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By Benny Mawel in Jayapura

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has sent prayers for the recovery of the former Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Michael Somare, who is critically ill with pancreatic cancer.

Sir Michael, who served as prime minister four times in Papua New Guinea, is also the founder of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). He is a figure who has played an important role in supporting ULMWP to become a member of the group.

Now 84, Sir Michael is being treated at the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby, as reported by Asia Pacific Report.

PNG’s The National newspaper said that Cardinal Sir John Ribat had celebrated a special Eucharist with Sir Michael and his wife, Lady Veronica, at his hospital bed.

The executive director of ULMWP in West Papua, Markus Haluk, said the movement and the people of West Papua also sent prayers for the recovery of Sir Michael Somare.

“The people of West Papua [send] healing prayers for Sir Michael Somare,” Haluk told Jubi yesterday.

Haluk said that the news of Sir Michael Somare’s health condition reminded him of the meeting between ULMWP leaders and Sir Michael Somare at the MSG forum in Port Moresby in February 2018.

‘Look to the future’
“I remember a message from Sir Somare, ‘West Papua don’t look at the past, but look to the future. I have opened my heart, you [ULMWP] are not alone anymore,” said Haluk.

The National 230221
“Get well, Sir Michael” – today’s front page banner headline in The National. Image: The National screenshot APR

Haluk also remembers that a few minutes later the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea at the time, Peter O’Neill, came to the MSG meeting venue.

ULMWP leaders were standing and chatting with Sir Michael Somare.

Haluk, realising O’Neill had arrived, wanted to turn around and greet the prime minister, but Somare prevented him.

“Sir Somare grabbed my shoulder, winked at me, telling me, ‘Don’t turn to face PM O’Neill. Later he will come in your midst ‘. I also followed Sir Somare’s body language,” said Haluk.

What Sir Michael Somare said came to pass. After Peter O’Neill greeted all invited guests, ambassadors and MSG delegates, O’Neill went to Somare’s circle with the ULMWP delegates.

“I spontaneously greeted PM O’Neill. ‘Nopase waaa… waaa… waaa…’ (Papuan greetings to an honourable figure). Sir Somare gasped at my greeting. O’Neill greeted, ‘waa… waa… waa… Thanks Bro ‘.

“Then we shook hands with PM O’Neill,” said Haluk.

‘That’s Papuan politics’
Haluk said he was very impressed with the meeting.

“That’s Papuan politics, Melanesian politics. Everything flows from our hearts. [We] understand each other, acknowledge each other. You are important to me. We both need each other. Continue to keep the fellowship alive,” said Haluk.

Haluk said the West Papuan people remember the stories and services of great figures such as Sir Michael Somare.

According to Haluk, the people from Sorong to Samarai sent prayers for the recovery of Sir Michael Somare.

“Commemorating all the great services and sacrifices for the Papuan people, from Jayapura, West Papua, we send sincere prayers for healing to Sir Somare. I hope you get better soon,” said Haluk.

This article has been translated by an Asia Pacific Report correspondent from Tabloid Jubi and published with permission.

Lady Veronica & Sir Michael Somare
Sir Michael Somare with his wife, Lady Veronica, in the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby. Image: Diocese of Wewak
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