PNG ‘father of the nation’ Michael Somare dies at 84 | Obituaries
The four-time Prime Minister of the Pacific Island nation, who led Australia’s independence, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February.
Papua New Guinea’s first Prime Minister Michael Somare has died aged 84, his daughter announced on Friday.
Known as the “Father of the Nation”, Somare led the Pacific Archipelago to independence from Australia in 1975 and was four times Prime Minister.
Somare, whom his compatriots also call “the chief”, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early February, her daughter Betha Somare said in a statement.
She said many Papua New Guinea embraced her father as their own “father and grandfather”.
Before independence, Somare was the chief minister of the Australian territory of Papua New Guinea. He was most recently the country’s ruler in 2011.
Somare only stepped away from politics in 2017, after 49 years as an MP.
PNG Prime Minister James Marape said the former leader was now rested from “the pain and pains of life”.
“Our nation honors this great leader, the founding and longest serving prime minister of our country,” Marape said in a statement, calling for a week of silence, peace and quiet as the country pays homage.
“He is unmatched by any of us who come after him,” he added.
‘Great friend of 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 “great friend” of Australia.
Somare’s death also marks the end of an era for this incredibly diverse nation, which boasts over 800 languages and a myriad of tribal groups and struggles with some of the highest levels of poverty in the Asia-Pacific region.
Vale Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, founding father of democracy and independence #PNG and a great friend of Australia. My deepest condolences to his family, Prime Minister Marape and the people of PNG. Australians are by your side at this time of sadness. May he rest in peace.
– Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) 25 February 2021
“He is a major figure, he is an emblematic figure of politics in Papua New Guinea,” Sinclair Dinnen, a Pacific expert from the Australian National University of Canberra told AFP news agency.
“He has a status that no one else has. He is considered the father of independence. Some would attribute his influence to keeping this very difficult country together during the post-independence period.
Somare has not been without controversy, winning the ire of neighboring Australia in 2006 when he ignored an extradition request from Solomon Islands Attorney General Julian Moti to face child sex charges.
He stepped down at the end of 2010 so that a management tribunal could hear allegations that he did not file multiple annual financial statements in the 1990s.
He was ultimately suspended for two weeks after being found guilty of official misconduct.
He took an extended leave in April 2011 and underwent several heart operations in Singapore before being controversially fired when parliamentarians declared his seat vacant due to his prolonged absence due to health concerns.
PNG is a mountainous, sprawling nation rich in resources and minerals, including oil, gas, gold and copper.
Linguistically diverse, it is one of the largest island economies in the South Pacific, although it has faced economic hardship and internal conflict, especially during the decade-long civil war in the South Pacific. region of Bougainville which claimed the lives of 20,000 people before it occurred. to an end in 1998.