By MIRIAM ZARRIGA
EKONIA Puki was Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare’s bodyguard for 23 years.
He was like a family member.
Puki arrived in Port Moresby last week as Sir Michael’s condition deteriorated in hospital.
“I walked into the hospital and he was sitting up in bed,” he said.
“He recognised me straight away, shouted my name ‘Puki’ and held my hand.
“I sat down with him and we (with Rodney Kamus) started joking, he cracked a smile.
“I stayed with him from Monday to Thursday evening when he passed, we were all there.
“As he went, my tears rolled down as I recalled the memories I had with him, the trips I took with him and his never failing belief in the country.
“He never wavered on his love for PNG and he always ensured he met everyone.
“He was good with names.
“People he had met years ago he remembered their names.
“Sir Michael was kind, never wavered from his belief of seeing the country prosper.”
Puki, from Watom Island, Rabaul, East New Britain, was Sir Michael’s bodyguard from 1990-2013.
He was a senior constable when he served the national security unit in the special services division.
“I have a lot of stories that are now memories. I spent all my time with Sir Michael and while we had the occasional laugh, he was very kind and I got to know him,” Puki recalled.
According to Kamus, Puki always got the blame for their mischievous activities that never went unnoticed by Sir Michael.
“Sir Michael always knew what we got ourselves into, but he never ever treated us badly,” Puki said.
“I would get told off but it was forgiven and forgotten.
“I travelled with him around the world and throughout the country, the stories are there to tell but I would rather keep some for my memories.
“Sir Michael was rare, he always had a kind word to say to everyone and he noticed things and would always ask us what was wrong.
“That was the way he was.”
Midway through our interview and I could hear Puki’s voice breaking.
He was about to break down in tears (so) I switched the conversation to one of their trips.
Puki said: “During a tour of the Highlands, when Sir Michael was prime minister, at every village we were given pig meat (but) Sir Michael didn’t eat pork.
“When we were about to return, we joked about how we couldn’t eat anymore pork if it was given to us.
“Sir Michael, feeling a bit cheeky, made a joke saying yupela tupela inap long kaikai pik tasol, sampela taim, kaikai narapela mit (Try some other meat, do not just eat pork)’.
“That whole day, Sir Michael kept on teasing us.
“He was the best boss and will always be remembered.”
North Fly bans alcohol in respect to Sir Michael
NORTH Fly in Western has slapped a two-month liquor ban as the district mourns the passing of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.
North Fly police commander Chief Insp Silva Sika told The National that the ban would be subject to change if people respected the laws and behaved over the two-week Government-declared mourning period which ends after the funeral.
A total liquor ban started yesterday and ends on April 30.
“This means that the sale of alcohol in all outlets sanctioned by the Western liquor licensing commission board must effectively cease to operate,” he said.
“The restrictions apply to:
- TAKE-away bottle shops and canteens;
- PUBLIC bars in hotels;
- DEALERS; and,
- NIGHT clubs.”
Chief Insp Sika said police would reinforce surveillance exercise during the period of the ban.
Do not take advantage of mourning period, says Guinness
NORTHERN commander and Asst Comm of Police (ACP) Peter Guinness on Monday called on people to take responsibility when setting up haus sori (mourning house) for Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.
He said people should not use it as an opportunity to create problems or ask the Government for financial support to set up houses for mourning.
“When you set up a haus sori at your own will, it is good but don’t make it a place where people gather to create problems,” ACP Guinness said.
“Any expenses incurred should be taken care of by yourself.”
“Sir Michael was a very humble person and he loved everyone and this nation. Now that he has passed away, we have to uphold what he expects from us the citizens of this nation.”
ACP Guinness said opportunists in Lae and the region who tried to get involved in law and order problems had to stop.
“Police will deal with whoever that is trying to create problems and make sure these people face the full force of the law,” he said.
“Police will be out in force.
“Remain at your own residences and stop coming out onto the main roads and disturbing the public.
“This is a wrong approach at this time of national mourning for the founding father of this nation.”
Agarobe speaks of time with Sir Michael
CENTRAL Governor Robert Agarobe regrets not having any political experience with Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.
“I came into Parliament in 2017 when he retired, but I did have a relationship with him as a private citizen,” he said.
“It all started in about 2002 when after returning from overseas as a young helicopter engineer, I was fixing the helicopter in Wewak that the grand chief, as the prime minister, would use to tour East Sepik.”
A tearful Agarobe spoke during Central and Gulf people’s night on Tuesday at Sir Michael’s haus krai at the Sir John Guise Stadium.
“He walked up to me, asked if he could have a word with me so I stopped work,” he said
“He took off his hat and gave it to me because I was working in the sun.
“I refused because I was humbled by the prime minister removing his hat to give it to me.
“But he said ‘Take it, it’s a special hat and I want you have dinner with me tonight’.
“I accepted his hat and had dinner with him and Sir Hugo Berghauser.”
Sir Michael launched Agarobe’s Helifix company at 7-Mile in 2006.
“I saw him not as a prime minister, but as a fatherly figure,” Agarobe said.