Michael Somare

Michael Thomas Somare (1936- ),¬†PNG’s best known and most successful politician. Somare was born in Rabaul where his father was Sergeant of Police (1922-45). He returned to his father’s village of Karau, Murik Lakes, Sepik District, at the age of six. Between 1943 and 1945 Murik Lakes was a major Japanese base and at the age of nine Somare attended a school set up by the Japanese to teach local children simple arithmetic and Japanese language. After the war he attended Boram school, Wewak, and Dregerhafen school, Finschhafen. Somare graduated from a teacher-training course at Sogeri High School in 1957 and taught at the Administrative College, Port Moresby, until 1962. In 1962 he returned to Sogeri on a Public Service scholarship to undertake a Queensland Junior Certificate course. In 1963 he was Assistant Area Education Officer at Madang and in 1964 he was a Broadcast Officer with the Department of Information and Extension Services at Wewak. In 1965 he won a scholarship to the Administrative College in Port Moresby where he matriculated. From 1966-68 he was a journalist.

In 1967 Somare became a founder of the PANGU Pati. In 1969 he was elected chairman of PANGU. He was elected to the House of Assembly as a representative for an East Sepik electorate in 1968. In 1970 he became a member of the East Sepik District Advisory Council and the Wewak Local Government Council. In 1972 Somare took over the parliamentary leadership of PANGU and became the Chief Minister in PNG’s first fully elected government. He strongly advocated early self-government and Independence. In 1973 he developed a social and economic policy, incorporated in an “Eight Point Plan”, which received considerable popular and parliamentary support.

Somare led the country to Independence and in September 1975 became PNG’s first Prime Minister, a post which he retained until he was defeated by Julius Chan in a vote of no confidence in March 1980. Somare was Prime Minister again from August 1982 to November 1985 when he was defeated by Paias Wingti in a vote of no confidence. In May 1988 Somare handed over the leadership of PANGU and the Opposition to Rabbie Namaliu. Namaliu became Prime Minister on a vote of no confidence in July 1989 and Somare became Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Namaliu Government. Namaliu failed, by one vote, to form a Government after the 1992 election. Somare again became leader of PANGU and the Opposition until he was replaced by Jack Genia (Central) in March 1993. In March 1993 he also resigned from the PANGU Pati. Somare was knighted (GCMG) in 1990. 1993 is Somare’s twenty-fifth continuous year of parliamentary service.

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