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Manus province

The Paliau Movement

  by:  Kakak Kais, Manus, Papua New Guinea April 1998


Without the kind support of many people this book would not have been written. Unfortunately, I am not able to list them all by name. However, it is necessary to mention the current Paliau Movement leaders, adherents, former adherents as well as the two sons .They all found time to sit and relate their experience to me. Among the leadership I was able to interview Kisokau Pochapon (President), Peter Kuwoh (Vice-President) and Kisapai Kutan (Hamamas Chairman). I also had sessions with John Paliau, the Movement Founder's only biological son and James Paliau, his adopted son. I must also acknowledge cooperation from a staunch adherent, Kametan Parkop as well as former adherents John Pokanau, Paliau Lukas, Pame Manuai and Otto Rheeney.

I am deeply indebted to my thesis supervisor, Colman Renali for patience understanding and academic guidance. I owe the Christians of Dranou Lokol Sios for their financial as well as prayer support - God is good! I should also like to mention that the Hon. Arnold K. Marsipal, OBE, MP went out of his way to support me during my period of studies.

Miss Lena Kewa of the Papua New Guinea National Museum exercised a lot of patience in the initial typing, while Mrs. Janet Tilikewei of the Manus University Centre was involved in retyping, proof reading and editing.

Last but not the least I owe to my wife Paula for moral support and for shouldering the burden of caring for our children during the period of study.

Kakak Kais, Manus, Papua New Guinea
April 1998


At the commencement of my honours programme I was not sure as to whether or not I should write on the Paliau Movement, basically because so many people have written on the organisation and its activities that there was perhaps nothing left for me to write about. It took some convincing from my supervisor, Dr. Colman Renali, before I agreed that as someone from Manus I should write something on the Movement. As I gathered more information and added them to my personal experience (as a young boy) I became fascinated by the fact that the Movement still exists and thrives 50 years on. Its Founder, Paliau Maloat was knighted by the Queen just before he died. And it is interesting to note that the Movement's collective leadership today consists of university and college graduates.

I chose for my topic "Paliau Movement:  Past, Present and Future" and divided my study of the topic into three chapters.   Chapter One covers a brief history of Manus, Paliau's boyhood experiences and his experience both as a labourer and a policeman. This part also includes his war experiences and the launching of the Movement after the war. This chapter further covers how and why the Movement was born, its set objectives and aims and the means employed to reach the ultimate goal.

Chapter Two takes in the period from 1953 to about 1978. It is the period during which the Movement lapsed into dormancy. This was also the period when Paliau was fully involved in the work of the Local Government Council as its president, including the time he was a member of parliament for two terms from 1964 - 1972. It was only in 1978 that the Movement was revived and given a new lease of life, with a new generation of leaders. This second part also studies the present status of the Movement, its leadership and the Movement's activities as it exists within the entire Manus Community.

Chapter Three of this work deals with forecasting the future of the Movement based on the history of its development throughout the 50 years to date, the situational analysis today and prospects for its survival into the next century. Together the book brings to light what the Founder had in mind for his people - how he saw his people's need to improve their social, economic and political conditions in order that they may enjoy the standard of living enjoyed by the whiteman. In his vision for a new way of physical life for his people Paliau even saw beyond the physical realm. He saw that it was possible for his people to attain a new level of living by following a new way. They would eventually attain the perfect living which was initially experienced and enjoyed by Adam and Eve. But he insisted that the people must begin with a clean break from the old way of life. They should all live together in harmony, unity, love, respect and understanding one another. Above all they should always direct their minds to God the Creator. Their way of living on earth today should reflect the perfect living that is yet to come in the next world.

A lot of what Paliau Maloat wanted to achieve are now being enjoyed by the Manus people - they now enjoy modern education, health, good transport, good housing, modern amenities and comforts. However, the Manus people still do not show the signs of unity and respect for each other, which according to Paliau is important in a harmonious community.

