guinea gained independence. It gives succinct details of Somare as a kid, up to the time he entered politics and led PNG to independence. The Title, Sana is a metaphor for a Life lived in upholding and fulfilling the traditional obligations of initiation and manhood and a transformation into modernity (peacemaker). Sana starts with a vivid description of the author’s early childhood, the cultural and traditional practises that are custom in the Muriklake District of East Sepik specifically karau village where he grew up as a child. The author’s life was lived in two societies, one that is of a traditional lifestyle and the other that is of a foreign lifestyle, a lifestyle that introduces learning of new foreign language.

Childhood, and learning about Sana:

Somare was born in Rabaul on the 09th April 1936 where his father served as police man in the Gazelle Peninsula. At the age of six Sir Michael and his father went back to Wewak as his father was preparing to take up his chieftaincy role. During that time Sir Michael was also chosen to be the next Sana after his father hence, he was given to one of his uncles to learn the chief’s role – that is how it’s done.

Sir Michael started his education during World War Two (WW2) when the Japanese were in Darapa (Sepik) for only nine months because the Japanese lost in WW2.

When Somare, Sir Michael’s father became Sana, he taught Somare the real meaning oF Sana: The most important one was what he called ‘Sana’s peace making magic’. That is when the opposing clan or tribe come to fight them, they would first call them (the warring party) to come and sit down and eat with them, later they will ask them (the warring party) “if you want to fight take your spear and go stand there” (Somare 1975:23). With this strategy, their enemies would have a change of heart and would not want to fight anymore. “Because Sana invites people, and by doing so you (Sir Michael) would win them over to your side” (Somare 1975:23).

The village people believed in reconciliation rather than retribution” (Somare, 1975:10).

Education and being a teacher:

Somare went through the three initiation processes. He went through the third initiation after he became the Chief Minister because he thought that it was important for him not to separate himself from his people. It was essential that he established his identity at home.

Sir Michael was sent to Boram Primary School in 1946, then in 1951 he moved to Dregerhafer Education Centre to do his post-primary course. In 1954 he won the South Pacific Commission’s Literature Bureau Competition and in 1956, he was sent to Sogeri to attend a teacher’s training course for ayear. After completing the training, he was sent to New Ireland to teach “general subjects” as his first job. In 1959 he was transferred to Brandi High School just outside Wewak. He was then transferred to Tusbab High School in Madang.

Somare explains in chapter four that he was fortunate to be sent to a government school, he also explains that he doesn’t regard himself as a teacher whenever he goes to the village; he regards himself as a village man. This shows a strong connection to traditional ties the author was exposed to in his early childhood and exposure to traditions. The author was closely drawn to his people when he realized how the missionaries were attacking the culture. He developed stronger connection with his people and a responsibility to protect his culture. The author developed a sense of nationalism over the course of his life working as a broadcaster in Moresby. The injustice that was caused by the colonial administration was what got him so interested in politics.

Political interest:

In 1961 he joined a group that received special political education for six weeks in Konedobu where they were askedto conduct elections for the new Legislative Council. In 1963 Sir Michael was sent to Madang to teach at Talidig Primary School. While teaching he had an interest in radio work, hence he was sent to Port Moresby to join the publication section. He later applied for the job of a radio announcer in Wewak and was successful.

Sir Michael’s interest in politics grew during his recent stay in Port Moresby. When he was a radio announcer in Wewak he became the vice-president of the Public Service Association and the Secretary of the Worker’s Association. In 1965, Sir Michael applied for a scholarship in administrative college, where he met like-minded men such as:

Albert Maori Kiki,

Joseph Nombri,

Sinaka Goava,

Gavera Rea,

Jack Karakuru,

Cromwell Burau,

Bill Warren,

Lucas Waka, and

Ebia Olewale.

Later they all formed the Bully Beef Club and the club became a political forum where they began to have meetings with politicians. This was the beginning of Sir Michael’s involvement in politics.

Some key events in Sir Michael’s life include the time when the minister for territories C.E Barnes announced the freezing of all local salaries. This act made the Public Service Association and Workers Association very active because the people became more aware of the injustice by colonialism. It was during that time Sir Michael began to speak out on behalf of the people affected. Sir Michael’s activities conflicted with traditional government policy, which stipulated that civil servants should not engage in politics and should not make public statements. This was probably the key event because this was the start of Sir Michael speaking on behalf of his people regarding issues that mattered to the people.

