Counting Moons in Kalabus
History over the past few hundred years shows that the (Westminster) British Justice System reached into the furthest corners of the earth as a result of Colonialism. Sometimes its application came up against ancient tribal laws by which primitive societies had functioned for thousands of years. In Papua New Guinea, the advent of Colonialism brought the foreign concepts of Judges, lawyers, Court Houses, witnesses, sentencing and Jails. These were introduced over the authority of clan elders, who traditionally presided over village 'hearings' of transgressors in the presence of the whole community, resulting in recognised punishments being meted out. The resultant conflict between ancient clan mores and western colonial systems often led to misunderstanding and confusion. The steady erosion of Clan Chieftan authority became collateral damage in this clash.
By some quirk of language adaptation, the American word 'calaboose' became 'Kalabus', meaning jail or Prison in Papua New Guinean Pidgin.
Published: 23 October 2014
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