By HELEN TARAWA
SIR Michael Somare says Papua New Guinea is in the Commonwealth for the benefit of everybody in the country.
As chief guest at the Commonwealth Day celebration in Parliament yesterday, the former prime minister said PNG’s presence at the Commonwealth heads of government meetings had opened new doors and opportunities.
“It brings PNG to have closer ties with other countries in Africa, Europe, the Caribbeans, Americas and Asia-Pacific,” he said.
“I’m proud to be able to sit here today in front of you in this Parliament, it’s only a privileged position, I’ve done 49 years of Parliament and I believe I have the right to sit down and talk to you,” Sir Michael said.
He said at independence he decided upon a Westminster-type of democracy where PNG set its course and achieved it quite well.
“I’m glad to speak to you today on this very important day and the highlight was on September 16, 1975,” the grand chief said.
“The month of September is when the Japanese surrendered and we selected that day for independence of PNG. It was the end of the battle of Coral Sea in World War II. It was the beginning of new dawn and modern history.
“We chose to be part of the Commonwealth because we accepted the Queen as the head of state and she is represented by the governor-general.
“When we wrote the constitution, we accepted the Queen as the head of state.
“Our decision at the time to join the Commonwealth of Nations in 1975 was an important choice for a young, emerging country.”
The longest serving parliamentarian in the Commonwealth, Sir Michael said the decision helped shape the country into a vibrant democracy with peace, prosperity and unity under the Commonwealth values and insights.
“We the forefathers embrace the Commonwealth as a uniting factor and an important partner to extend our democracy and expose our new country to find its place in the global economy,” he said.
By HELEN TARAWA