The National PNG – The Glamorous Title And The Prestige Of The Office, More Often Than Not, Is The Focus Of Scrutiny And Competition.
The glamorous title and the prestige of the office, more often than not, is the focus of scrutiny and competition.
There will be some who will be intrigued by just who their new governor-general is.
Also known as the Vice Regal, the G-G is the Queen’s representative. “
Vice”, means deputy and regal is another word for royalty. In politics and government, the tendency is to see the role of G-G as a stamping office. But this unique arrangement is crucial to security and national stability because PNG’s Head of State is the Queen. BARNABAS ORERE MBE visited Government House recently.
His Excellency, Grand Chief Sir Bob Bofeng Dadae GCL, GCMG, KStJ was born at Dawot village in Morobe Province. He was sworn in as the 10th Governor-General of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea on 28 February, 2017 and commissioned by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on 30 June, 2017. He becomes the first Morobean to hold the post of G-G as well as the first from Momase region.
Sir Bob was born on 8 March, 1961 and is married with four children. His wife, Hannah, also a Morobean, comes from Biawaria, Garaina area in the border region with Northern Province. She will be known as Lady Hannah. His father, Miringnonge Nayoing was a teacher-evangelist. His mother, Turukpe Kengu had the biggest influence in young Bob who was sixth of 10 children.
It was the days when health services did not exist so two of the children died, sparing eight which is still a big family and they are all alive. Turukpe came from an unlikely background to produce a child that ended up becoming a G-G, associated with British royalty that wins the admiration of all. She was adopted by a childless missionary couple from Dedua in Sialum and grew up in the missionary couple’s care, receiving some training.
Growing up as a child
Sir Bob described his mother as a tough, disciplined woman. “I was born at a time of transition from the colonial era. Mother watched carefully who we mixed with to play and she made us work to eat. There was no such thing as playing and coming to sit at meal time,” he said.
When he was a week old, an old sage commented that the child would grow up to become someone important. At two weeks, the sage’s prophesy was inadvertently tested. Baby Bob became violently ill and was not feeding; he was expected not to live. But there was also a daunting problem. His parents had to have him baptized so that when he died; a white wooden cross would mark his grave. Without baptism, there would be no white wooden cross in Lutheran faith. So they set out to find the closest pastor who was in another village, three hours away.
To aggravate the urgency of the situation, baby Bob’s heart was wildly pumping away. They reached the pastor and as soon as the pastor baptized baby Bob, his condition stabilized and he cried for food; a sign that whatever had been troubling him had suddenly left. At baptism you had to be given a name that meant something in tokples Kote, and Bofeng was given to mean: Hold us up or in pidgin; karim mipela.
‘Bob’ in the usual English sense is a pen name for Robert so the Post Courier raises that in the interview and Sir Bob said Her Majesty had asked the same question when he caught up with her for his commissioning.
Although wavy hair ran in his family, Sir Bob had unusually long hair and other children his age often teased him because he looked different; his hair was something to be laughed about! Said Sir Bob: “In my family, I was the quietest. I never demanded anything of my dad or mum.” There are remnants of this feature today. Sir Bob is quietly spoken and is humble by disposition. It is easy to relax with him in conversation.
Sir Bob Bofeng Dadae was the only child in his family to excel in education. “To prepare me for this role, I had to excel in education; seems likely to me,” he said.
It was easy sailing from primary school; always second or third until grade four when he hit the top spot becoming dux and it was dux all the way from then on to grade six. Bugandi was a boys’ high school and there were 200 in Grade 7 and he took out the dux and for grades eight, nine and 10. They sent him straight to UPNG to do preliminary year with one other boy while about 20 others went to senior high school.
1980 was to be the first time anyone from Kabwum had come to the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). Sir Bob is also the first person from Kabwum to obtain a Master of Business Administration Degree (MBA).
After graduating in early 1988, he worked very briefly – six weeks – with Auditor-General’s office before taking up a job with FISIKA Development Authority as assistant accountant at Gagidu Station, Fischhaffen.
He enjoyed working to promote rural development in districts of Kabwum and Tewae/Siassi for almost five years. In 1991, Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG wanted to localize position of chief accountant so recruited him to the Church Headquarters at Ampo, Lae.
While working at Ampo, he pursued his post graduate studies (MBA) at Griffith University, between 1994 and 1995. He returned from study and wanted to continue working for the Church but some village leaders sought permission from Church authorities to contest in 1997 national elections. This, however, did not work because many other people were not happy with Sir Bob quitting church role.
After he lost, Sir Bob was employed as chief of staff by Luther Wenge, former governor of Morobe for one year and resigned to take up community representative role at the Provincial Assembly. In 2002, he contested again and won; served three terms as MP for Kabwum until elected G-G on February 2, 2017 after almost 30 years of service to community.
“My focus is on charities. One of the important responsibilities required of a G-G is to maintain community relations. When I gave my acceptance speech in parliament, I told the MPs that it is all I will do. I made it clear that I do not wish to sit in Konedobu; I wish to be where the people are, in rural places. Prisons are among the places I want to visit and to share Independence and Remembrance days with the people. “
Political history & responsibilities held
• Deputy Chair of Public Accounts Committee,
• Chairman of Citizenship Advisory Committee,
• Chairman, of Public Works Committee (2012-2015),
• Minister of Defence (2008-2011),
• Deputy Speaker of Parliament (2004-2007),
• Chairman of Constitutional Law, Acts & Sub-ordinate Legislation (2002-2004).
• Member of various Committees of Parliament including Private Members Committee
Provincial Member – 1999-2002
• Served as community representative in the Morobe Tutumang (Provincial Assembly),
• Chairman of various committees including finance, education and commerce, and,
• Active member of law & order committee of Lae City to solve provincial and national conflicts.
Hobbies: Reading news on current events.
Said Sir Bob: “Working with the community is not new to me. My wife and I came from missionary background. Had I chosen to work for myself, I would end up with a highly paid job because of my qualifications. But salary was the least of my concerns. The greatest satisfaction in life is when you see the life of others change.”
Kabwum has no roads; everything is done by air and over the years they’ve built a network that would be the envy of places where the terrain is cruel. The first Kabwum MP was a relative; Stoi Umut, followed by Rauke Gam and then Buaki Singeri.
Rauke Gam was a board member of FISIKA Development Authority which Sir Bob joined after serving Lutheran Church for five years. There that he met the giants of FISIKA, including Muruwe Zurenuoc and Sir Zibang Zurenuoc and in sharing their wisdom and passion for service to people, Sir Bob forged his way into parliament.
He was seeking to serve a fourth term but this was cut by his election by parliament to be the Governor-General on February 2, 2017.
“I had no idea this was coming. They were secretly discussing my appointment in the corridors of parliament but it was the Member for Bulolo who could not contain his excitement and let the cat out of the bag. Yes, I was a member of PNC, but I was elected by both sides of the House; there were people in the Opposition who voted with the Government. I also had many friends, both in Opposition and Government.”
After serving his term as Governor-General (2017-2023), Sir Bob and Lady Hannah plan to continue serving the community as private citizens.
Clarification on correct title
The Governor-General of PNG is always addressed as “Grand Chief” because the G-G is the patron of the Orders of PNG – the Logohu Honours and Awards. The only other grand chief is, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, who is so regarded because of his unique role as father of the nation. All other distinguished nationals and honoured guests with GCL (Grand Companion of Logohu) accolade, are afforded the title of chief.
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