PNG’s First Ministry

PNG's first ministry, 1973-74 copy

The grainy old photo above is the official photo of PNG’s first ministry, formed as a coalition under Chief Minister Michael Somare. Judging from the formal attire I would say it was taken immediately after the 17 members of the executive were sworn in.

In the years following self-government and Independence, most of these men became familiar faces and household names, largely through their press exposure in the columns of the Post Courier newspaper. Now, 40 years later, it’s not so easy for me to identify them. Names are remembered but faces forgotten, and vice versa.

Denis Williams had this photo in his private collection but he didn’t caption it because he didn’t have to. His memory for names and faces was quite extraordinary. I don’t have that gift.

I think that the photo has some historical merit for teachers and students of PNG history, but I hesitated to put it in the blog until I had a complete list of the names. I found it in Somare’s own autobiography, Sana. Hopefully someone reading this blog will be able to put the names in the right order for me, starting from left to right.

Many of these politicians have since passed away. Assuming I can get the caption right, this photo would be a nice tribute to their pioneering role.

Michael Somare (Pangu Party)               Chief Minister
John Guise (Independent)                       Dep. Chief Minister and Minister for the
Julius Chan (PPP Party)                          Finance Minister
Thomas Kavali (National Party)               Minister for Works
Iambakey Okuk (Nat)                               Minister for Agriculture, Stocks and
Donatus Mola (PPP)                                Minister for Business Development
Ebia Olewale (Pangu)                              Minister for Education
Reuben Taureka (Pangu)                        Minister for Health
Albert Maori Kiki (Pangu)                         Minister for Lands and Environment
Paul Lapun (Pangu)                                 Minister for Mines
Moses Sasakila (Nat)                               Minister for Forests
Paulus Arek (ind)                                      Minister for Information
Gavera Rea (Pangu)                                Minister for Labour
Boyamo Sali (Pangu)                                Minister for Local Government
Kaibelt Diria (Nat)                                     Minister for Post and Telegraphs
John Poe (PPP)                                        Minister for Trade and Industry
Bruce Jephcott (PPP)                               Minister for transport

Some of these men went on to have illustrious political careers and eventually became much revered and respected elder statesmen.

9 thoughts on “PNG’s First Ministry

  1. Hi
    From left to Right;
    Thomas Kavali
    Juluis Chan
    Reuben Taureka
    John Poe
    Bruce Jephcott
    Michael Somare
    Paulus Arek
    Paul Lapun
    Gavera Rea
    Boyamo Sali
    Ebia Olewali
    Maori Kiki
    John Guise
    Kaibelt Diria
    Moses Sasakila
    Iamakey Okuk
    David Stephen

  2. David thank you very much for that. I will do a proper caption of the photo now using your list. Interested to know how come you are so knowledgeable about the history of PNG’s first government. Are you an expat, a local or someone with an interest in the country’s history? Pardon my ignorance. I’m hoping that the pic will be useful to schoolchildren or scholars doing history projects on PNG and having the correct caption was important.

    Veronica Peek

    • Hi Veronica
      I lived in P.N.G. from 1961 to 1977
      The last few years I spent with Bougainville Copper advising them on the political situation and wrote a book on P.N.G. political parties early seventies
      I have a copy of that photo – I still have all my files from writing the book,particularly on political parties.I collect any provincial newspapers from that period and P.N.G. badges
      With best wishes
      David Stephen

  3. Hi David
    I used to know you in PNG when you published the book. I was fascinated with the photograph of the politicians as I remember seeing most of them at that time – I flew with Barbara (Ansett PNG). Barbara Jephcott came to a book launch I held at my gallery a few years ago . Best wishes Di Elsden

    • Hi Di
      Terrific to hear from you.
      I guess yours was an art gallery,was the book on P.N.G.?
      Did you know that Barb Jephcott has written 2 books,one on the Jephcott property in P.N.G and the other about Bruce
      Best Wishes

  4. David Stephen is correct . Lovely photo , it’s a pity children are not taught about the history of our country . I make it my duty to educate my young children about PNG . I’m enjoying your blogs, thanks Veronica.

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