Bernard Narokobi – Leader, Legislator, Literatus

28 October 2020


Port Moresby

In 1995 when Bernard Narokobi was minister for agriculture, he, Bart Philemon and Jerry Nalau voted against Prime Minister Julius Chan’s proposed bill for an Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments. Given the ongoing conflict in Bougainville and violent bid for secession there, the three Ministers feared that the bill’s proposed centralization of power in the national government (and particularly the provincial governor’s office), pulling it away from the local level governments, gave more motivation for other regions to push for autonomy. Following the vote, Prime Minister Chan sacked all three of them from his cabinet. After his sacking, Narokobi penned this poem, In Memory of My Sacking as Minister, on a piece of scrap paper. Here it is reproduced:

J.C. is my shepherd, I am sacked.
He maketh me to lie down on my back
He leadeth me besides the fallen kina,
He threatened me to vote against my conscience,
With demand to resign 8.30 am.
He leadeth me to the path of destruction for his Party’s sake;
Yea, though I walk in the vales of doubt and despair
I fear no evil!
Nor C.J.
Though Politicians and Profiteers may scare me,
And present me a loss of a well earned salary,
And whilst my costs
Runneth higher and higher.
My Kina Wiz Kid
Answers my Kina falleth lower and lower.
Surely unemployment and poverty will follow me,
All the days of his maladministration.
Surely expenses, corruption, greed and selfishness shall swell,
While virtue and righteousness shall dwindle.
All the days, all the days of Papa paulim pikinini’s reign.
Surely the lawyers, the costly lawyers shall ensure,
All my ancient inheritance
And all me and mine
Shall dwell in a mortgaged and remortgaged house
For ever and ever.
Thanks be to IMF & WB.

The poem is a diatribe against what Narokobi perceived to be poor decision making by the Chan government. It points to the leadership traits that he felt were lacking in some of his colleagues and that he himself tried to adhere to, as well as airing his frustration at the consequences he faced for his uncompromising stance. The poem showcases his wisdom and wit and also shows how Narokobi used writing in part as an emotional outlet.


Gregory Bablis (2020) ‘Which Way?’ Big Man, Road Man, Chief: Bernard Narokobi’s Multifaceted Leadership Career, The Journal of Pacific History, 55:2, 291-303, DOI: 10.1080/00223344.2020.1760086

Please follow this link to read the journal article in its entirety. 

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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