The Movement's adherents have a responsibility to continue showing the way by practically living according to the teaching of Paliau shown in the 'Las Save' (Last knowledge). With the continuous bombarding of various developmental events, the question stands as to whether or not the Movement will exist and spread as Manus progresses into the future.

CHAPTER ONE:  Historical perspective
social-political background - Manus up to 1900

In its placement on the map the Admiralties group lie between longitudes 141 degrees and 149 degrees, and it is 2 degrees south of the Equator. The area totals 8,000 sq. miles of land. There are over 160 islands in the Admiralties group. The main island of the Admiralties rises to the highest point on the Mt. Dremsel at 2,356 feet. The other big islands are Los Negros and Rambutjo followed by Lou and Baluan.

Some written historical accounts have William Schouten and Jacob le Maire as the first outsiders to see some parts of the Admiralty Islands, while others claim that the first white man to ever set eyes on the Admiralties was either the Portuguese, Jorge de Meneses in 1527 or the Spaniard, Alvaro de Sasvedra, in 1528. Sources are agreed that later visits were made by Carteret in 1767 and d'Entre Casteaux in 1792. Probably the next white visitors to come in were the traders, whalers and the notorious blackbirders.

More interactions took place when the German protectorate was declared in 1884, over the Bismack Archipelago which includes the present Admiralties. In 1912, the Germans established the first government station in Lorengau, which later developed to be the administrative headquarters of the Admiralties.

The islanders showed an independent spirit and this attracted the attention of the white man who recruited them as policemen, boss-boys and ship's crew. They showed leadership quality and organisational ability, too. A good example of initiative and leadership was shown by Sergeant Major Rami (Dramei) when he helped to organise and lead the Rabaul strike in 1929. The missions began arriving in the Admiralties, with the Liebenzell Lutherans first in 1914. The Catholics followed in 1920 and then came the Seventh Day Adventists (SDA). However, by 1930 many people had adopted Catholicism.

Ethnically, the Admiralty islanders may be divided into two distinct groups - those of the Micronesian stock who inhabit the Western Islands (Aua, Wuvulu and the Ninigo Group) and the remaining majority who are of the Melanesian stock.

Former German administration did not last long in the Admiralties. When Germany lost World War I in 1918, the Admiralties, along with all German possessions in German New Guinea (GNG) passed under the Australian mandate as a result of decision by the League of Nations in 1919 in the Hague. Australia maintained administrative control until 16 September 1975, when Papua New Guinea attained political independence.


Paliau Maloat was born in a Matangkor Village of Lipan on Baluan Island in 1907. In his estimation, he was only seven years old when his mother died, followed soon after by his father. He became, in the western sense, an orphan. Losing both biological parents at that early stage of growing up (with no brother or sister) proved quite traumatic for Paliau. Paliau's upbringing during the adolescent years alternated between his uncle Joseph Pati and aunt Ninou Namei. In later years, when referring to his childhood days under his uncle and aunties, he would say that he never stayed still. He followed other children of his age group and shared their meals in their homes. Of course, he did not mean this to be a negative reflection of his uncle's and auntie's capacity to care for him. If it appeared at times that Paliau dramatised the growing up period it was perhaps an act of image building on his part, since by painting his upbringing in this manner, it earned both the people's sympathy and respect to know that this great man rose to great heights from a poor and humble beginning. On the other hand it also shows Paliau's frustration at losing both parents in early childhood.

The fact that people in his community, including his uncle and auntie, were so busy with bridal exchange activities did not encourage him to appreciate traditional practices and values. As he observed, they spent too much mental and physical energy in planning and organising for these seemingly endless feasts. He saw how his people dug up all the food crops from their gardens and had them distributed during the bridal exchanges feasts, funeral feasts and other feasts. When all the food was gone the people would then experience famine. He also observed much to his dismay that there were many deaths occurring one after another.2 He saw that all the energy thrown into these traditional activities only ended up exhausting the people's mental and physical health. He tried to work out in his young mind that this was the probable cause of illness and death. Somehow, he reasoned to himself that there needed to be a better way of doing things. There was a need to have a better management of resources in order that his people may live and enjoy a longer and better way of life. The old way of doing things, as he saw it, was inadequate.


