PM, Rabuka send condolence messages
GRAND Chief Sir Michael Somare was a great friend of Fiji and the Pacific and had been one of the region’s prominent political leaders for years.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama described Sir Michael as an architect of regional unity who would live on in the hearts of the Pacific people.
Former Fiji prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka in a message sent through the PNG High Commission in Fiji, described Sir Michael as “one of the most prominent figures in the struggle of the newly independent states of the Pacific region, for recognition by the international community, in the wake of the withdrawal of the colonial powers following the end of World War Two, and the subsequent waves of Independence conferences and struggles in the Pacific, Far East, Caribbean and African former colonies.
“He was a fervent advocate for independence for Papua New Guinea and became its first prime minister at Independence in 1975.
“He had multiple terms as prime minister and was a strong advocate for Pacific regionalism, being instrumental in the formation and the early years of the Pacific Islands Forum and the subregional organisation, the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
“Sir Michael along with other prominent Pacific Islands leaders also contributed greatly in the formation and discussions with African, Caribbean and Pacific leaders to form a marketing bloc to negotiate favourable trading conditions and prices for commodities traded in the competitive markets of the West such as the European Economic Community (later European Union).
Rabuka, more widely known in the region for the military coup he staged on May 14, 1987 as a lieutenant-colonel in the Fiji army, to oust a newly-elected government, says Sir Michael always referred to him as “Siti”.
“Sir Michael was a great friend of Fiji, and forged that friendship with Fiji’s own founding Prime Minister, the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, who sent a strong Fiji Government team to help with the preparations and celebrations of PNG Independence in 1975.”
Ratu Sir Kamisese was also 84 when he died in 2004.
In fact, Sir Michael was planning to travel to Fiji last year to present a traditional gift (a carved pole) from his village to be erected near the grave of his friend Ratu Sir Kamisese, to mark Fiji’s 50th independence anniversary. But he was forced to cancel the trip because of the Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Sir Michael however attended the 50th anniversary celebration with the Fijian community in Port Moresby at the Port Moresby Nature Park last October as a guest with National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop.
Last Friday, a delegation of Fijian people working in PNG went to a haus krai at his Four-Mile home in Port Moresby to present traditional gifts.
Rabuka sent his “sincere condolences” on the passing of Sir Michael Somare, using a quote from the Bible: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”