Asia-Pacific

Papua New Guinea's 'father of the nation' Michael Somare is in palliative care

Cardinal Sir John Ribat at Sir Michael's bedside yesterday. Source: Supplied

Michael Somare served as PNG’s prime minister four times. He held the post for 17 years in total, making him the country's longest-serving leader.

Papua New Guinea’s "father of the nation" and first prime minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare is in critical condition in a Port Moresby hospital and under palliative care.

The family of the 84-year-old has released a statement “so the public knows the exact extent of this terrible illness”.

Mr Somare was due to head overseas for treatment this week.

“It is with sadness that I advise… the serious illness pancreatic cancer that has befallen our father, Sir Michael, it is at a critical stage and we as a family, along with his medical teams, are giving him the utmost care that he deserves,” the family said in a statement.

“After comprehensive consultation to ensure all clinical opportunities were exhausted in every jurisdiction with the competencies able to treat the critical stage of this form of cancer, the family, in consultation with the grand chief and Lady Veronica, have settled with offering the best palliative care and nutritional and dietary care in PNG.”

Mr Somare served as PNG’s prime minister four times. He held the post for 17 years in total, making him the country's longest-serving leader. He also served as foreign minister, leader of the opposition and governor of East Sepik.

He was the first chief minister at the end of Australian colonial rule and helped found the Pangu Party, which led PNG to independence in 1975.

He was born in Rabaul in East New Britain in 1936 and grew up in his father’s villages in the East Sepik, which formed his power base.

He has five children with Lady Veronica.

“We take this opportunity to thank the many Papua New Guineans that have sent in their well wishes and prayers for the health and wellbeing of Sir Michael and Lady Veronica,” the family statement said.

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