It is with much sadness and sorrow that New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan learned of the passing of his dear friend and fellow founding father Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare.
Sir J after returning from a hectic trip to New Hanover the night before, awoke to the sad news this morning at his home in Kavieng, New Ireland Province.
Sir J described Sir Michael as a humble and natural born leader who was destined to lead the Independent Nation of Papua New Guinea.
He conveyed his deepest sympathy to Lady Veronica Somare and their five children Betha, Sana, Arthur, Michael Jnr, Dulciana and their families at this time.
“I want to add my voice to what I know is already a chorus of voices acknowledging and confirming the pivotal and influential role played by the Grand Chief, Sir Michael Somare in the history of Papua New Guinea.
Who could have foreseen that the birth of a child on April 9, 1936 in Rabaul was the beginning of a journey that would not only carry Sir Michael through a tumultuous and exciting life, but would also lead to the birth of a new nation, a diverse nation of a thousand tribes, unlike any other nation ever born in the history of the world,” said Sir J.
Going back 53 years ago Sir J recalled both he and Sir Michael being elected back to the Second House of Assembly in 1968. “ I remember those early days very well. They were days of adventure, days of daring dreams, days when it seemed we could do almost anything we dreamed of doing. It was a small group in those first days, a small group of dreamers. It included Sir Michael and myself, Sir John Guise, Sir Albert Maori Kiki, Sir John Kaputin and just a few others.
“And we both shared what seemed at first like a fantastic dream – that the territories of Papua and New Guinea should come together – and not only come together, but come together as an Independent Country, a member of the World of Nations, standing on our own two feet, equal to any in the world.”
He remembers following the third House of Assembly elections in 1972 when they formed Government. Sir Michael and Pangu joined with the PPP to form a partnership that would take the country to Independence. Sir Michael headed Government, became Chief Minister with Self Government in 1973, and Sir J served as Minister for Internal Finance.
“And we got down to work. Together with the others I have mentioned we took on the greatest challenge in the history of any country – the challenge to be independent, the challenge to be free. “
He said Sir Michael was the captain of the Ship, with a great crew by his side he maneuvered through uncharted waters. He had to keep a country of a Thousand tribes United, even though some parts of the country were adamant on breaking away.
“We knew that if our country split apart – if our country became the country of Papua, the country of New Guinea and the country of Bougainville, we would be lost. We needed each other. If we were divided we would have been much weaker. Papua New Guinea can never repay the debt we have to Michael Somare.”