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Today's quote:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Memories are made of this

Pacific Islands Monthly, December 1979, page 22


Why did I leave Burma after only one year? I mean, I had it all: I was chief accountant for the French national oil company TOTAL before I had even turned 30, earned a big salary, lived in one of those big ex-British colonial houses with a circular driveway and servants' quarters, and was chauffeured around in a big car - and they had begged me to sign on again for another year! Too much hubris and the promise of another job in my favourite town in my former stamping grounds of Papua New Guinea had something to do with it.

The job had been advertised by the consulting firm W.D.Scott in all the Australian newspapers which I regularly read at the Australian embassy in Rangoon. I applied and was hired sight unseen! Maybe that should've set off alarm bells but in those days I felt indestructible and the job of "adviser" to John Kaputin, one of the 'young turks' in the new nation of Papua New Guinea, seemed like a challenge too good to miss.

All I knew about John Kaputin was that his had been the first marriage between a New Guinean and a white woman and that he was regarded as a troublemaker by certain people. As soon as I had arrived in Rabaul in early 1976, I found that, while he was involved in many commercial activities, he hadn't complied with statutory requirements and was chased by the Registrar of Companies for outstanding annual reports and by the Chief Collector of Taxes for outstanding tax returns. With an almost total lack of record-keeping, how was I to create something out of nothing?


Today the area sports the Kabaira Beach Hideaway which was then a stopover for local plantation owners when they transported their cocoa and copra produce to Rabaul


Then he took me some 50km along the North Coast Road (a dirt track at the best of times) to show me my accommodation, a very beautiful bungalow in a picturesque oceanfront location, but without telephone connection and on remote Kabaira Plantation, the exact spot where in 1971 District Commissioner Jack Emanuel had been speared to death.


Pacific Islands Monthly, September 1971
Click on image to read in larger print


Not that I was concerned for myself - I mentioned that in those days I felt indestructible, didn't I? - but I had to think of my wife who was to come out from Burma to join me. And so John and I parted company.

Forty years later, what I know about John Kaputin is still no more than what I read in old issues of the Pacific Islands Monthly - click here - including his jailing in 1979 for failing to produce an annual report for New Guinea Development Corporation, of which he was the chairman.


Pacific Islands Monthly, November 1979, page 11


Seems like no one picked up the slack after I had left!