THE Bougainvillean leader Dr Alexis Sarei CBE, 80, has died after a long illness.
Alexis Holyweek Sarei was born on 25 March 1934 and was a Catholic priest turned politician, becoming the first district commissioner of the North Solomons (1973-75) and president of the secessionist Republic of North Solomons (1975-76).
He was also twice premier of the North Solomons Provincial Government (1976-80 and 1984-87), later pursuing a career in national politics as Papua New Guinea high commissioner to the United Kingdom.
After returning from the United States with his wife, at the age of 76 he contested the 2010 Autonomous Bougainville Government elections, winning the Buka seat of Peit.
In 2011, his wife died and his own health deteriorated forcing the ABG to hold a by-election to replace him as he had missed three consecutive sittings of parliament.
Dr Sarei died at his home in the Notuko hamlet of Gagan village in the Solos area of Buka.
Along with other residents of Bougainville, in 2000 Dr Sarei filed a lawsuit in the United States against mining giant Rio Tinto claiming human rights abuse but the case was finally awarded to Rio Tinto.
“The passing of the late Dr Alexis Sarei signifies an immense loss to the people of Bougainville as he is held in high regard as an elder statesmen and a formidable leader during the early years of this country’s formation,” said Bougainville President John Momis.