Sir Michael’s special gift

Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare with his good friend and mentor Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara when they were both prime ministers of their nations.

GRAND Chief Sir Michael Somare had been planning to personally take a special gift to Fiji to mark the country’s 50th independence anniversary tomorrow, October 10.
It is a carving on two poles done by his Murik Lakes people of Mendam, East Sepik to honour his late friend and mentor Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, the first Prime Minister of Fiji who took his country to Independence on Oct 10, 1970.
Sir Michael was planning to take it personally to Ratu Sir Kamisese’s Tubou village in Lakeba, Lau this month and have it planted near his grave.
Sir Michael had attended the late high chief’s funeral in April 2004 at the chiefly burial site in the middle of the village. He was one of the few dignitaries allowed onto the chiefly burial ground to witness the final rituals reserved only for high chiefs.
Sir Michael wants to have the special Murik Lakes carving placed next to the chiefly burial site.
But Sir Michael had to postpone the trip this month because of the travel restrictions.
The carvings are still at his home in Wewak.
Yesterday from his home, Sir Michael spoke about the special bond he had with Ratu Sir Kamisese and Fiji.
“As Fiji celebrates 50 years of independence, I wish to congratulate PM Bainimarama, MPs and the people, particularly those who were involved earlier on in the independence of Fiji. I can’t remember the names but I have a good connection.
“Fiji showed an example to most of the countries in the Pacific, particularly PNG. My special interest with Fiji is because I became very good friends with Ratu. He led his nation to independence. It’s a proud moment for Fijians to celebrate 50 years of independence. We have just celebrated 45 years of independence in PNG.”
In 2009, Sir Michael released a book about the life of Sir Kamisese, titled Tuimacilai: The Life of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.
He described the Ratu Sir Kamisese as an “iconic pillar of hope and strength in the South Pacific”, and a good friend and mentor.
“I do so also as a gesture of appreciation for the privilege Ratu Mara had afforded me to be counted among his friends.
“For me personally, the Tui Nayau (Ratu Sir Kamisese traditional chiefly title) was my mentor who I have tried to emulate but will never equal, whose counsel I have valued but have since missed and whose friendship I did not deserve but will always treasure.”
Sir Michael said he had deep respect for Sir Kamisese because “the man represented everything that is good, noble and proper in a leader. Ratu Mara commanded respect not only in Fiji but abroad as well”.
Sir Kamisese was 84 when he passed away.
Both leaders had been close and often discussed issues of mutual interest about their nations and assist each other when facing difficulties.
Both keen golfers, they started a PNG-Fiji annual golf competition where PNG golfers travelled to Fiji take part in the event. One was held at the Pacific Harbour golf course in Deuba where the PNG-owned Pearl Resort is located.
Ratu Sir Kamisese was Chief Minister from 1967 to 1970, when Fiji gained its independence from the United Kingdom. And apart from a brief interruption in 1987, he was PM from 1970 to 1992.
He served as President from 1993 to 2000.
Sir Michael concluded that no book could measure or tell the life of any great leader such as Sir Kamisese as there were many deeds that went unnoticed behind public eye.
He said the book Tuimacilai “admirably assembled together a mosaic that brought out a picture of a man deeply steeped in culture and tradition, well educated, thrust into the responsibilities of leadership, more by circumstance than by choice”.
At his home in Wewak yesterday where his special gifts remained, Sir Michael wished all Fijians the best.
“I know it’s a happy moment for all Fijians in PNG and in Fiji. On behalf of the people of PNG, I wish to congratulate Fiji. God bless you all.”

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