28 October 2020
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. OH MAN!! C.J.
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 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00223344.2020.1760086 to read the journal article in its entirety.