NORTHUMBRIA - In the 1972 Papua New Guinea elections there were 102 seats in the House of Assembly.
The conservative, anti-independence United Party won 42. Michael Somare’s Pangu Pati won 24.
The United Party was sure it would form the next government, but Pangu Pati expertly put together a coalition.
Iambakey Okuk, a MP from Simbu in the highlands region, played a key role in forming the government that took the country into self-government and independence.
He later became Deputy Prime Minister and, as a minister, worked to reserve sectors of the economy for citizens as a method of returning a complex economic role to Papua New Guineans. He died aged only 41, and is recalled as one of PNG's great independence leaders.
Here is Iambakey Okuk’s own version of how it was done, taken from an address to some university students in 1982.
We went and greased up one bloke (an MP) called Kaibelt Diria. [In Pidgin, grisim or `to grease’ means to trick somebody into doing something by flattery or lies.]
Kaibelt Diria was deputy leader for the United Party. And, you know, we told him: “Papa, the Australian government has already announced that Somare is to become the first prime minister.”
And he says: “What!”
And we said: “Yeah. They announced it on the radio that we have already got the number and we’re forming a government.
“But we don’t have enough Highlanders and we want to give some ministries to some people.”
So we said, “But Papa, there is only a few of us and we are still young and we are looking for some elders to take the important positions.”
And he said, “Yeah? Wait, wait. OK! We go now!”
And we said, “Look, hang on, hang on, it’s OK. The position won’t run away. You’ll get it. But you must also bring another five or something like that.”
“Oh, that’s no problem,” he said. “I’ll bring seven!”
So he brought back seven people [newly elected MPs] so we made the number.
This is how Somare claims he got self-government.
But we did the dirty job, which you don’t know.
I had to tell lies to my old father who had more pigs and more wives than Somare, you know. Many, many wives - many, many pigs. Big coffee plantation – more things than Somare, myself or Chan put together.
Anyway, the poor guy, we greased him so he had to come and become a minister.
We made him the Minister for … Telephones!
The first predominantly Papua New Guinean government formed under chief minister Michael Somare in 1972 (left-right): Thomas Kavali, Julius Chan, Reuben Taureka, John Poe, Bruce Jephcott, Michael Somare, Paulus Arek, Paul Lapun, Gavera Rea, Boyamo Sali, Ebia Olewale,Albert Maori Kiki, Donatus Mola, John Guise, Kaibelt Diria, Moses Sasakila, Iambakey Okuk (Photo - Denis Williams, PNG Post-Courier)