PNG's founding father laid to rest

Papua New Guinea's first prime minister Sir Michael Somare has been buried at his home in Wewak.

The East Sepik capital yesterday hosted the burial service for the four-time PNG prime minister, which followed a state funeral held last Friday in Port Moresby.

There's been widespread mourning in PNG and across the Pacific for the loss of Sir Michael who died in late February of pancreatic cancer aged 84.

PNG organised a series of haus krais, or mourning events, over two weeks in Port Moresby for representatives of all the country's provinces to progressively come and pay respects to Sir Michael.

The Grand Chief, as Sir Michael was known, was the longest serving parliamentarian in the Pacific region.

His central role in PNG's passage to independence in 1975 has been celebrated extensively during the past three weeks.

He was the former Australian territory's Chief Minister, and then, after independence was gained, served as PNG's prime minister in four separate stints over a total of 17 years.

Sir Michael retired from national parliamentary politics as East Sepik Governor in 2017.

The death of Sir Michael sparked unprecedented mourning in PNG and a phase of deep reflection among Papua New Guineans about their country's journey.

Somare had been credited with guiding generations of political leaders in PNG with his gift for building consensus in a unique Melanesian style of leadership.

At the state funeral, Sir Michael's daughter, Dulciana Somare-Brash, gave a eulogy in which she evoked his vision that fused together the diverse lineage and cultures of over a thousand tribes into one nation.

"Contrary to the opinions of our colonial masters and critics, my father always envisioned us as one people, one nation and one country. I'm proud to say my father, Michael Somare, dreamed Papua New Guinea into existence," she said.

Sir Michael's widow, Lady Veronica, also received high praise for her strong support to her husband since they married in 1965 and raised six children.

PNG's current Prime Minister, James Marape, described Lady Veronica as the hand that steadied Sir Michael through his five decades at the helm of PNG politics.

Marape urged all Papua New Guineans to rally behind Sir Michael Somare's legacy and strive to be united as a people and nation.

Sir Michael Somare was buried at his family's Kreer Heights property in Wewak, as was his wish.