The continued dictatorial decisions of the O’Neill-Namah government is considered to be what triggered the first popular revolt in PNG, supported by thousands and thousands of citizens, in towns and villages alike. The result was a powerful wave of resistance that brought down the regime.
The resistance began in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. Under the cries from many ordinary people taking to the streets with their microphones, people began rallying until there were thousands of people leaving their jobs in a de facto general strike against the government. For 2 days people stayed pretty much in their neighbourhoods, while parliamentarians, who had been in session, amassed a number of loyal police and soldiers who kept the masses away from Waigani. However, on Day 3, people began marching in mass towards parliament. At that point, the MPs scattered in various directions, with O’Neill and Namah going their separate ways, and eventually met their deserved fates.
That was the beginning, actually, because not all MPs were in Port Moresby, and the revolt caught fire and spread to all of PNG’s cities and towns. Neither MPs of the O’Neill government, nor the Somare government before it were sparred. MPs Bart Philemon and Luther Wenge were uncerimonously dragged to the streel frame of an office building being contructed in top town and hanged, with their bodies being spat on by jeering crowds. And so it went, with the revolution finally reaching Kavieng where Julius Chan and his son Byron were holed up on one of their many joint ‘pleasure palace excursions’ as they liked to call them.
New Irelanders had long known of the womanizing excesses of father and son, with the two sometimes flying to Bangkok or Brisbane for sexual trysts with local prostitutes that sometimes went on for days. Father was slowing with age, but son was taking up the slack. In deference to father, more of the ‘pleasure palace excursions’ took place at local hotels and resorts in New Ireland and East New Britain. Sometimes the Chans would went the entire complex for a weekend and either fly up their favourite dolls or send out trusted staff to handpick them As the revolution began to unfold in Port Moresby, the Chans were not in parliament where they were supposed to be, but beginning a weekend of free love in Kavieng.
"Tensions spread from Moresby out to the islands as the revolt progressed," says one former Chan aid. “Sir J and Byron were insistent in completing their Kavieng orgy, but as word began to come out of the fate of other MPs, we began to get worried and finally convinced them to abort the activities and escape to a more remote but secure location.”
Namatanai, the original home of the Chan family, where the pathway to ill gotten fortune began, seemed like a good option. A small group of luxury Hilux vehicles was assembled and father and son began to pull out of Kavieng, accompanied by each of their favourite girls, for the trek to Kavieng.
But they were too late. Citizens had began to gather on the streets of Kavieng, and one group stood in front of the Chan’s convoy. Soon, a member of the PNG People Power Committee came up and politely asked Sir J and Byron to leave their vehicles and follow him to the back of a store. It was there that the trial began.
The Chans arrived at the impromptu court room and both panicked: "they didn't know who we were. 'Are you sent by O’Neill?' he asked. 'We are with the Committee,' one person guarding the room answered. A group of citizens were already assembled inside and listened carefully as a district judge read out the allegations against the Chans, which included massive bribery and taking of kickbacks, as well as chronic abuse of power.
The trial lasted only about 30 minutes. When the sentence was read by the judge, it was a quiet moment. 'Appeal in 10 days,' said the voice, 'sentence to be carried out immediately.” Six men were sitting at the back of the room, all armed with semi-automatics. The judge asked them if they were ready to carry out the sentence. All stood up and, like a choir, replied 'Yes.' The six men were ordered to get everyone out of the building, guard the door of the courtroom and kill anyone who tried to break in. A side door into a small courtyard with a cement block wall was then opened. This was where the Chans would be killed and the 6 men were told to empty a whole magazine of ammunition into him."
The Chans appeared in the courtyard. "They were whining like children," one witness remembers. "'We can't be killed like dogs!' they cried, and looked at the assembled witnesses and executioners. 'We're going to be killed like dogs!' Then Byron Chan said: 'If you are going to kill us, then out of respect for our love for each other, don't kill pops and make me watch. At least let me die along with the old man.' And the guard in charge said: 'Take both of them to the wall.'"
They were placed against the wall. Of course we knew who they were, but I suddenly saw Sir J looking so puzzled by it all. Then he looked straight into my eyes and shouted: 'You’ll never be as rich as I got to be. Go to hell, all of you!!' And he started singing a fragment of a Chinese song. That is when the order to fire came, and the 6 men raised their guns and fired, from the hip. We shot Sir J while he was still singing. We shot both of them from a distance of one metre, maybe even 50cm. We'd only emptied half the magazines before they were pinned to the wall, dead. The impact of bullets into Byron was so strong that he was blown diagonally and upwards against the wall.
The bodies were wrapped in laplaps and removed. The Chan girlfriends and mistresses were waiting outside the enclosure and wailing as the bodies were brought out to a Peter Sharpe boat that had been commandeered for the purpose. The boat was later sunk, bringing the Chan bodies to the bottom of the sea.