Michael Somare

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Sir Michael Somare

Michael Somare 2014.jpg
1st Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
In office
17 January 2011 – 4 April 2011
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor GeneralSir Michael Ogio
Preceded bySam Abal (acting)
Succeeded bySam Abal (acting)
In office
5 August 2002 – 13 December 2010
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor GeneralSir Silas Atopare
Bill Skate (acting)
Jeffrey Nape (acting)
Sir Paulias Matane
Preceded bySir Mekere Morauta
Succeeded bySam Abal (acting)
In office
2 August 1982 – 21 November 1985
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor GeneralSir Tore Lokoloko
Sir Kingsford Dibela
Preceded bySir Julius Chan
Succeeded byPaias Wingti
In office
16 September 1975 – 11 March 1980
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor GeneralSir John Guise
Sir Tore Lokoloko
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byJulius Chan
Personal details
Born (1936-04-09) 9 April 1936 (age 82)
Rabaul, Territory of New Guinea
Political partyNational Alliance Party
Spouse(s)Veronica Somare

Sir Michael Thomas Somare GCL GCMG CH CF SSI KSG PC (born 9 April 1936) is a prominent politician of Papua New Guinea. He was a pivotal politician in the coming of independence. His political career spanned from 1968 until his retirement in 2017. He has been the longest serving prime minister (17 years). Besides that he has been minister of foreign affairs, leader of the opposition and governor of East Sepik

Overview of his career[edit]

He served in a variety of positions. His base was not primarily in political parties but in East Sepik, the area that elected him. During his political career he was a member of the House of Assembly and after independence in 1975 the National parliament for the East sepik Provincial - later open - seat. He was the first chief minister at the end of colonial rule. Thereafter he became the first Prime Minister after independence from 1975 to 1980. He returned to the office of Prime Minister from 1982 to 1985, and his longest stint in the position was from 2002 to 2011. He also served as Cabinet Minister: he was minister of foreign affairs from 1988 to 1992; from 1999 to 2001 he was subsequently minister of foreign affairs, minister of mining and Bougainville, minister of foreign affairs and Bougainville affairs. He was leader of the opposition from 1980 to 1982, and thereafter in that position from 1985 to 1988 and finally from 2001 to 2002. When the new position of political governor as head of the provincial administration and representative MP was created in 1995, Somare took up the job. He was governor of East Sepik from 1995 until 1999. After the last election that he contended, he again became Governor of East Sepik (2012-2016). He was a founding member of the Pangu Party which led PNG into independence in 1975. He resigned from the Pangu Party and became an independent in 1988. He rejoined the Pangu party in 1994 but was sacked as a leader in the following year. He was then asked to join and lead the National Alliance Party. In 2017 he left politics and also the National Alliance Party.[1]

While Somare was in March 2011 hospitalised in Singapore, a majority of parliamentarians declared the post of Prime Minister vacant. Peter O'Neill was the new prime minister.[2] This was contested. On 12 December 2011, the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ordered that Somare be reinstated as Prime Minister, ruling that O'Neill had not been lawfully appointed.[3] This event triggered the 2011–12 Papua New Guinean constitutional crisis. Following a decisive victory for O'Neill in the 2012 general election, Somare expressed support for him, thereby ending the crisis and forming a coalition government. However, this truce did not last. When Somare announced his departure from politics, he made a blistering attack on O'Neill.[4][5]

Somare’s neo-traditionalist identity and PNG political Culture[edit]

Somare likes to present himself in a lap lap –a kind of sarong- instead of in trousers. Lap laps are or course not traditional in the sense of pre-colonial and is therefore a declaration of neo traditionalism. That is also evident in his autobiography that he published at independence.[6] He stressed there his Sepik identity, despite being born in Rabaul on the islands and far from the Sepik, but he portrays his time as a child in Sepik villages as decisive in forming his personality. His father brought him there to the village of Karau in the Murik Lakes region [7] when Somare’s mother separated from him. Somare pays elaborate attention to his initiation and the role of matrilineal descent is evident there ”Our mother’s brothers” receive for example the initiates after their ordeal. Yet the people of the Sepik are not particularly rigorous in descent rules. Somare claimed also the honorific title of Sana in his father’s line. This title claims descent from the founder of the clan and is a designation as peacemaker. The title of Sana bestowed for example on the bearer the duty of organising a meal for the enemies before a fight. Sepik societies are of course no longer expected to have war: a historical element is thus given meaning in a new context. In order to obtain the title he was admitted to the elders of the clan before he had the age when it was due. Sepik elders must have seen the benefit of co-opting him at independence. This may be less controversial than Somare portrays. Leadership in the Sepik is not based on descent but on a consensus among the elders and reputation is decisive. [8] Anthropological literature argues that Western Polynesian societies are not particularly centralised and although there is a big man attitude to leadership there is a continuous jockeying for position among those who want to be big man.[9] Political ideology in PNG refers to this as the Melanesian way.[10] This background can be seen as a formative influence on Somare’s political practice. PNG has not been dominated by one particular leader whose power base was in a centralised institution like a party or the army. Political life in Papua New Guinea is fragmented and decentralised: party formation is weak. Above all: Papua New Guinea has maintained a Westminster style democracy and leaders moved aside when they lost parliamentary majorities. Somare insisted already at independence on a ministerial rather than a presidential system.[11] In his valedictory parliamentary speech, he urged young leaders to learn what the Westminster system of government is meant to achieve.[12]