Paliau entered the formal employment sector in 1924 when he was about seventeen and initially worked for a Chinese named Leyu (Leo), followed by another Chinese Akan and a third, Akim (Schwartz, 1962:241).

At the end of his contracts he returned home with his earnings and some whiteman's goods he had bought. All these were distributed by his uncle Joseph Pati to all the relatives because as part of the tradition, uncle Joseph was trying to make a name for himself. The reasons for Paliau's going off to work was to earn money in order to pay his head tax obligations when he turned eighteen, as the Kiap had made quite clear on his last inspection. Anyone who did not pay the tax was bundled off into jail. With his hard-earned money gone Paliau had no option but to go back to work once again.

In 1928, at the age of 21 years,3 Paliau enlisted in the Police Force. He served, as he said, under Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Penglass in the pacification of the Kukukuku.4 He also served in the other parts of what is now the Momase Region (then the mainland of the Territory of New Guinea). As usual, each time he went home on leave, he brought his earning together with the whiteman's goods which he had accumulated. Again his uncle Joseph Pati distributed his (Paliau's) wealth among the relatives. Paliau understood that his uncle was making a name for himself. Although he saw that his way of doing things was not good he kept his anger and disappointment to himself. He was frustrated but there was nothing much he could do.

On the occasion of one of his home leave he decided to stay back in the village for two years and, during that period he visited other parts of the Admiralties to see if what his uncle was doing was in fact being practised elsewhere. He found out that this was so. He still thought in his mind that this way of doing things was not good at all. The question kept repeatedly rising in his mind as to why the accumulated wealth (money and goods) should be simply distributed without any lasting benefits for everyone in the village community.

Paliau realised that there were things which the colonial administration required of the people and there were penalties if they disobeyed. Head tax levy was one of them. He observed furthermore, that if the people did not build good houses they were jailed. If they failed to build good toilets, they were jailed. If they did not maintain the cleanliness of village areas as well as keeping the roads cleared, they were jailed.5

In 1932, while still in the Police Force, Paliau decided to implement an idea which he saw as a way of helping his people to meeting their tax levy as well as other monetary obligations. The conceived idea materialised in 1935 when he set up a fund with a base of thirty-five pounds out of his personal earnings. He explained to his people that the fund would be placed under the care of the Luluai and, that they could get interest-free loans from it to cover their monetary obligations. They would, of course, have to repay the loan to the revolving fund. He also asked them to contribute to the fund, so that it could also be used to help other neighbouring Matangkor islands such as Lou and Pam. Once it was established, the fund worked out to the people's benefit and apparently they were so impressed that they also contributed towards the fund - and it grew from the initial 35-50 pounds to 500 pounds and eventually reaching 2000 pounds. This was quite a massive sum for the village people to have raised at that time (Schwartz, 1962:242,243).

As a policeman, Paliau served in Rabaul from 1935 up till the coming of the World War II (WW2). He attained the rank of Sergeant during this period and was in charge of 280 policemen when WWII broke out. The war period proved to be a turning point in Paliau's life. During the war, he had to work for the Japanese together with other Admiralty Islanders as well as others from various parts of TNG. Because he spent the war period working for the Japanese, one would agree with Schwartz claim that most of his (Paliau's) later adherents had more contact with Americans than he (Schwartz, 1962:248). One experience which is said to have quite an impact on Paliau were his dreams during the war. It is also on record that Jesus appeared to him during one of those dreams and it is believed that this may have been a catalyst in his programme of reforms after the war. Those who have done studies in the Paliau Movement, with Schwartz in the forefront, have tended to have unfairly placed too much emphasis on the dreams.