Pangu Pati

Another key event was the formation of Pangu Pati. Once the party was formed Sir Michael gave up his career as a civil servant as he become more devoted to politics and the struggle for independence. It was a key event because this was the start of his political career as well as he was planning to take part in the upcoming elections. He encountered many challenges. There was not enough or no support at all from his director and department (Department of Information and Extension Services) because they were so annoyed with all his activities that were anti-colonialism.

Sir Michael then became the leader for Pangu Pati as well as the leader for opposition. This was also another significant event because it allowed Sir Michael to be very vocal about the injustice the colonial government was doing, the racial discrimination to be exact. Being in the opposition Sir Michael and his team were able to pass some laws they thought were good for the people for instance; requesting a commission of enquiry into the electoral system, which was passed without debate the second time (Somare 1975:60). Being the leader of the opposition Sir Michael was able to clearly see how the government was running the country. Later when he formed the coalition government he was able to make necessary changes for the betterment of the people. As stated in Somare (1975:95) “I also indicated the general direction of our investment policy by saying that whilst we recognised the importance of foreign investment we needed to take measures to prevent foreign control of our economy”.

Another key event was when Sir Michael was given the title ‘Sana’. He was already the Chief Minister at that time and chose to complete his initiation process to be traditionally recognised as a bigman, a leader for his people. Sir Michael was now expected to lead his people in the way of Sana. 

Sir Michael achieved a lot during his political career. One of his first achievement was when he earned the trust of the Sepik people and won the 1968 elections defeating the other two candidates though it was his first time to contest. Another achievement was the formation of Pangu Pati and it being the only major party during the first three years of the House. Though there were a lot of criticisms thrown at him regarding party politics that did not stop him. Pangu Pati was able to win some minor cases in the House for instance; Pita Lus introduced the Motor Traffic (Signs) Bill, which was subsequently passed (Somare 1975:61).

He travelled to Africa, Japan and the United States. He saw foreign travel as an important part of the process of growing into nationhood. His trip to Africa was an eye opener for him. He was inspired to see how the black people managed their own affairs and was convinced that Papua New Guineans would run their own affairs equally well. Sir Michael also travelled to Japan on the request of some modest Japanese businessman and retired old people who wanted to form a Japanese-Papua New Guinea friendship society. They were interested in PNG because some of their people had died in PNG during the war as well as they wanted to promote Japanese interest in PNG. Sir Michael then went to United States where he was taken around to see various places and people’s way of life for instance; he went and visited many black homes, were they talked about their living conditions and the difficulties they faced. When Sir Michael saw this, he thought of his people back home and hoped to get rid of the slums and help his people live better.

When Somare and his team led the nation into self-government on 01 December1973. There were a lot of challenges and criticisms on the notion of self-government and actual independence. Some members were telling him that, majority of the people do not want to be independent. As a result, the House of Assembly took a really long time to pass the date of self-government, however the Pangu Pati never gave up. Additionally, another key achievement was the Kina Day when PNG’s own currency was introduced to the people on 19 April 1975. The greatest achievement was when Sir Michael and his team led the country into full independence on 16 September 1975. These were few of Sir Michael’s political achievements.

Dealing with Separatism & Succession threats

Sir Michael faced regional pressure. First was the Gezelle issue where most villages and families were bitterly divided and each faction wanted to rule their own area causing problems for the Local Government Council. After that there was the issue with the people of Bougainville regarding royalty payments. They wanted a fair share of the revenue from the copper that was extracted as well as called for renegotiation of the Bougainville Copper Agreement. The issue with the people of Bougainville intensified when two highly educated Bougainville men were killed in Goroko. This made some Bougainville people to push for secession. As they kept saying that there was a general neglect of Bougainville by the central government.Then there was a movement in the Trobriand Island called the Kabisawali Movement led by John Kasaipwalova. John Kasaipwalova and his supporters refused to pay tax and acknowledge the authority of the Kiriwina Local Government Council which had been operating many years in the Trobiands. This almost led to a civil war. Following that another regional movement exerting pressure on the central government was the Papua Besena. The movement was led by Dame Josephine Abaijah and came about because the people in the Papuan District felt that the central government overlooked them and concentrated only on the New Guinea Islands side in terms of development hence Papua wanted to be a separate from New Guinea. With this movement riots occurred and things literally got out of hand as punches were exchanged between the Papuans and the New Guineans, cars smashed and so on. However, Sir Michael never used force to disperse the crowd. In fact he never used force as a means to solve all these regional conflicts. All these regional issueswere solved through peaceful means.