Somare and the coming of independence[edit]

Somare stressed his background in the small emerging modern sector of Papua New Guinea rather than his immersion in Sepik culture in two long interviews at the end of his career.[13] [14] He was born in Rabaul in East New Britain. His father originated from East Sepik and was part of the large Sepik community on the islands. He combined thus a background on the islands with one on the mainland. His father, Ludwig Somare Sana, was one of the first policemen in the country and after retirement he pioneered a cooperative society in East Sepik. The Somare’s father trained policemen and Michael Somare therefore got to know many policemen in various parts of PNG.[15] He went to Sogeri, the first National High School and this gave him a teaching qualification. He belonged thus to the small group that benefited from western style education when such education was scarce for Papua New Guinea. Later on he was one of the 35 Papua New Guineans who went through a crash course that gave entry to the civil service. He was as a result also one of the few Papua New Guineans with a command of the English language. Therefore he was qualified as a translator for the Legislative Council. This was a white dominated institution but it gave him insight into the game of politics. He also became a radio announcer in Wewak, East Sepik. That was a great opportunity to make his name known in the area that elected him throughout his long career consistently as their MP. It also brought the ire of his supervisors because of his critical comments and they transferred him on administrative duties to Port Moresby. There he became part of the small group of educated nationalists that had the nickname of the bully beef club. This group protested already early on against the racist nature of colonial rule. [16] Somare maintains that he was already in 1962 in favour of independence, He was in Port Moresby one of the founding members in 1967 of the Papua and Niugini Union party (Pangu) He stood for election when opportunities opened up for native Papua New Guineans to enter the National Assembly in 1968 and he was one of the eight Pangu candidates who were successful.He embarked in politics practising a judicious mixture of opposition to and co-optation by the Australian government. Pangu opted in 1968 for the opposition rather than having seats in government. From that position they consistently attacked the racist nature of colonial rule as they had also done outside parliament. Somare was leader of the opposition but he was also a member of the Constitutional Planning Committee preparing independence. He was despite his radical position also a moderate. He argued for example for a period of internal self government. That was granted in 1973. Foreign affairs and defence remained an Australian responsibility until full independence was granted two years later.

Somare was particularly apt at steering a clear way among various conflicting forces.[17] [18] There were for example those who advocated that Papua New Guinea should become the seventh state in the Australian Federation. More important were the centrifugal forces in the country. There was a rival political party with mass following in the highlands, the Compass party. A separatist movement was pleading for separate independence for Papua apart from New Guinea. In Bougainville there were forces claiming independence. There were conflicts among the Tolai in East New Britain. The People’s Progress Party under the leadership of Julius Chan rather than Pangu was important on the islands. Somare succeeded in bringing all these centrifugal forces together at independence. Somare’s advocacy of independence was radical as compared to the other parties who were much more in favour of the status quo. It was particularly important to sway the opinion of Julius Chan who was not keen on immediate independence. When that succeeded a coalition government between Pangu and the PPP became possible.

Some forces on the Australian side were also not in favour of independence for PNG, but it was definitely not the case that there was a veritable independence struggle. There was some protest against colonial practices, for example a civil service strike pleading for equal treatment of PNG personnel with Australian personnel or protest against discriminatory practices. However, there was a fair amount of co-optation on the way to independence, especially after Gough Whitlam became prime minister of Australia. Since there has been access to the Australian archives from this period it was clear that Australia wanted to get rid of PNG already early on. The government was keen to let the complexities of ruling PNG go. [19] [20]The possibility to declare Papua New Guinea an Australian state in the federation and making all inhabitants Australians was always rejected. [21]

Michael Somare’s role in the independence struggle reflects therefore the values he advocated throughout his career: a builder of consensus. A politician whose main mission is avoiding or reconciling conflicts.

Michael Somare as policymaker[edit]

