The passing of a great, good and honest PNG leader

March 18, 2010 at 12:52 am (Papua New Guinea, Wewak) (, , , , , )

Bernard Narokobi

It was with sadness that I heard of the death of Bernard, a good and great man. My wife, Deborah, when she was press secretary to the leader of the opposition in 1973-4 and I were in a flat next to a flat occupied by Bernard and his family in Port Moresby.

I can’t claim to have known Bernard well but everything I heard of him was good. He was a good friend of  mutual friends, Peter Kimmins and Fr John O’Toole.

Bernard Narokobi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Papua New Guinea

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
Papua New Guinea


Bernard Narokobi (born 1936 or 1937, died March 2010[1]) was a Papua New Guinean politician andphilosopher. He was serving as the Papua New Guinean High Commissioner to New Zealand prior to his death. Between 1987 and 1997 he represented his Wewak Open Electorate as a Member in the Papua New Guinea’s National Parliament. During his time as a Member of Parliament (MP), he served as the Minister for Justice (1988-1992) in the government led by the then Prime Minister Rabbie Namaliu; Agriculture Minister (1992-1994) under the leadership of Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan led government; and Opposition Leader between 1998 and 2002 until he lost his seat to the current Wewak MP Kimson Kare during the elections in 2002. He was displaced as a minister in the Chan government for failing to vote in favour of constitutional reforms in the provincial system of government.

In April 2009, The Guardian described him as one of Papua New Guinea’s “living national icons”, along withMichael Somare and Mal Michael.[2]

[edit]Background and family life

Bernard Narokobi was born in 1937 in his native Wautogik village to his father Anton (Kukum) Narokobi and mother Maria Mokoi and was the second eldest of five siblings. His siblings were Veronica, Apolonia, Caroline and Camillus. Camillus his younger and only brother is intending to stand for the Wewak Open seat. Camillus is also a lawyer in his own right at the family law firm, Narokobi Lawyers.[citation needed]

Bernard was a widower, having lost his wife Regina to breast cancer in 2007. He had 7 children: Vergil, Daniel, Anna, Justina, Ottonia, Benedine and Regina (twins). Bernard’s son Vergil is also a lawyer and after completing a bachelors degree in law with honours at the University of Papua New Guinea, he went on to do his Masters in law at Cambridge University. His daughter Anna has also recently completed her degree in law in Australia.

His father Anton was taught by pioneer Catholic missionaries and became one of the early catechists who served the people of Boiken and Dagua villages through teaching the Catholic faith. Bernard Narokobi started primary education at the Dagua Catholic Mission and then went to Brandi High School in Wewak, East Sepik Province where he was taught by Michael Somare who latter became the first Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. From Brandi High School he went on to matriculate at the then Kerevat Senior High School in East New Britain Provincebefore going off to Australia where he undertook a degree in law at the University of Sydney in the 1960s. Bernard was amongst the first few Papua New Guineans to receive education abroad. In those days, preparations were underway for Papua New Guinea to gain political independence from Australia. Soon after completing his law degree, Bernard Narokobi was recruited to become the Permanent Consultant to the Constitutional Planning Committee that was chaired by his former teacher Michael Somare. Bernard Narokobi thus had a personal hand in the writing of what became the Constitution when Papua New Guinea gained independence in 1975.

Bernard died in March 2010 after a brief illness. Prime Minister Michael Somare paid tribute to him as “a humble man who dedicated his life to the development of a legal regime that incorporates Melanesian values”.[3]

[edit]Political career

After PNG gained independence, Bernard Narokobi held several jobs including serving as the legal advisor to the provincial government in his home province, East Sepik, he also worked as a private lawyer, a lecturer in law at the University of Papua New Guinea and had a stint as an acting judge in the Papua New Guinea National and Supreme Courts. He has published a number of papers and articles which are scattered in various journals and several books including The Melanesian WayLife and Leadership in Melanesia and Lo Bilong Yumi Yet and a short book of fiction entitled Two Seasons.

Bernard Narokobi aligned with a team of like minded Papua New Guineans to start their Melanesian Alliance Party. The original founders of this Party include John Momis, John Kaputin and Moi Avei. John Momis was the Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Planning Committee which recruited Bernard Narokobi as their Permanent Consultant. Bernard Narokobi became actively involved in politics when he decided to contest the national elections in 1982 where he ran an unusuccessful campaign against his former teacher Michael Somare for the East Sepik Regional Seat. Learning from his failed election in 1982, Bernard Narokobi entered Parliament in 1987 after toppling Tony Bais in the Wewak Open Electorate. He enjoyed three terms as the Member for Wewak and was defeated in the 2002 elections. As a lawyer and thinker, Bernard Narokobi was a firm believer in human rights, a staunch advocate of Melanesian philosophy and identity, and he supported strongly the call for a free and independent West Papua. He was also a devout and a highly respected member of the Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea.[4]


  1. ^ “Former PNG Parliamentary Speaker, Bernard Narakobi, dies”, Radio New Zealand International, March 11, 2010
  2. ^ “Country profile: Papua New Guinea”The Guardian, April 23, 2009
  3. ^ “PM pays tribute to Narokobi”The National
  4. ^ Ton Otto, Nicholas Thomas (1997), Narratives Of Nation In The South PacificRoutledgeISBN 9057020858

2. Extract from Bernard Narokobi’s “The Melanesian Way”

3. Extract from Utula Samana’s “Papua New Guinea: Which Way?” re. Narokobi’s influence


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