My wife and I were profoundly saddened to learn of the death of Sir Michael Somare. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with all those who mourn his passing.

Having first visited Papua New Guinea in 1966 and represented Her Majesty at your country’s independence celebrations in 1975, I know what a remarkable role Sir Michael played in leading his people to independence and then, as Prime Minister and a Parliamentarian, in ensuring his country’s enduring democracy. Sir Michael’s service to his nation was exceptional. The people of Papua New Guinea have lost a statesman who led international efforts to protect one of our planet’s most precious assets – our rainforests; and the wider Asia-Pacific community has lost a wise elder statesman. Our  hearts go out to all the people of Papua New Guinea at such a very sad time. 

For my part, I have countless fond memories of meeting Sir Michael during my visits to Papua New Guinea over the past fifty-five years and, in particular, of his unending energy and dedication to the pursuit of peace and environmental sustainability. Without him, the Coalition for Rainforest Nations simply would not exist.  

However inadequate it may be on such a very sad occasion, my wife and I wanted to express our profound sympathy to the people of Papua New Guinea as you grieve the loss of your first Prime Minister. I trust that Sir Michael’s enduring legacy of peace, and all that he achieved with the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, will be maintained by future generations.