Michael Somare was praised highly when he left politics in 2016. [22][23] The most significant praise may be from Sean Dorney –a veteran specialist on PNG politics. He praised him as a politician who led a highly fractured political community leading to independence. He also praised the enduring a parliamentary democracy in such a fractured community.([24] It is, however, significant that praise for Somare’s policies was lacking. That is understandable because Somare was not conspicuous as a policymaker. His policies must often be derived from the actual course he took reacting to events. Three areas of policy making illustrate this: agriculture, macro economic policies and development planning. PNG got as a parting gift at independence an economic analysis with recommendations . This stressed the need for rural development and Somare accepted that at that time. [25] Yet in the course of the years PNG became an economy driven by resource extraction and the agricultural sector remained stagnant.[26] Attention for the rural sector was driven by donors rather than by government. For example: the World Bank’s PNG Productive Partnerships in Agriculture or the PNG Rural Service Delivery Program.[27] The Mining Act 1992 and the Oil and Gas Act 1998 are the most important documents regulating the rapid growth in extracting natural resources. These were enacted when Somare was not in power. [28] Nevertheless, the major LNG/PNG project was developed when he was prime minister from 2002 to 2011. There was however no major policy debate around the project. His son, Arthur Somare, was the prime driver of the project rather than prime minister Michael Somare.[29] The Forestry Act 1991 is the main document regulating another natural resources sector. It was also enacted when Somare was not in power.[30] The deeds of Somare governments show one predominant trait in policy making: he is a fiscal conservative. Government expenditure was under control when he was prime minister.[31] That was particularly clear in the period 2002-2011, . When Somare succeeded Morauta as prime minister in 2002 there was a fear that Somare would undo the privatisation of the preceding government and move away from the politics of austerity. However he left the reforms of the preceding Morauta government intact and his fiscal rectitude fit the IMF philosophy of structural adjustment. [32][33]The IMF had much praise for the Somare government 2002-2011.[34] Income from natural resources was high and the Somare government used it to reduce the public debt rather than increase public expenditure. [35] There was only one attempt to formulate a comprehensive development policy by a Somare government: the Vision 2050 document. [36] However that became more an inspirational document than a concrete plan of action. The document is critical of PNG’s performance since independence but it lays the blame in the first place on its citizenry rather than the government and government policies.[37] [38]

Early life[edit]

Somare is the son of Ludwig Somare Sana and Kambe Somare. Ludwig Somare was a policeman from 1922 to 1947, rising to the rank of sergeant. Having taught himself to read and write, he was subsequently active in encouraging formation of small businesses and co-operatives, founding the Angoram Co-operative Society which he chaired from 1961 until 1967, and remaining active in trading until his death in 1972. In all, Ludwig Somare Sana had four wives and six children, of whom Somare was the eldest.

Born in Rabaul where his father was then stationed, Somare grew up in his family village of Karau in the Murik Lakes district of East Sepik Province. Somare's earliest education was in a Japanese-run primary school at Karau during World War II where he learned to read, write and count in Japanese. Meanwhile, Somare's father was in hiding and fear of his life from the Japanese in Rabaul, but he remembers the Japanese with affection. Somare's earliest overseas trips, first as a parliamentarian and then as Prime Minister, were to Japan.

From 1946 Somare attended Boram Primary School, then Dregerhafen Education Centre and Sogeri High School, graduating with a Leaving Certificate issued on behalf of the Australian state of Victoria in 1957. This was a teaching qualification at the time, and he then taught at several primary and secondary schools, returning to Sogeri High School for further training from 1962 to 1963.

Political life and the beginning of the PNG Independence movement[edit]

Early life in the independence movement[edit]

Transferring within the Public Service, Somare became a radio broadcaster based in Wewak in the East Sepik Province. He received further training at the Administrative College at Waigani in 1965. Following numerous conflicts with his superiors concerning his outspoken political comments, he was transferred from broadcasting to administrative roles, and left the Public Service to contest the elections for the second House of Assembly in 1968 as a member of the Pangu Party which he had founded with other like minds in 1967.

Somare and eight other Pangu Party members were elected. They declined invitations to join the coalition government, and he became the first official opposition leader. Following the third House of Assembly elections in 1972, he was able to form a coalition government which included Julius Chan of the People's Progress Party, himself later a Prime Minister, as Minister for Internal Finance. Somare became Chief Minister when self-government was granted in 1973, and was a key figure in the preparations for subsequent independence in 1975 and the preparation and adoption of the Constitution.

First and further terms as prime minister[edit]

With independence, Somare's title changed to Prime Minister.

Ousted by a parliamentary vote of no confidence in 1980, Somare was again Prime Minister from 1982 until 1985, and won the office a third time in the 2002 election. He was re-elected again in 2007, becoming the first and so far only Prime Minister to complete a parliamentary term and win re-election.

Sepik identity[edit]

Somare has always had an interest and a pride in his background and culture. Although his initiations were interrupted several times by his career, he returned to his village regularly and completed them, culminating in his appointment as sana or peacemaker, a title inherited from his father and grandfather and conferred on him by his uncle Saub in 1973. Somare often chose to wear quasi-Melanesian rather than western dress – a lap-lap – in parliament and on similar occasions, and in many old photographs is the only political leader attired in a lap-lap rather than trousers. At the time of Papua New Guinea independence in 1975 Somare demanded proper dignity for Papua New Guinean leaders when he considered that Australia's gift of an official house for Papua New Guinea's prime minister was insufficiently grand for the great statesman he considered himself to be: Australia abashedly acceded to Somare's demands and provided a much more palatial official residence; the intended and despised prime ministerial residence was instead designated the residence of the Australian High Commissioner.

Somare's political style was both fiercely nationalistic and purportedly conciliatory, following the tradition of Sana as he professed to see it. One of the roles of Sana is to invite enemies to a feast before any fight. Somare often appointed political enemies to posts in which they could exercise their interests and passions. In the lead-up to independence, Somare argued for and won citizenship and residency requirements which were both more severe than the outgoing Australian administration recommended and more moderate than most of his party wished.

