By MIRIAM ZARRIGA
IN his later years, his walking stick was Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare’s constant companion in public.
It accompanied him on many journeys he took in his 50-year political career, more so after he retired.
And there also was the famous flat cap – also called golf or scally cap – that protected him from the sun and gave him a casual relaxed look.
Both items were synonymous with Sir Michael’s public life.
The walking stick and cap were taken along with his sun (basket) and siman (paddle) to the funeral home on Sunday morning where his spirit was called to follow his family to his final resting place in Wewak, East Sepik.
Close family associate Rodney Kamus held the two items in his hand symbolizing the man’s simplicity as Sir Michael’s casket arrived at the Boram airport in Wewak on his final journey home on Sunday.
Kamus and the family knew the traditional importance of calling the spirit of a loved one to follow the family home. They did that in Port Moresby on Sunday at the beginning of Sir Michael’s final journey to Wewak.
Kamus spoke of the cultural significance of that ritual to the family, which is also practised by other tribes around the country.
“I held the two items (walking stick and cap) while Uncle Paul (Bengo) held the sun and siman before we took the casket (from the funeral home). We both called out to him (Sir Michael): Let’s go home!
“We took the items to the Boram Airport where the elders of Murik waited with a canoe for his spirit to begin its journey into the spiritual world.
“The ceremony at the Boram airport tarmac (involved) Uncle Paul handing over the sun and siman. The elders called his spirit into the canoe for his journey to begin.
“The sun and siman were taken by his people but the walking stick and cap will remain with the family. They will decide what to do with the items.
“ We called out to (Sir Michael): Let’s go home.”
“The two items will be present at the funeral ceremony as we farewell him.”
The funeral and burial yesterday ended more than two weeks of national mourning after Sir Michael passed away in Port Moresby on Feb 26 from pancreatic cancer. He would have turned 85 on April 9 – in 23 days’ time.
Tributes from leaders here and abroad, including one from Prince Charles in London, poured in as news of his passing was circulated.
The man dubbed as the “father of the nation” because of his leading role in securing self-government for the country on Sept 16, 1975, was accorded a state funeral.
The Government respected his wish passed through his family that he be buried at his Kreer Heights property in Wewak where a tomb had been prepared for him.
His best mate and golfing buddy Sir Dadi Toka told of their many exploits on the golf course – and surrounding bushes where he said Sir Michael’s ball always ended up.
The Somare family will decide later where they will keep the cap and walking stick that remind so many of the man.
Kamus knows that “what happens to the walking stick and cap will be a collective family decision”.