After 49 years in active politics, the country’s first Prime Minister, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, sat in Parliament for one last time today.
Parliament suspended Standing Orders to mark the founding father’s retirement from public service and politics.
Sir Michael said he has often reflected on this day, and admitted he did not want to imagine a life outside of politics.
Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare gave the best of his years to the nation that is Papua New Guinea. Today, April 4, 2017, the 80-year-old patriarch entered the Parliament Chamber for the last time, escorted by the Sergeant-in-Arms and close associates. It was exactly 49 years ago today, when a younger Michael Somare walked into parliament for the first time on 4th of April 1968.
Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare announced, “Today I stand here as an optimistic Papua New Guinean proud of our many accomplishments as a nation. We progressed through many waves and changes in the world. We survived our own bad decisions and we have united at time when the world thought it was not possible to do so. We must be thankful and we must always count our blessings.”
He talked about PNG’s political journey when he and other founding fathers went from being secret indigenous political activists in the Bully Beef Club to being members of the first House of Assembly.
He also talked about the transition from being Australian subjects to becoming PNG citizens in one lifetime.
Sir Michael said he had a lot to say, including urging new leaders to learn what the Westminster system of government is designed to achieve. Then he bade Parliament farewell.
Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, thanked Sir Michael for the vibrant political system the country now enjoys. He also acknowledged the Grand Chief for his leadership, having served with his in government.
Mr. O’Neill said the Grand Chief’s wisdom and knowledge will be missed in the big House, especially the experience that comes only from 49 years of elected service.