His autobiography Sana (1975), Somare lists many anecdotes. He tells how in 1971, he was concerned that the sacred objects, the ornately carved sacred spears or kakars and the sacred flutes, were being lost, destroyed, sold or stolen. After much negotiation with the gapars or priests he arranged to have the kakars of his village photographed. The kakars were only handled by the senior gapars, and only left or "came down" from the haus tambaran on the occasion of the gapars handing over the priestly function to another orob or generation. Somare himself was too young to be allowed to even see the kakars, but was included into the coming down ceremony as the interpreter for the photographer, who was of a suitable age to be attached to the next orob. Only after the ceremony was complete did he realise the significance of the sacrifice made by the older priests to allow these photographs to be taken. Over the following days they completed the initiation of the new orob, thus denying themselves the privilege of serving as gapars ever again (see also Lipset 1997).[39]

Reflecting these interests, in 1969 Somare was appointed chairman of the board of trustees of the Papua and New Guinea Museum. The Grand Chief has not necessarily taken a notable interest in the Museum, however, which has fallen into serious decrepitude since Independence.

Personal life[edit]

Somare and his wife Veronica, Lady Somare.

Somare married his wife Veronica, Lady Somare (generally referred to as "Lady Veronica Somare") in 1965, having courted her in traditional fashion, and then immediately left to take up his scholarship at Administrative College. They have five children, Bertha (usually called "Betha" in the national press), Sana, Arthur, Michael Jnr and Dulciana. Somare is head of both his own family and that of his wife, Veronica Lady Somare, who initiated him into their title mindamot two days after his initiation as sana. Somare, together with the now-Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane, makes a point of wearing a lap-lap rather than trousers.[citation needed]

Somare is an avid supporter of the Kumuls, the Papua New Guinea national rugby league team.[citation needed]

Later political life[edit]

Between Prime Ministerships[edit]

During the seventeen years between his second and third terms as Prime Minister, Somare was appointed to political posts by other Prime Ministers. Somare served as Foreign Minister from 1988 to 1992 in the government of Rabbie Namaliu, who would later become Foreign Minister in his own subsequent government. Somare later served as Foreign Minister for a few months in 1999 and took this position again in July 2006. His probity has frequently[citation needed] been called into question. Professor James Chin of Monash University writes:

On the issue of corruption and tax evasion, clear evidence exists from the 1980s.The infamous Thomas [Barnett] Commission in 1989 laid out in excruciating detail how [Rimbunan Hijau] and its agents systematically paid off PNG politicians who threatened their logging operations. Even current Prime Minister Michael Somare was implicated in the report. He was referred to the Ombudsman Commission for allegedly lying under oath about a logging concession held by the Sepik River Development Corporation (SRDC) in East Sepik Province. The Commission report also gave details of transfer pricing to escape taxes worth millions of Kina.[40]

A report by the International Tropical Timber Council, commissioned by Sir Michael's Government, shows that laws to prevent illegal logging in PNG were not policed. The Australian Government targeted the PNG forestry industry under a A$200million initiative in an attempt to fight illegal logging.

Axel Wilhelm, environment manager of Malaysian company Rimbunan Hijau, the biggest logging operator in PNG, claimed the Yale University Forestry School rated PNG forestry as sustainable in a letter published by The Australian. Rimbunan Hijau has made advertisements on PNG television stating the same. However, Melissa Goodall, Yale Centre Environmental Law associate director at Yale university, in a letter to the PNG Eco-Forestry Forum rejected the claims with 'dismay' by the PNG logging industry that the university had approved of how it operated.

"It is a true source of concern that any work associated with Yale might be misused in this way," Ms Goodall said.

She also said the University had a "fair degree of confidence" in a World Bank report estimating 70 per cent of PNG logging was illegal, which is disputed by PNG authorities.[41]

Latter statesmanship[edit]

Shoes episode[edit]

In March 2005 Somare was required by security officers at Brisbane Airport, Australia, to remove his shoes during a routine departure security check and took strong exception to this, leading to a diplomatic contretemps and a significant cooling of relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Somare was travelling on a regular scheduled flight, and he was unknown to security staff. Diplomatic protests were ignored by the Australian Government as Somare had not pre-arranged a diplomatic visit, in a state or chartered aircraft.[citation needed] His sandals had stiffening metal strips, which were detected by a walk-through scanner. A protest march in Port Moresby saw hundreds march on the Australian High Commission and present a petition to High Commissioner Michael Potts demanding an apology and compensation.[42] However the Australian Government ignored the matter. When Kevin Rudd came to power in Australia in 2007, relations improved; Somare suggested in an interview that Rudd understood the Papua New Guineans better than "our previous friends of the last government", and was therefore easier to talk to.[43]

Moti affair[edit]

