“In all my many close dealings with Sir Rabbie Namaliu, I found him to be a man of deep integrity and honesty. Unlike so many other leaders since he was Prime Minister, he did not use public office to become wealthy. He was committed to his country and its people. He was also a man of his word, honest in his dealings with others.” – Chief Dr John L Momis.” – Chief Dr John L Momis.
Statement on ‘The Death of Sir Rabbie Namaliu by Chief Dr John L Momis
by FM100/Hot97 FM News - Wednesday, 04 April 2023.
The death of my close friend, and wan wok, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, is a great loss to me, and also to Papua New Guinea.
Dr John L Momis reflects on the life of late Sir Rabbie Namaliu as another tragic loss to one of core group of people who not only contributed significantly to the founding of PNG as an independent and sovereign state, but continued to contribute to his beloved country for almost 50 years that followed.
He said Rabbie was both an educated man, and deeply involved in his own Tolai Society.
‘He was one of the first graduates of the University of Papua New Guinea, and later gained a Masters degree from the University of Victoria, British Columbia.
‘He taught history at UPNG in the early 1970’s before becoming Principal Private Secretary to then Chief Minister, Michael Somare, in 1974.
That was to be the beginning of almost 50 years in contribution to the public life of PNG,’ said Dr Momis.
In the immediate post-independence period, as a very young man, along with Mekere Morauta, Tony Siaguru, and Charles Lepani, he became an active and committed leader of the then decolonizing PNG National Public Service.
Dr Momis says he worked closely with late Namaliu in his roles in mid-1970s, when he played yet an important role in the resolution of the 1975-76 Bougainville secessionist conflict.
‘Then, in the late 1970s, as chairman of the Public Service Commission, he presided over the credibly complex project of decentralization of the public service, from the highly centralized government departments in Port Moresby to the new provincial governments being established throughout PNG.
‘He was always open to new ideas, and worked very hard to help change the public service that we had inherited from the Australian colonial regime,’ he said.
Later, of course, in 1982, he entered Parliament, and was a very committed minister for Foreign Affairs.
Then, for four years, from July 1988 to July 1992 he became the fourth Prime Minister of PNG.
‘Although, he was Prime Minister at a very difficult time for PNG, he was also a great prime minister. He was a true leader, always committed, consultative, inclusive and truly collegial,’ added Dr Momis.
The Bougainville conflict was emerging when he took office. He showed a strong commitment from July 1988 to first trying to prevent the conflict from happening.
Then, when despite such efforts conflict did break out in late November 1988, he was committed to resolving it peacefully.
Indeed, few now remember that in 1989, Sir Rabbie tasked a group of senior ministers, under the then Deputy Prime Minister Akoka Doi, including me, to negotiate with BRA leader Francis Ona.
‘With difficulty, and aided by then Bougainville Premier, the late Joseph Kabui, we managed to make contact with Francis deep in the bush in the mountains of Central Bougainville. Over several days we negotiated a peaceful end of the conflict, only to have the agreement destroyed when ill-disciplined police units arrested members of Ona’s group.
‘He was deeply upset to hear what had happened, but continued to seek peaceful ways ahead. It was a matter of great sadness to him that a peaceful resolution of the conflict eluded his government.
‘In all my many close dealings with Sir Rabbie, I found him to be a man of deep integrity and honesty. Unlike so many other leaders since he was Prime Minister, he did not use public office to become wealthy.
He was committed to his country and its people. He was also a man of his word, honest in his dealings with others.
As the current Chancellor of Papua New Guinea University of Natural Resources and Environment, I wish to pay Special Tribute to the innovate and valuable policy initiative suggestions to make this University proficient in the field of rural development, sustainable forestry, sustainable fisheries, tourism and hospitality and ecological balance, things which are enshrined in the 4th Goal of the PNG Constitution as the Chancellor from 2007 to 2011.
Sir Rabbie Namaliu was involved in numerous Boards which promoted in collective welfare of Papua New Guineans even as a private citizen until his demise.
We seem to have lost the ability to find and support leaders of the great calibre of Sir Rabbie Namaliu.
He will be deeply missed, both by me personally, and by his country that he loved so much.
Picture: L- R(Late Grand Chief Sir Michael T Somare, Late Sir Rabbie Namaliu and Chief Dr John L Momis (shorts))
Pictures credited: YWAM Medical Ships and FM100.