Somare’s life was shaped entirely by his cultural and traditional principles, his early childhood in the village, and his exposure to the traditional and cultural lifestyles. It’s more like the three initiations he went through was preparing him for a bigger task and responsibility, one that involved bringing independence to nineteen provinces including the two newly declared provinces at present. His successful win in the second House of Assembly election was because of the strategies he used, he followed the advice that was passed down by his grandfather Sana.

Somare emphasizes on the “Sana peacemaking magic” as a basis of how he lived his life in his career in politics. The advice he got from his grandfather Sana and his father Somare are advices that he lived with and followed. There is a connection between his up-bringing and his political life. As a matter of fact, the foreign policy, Universalism ‘friends to all and enemies to none’ that was adopted by Sir Michael Somare in 1975, was partly guided by his traditional up-bringing because in his father Somare’s words; “as a Sana you do not fight people, first you invite them, eat with them, you make friend first then you can challenge them”. Throughout the book he acknowledges Sana’s peacemaking magic and his father’s advice. He acknowledges the wisdom and strength that Sana has passed down to him that had strengthened him to bring Papua New Guinea to independence. Even to the end of the book he acknowledges and gives credit for Sana’s wisdom that he relied on for nation building.

The strengths of the book is that the author was able to outlined important events, such as early childhood, his career that continues into politics and the objectives that the author had achieved, however, the books weakness is that, the important organic laws that were supposed to be mentioned after the 1973 self-government was not mentioned. 

This book is a box-office and I would recommend this book for every young generation to read it because it provides good basis on what traditional and cultural system of values has contributed, shaped and mould Sir Michael Somare’s life. Sana provides a guideline of how traditional principles can shape moral characteristic of someone who once was a great leader and the founder of a nation.

Full Reference

Somare. M. (1975). Sana: an autobiography of Michael Somare. Sterling Publishers Private Limited, New Delhi.

Sana is sold for K50 at UPNG Book Shop

Fairwell Whiteman, An Autobiography of Ken Fairweather: Review by Russel Kitau

“Farewell White Man” is an autobiography of the life of Ken Fairweather in Papua New Guinea since he arrived in the country in the late 1960’s. Mr. Fairweather writes about his life since he moved here at the age of twenty-three from Australia but at the same time; tells his story about the history of PNG from the end of the colonial period to self-government andIndependence, and the period after that. The author was involved in different activities such as business, agriculture and politics so his experiences in those activities are reflected to tell his story. The book was written by the author toward the end of his political career and published in 2019.

Mr. Fairweather was probably more widely known for being politician in the PNG Government for two five year terms which spread from 2007 to 2017. Before this, he had been a businessman taking part in many different business ventures and projects. He had been involved in trucking and freight businessthat operated up in the highlands region and during this time, he met and associated with many ‘big men’, both national and expatriate who were involved in politics and business. He then later changed the focus to agriculture where he had been cultivating a hydoponic farm and later, working in cocoa plantation business on Kar kar Island in Madang province; which by author did not turn out very well. Through all these business ventures and activities, it shows how instrumental the author was to the economy of PNG at that time. All this happened at the post-colonial period and PNG was a new country that did not have many Papua New Guineans educated enough to take part in such economic activities at management levels. Even though the new indigenous leaders were emerging, these white men in PNG contributed to the development of the country significantly in their individual ways and business activities.

As the book is titled “Farewell White Man”, from my opinion, this entails a symbolic meaning to the experiences of the author in the transition of the country through colonial administration and then Independence. After Independence, many white people left with the colonial administration and others stayed back. Mr. Fairweather was one of those and among many others, though ‘half colonials’ as the author describes, genuinely cared about the development of Papua New Guinea and were willing to work in their capacities to contribute to it. Also, his perspective of things is influenced by his integration into PNG cultural society, particularly his strong connections with the Chimbu people and this allows him to be part of both cultures. Farewell white man could also be the author bidding farewell to the part of him that identified as ‘full white’ and now being part of PNG’s growth and society for so long, he is also just as Papua New Guinean as a lot of indigenous PNG citizens.

