Papua New Guinea Parliament Pays Tribute To Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare

Founding Father steps down after 49 years in government

By Jeffrey Elapa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, ) – The final day of the ninth Parliament yesterday was reserved for the founding father of Papua New Guinea – Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare.

With 49 years of politics tucked under his belt he was welcomed in style into the chambers and farewelled a few hours later by a grateful House, befitting a leader whose reign made national as well as Commonwealth history.

The House was filled to capacity with politicians, parliamentary staff and the public, including school children.

About 11.50am, the Speaker, Theodore Zurenuoc, came into the chamber for the last time and opened the final session with a prayer.

After the prayer he called on Leader of Government Business, James Marape, to introduce the motion to suspend all other business and allow the farewell ceremony to proceed, and that was accepted by the Parliament.

Mr Marape said it was fitting for Parliament to farewell Sir Michael on April 4 because he was elected to the then second House of Assembly on April 4, 1968.

He then moved the motion and the Speaker then asked the sergeant-at-arms to bring in the Grand Chief.

Sir Michael was led into the chamber, flanked by members of the National Alliance, including party leader Patrick Pruaitch at the rear.

Sir Michael, looking sprightly with his walking stick was led to the Chamber through the main corridor. He faced the Speaker and the Clerk and moved to his seat as Members of Parliament, the public and press gallery stood up in respect and applauded.

Mr Zurenuoc then asked Sir Michael to make his farewell speech to which he stood up, took out his notes and read his speech.

From time to time the chamber and the public gallery clapped as he talked about his achievement taking PNG to Independence although foreigners and critics said his founding Pangu Party was not capable, and in serving his people for the past 49 years.

Sir Michael was elected as regional member for East Sepik in the House of Assembly in 1968, a seat he has held until retirement.

Although his farewell was scheduled for tomorrow, the Government coalition decided to bring forward his farewell to yesterday, a surprise for many including the Opposition.

Earlier, the National Alliance Party and Sir Michael decided to boycott the Parliament Session and the farewell ceremony in Parliament and did not attend the Government caucus.

The only member of the NA party present for the caucus meeting was Kairuku-Hiri MP Peter Isoaimo.

After Sir Michael’s farewell speech, Parliament rose and ended the ninth Parliament by Sir Michael and return of a new Government which is to be formed about August.

Lady Veronica Somare, who sat in the public gallery, was escorted as she waited for the Grand Chief to come out of the chamber. She also received a hug and well wishes from the Members of Parliament near the Speaker’s office.

The Parliament gate was full of well-wishers clapping hands while the media had their cameras flashing and taking pictures of Sir Michael and Lady Veronica. They walked out of Parliament waving hands and saying thank you as they proceeded to the state function room, flanked by Members of Parliament.

PNG Post-Courier
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