Tensions between Papua New Guinea and Australia worsened during the course of the Julian Moti affair, in which Somare was implicated. Moti, a close associate of Manasseh Sogavare, the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, was arrested in Port Moresby on 29 September 2006 under an Australian extradition request to face child sex charges over an alleged incident in Vanuatu in 1997. After breaking bail conditions and taking sanctuary in the Solomon Islands High Commission, he was flown to the Solomon Islands on a clandestine PNG Defence Force flight on the night of 10 October, causing outrage on the part of the Australian government. Australia then cancelled ministerial-level talks in December and banned senior Papua New Guinea ministers from entering Australia. Somare denied any involvement in authorising the flight.[44]

Fifty kina note[edit]

Somare's face appears on the reverse of the PNG fifty-kina note.[45]

Anti Corruption Watchdog questions Somare over Cairns property[edit]

Sir Michael Somare was called up to give an explanation on how he obtained a A$349,000 three-bedroom executive-style apartment with private plunge pool in inner-city Cairns in April 2007, brokered through a Gold Coast lawyer. Along with his son Arthur Somare who was PNG's State Enterprise Minister and a political heavyweight, he was questioned about a A$685,000 four-bedroom home he had bought two months prior at Trinity Beach. Ombudsman Commission, Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta, and former finance minister Bart Philemon requested an explanation over the provided documents evident of the purchased property.

A senior legal counsel official with the Ombudsman Commission, Vergil Narokobi, said they would investigate the Prime Minister and Arthur Somare. "To afford such luxuries it is not something ordinary Papua New Guineans can do. It is a situation of unfairness, but that is my own personal view."

"We have to give them the benefit of doubt. On the face of it we will respect our leaders until the contrary is shown." said Mr. Narokobi

When Somare was requested for an interview in Cairns regarding the property, he declined and did not respond to a series of written questions. Former finance minister and anti-corruption campaigner Mr Bart Philemon said: "They have got to tell people in PNG how they funded those properties, otherwise it smells like corruption."[46]

Suspension from Prime Minister's Office[edit]

Somare was found guilty of 13 charges of misconduct in office and as a result was suspended from office for two weeks without pay. A leadership tribunal was set up made up of three judges that found him guilty for submitting late and incomplete annual financial statements, dating back to the 1990s. Judge Sir Robin Auld, out of three was the only Judge that called for dismissal, said Michael Somare's attitude as prime minister showed "a disregard bordering on disdain for his constitutional obligations".

"It would be bad enough in the case of any leader, but it is particularly reprehensible for one of his high standing and influential involvement in the initiation of the leadership code," he said.[47]

2007 election[edit]

Following the 2007 parliamentary election, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare was re-elected as Prime Minister on 13 August with the support of 86 out of the 109 Members of Parliament.[48]

In March 2008, however, at the age of 71, Somare announced he would soon be stepping down from his position as Prime Minister, and ending his political career. He explained that, after forty years in politics, he simply "need[ed] a change" ("I don't think I have lost anything but the time has come").[49] In September 2008, Somare once again hinted at his upcoming retirement.[50] He remained in power, however, and subsequently responded irately to moves within his party and in Parliament to end his rule. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 22 July 2010 that he had threatened to kill an Opposition MP:

"There were wild scenes when the Speaker adjourned the house until 16 November, despite the opposition's claim it had enough votes to stop the adjournment.

Once most MPs had left parliament and the yelling and cries of dictatorship died down, Mr Somare crossed the floor, pointed his finger at an MP, Sam Basil, and shouted in pidgin words that translate as: If you were outside I would kill you."[51]

2010: suspension and illness[edit]

In December 2010, "amid failing health, he stepped down [...] to face a tribunal investigating misconduct for allegedly failing to submit full annual financial statements in the 1990s". He remained de jure prime minister, but appointed Sam Abal as acting prime minister for the duration of the investigation.[52]

In April 2011, Somare was admitted Raffles Hospital in Singapore for heart surgery, and remained in intensive care for as of late June 2011, when his family announced his retirement from politics, citing ill health.[53][54]

In June, as he remained in hospital, it was reported Somare intended to stand down later in the year, so that his successor could be chosen to lead the National Alliance Party into the 2012 general election.[55]

2011 resignation as prime minister and political disputes[edit]

On 28 June 2011, the Somare family, led by his wife, Lady Veronica Somare, announced Michael Somare's retirement as Prime Minister and from politics.[54] Somare was still hospitalized in intensive care at Raffles Hospital in Singapore at the time of his retirement, more than three months after he underwent heart surgery in April 2011.[54] Prime Minister Somare's son, Arthur Somare, the Minister of Public Enterprise at the time, told a press conference in Port Moresby that his father had made the decision to permanently step down from the prime minister's office and leave PNG politics. "It is our wish that Sir Michael will now pursue a life in retirement after nearly 50 years of active politics due to medical reasons and the uncertainty of the recovery period," he said.[56]

Reports in the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier suggested that Somare could not communicate coherently at the time.[57] In the retirement announcement, Somare's son, Arthur Somare, acknowledged that he had "not spoken to my father in a long time."[57]

