The tribute service was held in early March in the administration building of the newly established Western Pacific University campus in Ialibu-Pangia District of the Southern Highlands Province.
WPU's executive chair, Professor Fr. Jan, emphasised that the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare was passionate about improving the country’s education system.
Professor Fr. Jan said although the Grand Chief Sir did not fully understand what the internet was at that point in time (by time referring to the year 2005), he appreciated that the manner in which students learn, the manner in which lecturers and teachers teach is changing and that the teacher and/or lecturer will no longer need to stand in front of the classroom. The teacher and lecturer’s role is to facilitate the learning.
Professor Fr. Jan continued to say that the late Grand Chief accepted his proposal to introduce internet to higher education institutions to assist with research and learning online. Fr. Jan, at that time was the president of Divine Word University and the Chairman of the Vice Chancellors Committee (VCC).
“The VCC in 2005 had established the Papua New Guinea Academic Research Network and needed the then monopoly Telikom PNG to grant them the licence to operate using internet in tertiary education institutions. The late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare attended the official launching of the Papua New Guinea Academic Research Network and by doing so, his actions encouraged Telikom PNG to support our cause by granting us the licence to operate and gradually, we gained internet access for all higher education institutions throughout the country,” explained Professor Fr. Jan.
A small delegation of invited guests joined the staff and students for the memorial service. Invited guests included a handful of representatives from the different wings within the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, Western Pacific University Council Member representative Marlene Philip, representatives from the National Department of Finance and National Higher Education Board representative, George Bopi.