Grand Chief bowing out


Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare with Prime Minister James Marape at the Late Sir Mekeres State Viewing in Port Moresby in January – Nationalfile pic

FORMER speaker Theo Zurenuoc admitted he did not have enough words to summarise the contributions of the founding father and prime minister Sir Michael Thomas Somare’s contributions to the country when he retired from active politics in 2017 after 49 years.
This is what he said in parliament when farewelling Sir Michael: “It will be a daunting task to summarise the contributions of Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare.
“Even my own attempts would fall short of describing the man, Papua New Guineans both young and old have come to know and adore as father of the nation or ‘papa blo kantri’.
“A man whose impeccable accomplishments and reputation towers above all of us. A few of you Members of Parliament have had the privilege of working with him some in the early years of pre-independence and post-independence.
“Some watched and understood his actions, yet some of us were school kids who did not fully understand what the word independence meant when Papua and New Guinea united under Sir Michael Somare.
“They marched to independence in September 16, 1975. The declaration of our independence from our colonial masters and the adoption of Papua New Guinea Constitution is a culmination of long hours and days, weeks, months and years of planning and preparation by Sir Michael and the founding fathers of our nation.”
“Grand Chief Sir Michael first entered the House of Assembly (now National Parliament) in 1968 and has been an MP up until this term of parliament where he will not re-contest his seat as governor of East Sepik.
“First he became the chief minister and the founding prime minister and the rest is of course history.
“Sir Michael’s story will be chiseled in the history books of Papua New Guinea for as long as we remain united, independent sovereign state.
“Sir Michael was born on the 9th of April, 1936, in Rabaul where his father, Ludwig Somare Sana, was stationed as a policeman. He married Lady Veronica Somare in 1965.
“Somare, a man from Murik Lakes in Sepik River Basin in East Sepik had a dream.
“He dreamt the idea of independence for Papua New Guinea.
“While many, many Papua New Guineans shy away with the idea of independence, Somare did not wait for the golden opportunity, in fact, he seized the opportunity, made the circumstances conducive, and, thereafter, Papua New Guinea gained independence in 1975.
“We all know that he is a teacher and radio journalist by profession but he left public service and contested the elections for the second house of assembly in 1968.”
Zurenoc counted himself privileged and honoured to be in the speaker’s chair, to farewell the father of the nation.
“For me, personally, it has been an ultimate honour to serve alongside the founding father, who has never lost relevance and to this hour.
“He’s continuously coming around to remind us, the young leaders, the vision he had when he led the country to independence through various statements and actions he has taken.”
Opposition leader Don Polye shared similar sentiments when he farewelled the Grand Chief.
“I am speechless. This House will miss him. PNG will miss him, too, he said.
“Further, our 8 to 10 million people of PNG will miss you (Sir Michael) in politics. We all will miss his quality leadership and godly stewardship. We will also miss you, Lady Veronica Somare. I will miss you personally.
“When great leaders like you (Sir Michael) are around, we take your leadership for granted. When you are gone, we will learn that we have overlooked many things in you. Those will be like a missing link creeping in. We will regret having had more interactions with you, Sir.
“When there was a frost-induced famine in Kandep, everyone was in dire need of food supplies.
“I was assured by my mother Akim that there was someone by the name of ‘Somare’ who was going to supply us with bags of rice. My own father, Polye, also confirmed that. When I was four in 1974, supplies of relief supplies were brought to us as assured.
“Thank you, Sir Michael. That Somare did send a car to rescue me and the people of Kandep to migrate to Kuli tribe in Western Highlands.
“I contested the 2002 General Election under that Somare’s National Alliance Party. Today, is a very rare and peculiar moment for someone who has raised. It is so hard. I can’t believe it is a farewell.
“We all need to learn from his legacy and greatness. I wish he continued his political career.
“You are a source of my pride and honour in a humble way. I, as a young politician, served you in various ministerial portfolios.”
Zurenuoc sincerely hoped that current and future leaders alike would learn from Sir Michael’s experience and that of his colleagues to be better equipped to respond to the rapid and ever changing society in a dynamic global environment.
Polye shared the same sentiment.
“I see him (Sir Michael) as a moulder and builder of other leaders. I learnt skills of being strong leader, honesty and truthful, integrity and prudent governance. Sir Julius Chan and others also shares with him these principles. The country’s leadership will miss him for those values he possesses. He is a champion in other areas.
“Somare possesses servant leadership. I want to emulate it. He has got a conscientious leadership. “He doesn’t impose on his ministers and other MPs. He is consultative. He has high moral uprightness and morality.
“He is progressive and transformational. He is visionary with high integrity. He is our founding father. He is a great leader.
“Having said these, it is justified that Somare is the father of nation!
“You (Sir Michael) should be a proud man. Here is your creation. Parliament is full of leaders you have nurtured and cultured. It is a great achievement for the country.
“That is not enough. Living by those principles he possesses is only a means to remember and grace his legacy. Let us be servants like you, too. In this way, we will live his legacy. Let us read his book ‘Sana.’ He is an interesting and peculiar, cultural, unique and relevant leader in the 21st Century.
“Your leadership is alive but I farewell you.
The speaker of parliament also paid tribute to Lady Veronica and Sir Michael’s family for sharing their beloved husband, father and grandfather to not only the country but the global community as well during his decades of politics.
“Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare, I wish you well in your retirement as the nation allows you to return to the quietness and comfort of your loving family and home where your ever faithful, hardworking and supportive Lady Veronica, all your children and many grandchildren will receive you – this time to keep as their own,” he said.
“Lady Veronica, we acknowledge you and your family, for supporting a great man all his life in his service to our beloved country.
“Grand Chief, may you find happiness and take measure in watching from a distance as the country you led to independence grows from strength to strength and finds its place and relevance in the fast and changing global community.
Polye said: “He is a strong family man. I admire you. Lady Veronica is a great lady in a quiet way. Around the world, women of her caliber make grandstanding speeches. However, her leadership in silence is powerful. Her quietness and openness is a great speech. She made Somare a great man. “Let’s emulate her. We need that partnership.
While acknowledging the Somare family, Zurenuoc also thanked the people of East Sepik who have been loyal to Sir Michael over the many years.
“At this juncture, I would also like to pay special tribute to special people, who made him become a national icon.
“He’s a legendary politician out of a simple boy who grew up in his village in Karau in Murik Lakes.
“Congratulations to the people of East Sepik. For you have continuously mandated him every election since the second house of assembly.
“It is undeniable that when we talk about Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare after his retirement, we will definitely not miss mentioning East Sepik. Such will be the legacy and the gift of the people of East Sepik to Papua New Guinea.”

“ Now when I am preparing to step out, my dream for the country I have always loved is that we will always institutionalise the principles of peace.” – Sir Michael