Michael Somare, PNG’s ‘father of the nation’, useless at 84 | Obituaries Information
The four-time prime minister of the Pacific island nation, who led independence from Australia, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February.
Papua New Guinea’s first Prime Minister Michael Somare has died at the age of 84, his daughter said on Friday.
Known as the “Father of the Nation”, Somare led the Pacific Archipelago to independence from Australia in 1975 and served as Prime Minister four times.
Somare, also known as “The Chief” by his compatriots, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early February, his daughter Betha Somare said in a statement.
She said many Papuan New Guineans hugged their father as their own “father and grandfather”.
Prior to independence, Somare was Prime Minister of the Australian-administered Papua New Guinea Territory. He was last head of state for a short time in 2011.
Somare was PNG Prime Minister four times and has been called the “Father of the Nation”. [File: Richard Dellman/AFP]Somare only stepped down from politics in 2017 after 49 years as a MP.
PNG Prime Minister James Marape said the former leader was now rested from the “pains and toil of life”.
“Our nation honors this great leader, the founder and longest serving Prime Minister of our country,” said Marape in a statement, appealing for a week of silence, peace and tranquility as the country pays its respects.
“He is unmatched by any of us who come after him,” he added.
“Great friend to Australia”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote in a tweet on Friday that Somare was the founding father of a democratic and independent PNG and a “great friend” of Australia.
Somare’s death also marks the end of an era for the amazingly diverse nation, having more than 800 languages, a wide variety of tribal groups, and grappling with some of the highest levels of poverty in the Asia-Pacific region.
Vale Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, founding father of the democratic and independent #PNG and a great friend of Australia. My condolences go out to his family, Prime Minister Marape and the people of PNG. Australians stand by your side during this time of sadness. Rest in peace.
– Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) February 25, 2021
“He was a great figure, he is an icon in Papua New Guinea politics,” Sinclair Dinnen, a Pacific expert from the Australian National University in Canberra, told AFP.
“He has a status that nobody else has. He is considered the father of independence. Some would attribute his influence to the fact that he held this very difficult country together in the post-independence era. “
Somare was controversial and earned the wrath of neighboring Australia in 2006 when he ignored an extradition request from then Solomon Islands Attorney General Julian Moti to be charged with child sexual abuse.
He stepped aside in late 2010 so a senior court could hear allegations that he failed to file several financial statements during the 1990s.
He was eventually suspended for two weeks after being found guilty of official misconduct.
He took an extended vacation in April 2011 and underwent several heart surgeries in Singapore before being controversially removed when MPs vacated his seat due to his extended absence due to illness.
PNG is a mountainous and sprawling nation that is rich in resources and minerals, including oil, gas, gold, and copper.
Linguistically, it is one of the largest island economies in the South Pacific, although it came to an end in 1998, particularly during the ten-year civil war in the Bougainville area that killed up to 20,000 people.