By KELVIN JOE
RETIRED Sergeant-Major Aibo Medo George, the soldier who raised the PNG flag for the first time on Independence Hill, still remembers the words Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare told him near that flag pole.
It was around 10am that Tuesday, Sept 16, 1975.
Sir Michael approached him and said: “I have confidence in you to show our people today that we are now free to be administrators of our own land.”
Now 90, the father of six, grandfather of 20, and great grandfather of two, is from Bibira village in Musa, Oro.
He had joined the Australia army forces of the Territory of Papua New Guinea on June 7, 1951 as a private, then promoted to Corporal, Sergeant and in 1972 became a Sergeant-Major.
He was serving in the Australian army for more than 20 years before PNG gained independence.
He joined the PNG Defence Force for another seven years before his retirement in 1982.
George was informed two weeks before independence that he had been selected to lower the Australian flag and raise the new PNG flag.
“When Somare knew that I was assigned to lower and raise the flags, he came to ask me if I am confident to take up the duty.
“I told Somare I will stand with pride and confidence to raise the PNG flag. I knew I would be serving my people and country.”
He told Sir Michel that he had sworn an oath to serve the government and the commonwealth countries when he first joined the Australia army forces.
“I made the promise on the bible to, as a soldier, protect the Government, our nation and the Queen.”
He told Somare that he stood ready to be called into a war if there was one.
“I told Somare I am confident to do my duty. From that moment, I knew he could take our country forward.”
When he was told of the passing of Sir Michael last month by one of his children at his home in Goldie, Central, he felt really sad.
His family left him alone. They heard him repeating in a low soft voice: “He was our good prime minister. He was our good prime minister.”
Even though Somare was younger than him, he trusted the man from East Sepik to take the country forward.
“He had the confidence and belief that Papua New Guineans could take over the responsibilities held by the Australians.”
Everyone trusted him to lead the country into independence. Somare was a good prime minister of Papua New Guinea.”
He thanked the people from all over the country for mourning the loss of a great leader.
George is also thankful and considers himself fortunate to have known Sir Michael who brought freedom to the people of PNG.
“His confidence had given us strength and hope.”
By KELVIN JOE