Former Pausa High School headmaster now in Zealand remembers Sir Michael

Aloha Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am sure that many of you have already learned of the passing of Sir Michael Somare, “Papua New Guinea’s ‘Father of the Nation'”, on Friday, February 26th.  Before Independence in 1975, he was a member of the “Bully Beef” club, composed of many future leaders, founder of the Pangu Pati and Chief Minister of the House of Assembly.  When Independence came, he was chosen to be PNG’s first Prime Minister and served 17 years in 3 terms in that role.

Nancy and I were privileged to have close contact with him over the years, as others of you have also had, in our case both at St Paul’s Lutheran High School at Pausa and at Aiyura National High School, when, for example, he ate breakfast in our home in 1978, or when Nancy sat next to him once at a banquet in the Kainantu Lodge* and when we were neighbours at The Wewak Beachcombers Resort while attending the Official Opening of Passam National High School, at which he and I were both asked to speak.  (The featured image was taken by me at that occasion)

When he agreed to be our Guest Speaker at Aiyura National High School’s Official Opening in 1978, I was surprised to receive a letter from his office one month before the event, asking me to prepare his speech for that occasion.  At that time, his Minister of Education, Oscar Tammur, was making it clear that he wanted to abolish the four National High Schools at the time (Sogeri, Keravat, Aiyura and Passam) as he considered them elite institutions that were too expensive to maintain. I decided to include in Sir Michael’s remarks a statement that he thought the four National High Schools were the best institutions at the time in promoting national unity since we drew students from every province in the nation, that they provided a high quality education and that he had no intention of abolishing them. I was astounded when he delivered his speech and had not changed a word of what I wrote.  The next day the Post-Courier headlined the story:  Prime Minister says National High Schools will not be Abolished.  Game over for Oscar Tammur (who lost this battle but still accomplished many good things for PNG).

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In my opinion, the only other political figure who played such an important role on the road to Independence was Enga’s own Sir Tei Abel.  Sadly, early health issues shortened his political life, but he came close to edging Sir Michael out to become PNG’s first real national leader.

 

Yours and His,

Dan Kunert  (dkunato@gmail.com)
*He fell asleep, briefly, on Nancy’s shoulder since he had been up most of the previous night contesting a vote of no confidence attempt, had to rise very early that morning to fly to Kainantu, had outdoor engagements most of the rest of the day, and had to wait over an hour for his food.  When he awoke, he told Nancy:  “Don’t be alarmed Nancy, I even once fell asleep on the Duke of Edenborough’s shoulder!”


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