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Eighty-four year old Papua New Guinea’s first Prime Minister in 1975 Sir Michael Somare has died.
Daughter Betha Somare announced he died at 12 midnight at Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby.
He was battling pancreatic cancer only announced early this week by Catholic Archbishop Cardinal John Ribat.
The Cardinal prayed with Sir Michael and asked Papua New Guineans to pray for him as well.
Sir Michael was the longest serving Prime Minister and Member of Parliament representing the people of East Sepik since 1968 and voluntarily did not contest again, retired to a private life in 2017.
He faced a long leadership tribunal in 2011 when he suffered a heart attack in the court room and was rushed to hospital and spent months at the Raffles Hospital in Singapore.
That was when a political dissent took place within the coalition government led by his National Alliance and Peter O’Neill was elected Prime Minister but the courts then nullified the election of O’Neill.
This led to a political impasse and amendments to laws to keep O’Neill as Prime Minister.
The then Peter O’Neill led government passed a controversial amendment to law disqualifying people from being a Member of Parliament setting the maximum age limit which ultimately disqualified Somare.
When he returned from Raffles Hospital and pushed into Parliament on a wheelchair, he was described as a “stranger in the house”.
He went back to the people of East Sepik and overwhelmingly got elected in 2012 serving a full term and retired in 2017.
His best friend Sir Julius Chan has described him as a determined, brave a visionary person.
A young man from Southern Highlands Samuel Raitano said he would be rubbing mud all over his body and walk around Mt Hagen if Somare passes on.
His family this week said all positive messages of healing and recovery and flowers were passed to him and he usually shed tears hearing them.
It’s a mourning day for Papua New Guinea.
Thank you Grand Chief and Rest In Peace. You’re a champion.