Schwartz himself has tended to brush aside the fact that Paliau was a reformist thinker and philosopher (Kanasa, MS, 1991:16). He (Schwartz) denies Paliau's reasoning capacity and his ability to plan, based on his cumulative experience and observations between the age of seven up until 1940 - a period of 26 years! To say that his plans were given to him full-blown in a big dream or vision is demeaning of the genius of leader that Manus has ever known.

It must not be denied, however, that the dreams may have had quite an influence on Paliau by way of enabling him to firm up his mind that he was going to take the initiatives for change. Paliau himself admitted that he had those dreams but that they were not important; meaning they should not be taken as the 'Big Bang' factor.

One other factor which may have had an impact on Paliau was his somewhat demeaning treatment by the officers of the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU), immediately after the war. This was when he was detained in Rabaul and questioned in relation to suspected war crimes in collaboration with the Japanese. In Paliau's mind he thought back to the twelve years he served as a loyal policeman, rising to the rank of sergeant sometime before the war. His working with the Japanese was in line with what the colonial kiaps advised them to do if they happened to be caught. The kiaps departed for safer areas. Therefore, he could not understand why he had to be subjected to so much embarrassment, inconvenience and frustration. This treatment may have added fuel to the burning desire to initiate change for the better.

Paliau was finally released and given clearance to go home. He returned to Manus about the 9 or 10 October, 1946, disembarking at the ANGAU headquarters at Sopalau, thence proceeding to his village on Baluan Island.


During the meetings which he held with his Lipan people, together with the Mouks, about the 12 to 13 October, 1946, and onwards, he related to those at the gathering that there was an immediate need to make a complete break from the old ways of the past. There was a need to do things differently - in a new and better way. Paliau's concept of Nupala Pasin (New Way) was formulated as a result of his observations and experience accumulated over the years, from when he was seven years of age right up to, and including the war when he was a mature adult. He concluded that the old way of doing things was wasteful both physically and mentally and that it proved to be a handicap to the people, not allowing them to positively respond to the challenges and developments taking place. The old way of life contained so much hatred, divisiveness, bad thoughts and negative personal and clan rivalries. While all this was going on the people were not able to properly carry out the requirements of the colonial administration such as keeping villages clean, building new houses and toilets, and faithfully paying their taxes and so on.

Although he did not have the benefit of classroom education and received no Christian baptism, he had a magnificent ability to learn and grasp what the Christian missions propagated. He accepted the Christian belief, the Christian God, Jesus and the Salvation story of the Bible. He related all this to the situation of his people in a revised version. Paliau saw that the old superstitious beliefs had to be discarded in order for the people to embrace the new beliefs and new way of thinking.

During the launching of the programme, he made a point which would continue to persist in the minds of his adherents long afterwards. He expressed disappointment that the white man in general, and the mission in particular, failed to reveal the true meaning of the work of Jesus when he was on earth, but now he declared "I myself have found it" (Schwartz, 1962:249). This is a statement which was open to misinterpretation and could easily be linked up with his dreams and visions.6 But, this was perhaps Paliau's way of captivating the minds of his adherents; to keep them thinking that anyone who yearned for the whiteman's goods must listen to him and follow him only; there was no other way.

There were other young men, too, of Paliau's age group who, like him advocated change and a complete break from the past. Among these young men were Napo of Buke (an ex-policeman); Mateus Ponialou of Pere (government clerk); Samol Kisekup of Bunai (Catholic Mission Catechist) and Lukas Chauka of Mouk (boat captain). They emphasised the abolishing of the bride-price system, equality for everyone and that the able-bodied young men should work for money in order that they could secure the whiteman's goods (Worseley, 1957:185).7 But unlike these young men, Paliau was a genius, had vision, organisational ability and he was not going to allow anyone to stop him from implementing his programme.

