First Tolai shell money exchange launched

ENB now using Tolai shell as currency


THE first legal Tolai shell money exchange or bank was launched last Friday in Rabaul District.

East New Britain Governor Leo Dion officiated at the Balanataman tabu exchange launch held at the premises of a local company, Matikotop Enterprises.
The exchange is the first to be set up through the initiative of Balanataman LLG president John Topeono since the ENB government legislated the use of traditional money in the formal sector.

In the Balanataman LLG area, people who have had difficulties paying in kina and toea for court fines, council taxes and even school fees have paid using tabu shells.
The provincial government recognises a dual currency system in the province. The Balanataman exchange and others to follow later will be buying shell money to convert into PNG currency or money vice versa.

Under the current exchange rate one fathom is equivalent to K4.

One fathom or param in Kuanua is actually a length of stringed shell money stretching roughly at arms length.

Speaking at the launch on Friday, Matikotop Enterprises proprietor Michael Kava said his family business has been supportive of the Balanataman LLG in its endeavour to assist local people.

He said by establishing the first tabu exchange he hopes to assist people to transform their traditional wealth into modern PNG currency.

Conversely, he would also be providing a ready exchange point for Tolais who need shell money for their customary obligations or settling disputes. 

Mr Kava said if their tradition money is taken into consideration Tolai families were relatively well off.

Preliminary funding of a provincial government study of Tabu show that an estimated K8 million worth of shell money is sitting in family homes throughout the gazelle Peninsula.

Governor Dion paid tribute to suspended provincial administrator Hosea Turbarat who in 1998 started work that led to the adoption of tabu. Mr Turbarat was present at the launch.

A Tolai shell money bank was started several years ago by Henry ToKubak but without any government recognition.

Mr Dion used the occasion to call on young Tolais to observe and revive and traditional and customary knowledge most of which is unwritten.