Australia extends its deep condolences to the Somare family and the people of Papua New Guinea on the passing of Grand chief Sir Michael Somare.
Sir Michael was a towering figure in the history of Papua New Guinea.
As a driving force in the development of Papua New Guinea’s national constitution, and the nation’s first and longest-serving Prime Minister, Sir Michael has an unparalleled place in the history of Papua New Guinea.
As Prime Minister for 17 years, over four separate terms, Sir Michael became a long-standing and respected friend of Australia, working alongside Australian Prime Ministers Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Howard, Rudd and Gillard.
He was a vital partner who staunchly defended Papua New Guinea’s independence, but always appreciated Australia’s unstinting commitment to his country.
Sir Michael believed deeply in the Westminster system of government – with its separation of powers, independent judiciary, and strong democratic processes and institutions.
That commitment made Papua New Guinea’s path to Independence, secure and enduring.
I know Sir Michael will be deeply missed by his many friends in Australia and across the region.
Papua New Guinea is Australia’s closest neighbour and one of our dearest friends.
On this sad day, we honour a nation that is family to us.
To Lady Veronica and the entire Somare family, I extend my heartfelt condolences and the condolences of the Australian Government.