However, the appointment of Peter O'Neill as Prime Minister in August 2011 was brought into doubt, following disputes over whether Somare was validly dismissed from parliament (as a result of absences that occurred whilst Somare underwent medical treatment in Singapore.) Somare was reported to have stated that he was still the country's leader and there had "never been any vacancy in the position of prime minister". Supporters of Somare challenged his dismissal from parliament in the country's Supreme Court, which ruled that his removal by the parliament had been "unlawful." However, O'Neill continued to be recognised by the Speaker of the House as the proper Prime Minister, in conflict with the Supreme Court ruling.[58]

On 26 January 2012, military personnel under the command of the retired officer Colonel Yaura Sasa arrested the commander of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, Brigadier General Francis Agwi. It was reported that Somare had ordered the operation and had appointed Sasa the commander of the PNGDF.[59]

Somare politics[edit]

In 2001, to stop Members of the Parliament from 'party hopping', party coalitions shifting, and votes of no confidence in the government of the day, the Organic Law on Political Parties and Candidates (OLIPPAC) was introduced. Being the reason the Somare government became the first since 1975 independence to last a full 5-year term. Although, the OLIPPAC did not stop party splits, MPs crossing the floor and attempted votes of no confidence from 2002 through to present.

As in the 2002–2007 Parliament, the Somare government during its second term (2007–2012) took advantage of the controlling parliamentary procedures by using its majority to overpower challenges and adjourning Parliament. A greater political stability has been the outcome of such tactics, but this caused a nation widespread of complaints of 'executive dominance' of Parliament, and an overload of blogging against Somare directly. Somare's attempts to block, and suppress the Defence Board of Enquiry report into the Moti affair was criticized openly. There was also criticism of Somare for failure to submit financial returns required under the country's Leadership Code.[citation needed]

Changes of the deputy prime minister were frequent during the Somare governments period of 2002–2012, but no attempt to groom a successor was made. There was only an attempt by respected Finance Minister Bart Philemon seeking leadership within the National Alliance in 2007 which resulted in him being dumped by the party and therefore crossed over to the opposition. Often it was said Sir Michael would like his son Arthur Somare, Angoram Open MP, to succeed him.[60]

From 2004 the Somare-led government made good use of resources, providing 80 per cent of exports and 40 per cent of government revenue, using 'windfall' gains to assist especially government MPs with electoral development funds of PGK 17 million (A$7 million) each. With little or no transparency or monitoring of the expenditure, this turned these legislators into the executive government. Somare avoided a vote of no confidence in August 2009 when the government paid PGK 2 million to its MPs each. Also an alleged K60 million at least, was disbursed from 'trust' funds to hold the Somare government together in late July 2010.[61]

The new liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing in Boera and other mining and petroleum developments generated a new prosperity due to commence production in 2014, which is predicted to double Papua New Guinea's GDP. A justified resource management is much needed for the nation if the forecast benefits are to be secured and distributed equally. To date the returns from management of major development projects has been poor and service delivery in many areas of government has dropped behind policy targets.[60]

Coalition for Rainforest Nations[edit]

Somare signs the Forests Now Declaration

On the international stage, Papua New Guinea has become noteworthy in climate negotiations, leading the Coalition for Rainforest Nations in proposals to include carbon credits for reduced emissions from deforestation (REDD) in the post-2012 international climate change agreement. Somare has personally endorsed the Forests Now Declaration, calling for this and other new market based mechanisms to protect forests.


Somare has received several honorary doctorates, the first being from the University of the Philippines in 1976. Somare was appointed a member of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council in 1977 (as in Australia, the honorific "The Right Honourable" can only be granted when one is admitted to the British Privy Council), and was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) by the Queen in the Birthday Honour List of 1990.) In 2004 he received authorization from cabinet to create an honours system for Papua New Guinea. In 2005, the Princess Royal invested him as one of the first Grand Companions of the Order of Logohu (GCL).


Commonwealth honours[edit]

Country Award or Order Class or Position Dates Citation
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea Independence Medal 1975
United Kingdom Privy Council of the United Kingdom Privy Councilor 1977 [62]
United Kingdom Order of the Companions of Honour Companion of Honour 1978 [62]
United Kingdom Order of St Michael and St George Knight Grand Cross 1991 [62]
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea 30th Anniversary of Independence Medal 2004?
Papua New Guinea Order of Logohu Grand Commander 2005
Fiji Order of Fiji Companion year unknown (2005?) [63]
United Kingdom (Royal Order) Venerable Order of Saint John Knight of Justice year unknown [2]

Foreign honours[edit]

Country Award or Order Class or Position Dates Citation
Vatican City Order of St. Gregory the Great Knight 1992


