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24 September 2014


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It was with great sadness that I learnt of the passing of Alexis Holyweek Sarei, first National District Commissioner Bougainville District, PNG High Commissioner to the Court of St. James, Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, former Premier North Solomons Provincial Government, Local Level Council President and most recently Member of the Assembly of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

During an NEC Meeting in Kundiawa in 1979, I had the honour and pleasure of accomodating Dr. Sarei, as he preferred to be known, and another lovely dude, the late Eliakim ToBolton, whose daughter is now Chief Magistrate.

In 1989 I took up residence at Buka Passage for a couple of years and became close friends with Sir Alex and his lovely Lady, Claire, who, sadly, passed away last year. We and many others were broken hearted at the passing of that wonderful woman.

My family had the pleasure of visiting and overnighting with the Sareis at their hacienda at Solos in the middle of Buka Island and enjoying many exhilarating conversations with a truly brilliant, enlightened and compassionate man.

Alexis, a very talented linguist, speaking four Bougainville languages, as well as Kunua, Motu, English and Tok Pisin, had been sent to Rome by the Catholic Church, with which he later became estranged, where he completed his Doctorate in Canon Law in Latin and his PhD in Italian, two languages hitherto unknown to him.

Alex was instrumental in promoting a peaceful solution to the explosive situation in the Trobriand Islands in the early '70's, in an active operational role, and became Sir Michael Somare's right hand man for a number of years prior to his appointment as DC Bougainville. He spoke very fondly of some Kiaps who worked for him, and less fondly of others.

He was taken prisoner by the BRA in 1991, but released because of the uproar that resulted throughout the Province.

Ill health forced him to leave Bougainville for his wife's 'ples', Los Angeles, where he secured employment as a bank guard! He returned to Bougainville in 2005.

Dr. Sarei suffered a stroke several years ago, lost the sight in one eye and his mobility. He nevertheless conducted a cheerful correspondence and maintained an active interest in international and local affairs.

Alex had celebrated his 80th birthday, though very debilitated, and passed peacefully. He is survived by his son Solomon and daughter Deborah and numerous bubus.

May Light Perpetual shine upon him.

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