In the writing style, the author is very fun and conversational yet real and straight-to-the-point. He is rooted in the art of storytelling and for a reader; it can seem as if he were telling you the story for the first time in person. He also writes as he speaks and the ‘aussie way’ of speaking spears through his choice of words and the unapologetic use of inappropriate cuss words. His style of writing also attributes to his characters as a person and can allow the reader to know what kind of a person he is, or at least he was at the time. He uses images in the book which also contributes to the view of the kind of person he was and what kind of life he lived. The imagery was also used to support the stories he told in his book – of business, agriculture, politics and all the people that he met as a result of those engagements. 

Rowan Callick, an award winning journalist, captures the essence of this book through his praise as shown in the book’s first page. He states that “Papua New Guinea’s intriguing story has been inadequately told. But that is beginning to be remedied by a small but steadily growing corpus of memoirs – from Papua New Guinean politicians and others, and from expatriates who have given most of their lives to the country. Ken Fairweather’s new, bright, breezy and characteristically no-bullshit book is a most welcome addition to these instructive and entertaining stories from folk who made their mark on this wonderful nation”(Fairweather, 2019).

There are several points that stands out in the book. Firstly, Mr. Fairweather lived through a new and growing economy and put forward many insights, experiences and lessons. He and many others contributed to the development of the country after Independence. His association with so many other people, many of whom I have never heard of however, showed that his social life benefited him in his business life. He was part of several business ventures and even though he did things differently, sometimes ‘winged it’ and few times failed, he proved to be very successful. He adds how events such as the stock market crash and devaluation affected his business. He also points out few times how the Chinese were instrumental in this period as they were in PNG longer and were involved in trade and sale which also contributed to PNG’s economy and development. The author’s experiences can help aspiring business people in PNG understand some of the dynamics of making business in the country and how they can deal with it even though times have changed.

Secondly, the author eventually gets into politics and this experience presents many interesting and great accounts and lessons in PNG politics. The author talks of his accounts with some of the earliest PNG politicians and their personal lives through his experience. He accounts of some of the reasons why certain decisions were made under their leadership and what events influenced politics. The author highlights in many areas his relationships with these people and their families, inside and outside of politics. His success in politics with these individuals attests to the importance of ‘alliances’ in politics and how it strengthens the argument that it does matter who you know to get to some places you want to be. The author does point out that his entry to politics may not have been intentional but the people he knew and associated with had a driving effect on his entry and life in politics.

Furthermore, the author confirms the politics culture and norms in PNG and provides his take on several issues. He talks about the ‘money play’ in PNG politics and the weight it has on “moving things” and influencing people and their decisions. The stories he told mentions some of the highlanders such as Peter O’Neill and this shows it is beneficial to be a businessman and step into politics. He also gave a brief insight into the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project in PNG and why it was not as successful as planned. He attributes the ‘possible successes’ of the LNG project to other politicians and their leadership as he sees it and has his own opinions on what should have been done. He also mentions an achievement of his in being instrumental in raising politician’s pay in PNG. Even though the story of how he got there is an amusing one, many ask today whether the current extremely high salary packages for politicians is necessary and this is now a debated issue. The author also talks about his experience working in Bougainville during the time of Bougainville Copper Limited’s (BCL) entry and their work at the Panguna Mine. He does not fail to highlight why he thought it was a failure and what could be done to improve it. The author also mentions the ethnic differences between bougainvilleansand the rest of PNG, a testament to why we have the whole Bougainville issue today.    

In addition, Fairweather (2019) stated briefly on his involvement in the ‘woman’s vote’ and starting women meetings and women rallies where no men were allowed (pg. 191). The important aspect is that this was the first in PNG according to the author and may have been one of the instrumental initiatives of Mr. Fairweather to increase the involvement of women in business and their acknowledgment of the percentage of the vote they make up. It is heartwarming to know that he did care about people that worked under him or people in a defined area that he was a leader of. He also shows this quality as he talks about his experience working in cargo-carrying and trucking business up in the Highlands region. This is one of his greatest qualities as a leader and I believe all leaders should work to achieve objectives that will ultimately address the needs of the people. 