  1. ^ http://www.parliament.gov.pg/ninth-parliament/bio/view/governor-east-sepik
  2. ^ Bill Standish PNG's new prime minister: Peter O'Neill. Available at: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2011/08/11/pngs-new-prime-minister-peter-o-neill/ Posted on 11/8/2011 Accessed on 7/7/2017
  3. ^ "PNG Supreme Court rules O'Neill election illegal, orders Somare reinstatement". Radio New Zealand International. 12 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-12.
  4. ^ Bill Standish, PNG's new prime minister: Peter O'Neil http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2011/08/11/pngs-new-prime-minister-peter-o-neill/
  5. ^ ) Helen Davidson: Papua New Guinea prime minister must resign say former leaders Available: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/20/papua-new-guinea-prime-minister-peter-oneill-must-resign-say-three-former-leaders Posted on:20/7/2016 Accessed on: 12/07/2018
  6. ^ (Sana, an autobiography of Michael Somare Port Moresby: Niugni Press 1975
  7. ^ Murik Orientation in World Culture Encyclopedia Available at: https://www.everyculture.com/Oceania/Murik-Orientation.html Posted in 2018. Accessed 1/11/2018
  8. ^ Murray Prudeaux, Leadership in Papua New Guinea: Exploring context and barriers. (p.7) Not dated Available at: https://www.anzam.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf-manager/2233_PRIDEAUX_LEADERSHIPPNG.PDF Accessed on: 1/11/2018
  9. ^ Marshall D. Sahlins,(1963) Poor Man, Rich Man, big Man, Chief, Political Types in Melanesia and Polynesia in Comparative Studies of Society and History pp. 285-303 Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/177650?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
  10. ^ Bernard Narokobi, (1983) The Melanesian way Port Moresby: Institute of Papua New guinea Studies Available at: https://books.google.nl/books?hl=nl&id=Ul4HAQAAIAAJ&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=Inst+of+Papua+New+guinea+studies Accessed on 1/11/2018
  11. ^ Jonathan Ritchie, PNG speaks: Michael Somare. Section 01.33.33 Available at: https://www.pngspeaks.com/michael-somare Posted on: 13/09/2014 Accessed on: 5/11/2018
  12. ^ (6) Grand Chief Somare’s final parliamentary sitting Available at: https://emtv.com.pg/grand-chiefs-last-sitting/ Posted on 04/04/2017. Accessed on 1/11/2018
  13. ^ Ian Johnstone :Chief Michael Somare –Prime Minister Available at: https://www.radionz.co.nz/collections/u/new-flags-flying/nff-png/michael-somare Posted on 5/08/2011 Accessed on: 5/11/2018
  14. ^ Jonathan Ritchie, PNG speaks: Michael Somare. Available at: https://www.pngspeaks.com/michael-somare Posted on: 13/09/2014 Accessed on: 5/11/2018
  15. ^ It is not particularly clear from sources how much time Somare spent in Rabaul with his father. According to his autobiography virtually none while it appears significant from the interviews.
  16. ^ Albert Maori Kiki, (1968) Ten thousand years in one lifetime: Anew Guinea autobiography London: Pall Mall Press.
  17. ^ Michael Somare, (1975) Sana, an autobiography Port Moresby: iugini Press. Pp. 90-93 and pp 111-140: Regional pressures.
  18. ^ Sean Dorney, (1990) Papua New Guinea; People Politics and History since independence. Milsons Point Chapter VI: Provincial Government – Secession’s first solution. Pp. 150-180
  19. ^ Sean Dorney, Why has our former colony PNG disappeared from the national conversation? Monthly lecture series May 2017 at Royal Geographical Society of South Australia. Available at: https www.youtube.com/watch?v=3J01pr4Y5Kc Posted on 12/6/2017.
  20. ^ Bruce Hunt (2017), Australia’s Northern Shield? Papua New Guinea and the defence of Australia since 1880 Clayton: Monash University Publishing,
  21. ^ (Michael Somare, (1975) Sana, an autobiography Port Moresby: iugini Press. p.48
  22. ^ PNG Parliament gives rousing farewell Sir Michael Somare after 49 years in politics Available at: http://www.pina.com.fj/?p=pacnews&m=read&o=158979202858e415087dca5aad128c Posted on 04/04/2017 Accessed on: 18/11/2018
  23. ^ Friday Tapumi: Sir Michael receives standing ovation in parliament. Available at: http://loopfiji-sb.com/png-news/sir-michael-receives-standing-ovation-parliament-55992 Posted on: 04/04/2018 Accessed on: 18/11/2018
  24. ^ ) Sir Michael Somare is Unique says Veteran Pacific Journalist, Sean Dorney Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfpuY1GUzVY Posted on: 10/04/2017 Accessed on: 18/11/2018
  25. ^ Sana, an autobiography of Michael Somare Port Moresby: Niugni Press 1975 p.109
  26. ^ Pngeco5.wp PNG’s economic history since independence. Available at: http://pngeconomics.org/2016/09/pngs-economic-history-since-indpendence/ Posted 15/09/2016 Accessed on: 18/11/2018
  27. ^ World bank: Projects and Operations PNG: Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Available at: http://projects.worldbank.org/P110959/png-productive-partnerships-agriculture?lang=en ; World Bank Projects and Operations: Rural Service delivery project. http://projects.worldbank.org/P159517?lang=en No date posted. Accessed on: 18/11/2018
  28. ^ Matthew Yari, Govt Concerned Over Delay On Review Of Mine Laws From: Post Courier 8/11/2018 Available at: https://ramumine.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/govt-concerned-over-delay-on-review-of-mine-laws/ Posted On: 9/11/2018 Accessed on: 18/11/2018
