NOOSA – The Rt Hon Mekere Morauta KCMG (popularly known as Sir Mek), Papua New Guinea’s prime minister from 1999-2002 and regarded as one of its greatest constitutional and economic reformers, has died from cancer in Brisbane aged 74.
His wife, Lady Roslyn Morauta, released a brief statement saying, “It is with the deepest sadness that Roslyn and James Morauta announce that their much loved husband and father, Sir Mekere Morauta KCMG, died peacefully in Brisbane on Saturday 19 December”.
He was born in 1946 at Kukipi village in Gulf Province, his father Councillor Morauta Hasu a leader of the Toaripi people and deacon of the London Missionary Society (later the United Church).
In 1970 Sir Mekere was the first economics graduate from the University of Papua New Guinea and by 1975 had become the first Papua New Guinean head of the finance department, a position he held for seven years.
He became managing director of the PNG Banking Corporation (1983–92) then governor of the Bank of PNG, the country’s central bank.
He retired in 1994 to become a successful businessman, handing over the businesses to his wife, Roslyn to run for and win the seat of Moresby North-West in national parliament. He held the seat across the 23 years from 1997-2012 and 2017-20.
After becoming prime minister in 1999, Sir Mekere embarked on an urgent and ambitious period of reform.
At the time the PNG economy was on the brink of collapse, with government finances in disarray and a spiralling currency.
He devised and led a rescue package which stabilised the economy and the budget, strengthened state institutions and introduced major reforms to the financial sector, especially in banking and superannuation, and to the public sector.
Constitutional changes were introduced which brought political stability and laid the foundation for the orderly development of political parties.
His death has sparked much grief amongst people in PNG and abroad.
“Much of what we have today in PNG government institutions was from Sir Mek. He was our reformist leader and we will surely miss his leadership,” said Gibson Holemba. “What a leader!”
Rebecca Kuku said he will be “remembered for undertaking many legislative reforms and policy outcomes.”
“I have known Sir Mekere for most of my life. He was a great and exceptionally smart leader, a great Papua New Guinean and a kind and gentle person. He will be missed deeply by millions.”
Noted PNG commentator Martyn Namorong said Sir Mekere was “one of the greatest Papua New Guinean statesmen, reformers and nation builders. Thank you for your service to this nation.”
While Bethanie Harriman said simply, “Your people mourn.”
Funeral and haus krai arrangements for Sir Mekere
Lady Roslyn Morauta and James Morauta have advised that a funeral service for their late husband and father, Rt Hon Sir Mekere Morauta, will be held in Brisbane at St Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point, on Wednesday 23 December at 2pm.
It will be live-streamed on www.facebook.com/saintmaryskpt, for family and friends in Papua New Guinea.
Owing to Covid-19, it is not possible to arrange an official haus krai at this time.
However arrangements are being made for a memorial service in Port Moresby once travel circumstances permit and family matters are completed in Australia. The service will take place early next year.
Should there be an unofficial haus krai, Lady Roslyn and James ask that no donations be made.