Somare, Sir Michael Thomas

Somare, Sir Michael Thomas sōmäˈrā [key], 1936–2021, Papua New Guinea political leader. He was a teacher and radio journalist before his 1968 election to the territorial House of Assembly. Appointed chief minister of the territory in 1973, he became the country's first prime minister upon independence in 1975. Because of his key role in winning the nation's independence from Australia, Somare was given the name of “papa blo kantri” ("father of the nation"). A no-confidence vote (1980) ended his term, but he was reelected in 1982 and served until 1985. From 1988 to 1992 he was foreign minister. In 1997 Somare founded the New Alliance party (NAP) and was elected to parliament, subsequently serving (1999–2002) in several cabinet offices. A coalition led by the NAP won the 2002 election, and he again became prime minister; his government was returned to power in 2007. Somare oversaw national economic growth largely through the exploitation of Papua New Guinea's vast natural resources. He also was in frequent conflict with Australia, the country's largest aid donor. Failure to file financial information properly led to a two-week suspension as prime minister in Apr., 2011. That month he also went abroad for heart surgery, from which he was slow to recover. The prime ministership was declared vacant in Aug., 2011, and Peter O'Neill was elected to the office, but the supreme court declared that action unconstitutional in Dec., 2011. Somare continued to contest the post until the June, 2012, elections, when the NAP suffered significant losses; he then resigned as party leader. In 2015 he was forced to resign from the NAP after he negotiated with the opposition; he retired from politics in 2017.

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