FRAIL FORMER PNG LEADER HOBBLES TO PARLIAMENT

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‘Grand Chief’ Somare prevents disqualification from seat

By Jonathan Tannos PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 5, 2011) – "Grand Chief," Sir Michael Somare, yesterday stepped back on home soil to an emotional and rousing national hero’s welcome looking frail but highly spirited.

And he will turn up in Parliament on Tuesday afternoon but as to sitting arrangements, he has not yet been formally advised by the Clerk or Speaker where he will sit.

His return is critical to maintaining his seat by being physically present in Parliament so as not to miss three consecutive sittings which would have disqualified him as a Member of Parliament.

On arrival, he emphasized respect for the Constitution was paramount and he would await the final verdict of the Supreme Court

reference over his displacement on August 2, 2011 while undergoing medical treatment in Singapore.

He had undergone three heart operations since April. Incidently the father of the nation, as he is affectionately known, arrived home on Father’s Day.

Sir Michael said he still had the fighting spirit and his medical team say his recovery has been satisfactory.

He said he had been ill for a long time, causing some loss of memory but insisted "I am a fighter and I have made it to work".

Although a little bit more soft spoken than he normally is, Sir Michael stepped off the Singapore inbound flight just before 9am and walked through the arrival terminal and into the VIP lounge unaided but with his walking stick.

The international arrival terminal entrance was jammed packed with people from all walks of life and virtually from almost all provinces in the country loudly hailing his return.

A traditional sing-sing group from his home province of East Sepik also put on a welcome performance.

He was met at the airport by senior bureaucrats, staff, National Alliance party executives, family members and members of his original Cabinet.

In the VIP lounge, he was met by an emotional Governor General, Michael Ogio, whose flight to East New Britain Province was delayed in order for him to officially welcome Sir Michael before departing.

Ironically, no member of the O’Neill-Namah Cabinet turned up to meet Sir Michael with the other high ranking officials.

In the VIP lounge, he paused to take a quick rest after the long flight and where he gave a very brief statement to VIPs and officials in his soft-spoken but still charismatic manner witnessed by the Governor General. "It is us that would destroy this nation and it is us that would make the nation," Sir Michael said when emphasising respect for the Constitution.

He said while the nation was on the verge of progress, he warned of tough times ahead as well.

He said having reflected from the outside, there was a need to be accountable and responsible for actions taken which should be correct and in accordance with the Constitution.

While acknowledging the presence of the Governor General and members of his former cabinet, Sir Michael urged bureaucrats to perform their normal duties and mainly to uphold the laws of the land. Outside the VIP lounge, he met a delegation of East Sepik leaders and senior citizens who came to welcome him. He was then whisked away to the arrival entrance to board his official vehicle to be taken to his home to rest.

His vehicle was swamped by supporters spilling outside the driveway virtually blocking traffic for a while.

On departure his windows were wound down in order for him to wave at the crowd of well wishers. Doctors accompanying him are insisting he takes as much rest as he can.

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