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In Mandela’s shadow: When the great pass away from us


Sir Michael SomareWHEN SIR MICHAEL SOMARE finally gives up the ghost, I have no doubt that Papua New Guinea will go overboard in the memorial praises and tributes for him.

Of course, the international coverage will not be as extensive as that given to Nelson Mandela, and I expect we’ll not be favoured with a fake sign language interpreter like the one at Mandela’s memorial, but all the slogans will be there: Grand Chief, Architect of Independence, Father of the Nation, Sana, Peacemaker.

Politely, no mention will be made of the shadow of financial misconduct hanging over him or of the shocking state of Papua New Guinea society.

There’s no wonder that at any hint of ill health he’s out of the country in a flash – anyone comparing the Wewak Hospital with Raffles Hospital in Singapore would not ask why.

Wewak is the town where Sir Michael has held political pre-eminence continually since Independence, but practically nothing has been done in maintaining the hospital since.

When he dies, he’ll be praised to the skies and the ceremonies will go on and on.

But I do think the world in the case of Mandela has gone somewhat too far in the praises and the various memorials conducted for him in the days after his death.

I’m not a great one for the cult of personality for the living or the dead. The great and not so great are only, in the final count human, and we all deserve to be judged dispassionately, and only objectively.


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Paul Yabob

Somare is not dead yet!

There are many who have wished him exactly that over the ages. There are those who stand in awe of his achievements and those who lament over his failures.

We all will give an account of our times and opportunities Mr Febi. Do not rush to judge, lest ye be judged!

What are we doing with our talents and times?

Mrs Barbara Short

David, I've run out of printed copies - contact me on cbshort@bigpond.com for a digital copy.

Maureen Wari

Anyone, leader or not, who has not laid a sure foundation (principles and morals) for him/herself, who is not culturally sound and has not gone through physical suffering of any sort (27 years in jail can make one bitter) will not have the automatic ability to comfortably appreciate the lost, the last and the least.

We have a whole lot of elected officials who will bend when something good is dealt in front of them than live up to their consciences.

I doubt they will have condolences or accolades like the late Mandela unless of course if whoever speaking praise on their day is just blurting out flattery.

For instance, is there anyone currently in power in PNG that any of us, non VIPs, can say "just being around him/her makes me want to do even better than what I am doing now?"

We have yet to master the truth.

David Wall

For Barbara Short: Where can I buy a copy of your book?

Jeff Febi

I assume many spirits await Sir Michael: that of infants who shouldn't have died at birth and their mothers, spirits of children who died of curable ailments before reaching one, and etcetera.

I would love to watch while he tries his utmost best to explain. What a sight it would be.

Trevor Freestone

I am sure that the spirits of those who died in Wewak hospital are waiting in that world beyond for Michael to arrive so they can express their disgust at the way Wewak hospital was ignored under his watch.

Trevor Freestone

Barbara it is very rewarding to see how successful your students have been.The snowball effect of past students cannot be calculated as their education and influence spreads far and wide.

On the other hand it is soul destroying to see their frustration at the way corruption, and mismanagement by the government has prevented them from achieving the goals they desire.

Congratulations on your wonderful achievements at Brandi and Keravat

David Wall

Keith, the photo you selected says it all!

Mrs Barbara Short

Recently I was able to send a digital version of my book "Four Years in the Sepik" to a Dennis Kanumb, who is a mechanical engineer for Curtain Bros. I met him through the Sepik Region Development Discussion Forum on Facebook.

Dennis is a son of Alois Warangi who is now Provincial Education Advisor in Wewak. I taught his uncle, Lawrence Warangi, who is now CEO at Wewak General Hospital. Alois and Lawrence were both at Brandi High School when I was teaching there. I remember Lawrence well as a fine young men, hard working, responsible and trustworthy.

It is great to hear about my past students and to see that they are holding responsible positions in their home province.

But I feel for them when I know they are probably frustrated from lack of finance, trained personnel, equipment and supplies,and neglected buildings, and so on, and they are probably on a low wage.

The leaders of newly independent countries always seem to end up becoming very rich and living in fine houses and dressing in fine clothes while the ordinary folk struggle for an existence.

Does it have to be this way? I was glad when I heard the South Africans booing their President. He is evidently a good example of what I mean.

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