By SHIRLEY MAULUDU
DR JOHN Momis, one of the close associates of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare in the initial mapping of the pathway to self-government for the country, will not forget how they first met – after Sunday mass in Wewak.
It was in 1965. Momis, Ignatius Kilage of Chimbu, Leo Hannett and Alexis Sarei both from Bougainville were students at the Holy Spirit Seminary.
“We were studying the theology of liberation and salvation. So a lot of issues that we had to deal with were factored into situations in PNG at that time.
“There was a lot of colonial racism, injustice, discrimination and other issues that affected the lives of Papua New Guineans in such a highly diversified country that it was very difficult for anybody to even think of creating a united nation.”
“ We went to his home. And there it began – our close association that led to a collaborative effort between us to work for this nation.
They attended mass at the Wirui Catholic Cathedral in Wewak that Sunday and afterwards came face to face with Somare who was around 30 then.
In fact, Momis and his three mates did not know who Somare was at the time.
“When we met Michael Somare, he also did not know us from a bar of soap. He did not know us at all.
Yet, he invited us to his home at the foot of Wewak Hill for a barbecue and beer.
“He asked (in pidgin): You Buka and Simbu people, where did you come from?”
They told him that they were students at the seminary.
Momis recalls that Somare told them: “I know you don’t have wives to cook for you. Come to my house for a good meal.”
Momis and his mates accepted the invitation instantly.
“We went to his home. And there it began – our close association that led to a collaborative effort between us to work for this nation.
“Our conversation soon centered on independence and self-determination for PNG. Little did we know that we would be collaborating with other leaders to not only talk about independence but to actually prepare the mama lo (constitution) for this country.”
In 1972, Momis and John Kaputin were both elected to Parliament after they returned from studying in Australia.
“We met Sir Michael who said to us: I hope you have not been brainwashed by our brothers in Australia. Kaputin told him that we could not let the Australians influence us easily. So he was very happy to recruit us and we became his collaborators in developing a constitution.
“The national goals and principles clearly talked about the kind of society – an egalitarian society – which the people of PNG were dreaming about.
“The five national goals and principles were inspired by the churches’ social doctrine which promoted and protected the dignity of human rights, values and principles that are important in developing national policies, economic policies, other kinds of policies, which not only will liberate the people, but empower them to become their own agents of change and development.
“And that is what our constitution actually talks about – man being both the subject that drives things and the object of development.”
Momis, who until last year had been the Autonomous Region of Bougainville President, reminisced about his association with Sir Michael at the State Funeral in Port Moresby on Friday.
He will never forget Sir Michael, especially the lunch and beer at his home in Wewak after mass that Sunday which set off a rewarding and fruitful companionship.