By MIRIAM ZARRIGA
THE final Independence Day celebration which Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare attended was last year in Kavieng, New Ireland.
As I stood on the stage at the Catholic Church Mission Oval in Kavieng town taking pictures, I heard someone behind me asking: “Yu sanap wokim wanem? (Why are doing standing there?)”
I had a media pass and I turned to say something sarcastic to the person questioning me. It was Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare who was seated near Governor Sir Julius Chan.
I could only smile back at him probably to hide any hint of shock and embarrassment on my face.
He asked me if I was a reporter. I replied in the affirmative. He enquired about where I came from.
When I said New Hanover, he said he could tell I was from there.
He knew “great people” from New Hanover including a teacher who had taught with him at the Utu Secondary School. He asked me to take a picture of him. I nervously did so, thanked him and left.
Such a simple “big man”, I thought.
Last Thursday during the public haus krai in Port Moresby, the people of New Ireland presented a Malagan Mask, a spear, and Mis (shell money) to son Arthur Somare.
Sir Michael had gifted Governor Sir Julius Chan with a large wooden carving of himself when he was invited to Kavieng last September to open the Legislative Assembly building on Independence Day.
He reminisced about his early teaching days in Kavieng, living in a one-bedroom unit near the Utu Intermediate School in 1956.
Sir Michael opened the upgraded road to the school now called the Somare Avenue.
He remembered Utu for the “rain trees and the waves on the beachfront, but more importantly, it was during those formative years of my short teaching experience that I learned the valuable virtues of leadership”.
“Not one of us is perfect. While we each have our strengths, we also have our weaknesses.
“We are leaders, sometimes elected and appointed and sometimes traditional. Leadership carries responsibilities, not as the first prize of a popularity contest.
“Leadership is not easy. There are pressures we face but we have been chosen to serve and serve we must.”
He treasured that friendship and association with Sir Julius.
“I worked with Sir Julius to establish the foundations and pillars of our country. We formed the coalition in 1972 and sealed our resolve to take our country to self-government and independence.
“Sir Julius was the chief engineer who guided the ship through unchartered waters. I don’t know any other who was as dedicated and hardworking as Sir Julius.”
He recalled that Sir Julius’ achievements included being the first Minister for Finance, engineered the creation of the Bank of PNG, established the PNG Banking Corporation and gave the country its Kina and toea currency.”
He remembered that during the launching of the currency, a telegram message came through announcing the birth of Sir Julius’ son.
“We toasted and named the son Toea. He is now 45 years old.”
Sir Michael remembered Utu in Kavieng as where his leadership skills were nurtured.
He took the country to independence, became the first prime minister, and was in leadership roles throughout his life.
“By being leaders, we must be prepared to work hard and make tough decisions when necessary, and be prepared to accept responsibility for our decisions.”
By MIRIAM ZARRIGA