In looking at modern day politics, the author mentions several barriers to the country’s progression and highlights good things as well. He talks about the relationship between Australia, his home country and Papua New Guinea, his adopted country. It is evident PNG still looks up to Australia which has recently been more publicly rolling out its ‘Pacific Step Up’ Program in the Pacific and most definitely PNG, and the author puts forward strategies he thinks will benefit Australia in that concern. He also states that the increasing presence and dominance of China in the Pacific region is challenging Australia but “China is likely to win the economic game in the medium term” (Fairweather, 2019, pg. 294). To combat this threat, it is also interesting that the author puts forward the strategy that Australia should give half of its aid to PNG as direct budgetary support and let them deal with it. This was stopped many years ago and it is questionable whether the Australian Federal Government would ever do that again. Mr. Fairweather has served fruitful terms in the PNG Government and many can learn a lot from him and his experiences. 

Thirdly, the final point of interest is the author’s experiences in the transition period. This was a transition period for both the country from colonial administration to being independent, and the author’s personal transition from a ‘white man’ to a ‘PNG white man’. It also showed to be a difficult and challenging time in different ways. The author talks about the challenges of trying to build up the indigenous public service and the barrier of a white man teaching a Papua New Guinean how to be ‘white’. This was difficult both for the Australians who were not happy about that and also for Papua New Guineans, who found it difficult to learn quickly and efficiently. As the author put it, many of the whites who stayed back were ‘half-colonials’ but genuinely wanted PNG to develop in all aspects. 

Also, the author describes his ‘adoption’ by the Chimbu’s into PNG and his experiences being part of that group. This tie has benefited him in many ways, socially, business wise and politically and not many white men and women may have the privilege of being accepted into PNG society that way. Even though, through his stories, he describes himself as a man that loves beer, gambling and horse racing, he adheres to PNG customs and culture very well and found his gap to fit in. In a sense, the habits he brought from Australia are still with him yet he found his place in PNG society – he can say he is part of two worlds, two cultures and two societies. The transition of the country and the author’s personal transition offer very delicate pieces of PNG’s history and the infusion of an expatriate into PNG society respectively – such accounts make one appreciate the value of how far we have come as a country. 

In a nutshell, the main point of the author was to tell his story of his life in PNG, the history he has seen and the people he has crossed paths with. In a way, he aimed to give an account of PNG’s history through his experiences, some challenges the country faced and how different people and events contributed to bringing PNG to where it is now. The author has reached the main point of this book as an objective but I doubt he has talked about every piece of PNG’s history because one can only talk about so many things in a book.  

This book is a great read for many audiences; political science students, history students because it is beneficial to what they have studied but I recommend it for any student because social related issues affect everyone and the author’s experiences are mind opening. But ultimately, I recommend the book for every Papua New Guinean, and expatriates who have been in PNG or are interested in PNG’s history and its politics.


Fairweather, K., 2019, Farewell White Man, FC Productions, Australia

The book is sold for K45 at UPNG Bookshop..

Playing the Game, an Autobiography of Sir JULIAS Chan: book review by Michael Kabuni

Playing the Game is an autobiography of Sir JULIAS Chan. Chan is one of the founding fathers of Papua New Guinea, and twice served as prime minster (1980 – 1982, 1994 – 1997). He was the MP for Namatani, and since 2007, has been the Governor for New Ireland Province.

Unlike ‘Sana’, ‘Playing the Game’ tells you from the outset that this is a book about politics. True to it’s title, the book tells of the rise and fall of JULIAS Chan as prime minister and controversial political figure; it tells of the alliances and betrayal of PNG politics; and and attempt at explaining decisions that the author made.

The only non-political aspects of the book are the initial chapters on Chan’s early upbringing. Chan was born as the fifth child out of seven children on the Tanga Islands in what is now New Ireland Province. He is the the son of Chin Pak, a trader from Taisan Province, China, and Miriam Tinkoris, a native New Irelander. He was educated at Marist College in Ashgrive, in Brisbane, Australia.

Chan started his career in the family business in New Ireland. His interest in politics began around the 1960s. He was elected to represent the Namatanai district of New Ireland province in the pre-independence House of Assembly in 1968 and was re-elected in 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987 and 1992. He was Deputy Prime Minister four times (1976, 1985, 1986, 1992-1994), and Minister of Finance three times (1972–1977, 1985-1986 and 1992–1994). He also held the portfolios of Primary Industry (1977–78) and External Affairs and Trade (1994). Chan became leader of the People’s Progress Party 1970.

