Radio Days: The ascent of David Hill
The myth of freedom

John Momis: A man of principle

Ted wolfers
Professor Ted Wolfers
John Momis & mic
President John Momis

| Radio New Zealand

AUCKLAND – Australian academic Professor Ted Wolfers says Bougainville's John Momis will be remembered for his ability to draw people together.

In February the Bougainville parliament voted down an attempt to change the Constitution to allow a president to contest a third term.

Last week Dr Momis was denied the chance to continue as president after being in the role for two terms when the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court rejected his claim his constitutional rights were being infringed.

Although he had been president since 2010 his political career began 50 years ago.

Emeritus professor Wolfers taught the young John Momis and then worked with him, writing the PNG Constitution in the early 1970s.

He said part of Dr Momis’s longevity was because he was someone people could turn to at critical moments.

"He hasn't been a pro-active numbers man or anything but someone who stood for principles that often had a wider appeal and of course at times he paid a very heavy price for that.

"It's worth remembering that he was kidnapped in the late nineties and held captive for a couple of weeks by people who didn't agree with him."

Prof Wolfers said Dr Momis must be credited with having brought Bougainvilleans together for last year's referendum vote, which saw almost every person voting for independence from PNG.


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Philip Kai Morre

John Momis is the father of the PNG constitution and he will go down in history. He knew that he could not draft the constitution alone so he had to seek assistance from academics elsewhere.

UPNG was not yet fully functional so the drafting of the constitution was done at Bomana seminary with his schoolmates and professors who were people of his calibre ready to assist.

Amongst them was a canon law professor who did the initial draft of the constitution and a few selected seminarians did the typing in a manual typewriter.

Other experts in law put their inputs and it was done perfectly well. I believe it is one of the best constitutions in the world.

Garry Roche

I only met John Momis once or twice and then only briefly. Prof. Wolfers refers to the participation by Momis in writing the PNG constitution. While Momis did not have a legal background he had studied Philosophy and Logic during his years of preparing for priesthood, and he was well able to argue the various issues that arose. (Ignatius Kilage, Leo Hannet, Theodore Miriung, Fred Reiher, would all have studied with him). There was a story going around that during the drafting of the constitution Momis in responding to a question from an expatriate declared “this matter is apodictic.” (meaning ‘the matter is clearly established beyond dispute’) forcing several of the group to reach for their dictionaries. (And yes, - I myself had to look up the meaning of the word).

Philip Fitzpatrick

I hope Dr Momis doesn't read this because it sounds like an obituary.

There's life in the old dog yet and I can't see Dr Momis lying down any day soon. He will find another way to make his presence felt and it will revolve around what's right for his fellow Bougainvilleans..

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