Papua New Guinea’s Cabinet met today to discuss the formal state funeral programme for former Prime Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare who passed away at the age of 84 in the early hours of this morning. All flags across PNG and overseas missions will be flown at half mast. Papua New Guinea Post-Courier has reported that a two week mourning period begins immediately. Prime Minister James Marape has declared March 1 and 12 a public holiday.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern paid tribute to the former Prime Minister. Prime Minister Ardern says he will be deeply missed and is widely respected as Papua New Guinea’s ‘Papa blo Kantri’ – Father of the Nation.
Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare is described as a giant of Pacific politics. He was known for his role moving PNG from a colonial dependency of Australia to an independent state in 1975. Sir Michael was PNG’s first Prime Minister from 1975-1980, then again from 1982-1985, and 2002-2011.
Outgoing Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor who hails from Papua New Guinea remembers Sir Michael as one of the most humble of leaders who always held his people at heart. She says his effortless lifelong charisma and humility drew people from all walks of life to his side.
“Today, as my memories merge with the currents of remembrance and grief washing over my homeland, especially so soon after the loss of another eminent leader, I pay homage and tribute to the remarkable legacy and service of an extraordinary yet humble man,” says Dame Meg Taylor.
Speaking to Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, PNG Prime Minister James Marape expressed his sorrow at the passing of Sir Michael. “Our nation honors this great leader, the founding and longest serving Prime Minister of our country.
Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare is survived by his wife Lady Veronica (pictured right), their five children and grandchildren, and the tribal family and people of East Sepik
Image: Sir Michael Somare and Lady Veronica Somare, United States Navy