4 Jan 2006

Opposition leader pays tribute to former PNG prime minister

3:57 pm on 4 January 2006

The Opposition leader in Papua New Guinea says Sir William Skate was a man who overcame many barriers to achieve what he did.

Sir William, who was prime minister of PNG between 1997 and 1999, passed away yesterday after being taken off life support in a Brisbane hospital.

Peter O'Neil says Sir William made his mark on the political landscape by initiating peace discussions in Bougainville during the crisis.

Mr O'Neil says Sir William was a unique individual who brought a different flavour to the PNG parliament.

"He will remembered basically for his colourful style of politics, one who started with very humble beginnings and made his way to become prime minister of a very diverse and culturally challenging nation."

Mr O'Neil also says Sir William deserves credit for helping end years of civil war on Bougainville.

He will also be remembered for bringing about an end to the civil war in Bougainville. Sir William Skate was responsible for initiating discussions with the rebels and all the leaders in Bougainville, which has now brought about the autonomous government and a peaceful resolution of the event in Bougainville.

Peter O'Neil leads the Peoples' National Congress Party, which Sir William founded before leaving last year.

Meanwhile police around the PNG capital of Port Moresby are guarding key installations as a precautionary measure against people taking advantage of the death of Sir William Skate.

NCD/Central Police Commander Tony Wagambie says he fears a similar incident in 1985 when Sir Iambakey Okuk passed away and people started looting shops and stoning vehicles.

Mr Wagambie said apart from securing key installations, police would be conducting road blocks at various locations in the city.

The family of the Sir William have appealed to the people of his constituency to remain calm.

Close aide to Sir William, Susuve Laumaea, has made an appeal on behalf the family on local radio for calm, appealing to supporters not to do anything illegal.

Mr Laumaea says the family is appealing for goodwill and prayers and not to do anything that the family would not do.