Chairman of United Liberation Movement for West Papua Benny Wenda has paid tribute to Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare on his passing today.
He said Grand Chief Sir Michael fought for dignity for indigenous Papuans. It was 84 years of a lifetime, in which his story blessed freedom fighters in Melanesia. He was born for a purpose.
West Papua walked in the shadows and its independence leaders embraced the drama, and watched with pride as PNG surged ahead. The ‘ father of the nation’ spoke in 2016 on the issue, and that statement answered many questions on West Papua.
He passed on but the assurance keeps hopes alive that freedom for West Papua is within reach.
Our Papuan nation bids farewell to its Melanesian Star who saved the country.
Grand Chief Sir Michael in his long career, dominated PNG and Pacific politics. And, West Papua was part of the conversation.
He helped build a nation, the Papua New Guinea nation, that sits at the meeting point between the Pacific and dynamic East Asia with all the strategic, economic and cultural issues that brings.
Somare was the colossus of PNG’s political landscape: chief minister from 1972 to 1975 while the country was still an Australian-administered territory, its first prime minister (1975-1980), as well as its third (1982-85) and 12th (2002-2011, although his term concluded in 2012).
Of course, words cannot get in the way to put the Grand Chief in his correct place, historical reference point, in the national life of a thousand timeless Melanesian tribes making the transition from stonage, to modern civilisation and cyberspace and internet era complete with the democratic proposition yielding in a lifetime. And, not 10,000 years and get lost in a patrol into yesterday.
For 17 of PNG’s 45 years since gaining independence – more than a third of the period – Somare was its leader. When not in this role, he was very much the power behind the scenes, kingmaker, sometimes troublemaker and – often – peacemaker.
It is inconsequential if it was in 1967, or today when his death unites the Papuan race to grieve the passing of its founding father. The Papuan nation mourns his death. But, his mission would be complete.
And, the challenge of independence can be surmounted.
He did it in 1967.Since then, PNG moved on after independence in 1975.
In late 1960s, he lifted the bar beyond the expectation of the international community following revolutions across Africa and elsewhere in the non – European world.
West Papua is the story of Melanesia’s nightmare. The independence struggle continued well into 21st Century across the border.
It has come back to haunt free countries in the region because West Papua is an essential part of the story of Melanesian liberation.
On his demise today, Benny Wenda thanked Sir Michael for supporting West Papua’s bid for recognition as a full member of MSG.
In 1986, Sir Michael joined forces with the founding fathers of Republic of Vanuatu and Solomon Islands to establish the Melanesian Spearhead group (MSG).
Chief Sir Michael passed on today, 5 years later. 2016. But, the nuts and bolts were put in place then when he supported United Liberation Movement of West Papua or ULMWP to bid for full membership of the group.
In February 2018, MSG Leaders Summit met in Port Moresby. MSG membership for United Liberation Movement for West Papua was postponed due to legal technicality.
ULMWP diplomats met Grand Chief Michael. He had words of encouragement for the West Papua people’s struggle for freedom.
On his passing, his blessing for West Papua was clear. The last words are amplified forever, with the ‘father of the nation’ gone: ‘We Melanesians must make right choices on West Papua’.
We remember the undisturbed conversation on West Papua’s inalienable right to self – rule started by the ‘father of the nation’ during the years he was Prime Minister, and in the aftermath when he continued from where he left off in the public space.
In 1967, the ‘angry young man’ lit the fire as it soared high for Melanesian awakening. Today, freedom is in the air for Kanaky and, West Papua.
Our people across the border and the 250 Papuan tribes of West Papua join Lady Veronica and her children, and 1000 Papuan tribes in PNG, to grieve the passing of Grand Chief Sir Michael.
RIEP, Grand Chief of the Papuan New Guinea nation.