Dear Editor – “You will never be ready until you start doing something,” (The late Sir Michael Somare).
Papua New Guineans are mourning the loss of the man who was the central figure in the country’s passage to independence.
Sir Michael Somare passed away last week in Port Moresby after being diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer and admitted to hospital a week ago.
Described as the nation’s anchor and a father figure to Papua New Guineans, Sir Michael’s passing at the age of 84 signals the end of an era not just for PNG but also the Pacific Islands.
As Chief Minister of the former Australian territory, Sir Michael helped usher PNG to independence in 1975, becoming its first prime minister later that year.
The “Grand Chief”, as Sir Michael is known, served as prime minister in four separate stints lasting 17 years in total. He was widely loved by people around the country, and a master politician who perfected the art of consensus building in a national political setting known for its volatility.
Born in 1936 in Rabaul, Michael Somare grew up in East Sepik where he was educated at a village school established during Japanese occupation in World War 2.
Michael Somare had a deep conviction that the indigenous people of the Pacific Islands should be masters of their own destiny, and along with the likes of Fiji’s Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, was a beacon for other Pacific Islanders to follow.
“With Mara and myself, the Pacific leaders, we were spokesmen for those people who were not independent at the time, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati and these places. We were saying, these countries of the Pacific will be independent one day and we need to expedite and accelerate the process,” Michael Somare recalled.
Sir Michael Somare was a Christian of deep faith. His daughter, Betha Somare, issued a statement saying that he was given his last rites and anointing by Cardinal John Ribat, the head of PNG’s Catholic Church.
Sir Michael is survived by his wife of 56 years, Lady Veronica, their five children and respective families. Quoting extracts of an obituary relayed by Radio New Zealand
Since his passing many leaders have also paid tribute to this regional leader.