Farewell to the Chief

After three weeks of mourning, Papua New Guinea’ founding father, Sir Michael Somare, was laid to rest at Kreer Heights in Wewak, East Sepik Province on March 16.

In Port Moresby, a national Haus Krai saw thousands of people pay their respects to Sir Michael and present their condolences to the Somare family. Sir Michael then made his final journey home, after a brief mishap when his casket had to be transported in an Australian air force plane, following protests from Papua New Guineans over the perceived disrespect shown to him when it appeared Sir Michael’s body was to travel in the cargo hold.

His state funeral bought Port Moresby and many other parts of PNG to a standstill, and Sir Michael was mourned across the region.

In her eulogy at a memorial service in Suva, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor remembered that Sir Michael “belonged to a generation of Pacific Leaders…who were tasked with pursuing self-determination and independence. They faced, head-on, the challenges of nation building and balanced the sensitivities of the western ideals of democracy and good governance with our traditional and cultural values and ethos.”

“At a time such as this, where Pacific regionalism is at its most fragile, Sir Michael’s legacy reminds us of the practice of regional solidarity and cooperation where personal relations at the political level such as that enjoyed by the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara and Sir Michael, are paramount to fostering understanding and the pursuit of regional unity.

“Regionalism and regional cooperation is only as strong as the unity of its political leadership – this I fervently believe. Sir Michael constantly reminded all of the need to guard our unity as one regional family closely.”

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