By MIRIAM ZARRIGA
A 70-YEAR-OLD man remembers Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare in his home at Ramalmal, Rabaul, East New Britain.
He sits back and takes a deep breath, knowing the words he speaks will be noted and read by many.
Slowly, he steadies himself.
I can hear him having trouble speaking.
I know the loss has hit him hard, but before he says anything I greeted him: “Malana.”
There is a hint of relief in his voice as he replied: “Malana.”
He then proceeded to tell a tale of a sandal.
“My name is Allan Tolire, I was serving with the Royal PNG Constabulary from 1970 to 2007 when I officially retired from active duties, returning home to Rabaul,” he said.
“I am a father of three, with four grandchildren.
“After joining the police, I was stationed at the mobile squad’s Tomaringa base in East New Britain.
“In 1978, I was transferred to the main base of the special services division in Port Moresby known as McGregor Barracks.
“It was there, I was part of a team stationed to protect Sir Michael and his family.
“We worked in rotation, from standing at the gate to following the ‘Chief’ as we called him.
“In 1988, I was told that I would be driving for Sir Michael, I was honoured but apprehensive as to how I would serve a great leader such as Sir Michael.
“He was kind, often talking to me and engaging me in conversation.
“In my first trip overseas, we travelled to New York in 1989, I had never travelled outside and I was nervous, but he told me everything would be okay.
“We were supposed to travel to San Francisco but I remember there was an earthquake and we could not travel.
“Two years prior to my retirement in 2005, I travelled with the chief to New Zealand for a regional summit.
“On the way back, we stopped over at Brisbane Airport.
“We were stopped by airport security. The staff there had our passports and visas.
“I was behind Sir Michael as we were going through security.
“We walked towards the security check when they told us to stop and wait.
“The protocol and media team that travelled with us had already left the security checkpoint while we were still inside.
“The airport security told us to remove our belts, shoes and I enquired about why we had to remove our belts and shoes.
“They said it was for security purposes and they had to do it.
“I was trying to say more when the chief put his hand on me and told me not to say anything else, he turned to them and asked them: Why are you treating me like this?
“They didn’t reply.
“We left the airport with me carrying a bag, my belt and shoes while Sir Michael held his sandals.
“The officers who were with us saw chief holding his sandals and asked what had happened.
“There was an issue between Australia and PNG for a time.
“Chief was kind.
“When I announced my retirement from the police force and as his staff, Sir Michael took my wife and I out for dinner and formally thanked me.
“He offered to look after me after I returned to Rabaul but I declined his offer, telling him that what he taught me and his generosity were enough for me.
“I will forever be thankful to chief for his kind words and wisdom.”
Sir Michael’s passing was peaceful, says Sir John
CARDINAL Sir John Ribat has described the passing of Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare as peaceful, without pain or suffering.
Sir John told The National that Sir Michael was prepared and ready for the moment, without pain or struggle.
“All Sir Michael asked was to go to church and receive the Holy Eucharist, nothing more,” he said.
Sir John said he visited Sir Michael and he told him that when he was discharged from the hospital, he would attend mass at St Joseph parish.
“I told Sir Michael that he will not go,” he said.
“I told him that we will have a combined mass together with Lady Veronica and the children in the hospital.”
He said from his looks, Sir Michael was prepared.
“He knew what he wanted and was aware that he was not alone in his sickness,” he said.
“As long as Lady Veronica was present at his side, she reached out to hold his hands, she was assuring him that she is truly with him in that very challenging and difficult moment.”
Sir John said he was privileged to journey with Sir Michael, Lady Veronica and their children in his (Sir Michael) last moments of life.
“At that moment, I could clearly see the importance of the value of unity that he saw and always emphasised.”
Sir John said Sir Michael seeking help from God and his family at that time was the right thing to do.
Somare family touched by younger generation’s sorrow
By CLIFFORD FAIPARIK
THE number of children between 13 and 15 who turned up to express their sorrow and sadness to the Somares at the passing of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare “blew away” the family, a family member said.
“A seven-year-old child cried in my arms expressing that he heard it in school of the passing of dad and Tunga,” daughter Dulciana said.
“The sadness is so overwhelming and is capable of collapsing,” she said of their emotions during the first haus krai and each one that followed.
Overwhelming pride and sadness were the overriding emotions for the family who were particularly moved by the younger generation.
“I’m blown away by that and it is a good feeling to see generational respect that has been shown to my father, mother and family,” Dulciana said.
“This generation didn’t hold hands with my dad to bring independence for our country.
“Children at the age of 15 and 13 came in droves to our small haus krai at our house to grieve.”
Dulciana spoke on Tuesday night during the Central and Gulf people’s night to mourn the first prime minster at the Sir John Guise Stadium haus krai.
“Every day I’m delighted that so many Papua New Guineans have an individual story to tell about my father and that was his nature of his entire being,” she said.
“First of all, such courage, incredible humour, huge ability to forgive, an incredible ability to be a Papua New Guinean and to unite an entire country.
“I’m very proud of the fact that my father, first of all, was not from Karau village, he was not from Murik Lakes, Angoram or East Sepik, he was not a Tolai, he was a Papua New Guinean – right from the very beginning.”