Friday, February 04, 2011

JK ‘might have been’ governor general

On Wednesday evening, while my kids were laughing away at Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy on my laptop, I was flicking through a scrapbook belonging to well-known media personality Justin ‘JK’ Kili and wondering what might have been.
The scrapbook basically contained old newspaper and magazine cuttings dating back to the early 1970s when JK began his colourful career in radio.

JK grtduating from a course at BBC London in 1985
In fact, so much has been written about JK over the years, that I need not ditto.
The cuttings jumped out at me, as I am a child of the 1970s, and feel very much of an affinity to this iconic pilot of our airwaves.
Suddenly, I was a child again, listening to JK, and singing these unforgettable words from the Carpenters’ Yesterday Once More:

“When I was young
“I'd listen to the radio
“Waitin' for my favorite songs
“When they played I'd sing along
“It made me smile…”

Ironically, I became familiar with this song while growing up on Sohano, the island off JK’s home of Buka, back in the halcyon days of the early 1970s.
What if JK was our current governor general instead of the incumbent-elect, North Bougainville MP, Michael Ogio?
But for all sad words of tongue and pen, wrote the great American writer John Greenleaf Whittier, the saddest are these, “it might have been”.
Early last month, through another good mate and former radio personality, Emile ‘Uncle ET’ Tenoa, I found out that JK had out his hand up to be in the running to be governor general.
Then-acting governor general Ogio, also minister for higher Education, was understood to have met prime minister Sir Michael Somare to declare his unavailability for election and to lobby for JK to contest on behalf of the people of Bougainville.
The government was understood to have asked for Ogio’s candidacy for the governor general’s seat, however, he had decided against it because of political commitment to his people as North Bougainville MP.
JK was said to have the support of all four Bougainville MPs in Ogio, South Bougainville’s Steven Kama, Central Bougainville’s Jimmy Miringtoro and governor Fidelis Semoso.
JK, 58, from Lemanmanu village on Buka, confirmed his availability for the governor general’s election when I met him at the Holiday Inn on Thursday, Jan 6.
.For those who came in late, he is a Queen’s awardee, PNG Logohu medal awardee, two-time prime ministerial awardee, Australian senatorial awardee and the most-trained, most-honoured, and, most-celebrated media and industry manager in Papua New Guinea.
JK needed the support of another 11 MPs to meet the required 15 to be eligible to contest, however, was confident of garnering the support because of his nationwide popularity as a radio icon.
“If the people (through their MPs) want me to contest, then I will oblige,” he told me then.
“If anything comes to fruition, I can honestly say that I am qualified as a citizen of Papua New Guinea.
“I have the international exposure and the regional experience for the job, if the people so want me to do.
“I think I’m capable, willing and able.
“If Parliament elects me, that’s on merit.
“I have not put my hands up, but the people of Bougainville have put their hands up for me.
“Our (Bougainville) members are pushing for me, so I leave it to them.”
However, by the time deadline for nominations for the governor-general’s post lapsed at 4pm on Wednesday, Jan 12, only two candidates – JK not included – were confirmed.
Government candidate Ogio and Sir Pato Kakaraya were the only nominees who would go through the secret ballot on Friday, Jan 14.
Ogio seemed to have made an about-turn on JK, and the man who had been campaigning hard for him, ‘Uncle ET’ Tenoa.
“I see him (JK) as a very-qualified candidate,” ET, another charismatic former radio man from Bougainville (Mortlock islands) told me.
“On top of that, he is not politically-aligned with any party and is well respected by the people of PNG, because of his services to them as a radio broadcaster and a journalist.
“”He’s a household name who is known to MPs from both sides of parliament.
“There’s a misconception that governor general’s position is for former politicians.
“The governor general’s position has got to be a neutral one.
“The governor general has got to be elected on merit.
“I totally agree with having someone from the outside!
“Let’s not create the misconception among ourselves that the position is for former politicians, as well as based on regionalism!”
On Friday, Jan 14, Parliament elected Ogio as the ninth governor-general of PNG.
Voting for the new governor general went ahead despite a notice of appeal being served to the acting speaker, the clerk of parliament, the acting prime minister and the state solicitor.
The government, with its strength in numbers, elected Ogio, defeating his rival Sir Pato 65-23 while another eight votes were declared informal.
Papua New Guinea was left wondering what might have been if JK had become governor general, as so many MPs on both sides of the house, grew up listening to his voice on radio.
I leave the last word to JK: “I am young, intelligent, and have the charisma to do the job very, very well.
“I bring to the position of governor general 38 years of a wealth of experience in the public service, private and corporate services.
“I have a very strong knowledge of regional and international relations and co-operation, and the necessary understanding of how government and provincial governments work.
“I have many, many years of national exposure and international exposure, which places me in the right position and the right level and tilt, to make this job work successfully for PNG and our people.”
American writer John Greenleaf Whittier: “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been'.”

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