Politics Somare

๐—ฆ๐—ถ๐—ฟ ๐— ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ฒ๐—น ๐—ฆ๐—ผ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ: ๐——๐—ฟ๐˜‚๐—บ๐˜€ ๐—ณ๐—ฎ๐—น๐—น ๐˜€๐—ถ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ฎ๐˜€ ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—น๐—ผ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ณ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฏ๐—ผ๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—ถ๐˜๐˜€ ๐—ต๐—ผ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐˜€

๐˜‰๐˜บ ๐˜™๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜Š๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ฌ – ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ˆ๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ข๐˜ฏย  |ย  Michael Somare, bearded, eager, proud and secure within his own remarkable culture, became the face of Papua New Guinea to the world from the time the first daring troublemakers there began to dream of independence in the 1960s. Even more extraordinarily, he remained to his own people the face that mirrored their national aspirations over almost 50 years.

Other prime ministers came and went โ€” Julius Chan and Paias Wingti, twice each โ€” but when Somare returned to the top job in 2002 after a 17-year gap, he began his longest term in power.

He was knighted, and was awarded the top honour, a member of the Grand Companion of the Order of Logohu, after PNG also introduced its own honours system under his prime ministership in 2005. But he was ubiquitously known as โ€œThe Chiefโ€.

His political longevity was principally owed to three chiefly skills: as a public speaker, both in the national language, Tok Pisin, and in English; as a chairman of the board, maintaining his fissiparous ministers in some kind of order; and as a parliamentary coalition builder and political numbers man, keeping track of the countless trade-offs required to maintain a majority in the PNG political bearpit.

Celebrating 40 years as an MP, Somare said: โ€œI know what PNG politics tastes like.โ€ And to ordinary Papua New Guineans, he remained the embodiment of their bright hopes, which he articulated at independence.

He was the last surviving ยญdeveloping world leader to remain in power from that tumultuous period starting in the 1950s during which the โ€œwinds of changeโ€ โ€” to quote Harold Macmillan โ€” swept away most of the colonial empires acquired so painstakingly over the previous 200 years.

He was first elected to PNGโ€™s parliament by the people of his East Sepik province, on March 16 1968, principally as the countryโ€™s prototype nationalist, setting the path for a fresh model of leadership โ€” neither in the traditional tribal pattern, nor in the mould of the submissive colonial cadet.

He was prime minister three times, from independence in 1975 to 1980 (after being chief minister during the preparatory three years of self-government from 1973), from 1982-85, and then from 2002 until 2011. He represented East Sepik from 1968 to 2017.

He was born in 1936 in Rabaul, where his father was working as a policeman, but grew up in his ยญfatherโ€™s home village of Kurau in the Murik Lakes area of Sepik. His first schooling there was within the Japanese system, and he retained an affection for Japan.

He eventually left home to ยญattend Sogeri High School on the plateau above Port Moresby, the first national institution for the countryโ€™s most talented children, and the crucible for many of the countryโ€™s best leaders.

After that, Somare taught at primary and secondary schools before becoming a broadcaster, for which he returned to Wewak in his home province. In 1965, he came to Port Moresby for training at the Administrative College at Waigani. The timing was crucial. He was not the only independently minded, spirited young man with promise to have been sent to Admin College for some polishing-up, as the Australian colonial managers started to localise the administration.

The institution proved a key, unintentional catalyst for PNGโ€™s drive towards becoming a nation โ€” forged from two separate territories: the colony that was Papua, passed on at the start of the 20th century from Britain, and the UN trust territory that was New Guinea, for which the League of ยญNations had seized responsibility from the Germans after World War I, and had then asked Australia to govern on its behalf.