  29. ^ Australian government: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Joint Understanding on PNG LNG Project Available at: https://dfat.gov.au/geo/papua-new-guinea/Pages/joint-understanding-on-png-lng-project.aspx Posted on: 29/2/2013 Accessed on: 18/11/2018
  30. ^ Independent state of Papua New Guinea Forest Act 1991 Available at:https://theredddesk.org/sites/default/files/forestry_act_1991_png_0.pdf
  31. ^ Aaron Batton, Fiscal Policy in: Thomas Webster and Linda Duncan (eds) (2010) Papua New Guinea’s Development performance 1975-2008 Port Moresby: National Research Institute. Monograph 41. Pp.67-105
  32. ^ Somare accuses Canberra of bias Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/national/somare-accuses-canberra-of-bias-20021118-gduspz.html Posted on 18/11/2002 Accessed on : 22/11/2018
  33. ^ Somare accuses Canberra of bias Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/national/somare-accuses-canberra-of-bias-20021118-gduspz.html Posted on 18/11/2002 Accessed on : 22/11/2018
  34. ^ )IMF Concludes 2005 Article IV Consultation with Papua New Guinea Public Information Notice (PIN) 6/20 February24 2006 Available at: https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2006/cr0699.pdf Accessed on : 22/11/2018 Please note: the PIN is at the end of the document
  35. ^ Asian Development Bank (2012) Papua New Guinea: Critical Development Constraints Pages 37 and 38. Available at: https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/29776/png-critical-development-constraints.pdf Accessed on: 22/11/2018
  36. ^ ) National Strategic Task Force Papua New Guinea, (2009) Vision 2050 Port Moresby: Government of Papua New Guinea Available at: http://actnowpng.org/sites/default/files/png%20version%202050.pdf Accessed on: 22/11/2018
  37. ^ Tavurvur, PNG Vision 2050: A Kuka Strategy: one step forward and two backward. Available at: https://garamut.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/png-vision-2050-a-kuka-strategy-one-step-forward-three-steps-sideways/ Posted on: 07/09/2010 Accessed on: 22/11/2018
  38. ^ Impediments to Vision 2050 The National 02/02/2015 Available at: https://www.thenational.com.pg/impediments-to-vision-2050/ Posted on: 02/02/2015
  39. ^ David Lipset (1997). Mangrove Man: Dialogics of Culture in the Sepik Estuary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  40. ^ James Chin (2008), "Contemporary Chinese Community in Papua–New Guinea: Old Money versus New Migrants," Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies, Volume Two,120–121.
  41. ^ Somare admits links to logging. The Australian (20 June 2007). Retrieved on 29 June 2011.
  42. ^ "PNG rally against Australia's treatment of PM Somare". Radio New Zealand International. Retrieved 2 August 2007.
  43. ^ Sir Michael Somare Interview. The-diplomat.com (2 February 2009). Retrieved on 29 June 2011.
  44. ^ "PNG report says PM Somare should be charged over Moti escape". Radio New Zealand International. Retrieved 2 August 2007.
  45. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 March 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2013.
  46. ^ Meade, Jenna. (5 November 2008) PNG leader Michael Somare and son asked to explain Cairns property deals. The Courier Mail. Retrieved on 29 June 2011.
  47. ^ Papua New Guinea PM suspended for two weeks
  48. ^ "Papua New Guinea PM re-elected", Al Jazeera, 13 August 2007. Archived 1 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  49. ^ "PNG PM to step down after 40 year career", Sydney Morning Herald, 16 March 2008
  50. ^ "PNG's prime minister 'ready to leave' politics", ABC Radio Australia, 29 September 2008
  51. ^ Ilya Gridneff, "Somare threatens to kill opposition MP" Downloaded 26 July 2010.
  52. ^ "Woman's body found in Papua New Guinea leader's home", BBC, 15 June 2011
  53. ^ "Sir Michael Somare still in intensive care", Radio Australia, 21 May 2011 Archived 17 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  54. ^ a b c Callick, Rowan (30 June 2011). "Big shoes to fill as Michael Somare bows out". The Australian. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  55. ^ "PNG's Somare intends to stand down this year". Radio New Zealand International. 24 June 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
  56. ^ Papua New Guinea's 'father of independence' resigns. Telegraph. Retrieved on 29 June 2011.
  57. ^ a b Tannos, Jonathan (29 June 2011). "PNG's "Grand Chief" Remains in Intensive Care: Family defers to parliament, process". Papua New Guinea Post-Courier. Pacific Islands Reports. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  58. ^ Rival prime ministers square off in PNG Australian Broadcasting Corporation Online, accessed 13 December 2011
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External links[edit]

Political offices
New office Chief Minister of Papua and New Guinea
Position abolished
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
Succeeded by
Julius Chan
Preceded by
Julius Chan
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
Succeeded by
Paias Wingti
Preceded by
Mekere Morauta
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
Succeeded by
Sam Abal
Preceded by
Sam Abal
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
Preceded by
Rabbie Namaliu
Leader of the Opposition of Papua New Guinea
Succeeded by
Chris Haiveta
Preceded by
Bill Skate
Leader of the Opposition of Papua New Guinea
Succeeded by
Mekere Morauta