Charles Bice, (late) the Assistant Secretary General of the independence movement, known then as the New Hebrides National Party and then later Vanuaaku Pati, passed away in Port Vila on Friday (October 6), aged 76.
On Saturday morning his body was received with traditional mourning drum beat at the Maliudu Nakamal, in Tagabe, Port Vila.
His coffin was wrapped in Pentecost burial mats as Vuhunana Vanuaroroa led the performance of customary rituals before the body of late Bice was released from the nakamal for his funeral service at Tagabe Anglican Church, and to his final resting place at the Port Vila Municpal Cemetery.
At his funeral service his obituary was given in two parts. Hilda Lini gave his background information on cultural identity, childhood, education and work, prior to joining the secretariat of the independence movement in 1972. Ombudsman Kalkot Mataskelekele spoke about his invaluable contribution to the independence movement, and his son Clifford Bice spoke on behalf of the family.
Charles Bice was born at Lamoru village in 1940, and was nurtured by his father after his mother died.
He went to school at Nazareth (now Lini Memorial College) and then on to Vureas High School School, where he chose to be an office worker.
His first work was with the Anglican Church office at Lamalana, in North Pentecost. Some years later when the Local Council was introduced in the New Hebrides, Bice was transferred to work with the Pentecost Local Council Office at Abwatuntora, also in North Pentecost.
He was later transferred to work in the British National Service at Lakatoro, on Malekula and later moved to Port Vila.
His final employment was with the Statistics Department of the Joint Condominium Administration, before joining the secretariat of the independence movement.
Hilda Lini who joined the secretariat of the independence movement in 1976 said, she had learned so much about political revolutionary strategies from the frontline leaders such as Father Walter Lini, Barak Sope and Kalkot Mataskelekele and also from those who worked behind the scenes as technicians such as Charles Bice to prepare and carry out the political strategies.
He was part of the leadership collective within the political bureau that directed the secretariat of the movement and was a member of the Executive Council, who made decisions in between Peoples Congresses.
Kalkot Mataskelekele, one of the key leaders of the independence movement described Charles Bice in the following manner.
“I recall that when I started work with the independence movement, Charles Bice was already there. We were responsible for information and the production of the Vanuaaku Viewpoints, a newsletter of the independence movement.
“Charles Bice knew how to type and print the newsletter on stencils and knew a lot about the running of the office such as the filing system, office materials, equipment and tools.
“In 1974, the first National Peoples’ Congress elected Charles Bice as Assistant Secretary General, together with other office bearers such as Father Walter Hadye Lini (late) as National President, Pastor Fred Timakata as Vice President (late), Barak Sope as Secretary General, Shem Rarua as Treasurer and Frederick Tau as Assistant Treasurer.
“We were told by Father Walter Lini that the independence movement is a ship with a captain, second captain, chief engineer, second engineer and crew members. All have a special role to ensure that the ship keeps running towards its final destination.
“Charles Bice as the Assistant Secretary General was the second engineer who assisted Barak Sope as the Secretary General and the chief engineer of the independence ship.
“He was also responsible for recording the proceedings of the National Congress, the Political Commissars Council and the Executive Council.”
After the 1980 independence, the Bice worked as political advisor, in various government ministries, translating party policies into development programs and projects. He was a long term member of the Electoral Commission. His final employment was with the State Office.
It is understood that for the first time, the late Charles Bice and his wife had missed the Independence Flag Raising Ceremony on July 30, 2017 and the Constitution Day Ceremony on October 5, 2017.
Speaking on behalf of the family, his son Clifford Bice, thanked the people who had gathered to share their condolences. He recognized the important role of their dedicated mother Serah Bice, who cared for their father until his passing last weekend.
Charles, as he was simply preferred to be called, is survived by two sisters, his widow, Serah Bice, six sons, 10 grand children and six great grandchildren.