By ISAAC NICHOLAS
PRIME Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare has retired from office for medical reasons, his son Arthur Somare announced yesterday, The National reports.
The decision was not Sir Michael's, but that of his immediately family members who reached it three weeks ago in Singapore.
"He is not in a position to coherently make a decision himself ... that is why we have made the decision,'' Arthur said.
"On behalf of Lady Veronica and the rest of Sir Michael's family, I would like to inform the public that it is our wish that Sir Michael will now pursue a life in retirement after nearly 50 years of active politics due to medical reasons and the uncertainty of the recovery period."
The retirement covers all positions held by the PM including:
*Parliamentary leader of the National Alliance party;
*Regional member of parliament for the East Sepik people; and
*As Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.
Somare, who is minister for public enterprises, put on a brave face although he was visibly emotional when making the announcement.
"The public was informed at different intervals that Sir Michael has taken medical leave to address a condition that has prevailed over many years," he said.
"The initial operation to replace the leaking heart valve was successful but, subsequently, other complications had developed.
"These complications have further delayed the anticipated time in which Sir Michael was expected to recover and return to Papua New Guinea."
The son said the difficult and trying part of identifying infectious diseases had been cleared but, at the age of 75, going to 76, and after three heart operations, "it will weaken a person of his age".
"The uncertainty of when he will be out of intensive care has pushed us into this decision," he said.
He said Sir Michael was in ICU and "is not in a position to talk and understand the decision made by the family three weeks ago".
"I have not talked to my father in weeks," Somare said.
He said the road to recovery would be slow and "it will be a tedious wait and the family cannot keep PNG waiting".
"All five siblings and our mother have taken this decision that he steps down from politics and that Sir Michael is allowed to recover at his own pace. In our considered decision to do this, we believe PNG should have a level of certainty with regard to political stability and leadership well into the future.
"He is not only the head of the Somare family. He is the head of the country and there are different processes to be taken to elect a new prime minister.
"I am not here for politics but as a family member to announce the family's desire to retire our father.
"Taim femili ino toktok, banis istap yet. Nau mi toktok, mi kliarim rot. Em samting bilong palamen, kebinet na pati long mekim disisen. Em bai ino mo sanap long rot. (When the family did not speak out, it becomes an obstacle, but now that I make that announcement, it clears the road for parliament, cabinet and party to make a decision).
"This has not been an easy decision to make without full and proper consultation with Sir Michael.
"However, in the greater public interest and collective good of the country, we are of the view that this decision is necessary and we believe it will be his desire to do so at this time given the circumstances.
"I would like to thank the people of Papua New Guinea for their well wishes, messages of support and constant prayers."