AUCKLAND - It has been almost a week since our country’s founding father, ‘Papa’, Sir Michael Thomas Somare departed for the spiritual world.
Papua New Guineans in country and worldwide are grief-stricken as we come to terms with the loss.
Many have shared their delightful experiences of meeting with him, his words of advice and times spent with him.
Others have posted tributes in the form of magnificent artwork and superb poems. In my sadness, I have been blessed to read and see all these – a PNG that is unified in a great man’s passing.
Today I wanted to share one important PNG history lesson I learnt from Sir Michael’s after his retirement from politics in an interview with renowned journalist Sean Dorney.
Sir Michael Somare briefly talks about instances of racism he saw and felt towards himself and other Papua New Guineans.
It opened my eyes to something I wasn’t fully aware of: openly practiced racism towards Papua New Guineans in their own land not too long ago.
He went on to talk about unifying Papua New Guineans at that time, and the quest to get Papua New Guineans to run their own country.
I shed tears listening to him recount those memories of being treated as less-than.
Whether people my age and the younger generation realise it or not, 16 September, our country’s Independence Day did not just come about.
It was off the shoulders of great men and woman who shared the same values and vision for the people of this great island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean - to be independent, to be free in their own land, and to be treated as equals.
As I type this in a country across the ocean from my beloved PNG, I pay tribute to Sir Michael Somare for leading a team of equally determined Papua New Guineans who took a path of non-violence to seek independence for our beloved country.
They were unified amidst their diverse cultural backgrounds: Papuans, Niugini Islanders, Momase and Highlanders.
They stood together so that their children, grandchildren and generations to come would be treated with respect and dignity
I pen off, remembering Sir Michael’s response to a question about whether he had enough Papua New Guineans to run the country – he knew that the next generation of Papua New Guineans would come, equipped with skills and knowledge to do that.
We are able to do what we do, standing on the shoulders of those before us. Thank you, Sir Michael Somare – rest in eternal peace.
May we as Papua New Guineans be united through your passing and strive for a better PNG for us and our children.
Oroooo! Rest in eternal peace Sir Michael – you lived an exemplary life.
In whatever it is we do in our lives, may we always strive to do better for the common good of our beautiful nation, Papua New Guinea.