By Robert Iki Leso, PNG University of Technology LAE | 09th March 2021.

Tropical Paradise of many languages and thousand tribes has come to a standstill. The towering mountains have been brought low and the screaming waterfalls have been silenced.

The roaring waves on the dazzling sandy beaches have turned their melodies on a whisper mode. The birds in the virgin forests and the owls in the deep and undiscovered caves have remained frozen for days.

The day that the nation of Papua New Guinea feared and refused to accept fell on Friday 26th February 2021 when the shockwaves hit the nation hard at the speed of light.

The Black Friday emerged two days away before the month of February was laid to rest – signifying the setting of eighty-four years of peace, freedom and hope beyond the horizons of national political history of PNG.

The bridge from the Stone Age to the Digital Age has fallen. And his journey from the Haus Man to the House of Parliament has concluded.

For two weeks, the nation has been mourning for the fallen hero, shining legacy and the father of the nation. When he was around, everyone took him for granted thinking that he would still be around forever. Indeed many have expressed regrets for not meeting him personally including myself.

Now that he is gone, our hearts are growing ponder when we know that his seat will be empty and his shoes are too big to fit and his replacement impossible. His demise is the saddest day in the nation’s shortest history.

It is an honor for me to physically see him architect this country and build him up to one of the strongest democratic countries in the globe while my children and grandchildren will read in history books alone.

However he appears to be the champion and influence behind a nation with complex and intricate cultures that is utterly impossible and volatile to put the pieces together and make the puzzle work perfectly as One Nation, One People and One Country.

PNG is both at the state of shock and pain of this great man’s fall. But at the same time we have witnessed an amazing display of national unity in his ‘haus cry’ like none before in the history of PNG.

This expression revealed how Papua New Guineans love their favorite father and the peacemaker. Citizens have set their differences aside and cried openly and in one accord of their father who is a symbol of peace, unity and freedom now and the years to come.

Since he is the chief of thousand tribes with more than 800 plus languages and culture, tears of the whole nation have soaked and flooded the shores of this country for the two weeks.

There is mourning with the tears of pain and loss but at the same time tears of joy continues to flow as well for the shining legacy and the vision of peace and freedom of the founding father. He has truly been a remarkable trailblazer.

In joining the rest of the nation in mourning for the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare, I would like to pour out my heart in the form of ink here for those who can read my sorrow.

This should also comfort the legend’s immediate family, people of East Sepik and the whole nation to appreciate, value, embrace and cherish the life and memories of this heaven-sent

agent of peace, freedom and harmony for the thousand tribes.

Every word that I wish to write here for this wonderful man continues to explode in my heart and tears fall freely in my eyes as I begin to understand how extraordinary he was.

He did something that no ordinary and selfish man could do. He was indeed a lasting peace-maker, champion of freedom and died a selfless, nationalist and a satisfied man.

Though I have never met him in person, I have a special connection of his life. The soft part in me is to think that he saved my grandparents, mum and dad and the whole district of Kandep where I come from during his formative years in leadership.

Due to its high altitude, from time immemorial, our people experience frost. We lose all vegetation and worst of all sweet potatoes, our staple food. This is the single catastrophe that can wipe the whole district.

1972 was the year when frost hit the Kandep again severely. Anything green was destroyed. People were scared that they would die and some were even trying to walk away for long distances searching for food.

Just then the Founding Father responded immediately. He supplied food to everyone lasting for months until the environment recuperated. He supplied rice, flower, biscuit, cooking oil, beef, tinned fish and lots of stored food.

Indeed he saved my people, and most importantly parents who raised me. Though I was born later, he saved my life through my parents. I live here because of our Founding Father and this is the story that I will continue to tell my children.

I have this honor to thank God for such a fatherly figure and an incredible leader. I am also grateful of our former MP Don Pomb Polye for sincerely and affectionately acknowledging the late Founding Father for his contribution to Kandep during the disaster when he retired from Politics.

