Prime Minister O’Neill said this when acknowledging Sir Michael’s final speech in Parliament today.
O’Neill said Parliament will be a different place when it convenes after the National Elections.
He said today’s sitting marked a milestone for the country and Sir Michael as the curtain came down on his illustrious political career.
“Honorable Members, I thank the Grand Chief, Sir Michael Somare, for his contribution to Papua New Guinea, to the National Parliament, and for guiding us to Independence.
“This House will be a different place when the 10th Parliament convenes this year.
“We will miss his wisdom and knowledge, and the experience that can only come from fourth-nine years of elected service,” O’Neill said.
The Prime Minister highlighted Sir Michael’s humble beginnings to his years of political activism alongside other like minded locals such as Sir Maori Kiki, Sir John Guise, Sir Thomas Kavali, and Sir Iambakey Okuk.
O’Neill said Sir Michael and these great men laid the foundations for the country’s independence and the nation that is today and said they are immortal in the hearts of Papua New Guineans.
“Today, people can tend to take our National unity and harmony for granted – but achieving this social cohesion took a lot of hard work.
“Again, we only have to look at the fate of so many newly independent nations of that era to understand how things could have been different,” he said.
O’Neill added “In many other countries, the divide of ethnic and cultural difference led to civil war and genocide – but not in Papua New Guinea.
“Our national unity and harmony underpins the wonderful democracy that we have today.
“From the very outset, Sir Michael Somare, and our Founding Fathers, believed that national unity, in a country as diverse as ours, was of paramount importance.”
Meantime, Sir Michael officially ends his 49 year political career, the longest in the Commonwealth.