Basically, Paliau's programme was simple and straight forward. Mead provided her appreciation of the initiative in this manner:  "It was Paliau who had a programme for action and an organised picture of change which involved genuine ethical ideals - he wanted all the people of the Admiralties to become one people, eschewing narrow rivalries and hatreds between different tribes and different villages, pooling their specialised skills and possessions. the land people should share their gardens with sea people, the sea people should invite the land people to fish on their carefully guarded reefs. By banding together as one people, there would be many of them, enough, if they used their resources wisely to get good European goods and to live the way of life of the Western world." (Mead, 1956:190)

Paliau had been promoting his new initiative for only three months when waves of the 'Noise' cult hit the shores of Baluan and Mouk. A young man named Wape of N'Driol on Rambutjo Island started the cult movement. He claimed that he had met Jesus in a vision and received instructions to the effect that people should discard their old possessions into the sea and await the new goods which their ancestors will bring in. The people of Lipan and Mouk were caught up in it - and Paliau was also caught unaware of this new phenomenon.

His immediate reaction was to warn his adherents to beware of the deception (Schwartz, 1962:271). But he found himself in a dicey position - a situation which required careful but quick calculation. Instead of sternly discouraging the adherents he told the Mouk people "not to do anything that would spoil their chances in whatever was happening" (Ibid., p.272). This raises a lot of questions but it may be assumed that Paliau, for tactical reasons, chose to keep his stand ambiguous so that his adherents would be kept guessing as to whether he was pro-or-anti-cult. As observed by Christiansen "Neither Yali nor Paliau had any success in preventing cargo cults or rooting out the cargo faith, although they fought against them. Instead they thought they could use them politically." (Christiansen, 1969:24) Paliau chose not to take a hard-line stand because he feared that he might disappoint the Mouk followers and this could in turn work to the detriment of the Movement's development and progress. The alienation of his followers was the last thing he wanted.

Two things which the Noise Cult did to the Movement were that it (the Cult) helped in the Movement's spread with membership recruitment and, secondly; it attracted a closer look from the colonial government. In a report to the United Nations General Assembly covering the period July 1947 to 30 June, 1948, the following was stated about the then Manus District: 

"There are movements amongst the Manus natives to abandon their reef villages and build on the mainland, as they believe that this will assist them to discard ancient ties and hasten their future progress. There is a definite general trend to improve conditions of life and the District Staff maintains close and sympathetic contact with people in order to guide them to their best advantages." (New Guinea Annual Report, 1948:14)

Since the followers of the Movement were caught up in the cargo cult flow Paliau's name unfortunately was automatically linked to the cult. It was decided in mid-1947 that he be taken to Port Moresby on an educational tour. Two years later in May 1949 it was decided that Paliau be appointed Luluai of Baluan. By November of that year much had been accomplished under his Luluai leadership in terms of abundant food, good housing for the people and, there was no evidence that Paliau was influencing people to have anti-administration feelings or attitudes. Abundance of food and good housing for all in the community was in line with what he had envisaged within his Nupala Pasin concept - the new way of doing things. Paliau was again taken to Port Moresby on 18 October 1950 on a second educational tour. When the Baluan Native Village Council was established on 30 June, 1951, Paliau had successfully served as Luluai for just a little over two years.

The Government's move to establish the Council was result of the fact that Paliau had established his own version upon returning from his first educational trip to Port Moresby. But more importantly, the government's action in the direction was meant to 'nip the Movement in the bud' as it were.

Paliau was elected one of the councillors and immediately appointed President of the Council. He was to remain President from 1951 until 1967. He also had the honour of representing his people of the Admiralty Islands for two terms in the first House of Assembly from 1964 to 1972. During his long term as Council President, the Movement lapsed into low activity. The establishment of Council with its headquarters on Baluan caused a split in the Movement between those followers in the Lapan-Mouk and those outside Baluan Island who were assured that they were to 'wait council'. They were made to understand that as soon as the council became fully functional on Baluan they would also be covered under the system.


