BUKA - Together they united a nation of more than 800 tribes and languages and began a friendship that has lasted for 50 years.
That bond between the father of the nation, Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare, and the father of the constitution, Grand Chief John Lawrence Momis, is close and their friendship today remains as strong as it ever was.
Sir Michael, who is 82, came to Bougainville this week as part of his farewell and thanksgiving to the people of Papua New Guinea.
His political career spanned from 1968 until his retirement from parliament just last year. He was PNG’s first and longest serving prime minister.
Dr Momis, who is nearing 80, was a Catholic priest from 1970-93, He became active in politics and was elected to parliament in 1972. He co-wrote the PNG constitution and, following the end of the civil war, he was appointed Bougainville governor from 1999 until 2005. He has also served as PNG’s ambassador to China.
Last year, upon Sir Michael’s retirement from politics, Dr Momis wrote:
“My personal relationship with Sir Michael Somare dates back to our younger days. Fate brought us together over barbecue and beer in Wewak. Little did we know that soon we would be partners in forging a path for Papua New Guinea. I was full of idealism and he was brimming with pragmatism.
“The combination of two different yet attuned minds resulted in greater efforts to blaze that path; one which not many at that time dared to tread. Our minds were shaped by the events of the tumultuous 1960s when young men in America were sent to wage war in Vietnam and personalities like Martin Luther King and the Kennedys were taking the world by storm with their ideals and advocacy….
“Sir Michael exercised his role as a true politician – guided by his faith and embracing his role as a vocation. He ventured into the unknown, responding to a call without fear. He was there always ready to listen and to implement results of choices and judgements….
“Instead of shrinking from the challenges of his time, like the fear of independence and the injustices of colonialism, he literally gave himself to pursue his vision of an inspiring future for Papua New Guinea. It was a mark of a true leader that he took the bold step of making things happen and took ownership of major decisions, unpopular as they might have been.
“I owe Sir Michael much. For a pragmatist to put his full trust and confidence in an ideologue like me is a rarity.”
In Bougainville, Sir Michael was quietly welcomed to the region by the President, ministers and MPs and he formally opened the presidential villa in Buka at a small ceremony.