When I transcribe my grief here, I reflect on so many amazing and extraordinary values that this incredible man embraced that we the current and upcoming leaders should not do away with if we wish to set standards and soar in leadership like our late Founding Father and bring this country to the next century.

The values that I intend to highlight here have not been spoken by our late Founding Father but he actually lived and practised them himself that to me, twinkle like stars in the darkness of our country when he has fallen.

They are not limited to the following. Though at the earlier stages, both expatriates and nationals criticized him for the vision of self-government leading to independence, he persevered and achieved his dream with a united force.

Even while he was the Prime Minister, he was spitted upon, betrayed, rejected and trembled. He actually went through a lot of bad experiences mostly at the Floor of Parliament. However, he was resilient, tolerable and maintained his values till his demise which makes him outstanding.

Now that we know the rejected stone has become the cornerstone of our country that his name continues to become synonymous to PNG, we the young and upcoming leaders need to know what has made our Founding Father unique and outstanding.

Since his life and demise is setting a pinnacle of success for leadership, we need to reflect his life to emulate and embrace his success for our quality leadership benchmark.

I have personally found six (6) of such leadership benchmark in our late Founding Father that we might like to model for a successful leadership venture:


Late Grand Chief was a husband of one wife and a committed father who raised role model children. He was dedicated to his wife and children.

With this kind of spirit, he also treated his people and this nation as his own beloved family by uniting everyone. He actually loved the nation just like the way he loved his family.

Before he talked about leadership, he fixed his own family first. That actually made him to stand out in leadership especially in terms of accountability, responsibility and loyalty.


Amongst some of the black nations, our Founding Father stands out to be one of the icons of democracy.

He architectured institutions and systems that reflected the values and principles of democracy.

Without trying to protect his own self-interests and greed for power, he established processes that protect the identity of this country.

His leadership since independence until his demise has never seen any bloodshed, civil war, turmoil or military coups.

He has been the benchmark of national unity, respect, tolerance, consensus, peace and freedom, which are the hallmarks of democracy that PNG enjoys today.


His life has actually fulfilled one of my favorite scriptures in Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the peacemakers for they are the children of God”.

He has truly been a blessing to the nation of PNG. His wisdom, passion, determination and perseverance to see a united peaceful nation was achieved without a single drop of blood.

He saw that the strength to unite a volatile, aggressive and fragmented nation was through mutual understanding and abiding peace.

While so many countries of the world are torn apart by civil war and unrest, PNG lies in the middle of the ocean as a Pacific Pearl floating on the Sea of Peace.


Our Founding Father meticulously complied with the rule of law. If he had never done this, I think he would be the lifetime Prime Minister by turning and twisting laws for his own convenience and die in office while clinging to power for life.

He would have done that and establish a wrong precedence and make this country a circus run by clowns. But he refused to do so. He has never been a crooked politician but a smart one within the rule of law.

He has never tampered with the constitutions but used it as a guide to steer the economy in unchartered waters to secure its destiny without too much borrowing.

The shift of power and the change of his leadership have been guided by rule of law without coercion which makes him the benchmark in this regard.


He started a selfless, passionate and nationalist and died the same forgetting his own people while serving the nation.

Though he is a Sepik man, he loved his country, fought for it, lived for it, and had his last breathe the same.

When you go to East Sepik, his beloved province, people say you will not find much change since Independence but that is not true for the whole country.

He gave his entire life building a complex, volatile and intricate nation that can easily fall into pieces anytime. Now that he is gone, his bone will go back home.

And I am sure God will reward the Sepiks for being patient to his leader to build our strong and beautiful nation. In fact, he build others forgetting his own.


He lived fighting for the nation that he so dearly loves amidst criticisms and negativities.

He brought self-government leading to independence with unity, harmony and peace. In the process he became friend to all and enemy to non both expatriates and nationals.

He actually retired from politics and never clinged to power and die in office. He actually showed the way and created way for young and emerging leaders.

And finally gave up his last breath in his own country without dying in some expensive overseas hospitals.

That in itself designates a life of sacrifice and honor to the people and the country that he loves so dearly and died serving as a hero!






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