There were various factors which contributed towards both the establishment of the Movement and its propagation in moving towards attaining the set goal. Paliau saw that many things were either not right or were not being done right. The bride-price feasts and funeral feasts only amounted to the wastage of human energy and resources, resulted in many deaths and negated progress in the community. This had to be done away with. The entrenched habit of distributing accumulated wealth for no better reason than personal image building and prestige gaining, was wrong. When people did this they rubbished others in the community and this created resentment, jealously and bad feelings.

The colonial government instituted requirements in the villages which had to be adhered to. The villages had to be kept clean, hygienic habits adopted and tax paid or else jail terms awaited them. As a result the young men had to seek employment. The wage-earning engagements gave them freedom and a feeling of independence, where as, if they stayed home they would have had to submit themselves to their village elders because they (the elders) were the ones who would pay the bride price on their behalf when they reached marriageable age.

Another important causal factor was the presence and the influence of the missions. The Liebenzell Lutherans, Catholics and the SDAs did not work together. Even though they preached the same God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit they clashed at times unintentionally due to doctrinal differences. In their efforts to propagate the gospel and win converts, the missions tried to contextualise the meaning of the Scriptures by using local parallels which actually worked counter to their aims; although they had honest intentions. Due to obvious differences being displayed, people were led to believe that these missions were perhaps putting on acts to cause confusion. Paliau himself deduced that the missions were telling half-truths.

The Paliau Church 8 was an initiative to cater for the spiritual needs of those within the Movement. According to Paliau's son, John, the church was established as a result of the Catholic Mission's negative approach. One Christmas occasion, the Mouks went to celebrate the event at Sapokeleheu (Papitalai) but the priest turned them away. He had apparently been informed that they were involved in cultic activities. When the Mouks returned and informed Paliau of the negative attitude displayed by the priest he immediately set out to form his own local church (OT: Paliau, 1996).

It did not take him long to establish the church because what was essential was already there. Followers of the Movement were Catholic adherents initially and so there were no difficulties in getting them to get used to religious rites, traditions, practices and so on. As for manpower to teach people about religious faith Paliau made use of the Catholic trained Catechists (OT: Pokanau, 1996). 9

The action taken by the Catholic priest at Sapokeleheu serve to confirm in Paliau's mind the suspicion that the missions were not genuine. How could they profess God's love and forgiveness on the one hand, while on the other hand turn the people away from worshipping him. Paliau saw that the spiritual need of the people was important, and if the missions were going to turn people away then it was up to him as the one who 'save rot' (knows the way) to show the way.

The WWII itself had an incredible impact on the people's life. About one million American service men passed through the Admiralties. The piles of goods they brought with them was incredible. Both the black and white soldiers behaved in the same manner, spoke the same language and treated each other equally. The black soldiers were able to handle huge moving machines with incredible ease. The locals were accepted in their camps, shared their rations and were referred to with a friendly name 'Joe'. Therefore, having experience so much, life was not going to be the same for the Admiralty Islanders after the war. The people, therefore, were ready for change when Paliau came out with his Nupala Pasin (New Way) concept.

CHAPTER TWO: Contemporary Piliau Movement:  the status quo

The establishment of the Baluan Native Village Council in 1951 was followed immediately by the opening of a co-operative for marketing of copra and setting up of a trade store. All these developments together with Paliau's election as Council president tied him down with council work, thus interfering somewhat with his concentration on the work of the movement. This state of things, however, did not in anyway dim or eclipse the fact that the Movement was a part of him. In any case, due to his added responsibilities he did not give his full attention to the Movement's work and so it lost momentum and lapsed into dormancy. Although the other Wusiai and Matangkor villages which entered the Movement from 1950 onwards were provided the necessary briefings and guidance about 'the work of 1946' the initial fiery spirit of excitement had died down somewhat.

to continue with Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 click here

© Kakak Kais, Manus, Papua New Guinea
April 1998

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