Tony Voutas and Barry Holloway were bright young Australians working in PNG who identified with those early radical yearnings for independence, and became early parliamentarians. Voutas, for whom Somare was the guest of honour at his wedding to Shelley Warner in 1976, says there were no political parties during the first House of Assembly in PNG from 1964-68 until its last six months. Parties were viewed with distrust, he says, โ€œas something that would cause havoc in the countryโ€. The Australian administration, the ยญestablishment, โ€œlargely embodied conservative valuesโ€.

That left room for a genuinely Papua New Guinean party that advocated change. And it soon ยญbecame clear what sort of change Somare and his fellow mature-aged students at the Admin College had in mind.

This, says Voutas, โ€œprovided an environment for an explosion of free thought, with Sir Michael and his colleagues catching the spirit of nationalist movements driven by Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya and Julius Nyerere in Tanzaniaโ€.

The PNG nationalist movement also caught the economic spirit of those African pioneers, and as a result espoused a โ€œthird wayโ€ approach to development that sought to focus on local, integral patterns of activity, self-consciously steering clear of capitalist and communist structures.

The crowd who coalesced around Somare as the natural leader tended to gather at the home of trade unionist Albert Maori Kiki, and sometimes at a community centre in Hohola, to eat tinned corned beef and talk politics late into the night. This became known informally as the Bully Beef Club. Voutas says: โ€œSir Michael was fiery, spoke well, and was an ideas person. But he was still a public servant, so there was a limit to how visible he could be.โ€

The Papua New Guinea Union (Pangu) Party was officially formed on June 13, 1967, with the support of nine members of the House of Assembly: Nicholas Brokยญham, Holloway, Wegra Kenu, Siwi Kurondo, Paul Lapun, Pita Lus, James Meangarum, Paliau Moloat and Voutas.

Somare, says Voutas, faced his first big test when the Australian administration offered Pangu several parliamentary secretaryships โ€” with the intention of training ministers of the future. They would receive higher pay and status.

But the party had pursued a platform of being a watchdog on the government, and of chasing independence. โ€œThis could be seen as the certainty of taking some degree of power and privilege now as opposed to the uncertainty of taking control of the government later,โ€ Voutas said.

โ€œSir Michael had no hesitation in choosing to remain independent of the Australian official members. He showed himself as a man of principle. During those ยญintensive days as the second House of Assembly gathered for its initial meeting, he demonstrated to all other party members his firmness in making decisions and above all else his charisma,โ€ which emerged over the next four years as he led the highly vocal, yet small, opposition party.

โ€œBy the time of the third house in 1972, he had acquired the foundation talents necessary to take on the enormous task of PNGโ€™s first national leader.โ€

It is those very foundational talents that PNGโ€™s voters sought to re-enlist as they voted for politicians and parties aligned with Somare at elections in 2002 and 2007 โ€” even though most were too young to have recalled directly those early glory years. All would have known, however, from family talk, about the PNG of the mid 1970s: a time of comparative peace and calm, of faith in progress, of extensive civil society, of rapid and effective localisation, of the widespread delivery of government services even into remote regions, of a government in which corruption was rare.

The key to Somareโ€™s political longevity and to his continued high standing at home and in the wider Pacific region, lay in what happened after that period: too ยญlittle. The post-independence ยญperiod has been substantially one of disappointment. The UNโ€™s latest Human Development Index has PNG languishing at 155th of the 189 countries listed.

Early in his first prime ministership, Somare was asked by the โ€œGang of Fourโ€ top public servants โ€” Rabbie Namaliu, Mekere Morauta, Tony Siaguru and Charles Lepani โ€” to introduce legislation to require national leaders to place their assets in trusts. This led to a split with finance minister Chan, who in 1980 unseated Somare.

But even Somare did not perceive that the danger from incipient corruption was as grave as his young public service heads claimed, and their proposals were not implemented.

