By MIRIAM ZARRIGA
CHARISMATIC and passionate is how Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama remembers Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.
Toroama said that efforts of Sir Michael and other MPs who negotiated the release of the Kangu hostages in 1996 in Buin was one key factor in opening up dialogue that led to the peace process on Bougainville.
“A man who is the very personification of this nation, an icon whose legacy is the freedom and vibrant democracy that exists in PNG today,” Toroama said
“Sir Michael had a long and close relationship with Bougainville since the formative years of Papua New Guinea.
“His association with Bougainville goes back to more than half a century when PNG and Bougainville sought independence from Australia.
“It was through this association that he forged a lifelong relationship with the people as well as our early leaders such as Sir Paul Lapun, Sir Donatus Mola, Raphael Bele and Grand Chief Dr John Momis.”
“For us in Bougainville, we will fondly remember him for his charisma and his passion to serve the people.
“It is his passion to serve the people that I must make special mention of his contribution to the Bougainville Peace Process.”
“During the difficult years of the Bougainville Crisis, Sir Michael played an important role in the negotiations.
“In 2002 when he became prime minister, he continued the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) that was signed in 2001.
“Under BPA, Bougainville would become an autonomous region in PNG,” the president said.
“He was still prime minister when his government oversaw the formation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government on June 1, 2005, when the late Joseph Kabui was elected the first president of Bougainville.
“This paved the way for the creation of the ABG and the autonomous arrangements as we have come to know 15 years later.”
“His lasting legacy was his ability to lead a nation of a thousand tribes and unify them under a common goal.
“That was freedom.
“The freedom to express ourselves, the freedom to be masters of our own destiny and the freedom to be diversified yet unified as one nation under God.”
The Islands in Papa’s heart
THE New Guinea Islands (NGI) had a special place in Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare’s heart even though he’s from East Sepik.
Sir Michael had ties with the region because he was brought up there and his grandchildrens’ mums are from there.
Two of Sir Michael’s sons are married to NGI women.
People from New Ireland, East New Britain and West New Britain came in numbers on Thursday to honour him as hymns were sung in English, Tok Pisin and Kuanua languages that Sir Michael spoke.
Governors for the three provinces were present and spoke highly of the leadership that the Grand Chief showed to past and present leaders of the country.
Deputy governor for New Ireland Sammy Missen said the friendship between Sir Michael and Governor Sir Julius Chan was a strong bond through respect and honour.
ENB Governor Nakikus Konga praised Sir Michael’s leadership and spoke on the upbringing of the Grand Chief in the province.
Speaker recalls parliament for Sir Michael’s farewell
SPEAKER of Parliament Job Pomat has recalled Parliament where the body of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare will lie in State and honoured on Thursday.
In a circular issued last week, Pomat announced that Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae had recalled Parliament for that sole purpose.
According to details, Pomat will admit pall-bearers carrying the casket onto the floor of the chamber.
A motion of condolence will be passed by Prime Minister James Marape, which will be seconded by the Opposition Leader Belden Namah.
Both men are expected to give their messages of condolences, along with the Sir Bob, Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika and other MPs.
Marape announced the special parliament sitting last Monday.
“There will be a live broadcast nationwide and schools across the country will be selected, with sites to be set up as a place of reference for the communities and people can gather around to witness the parliamentary proceedings and pay last respect to the Grand Chief,” Marape said.
“We are looking at bringing together all the former MPs and pioneers of the country to fly in for the special sitting and funeral service.
“We want this to be an occasion that every Papua New Guinean citizen can be a part of.” Friday is a declared public holiday with the funeral service to be telecasted from the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium.
“The casket of Sir Michael will stay overnight at the family home on March 13 before departing Port Moresby on March 14, with the proceedings in East Sepik to be handled by the East Sepik government,” Marape said.