PNG PM Marape says Sir Rabbie a great statesman


Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has described the late former prime Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu as a great statesman.

“Papua New Guinea has lost a great statesman who served as the fourth Prime Minister from 1988 to 1992, and as leader of the Pangu Pati,” he said.

“He had a distinguished career in the public service, in academia, politics and business.

“I join with family, friends, people of East New Britain and Papua New Guinea in mourning the passing of Sir Rabbie.

“We will have a State funeral befitting a former Prime Minister and national leader,” Marape said.

Meanwhile, the family of the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare has paid tribute to his “close friend”, the late Sir Rabbie Namaliu, saying their bond lasted their lifetimes.

A statement from the family said: “Time and events might have tested their relationship but the bond of the formative years of pre-Independence and later post-Independence would last their lifetimes.

“The two men remained close friends their entire lives.

“We thank the family of the late Sir Rabbie Namaliu for the contributions of your late brother and father, to our country.

“We also thank you for the friendship and loyalty your brother and father, showed towards the late Sir Michael Somare up until the end of his life. Our sincere and deep condolences to the family of the late Sir Rabbie Namaliu: his brother Robinson and the children Joy, Isaac, Rabbie Junior, Aaron, Lorna and Hellen.”

Sir Michael’s daughter, Betha, who released the statement on behalf of Lady Veronica and the Somare family, said Sir Rabbie’s relationship with Sir Michael began before Independence in 1975.

She said a young Rabbie Namaliu came to support Sir Michael who was the chief minister at that time and was preparing to take over the public service, and gradually the administration of the territories of Papua and New Guinea.

Sir Rabbie was recruited as the principal private secretary to the Chief Minister’s Office from 1972 until 1974.

He was among the young student leaders at the University of Papua New Guinea handpicked to assist in the new administration of the territories.

In 1987, Sir Rabbie replaced Sir Michael as the new leader of the Pangu Pati.

That same year, through a vote of no confidence, he became Prime Minister.

The late former Prime Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu’s family was arranging to take him to a Port Moresby hospital from Kokopo when he passed away on Friday, his younger brother Jack Namaliu said.

He said Sir Rabbie had a kidney problem which doctors said should be treated in Port Moresby.
The people of Raluana in Kokopo and East New Britain as a whole are mourning Sir Rabbie, 77 who is from the Raluana district.

Jack said he died around 4pm on Friday, after being sick for the past four weeks after returning from Western where he attended a meeting by the PNG Sustainable Development Programme and visited some projects there.

“When he returned to Kokopo, he started feeling sick,” Jack said. “After a week, I told him that I will organise a doctor to come and check him. But he didn’t want us to go and see the doctor.

“I checked with him again the following week and this time he agreed for us to get one private doctor.”

Jack said doctors tried to stabilise his condition to allow him to travel on a plane to Port Moresby.

“We were shocked when he passed away.”

Sir Rabbie was born in April 1946 at Vatnabar in the Duke of York Islands when his father Darius and mother Joan worked as missionaries for the United Church there.

His father brought him back to Kokopo to start his education at the Raluana Primary School, then the Vunamami Farmers Training Centre.

Sir Rabbie completed his secondary education at Kerevat in 1966.

He was supposed to go with others to the New South Wales University but was told to attend the University of PNG with other pioneer student.

In 1970, he graduated with a degree in political science and history.

In 1971, he was given a scholarship to attend the University of British Colombia in Canada where he completed his master degree programme. He was asked by United Nations to work for them but his father told him to return home to help Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare secure independence for PNG.

Sir Rabbie became a lecturer at UPNG, and later worked as Sir Michael’s principal private secretary in the late 70s. He was later appointed the district commissioner for ENB.

He entered Parliament in 1982 as the Kokopo MP and held that seat for five consecutive terms.

In 1988, he became the fourth Prime Minister of PNG.

His cousin Andrew Ilam said Sir Rabbie refused to return to politics afterwards.

“He was the fourth PM of PNG, but for us at Raluana, Kokopo and ENB, he was the first,” Ilam said.

He is survived by six children. His first wife died after they had two children (sons).

His second wife from Vunamami bore him four children.

Sir Rabbie was the eldest of seven siblings – three brothers and four sisters.

The family wants him to be buried at Raluana, as he wished, near the grave of his first wife.