PORT MORESBY - In 1995 when Bernard Narokobi was Papua New Guinea’s 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 in its violent bid for secession, the three ministers feared the bill’s proposed centralisation of power pulling it away from local level government gave more motivation for other regions in PNG to push for autonomy.
Following the vote, prime minister Chan sacked all three ministers from his cabinet.
After his sacking, Narokobi penned this poem, ‘In Memory of My Sacking as Minister’, on a piece of scrap paper. Here’s what he wrote:
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!
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 was a fierce diatribe against what Narokobi perceived to be poor decision making by the Chan government.
It pointed to the leadership traits 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 showcased his wisdom and wit and also showed how Narokobi used writing in part as an emotional outlet.
Reference: 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. You can read the journal article in its entirety by following this link https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00223344.2020.1760086