FORMER PNG LEADER TO HAVE STATE FUNERAL

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 5) – A Papua New Guinea government-chartered aircraft will fly the body of former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister and National Capital District Regional Member of Parliament Sir William Skate to Port Moresby on Saturday.

Acting Prime Minister and Petroleum and Energy Minister Sir Moi Avei, who preceded a press conference in Port Moresby with a one-minute silence, told reporters the Government had asked Sir William’s family for him to be accorded a full state funeral. The National Capital District Regional Member of Parliament’s family is yet to respond to the Government’s request.

Skate, former Parliament Speaker, and also Opposition Leader, died on Tuesday morning in Brisbane’s Wesley Hospital after he was evacuated to Australia on Friday night suffering a heart attack last Tuesday.

Warning the public not to take the opportunity to be involved in criminal activities, Sir Moi said Sir William’s widow Lady Rarua Skate, Papua New Guinea’s High Commissioner to Australia Charles Lepani, and selected Government ministers will accompany the casket back to Port Moresby.

The flying of the body to Port Moresby on Saturday was deliberately timed to enable the Member of Parliament’s city supporters to pay their last respects, in what could be a solemn occasion throughout the city.

Police have not ruled out the possibility of the event getting rowdy. City Hall shut its doors yesterday and sent its workers home in a mark of respect for the city’s Regional Member of Parliament though there were indications it was a precautionary move by the National Capital District Commission management in light of fears that its properties could be vandalized.

Sir William’s body will be kept at the Port Moresby Funeral Home after its arrival on Saturday and moved to the family residence on Sunday. On Tuesday, it will be moved under police escort to the city’s Kaugere settlement where Sir William grew up as a child and in the afternoon to Pari village, the home of Lady Rarua. It will lie in state in Parliament on Wednesday, which Sir Moi indicated would be the only day for public viewing before the proposed state funeral is held on Thursday. The body will be returned to the family after the funeral service though they are yet to make a decision on Sir William’s final resting place.

Tributes flowed in from the Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane, Western Highlands Governor Paias Wingti, Chief Ombudsman Ila Geno, Moresby Northeast Member of Parliament Caspar Wollom, and Autonomous Bougainville Government President Joseph Kabui. They all praised Sir William for standing up for the grassroots population and being a straight shooter on issues he disagreed with.

January 5, 2006

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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