I was deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Papua New Guinea Founding Father, Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare GCL GCMG CH CF SSI KStJ KSG PC. On behalf of the Fishing Industry Association and its members, and on my behalf, I would like to offer our deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences to Lady Veronica and the children, and to the Government and people of Papua New Guinea.
Grand chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare is one of the greatest leaders of modern times that PNG has ever produced. A colossus in public life. With his incomparable leadership and unparalleled insights, Grand Chief sir Michael Thomas Somare, for more than half a century and throughout his life, was a key role in promoting and securing peace and stability in his beloved country, the Pacific region and the world at large. He was highly revered and respected all over the country and truly a great statesman on the Pacific and the world.
He was a visionary leader and had the foresight during and after his tenure as Prime Minister. He firmly believed in the institutions that he had created by Act of Parliament. One such institution is the National Fisheries Authority and its Board. I can recall, while serving as Managing Director of the National Fisheries Authority from 2004 to 2014, of his outstanding contributions in the advancement of the development and growth of the fishing industry in PNG.
His legacy includes accelerated and massive growth in the fisheries sector in a short period of time where six tuna processing plants were established with some of the foreign fishing fleets re-flagging to PNG while others were based locally in support of these six tuna processing plants. The inflow of foreign direct investments in the fisheries sector during his tenure was achieved through Grand Chief's export driven economic recovery strategy. Economic growth at that time stood at 7% while populating growth was at 2%. What an achievement! After he was unceremoniously ousted as Prime Minister in 2011, we saw little to none additional foreign investments in the fisheries sector.
Another of his legacy I can recall was in 2010 during 35th Anniversary celebration of PNG's independence at the Crown Plaza Hotel. During this occasion, the National Fisheries Authority was to make a small presentation to hand over K30million as its dividend payment to the Government. AS I was preparing to do so, the Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare approached me and said that the Government does not need that money and that the money should be given to the small people of PNG to effectively participate in the fisheries sector. He did not specifically tell me what to do with the money but through his wisdom saw the birth of the fisheries project development fund and the provincial fisheries support grant which immensely benefited the small people of PNG from the maritime provinces in the inshore fisheries sector to the aquaculture development in the highlands provinces.
The Grand Chief also exuberated heavenly virtues that one should be encouraged to emulate such as kindness, humbleness, longsuffering, meekness as part of his lifestyle. I also recalled in 2010 when the Grand chief Sir Michael Somare called me to his office in Morauta Haus and shared one of his experiences with me and this is what he told me. Before self-government and independence, on one occasion he and his white white men friend went to downport Port Moresby and proceeded to go to Ela Beach. When he arrived at Ela Beach, the white police commissioner then, approached him and told him that black people were not allowed at Ela Beach. Sir Michael Somare did not get angry nor did he challenge the Police Commissioner's authority, but gracefully accepted what was said to him and left Ela Beach instantly. After that, he said to me that those were the kinds of experiences and treatment he received which propelled him to fight for his beloved country's Independence.
Finally, may we build upon his legacy and achieve further success in the fisheries sector and the country as a whole.
We honour his legacy and mourn his loss alongside his family, extended families and friends, and the people of this beautiful country. May his collective memories linger on in the minds and hearts of our people from the mountains to the lowlands and to the islands.
May his legacy live on, may his soul rest in eternal peace.
Sylvester Barth Pokajam
President and Chariman
Fishing Industry Association (PNG) Inc.