Why so soon? It’s that political roundabout feeling again
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Sir Joseph Nombri – that we had more leaders like him today

Sir Joseph NombriCHRIS KAFANG

An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony

THE late Sir Joseph Nombri - what a great man he was. Other articles in these columns have reminded us of him, for example here and here. This is my recollection

I knew Sir Joseph from 1989–91 while I was a student in Tokyo, Japan, where was the Papua New Guinean Ambassador.

He had been many other things: kiap, rugby player, founding member of the Bully Beef Club, first President of the PANGU Pati and a distinguished public servant.

On important occasions like Independence Day, he would invite the PNG students studying in Japan, no matter where we were, to assemble at his official residence together with his family, embassy staff and families to celebrate as one big family.

After dinner, he would call for the students to sit around in a big circle and he’d address each of us as the ‘Honourable Member for Wewak, Rigo, Lae, Chimbu etc’ - depending upon where we came from back home and we’d discuss current issues in PNG.

One of the topics he asked us to debate was, ‘What you would do if you were the prime minister of PNG?’ Each of us would throw in our ideas and he would listen and then challenge us and we had to defend or clarify our arguments.

Nobody took it too seriously but it was his way of getting us to interact with one another and simply have fun.

Later in the evening, we would sit around the fireplace and have a few glass of sake and sing popular PNG songs.

Just imagine if in PNG we had more teachers, managers, CEOs, heads of department and MPs like Sir Joseph Nombri. PNG could be much better off than what it is now in terms of personal development and human resources.

Sir Joseph had great vision and was a man of wisdom. Unfortunately, he couldn’t muster enough votes in the 1997 and 2002 national elections to make it into politics.

Regrettably he succumbed to a short illness in early 2008 at the age of 67.


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Mathias Kin

Chris Kafang, good writing on this very noble character. I have something on Sir Joseph I could post here too. And good shooting, Michael, I hope Peter, Theo, Don, Justin and that crowd in that haus are reading this.

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

Good article Chris and good comment Michael.

Can somebody in the East Sepik province write about Sir Pita Simogun who made the famous statement 'If I die, I die, I have a son to carry on my name."

We must write about our past leaders and compare them with the type of leaders who are driving this country now.

Michael Dom

It's no great revelation to say that PNG is in crisis today because of the leaders we elected over the past 40 years.

Physical facilities and the material environment can always be bought and paid for with money.

But you can't buy true respect for law and order, integrity of leadership, diligence at work and the motivation in people to be good citizens no matter what socio-economic standing.

No matter how much money we have, how much we exploit our natural resources, Papua New Guinea cannot buy its way into Paradise.

Buying things is what our government members are good at.

That is precisely what Theo Zurenuoc tried to do with the 400 yo KJV Bible.

Theo - you can't buy faith.

Like new stadiums to amuse the masses and a new overhead pass to avoid them.

Justin - you can't build unity on winning sporting events with cash incentives for players, there's something far deeper that we have to dig into.

Peter - you can't keep fooling around with our money,making your sneaky deals and pushing your own agenda.

We can't buy a new nation with money.

We have to build it with blood, sweat and tears.

Our leaders have to be prepared to make the real sacrifices that good leaders are prepared to make, like standing down to allow the course of justice to take place.

And we also have to be willing to vote for those kinds of leaders.

Don't let's pretend to not know who these leaders are.

Simbu's knew the caliber of Sir Joseph Nombri, but he was not chosen to be their political leader.

Madang people decided against Sir Peter Barter in his last election bid.

The people of Ialibu-Pangia knew of Peter O'Neil's pending cases regarding the NPF saga but they gave him a land slide victory.

Political leaders can buy votes, bribe bureaucrats and bully citizens, bamboozle their way through parliament and bastardize the constitution.

But no matter how much money they throw around they still can't build a nation our of a thousand tribes.

That takes more effort, different thinking and true integrity.

Sir Joseph Nombri was one example of this nature of leader.

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