As is common in autobiographies, and more so for political ones, the book is critical of others except Chan himself. This is not uncommon for political biographies, so Chan should be forgiven for that. Autobiographies are personal accounts, and here, we finally get some answers on why he (Chan) made some of the decisions he made.

In this book, Sir J provides explanations and context to almost all decisions he made. Sir J’s name is synonymous with Sandline Crisis, and devaluation of PNG currency – Kina. And whilst there were some economists and businessmen who defended Chan’s decision to devalue the Kina, almost no one defended, or defends his decision in bringing Sandline mercenaries to PNG. So when I got the book, my main interest was to understand his explanation for bringing in Sandline mercenaries.

It’s best at this juncture to state the assumptions that I had before reading the book.

First, the view that ‘Sandline was brought in to kill Bougainvilleans’. This is the prevailing narrative and one I took subscribed to before reading the book. However, according to Sir J, Sandline was brought in to be dropped into rebel ring leader Francis Ona’s hideout to take him, either dead or alive. He argues in the book that the Bougainville crisis had gone on for so long, and there seemed to be no end to it. He thought that eliminating the ring leader would be the beginning of reasonable negotiations.

Even if you’re critical of this logic, it does make sense to some degree. Sandline was a very small group of mercenaries. Which means they wouldn’t have taken on Bougainville on their own. Sandline didn’t have the manpower and resources to fight an entire Bougainville Revolutionary Army. It would make sense if Sandline was brought in for a very specific and limited purpose: in Sir J’s own words, they were brought in to take out Francis Ona.

Second, because of Sandline Crisis, I had the view that Sir J was responsible for Bougainville Crisis. Whilst Sir J served in several cabinets, disagreements between Francis Ona, and Rio Tinto and the PNG government, started during the time Rabbie Namilu’s prime ministership. The demand for fair compensation and environmental concerns were raised before to Namilu Government. Instead of renegotiating the Panguna deal, Namilu sent the Riot Squad and then PNGDF. Pias Wingti, who replaced Namilu, sustained the intensity, and eventually escalated it into a fully blooded war. Sir J then inherited a conflict that predated him. And conflict where several peace talks collapsed, and people continued to die.

Sir J reveals the negotiations and deals that went on, sometimes behind his back to bring in the Sandline mercenaries. This includes Jerry Singirok. A quick google search would show international media reports that Singirok was bribed earlier, by a group competing with Sandline to do the job. But since Sir J opted for Sandline, Singirok stood up against Sir J, and is now know for leading the fight to deport Sandline. The books account is consistent with these reports. I hope Jerry Singirok writes a book one day, so we get his side of the story.

One thing that I still don’t get about Sir J, and hope to ask Sir J one day if I have the chance is why he has been, and still is, against the set up of the Ombudsman Commission. When the idea was first discussed by the Constitutional Planning Committee, Sir J was against it. He has been consistently critical of the Ombudsman Commission till now. In the book, he says the idea of Ombudsman Commission shows that we do not trust our leaders. And that we have a watch dog to keep the leadership accountable. He argues that OC hinders leaders from freely performing their roles as mandated leaders of the people.

After massive scale of corruption experiences in this country, I would have thought that Sir J would eventually come around, and instead argued for increased funding and staffing for the OC to hold corrupt leaders accountable. He has, however, never wavered in his criticism of the OC despite the systemic corruption experienced in PNG.

I’m glad Sir J wrote this book. It gives answers to some of decisions he made, though one might not be convinced of his explanations, at least we get to hear from him. I would have loved to read about Sir Mekere Morauta, in his own words. I hope Pias Wingti, Namilu, and others write about their time. When I met Nahu Rooney for the first time in early 2020, a family member of hers said they were hoping to write a book about her life. I would have loved to read her book. Autobiographies give first hand insight into the authors’ journeys, and Playing the Game does that for Sir J.

Playing the Game is a book any student of Politics, or anyone interested in PNG, should read.


Chan, J. (2016). Playing the Game: Life and Politics on Papua New Guinea. University of Queensland Press, Queensland. Australia.

Playing the Game is sold for K45 at the UPNG Bookshop.


Published by Academia Nomad

Blogs on politics, economics and social issues in simple language.

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