After successive political disappointments, PNG voters assess which newcomer appears least likely to let them down again. Somare, still feisty into his 80s, had remained ready, willing and eager for office. So voters sought to recapture some of that earlier sense of hope associated with the first Somare years when he presided over a sound cabinet and an equally talented young team of public servants, two of whom โ€” Namaliu and Morauta โ€” were to become prime ministers themselves. The sons of several of those earlier leaders entered parliament โ€” including, for a while, Sir Michaelโ€™s own son Arthur. But while he may have privately coveted dynastic success, Somare never groomed a successor. Occasionally, figures emerged โ€” like Paias Wingti and the late Tony Siaguru โ€” who appeared to be anointed, but in the end failed to secure Somareโ€™s convincing backing.

This naturally spurred rivalry, which fed into the bitter manner in which Somareโ€™s last prime ministership ended โ€” with he and Peter Oโ€™Neill claiming the role, after he returned from prolonged medical treatment in Singapore. The pragmatic Oโ€™Neill, who effectively won the duel by relying on parliament rather than the courts, emerged as PNGโ€™s smartest political manager since Somare.

Political adviser Jeff Wall, who lived in Goroka and in Port ยญMoresby in the early years of independence, says the political record of Somare was without equal not only in PNG but in the South ยญPacific. His 49 years of unbroken parliamentary service is unlikely to be equalled.

But the measure of years tells only a part of the story, says Wall. โ€œHe was a remarkable political survivor, who was regularly written off by opponents and observers alike, yet late in his career was at the very zenith of his political power. This is a very special ยญaccomplishment in the robust, unpredictable, though highly democratic, political environment that PNG is and has always been.โ€

Wall senses the basis of his success was a very stable home environment in which he had wonderful support from Lady Veronica โ€” they were married 55 years, raising five children โ€” and the strength provided by his Catholic faith.

Somare was a gregarious figure, who loved golf and horse racing, and was assiduous in maintaining his international contacts, especially in the immediate region. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Pacific Islands Forum, becoming a close friend of Fijiโ€™s founding father, the late Kamisese Mara. He also kept in touch with Australian leaders, especially those from his earlier period in power including Bob Hawke, Andrew Peacock and Malcolm Fraser. He built a good relationship with a respectful Kevin Rudd.

There was always something new happening with Somare. He co-founded in recent years a plan to reduce climate change by giving developing countries cash incentives to stop the harvesting of their rainforests. But now the Sepik drums have fallen silent. The Pacificโ€™s most durable leader has died. And PNG has lost the head of its family. No other chief can replace The Chief.

Michael Somare. Founding father and three times prime minister of Papua New Guinea. Born Rabaul, PNG, April 9, 1936. Died Port Moresby, February 26, 2021, aged 84.

๐˜™๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜Š๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ฌ, ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜บ ๐˜ง๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜Ž๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ง๐˜ง๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ฉ ๐˜œ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜บโ€™๐˜ด ๐˜ˆ๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ข ๐˜๐˜ฏ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ถ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ, ๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜—๐˜•๐˜Ž ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ 10 ๐˜บ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ด ๐˜ง๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ 1976

3 comments on “๐—ฆ๐—ถ๐—ฟ ๐— ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ฒ๐—น ๐—ฆ๐—ผ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ: ๐——๐—ฟ๐˜‚๐—บ๐˜€ ๐—ณ๐—ฎ๐—น๐—น ๐˜€๐—ถ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ฎ๐˜€ ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—น๐—ผ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ณ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฏ๐—ผ๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—ถ๐˜๐˜€ ๐—ต๐—ผ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐˜€

  1. Donald Jiak

    Yes and Thanks.
    May He RIEP.
    Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare .
    ## We salute you.

    Like

  2. Leo Tohichem

    Thank you for the coverage. You have done well. It is most challenging to cover the goodness of the man, Michael Thomas Somare. His love and affection for a country he, together with his close friends moulded. PNG mourns the recall of their papa our papa, Somare, by our Father the Creator, to His right hand in Heaven.

    Like

  3. Sir Michael was the champion for Women in Papua New Guinea; after him, I cannot see any Politician who will persistently pursue womenโ€™s agenda

    Like

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