A Tribute to late Sir Peter Kenilorea by Honourable Manasseh Damukana Sogavare, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands

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PM Manasseh Sogavare's Christmas Speech

 

  • Your Excellency the Governor General, Sir Frank Kabui
  • Speaker of National Parliament – Najilon Nasiu
  • Chief Justice – Sir Albert Palmer
  • Former Governors General
  • Former Speakers of Parliament
  • Former Prime Ministers
  • Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Manasseh Maelanga
  • Ministers of the Crown
  • Leader of the Official Opposition, the Honourable Jeremiah Manele
  • Leader of the Independent Group, the Honourable Derek Sikua
  • Members of Parliament
  • The Lord Mayor and Provincial Premiers
  • Heads and members of the Diplomatic Corps
  • Heads of Churches, Constitutional Post Holders, Heads of International and Regional Organizations, Chief Executive Officers of State-owned Enterprises and the Private Sector.
  • Lady Margaret Kenilorea and Children, and Relatives
  • People of Solomon Islands though out the Length and Breadth of this Country.

One of the brightest lights illuminating the pathway this Nation followed to this day has been extinguished.

Darkness has descended where this bright light once illuminated our path forward in nation-building; and within this dark space, lay our grief with a sense of loss of hope, deep aspirations and fervent goodwill that were the beacon upon which this great leader we farewell today, fashioned his vision; and by which he led the Nation forward into political emancipation on 7th July 1978, and helped to shape its progress thereafter.

Words cannot express the great loss we experience now, and over the past days since the sudden passing away of this Great Statesman.

I am overwhelmed by the enormous outpouring of grief for this wonderful man, distinguished statesman and leader; an ordinary father, and a Godly man, who devoted his entire life to doing our Nation and People all the good we experienced to this day.

He gave so much to make this Nation what it is today, and demanded so little in return.

  • Our People and Country achieved independence from Great Britain through the quiet and calculated determination of our great leaders and statesmen, who have since left this life.

If there is a Solomon Islands version of Whose Who Encyclopaedia, the names it would record of Solomon Islanders who achieved distinguished service to the people and country would not be that many.

Indeed, these great statesmen and leaders who received recognition for their unselfish deeds and sacrifice, and who led our Nation and People to where we are today, are not as many as one would expect.

They include those who have since left this life – the likes of Solomon Sunaone Mamaloni, Sir Fred Osifelo, Sir Jacob Vouza, Sir Baddeley Devesi, Sir Dudley Tuti, Sir Lloyd Gina, Sir Ellison Pogo, Sir Mariano Kelesi, Sir David Kausimae, Sir Gideon Zoleveke, Sir George Lepping, and Sir Moses Puibangara Pitakaka.

Less than a handful of great leaders are still alive and continue to serve our Nation and People with steadfast loyalty and unreserved sacrifice. They include Sir Nathaniel Waena and Sir John Ini Lapli (former Governors General), Sir Frank Kabui (our Governor General), Sir Francis Billy Hilly (former Prime Minister), Sir Allan Kemakeza, (also retired former Prime Minister and long-time politician), Right Hon Ezekiel Alebua (former Prime Minister), Sir Albert Palmer (Chief Justice), Sir John Muria (former Chief Justice), Sir Bruce Saunders; Sir Dr Trevor Garland, Sir Dr Nathan Kere, Sir Henry Quan and Sir Thomas Chan.

Distinguished Guests and People of Solomon Islands,

At around 4.30 in the afternoon on Thursday 25 February (exactly 6 days ago), God in his mercy and love, called to rest, another one of our great leaders – Sir Peter Kenilorea, who also shared the membership of the Privy Council with the Right Honourable Ezekiel Alebua, the only two in Solomon Islands.

Sir Peter Kenilorea was the fourth Solomon Islander to receive Her Majesty’s Knighthood award in 1982. Only three other locals received the same award before him – late Sir Fred Osifelo in 1977, late Sir Jacob Vouza in 1979, and late Sir Baddeley Devesi in 1980.

By all accounts, the late Sir Peter Kenilorea must rank as one of the greatest among these men of distinguished standing. His achievements during his distinguished career in the civil service, and later in the political circles in the years leading to and since independence is, firm testimony to this fact.

The Country is not left in the dark as regards the description of what it means to be a leader through the eyes of this great man. He left behind a well -articulated volume of an auto-biography that tells it all as it is. It is just appropriate at this occasion that we allow him to tell it all by making reference to this great work of literature.

He would argue “A leader makes mistakes and says `Sorry’ to anyone who is aggrieved by the misfortune. It is clear, Humility ranks as an important virtue in leadership according to this great man, in words and deeds.

  • Indeed, the late Sir Peter will be remembered for his kind generosity, humility, and fair and just manner he treats everyone who have come into contact with him.
  • His first job with the Protectorate Government was as a teaching staff of KGVI in 1968, and was one of only two local staff. His qualities as a teacher became immediately apparent. His 1968 Form 5 Cambridge School Certificate group performed outstandingly, and it drew much commendation from the then Principal, who had earlier cautioned him of being too lenient with his marking of a Mock Trial examination for the same group. When the real examination results came out and almost resembled the Mock trial outcome, the young and inexperienced Peter Kenilorea was congratulated. The Principal also apologised for questioning his judgement of his students’ ability to pass the mock examination with outstanding results.

It was one virtue he learnt of a real leader which shaped his leadership character while serving in civil service and his political career – that a leader should never feel too big (or important) to apologise to his subordinates.  Sir Peter wrote about this incident in his Autobiography published in 2008.

During those days when there was scarcity of specialized skills in the public service he was Jack of All Trades and he demonstrates that to be good at what you are doing you must have an appetite for Success.

  • His entire civil service career revolved around performing multi-functional roles requiring multi-professional skills and personal attributes. His qualities flourished around a broad scope of very senior role positions in the former Protectorate and in the pre-Independent Government public service between 1971 and 1976.
  • Behind these magnificent and noble achievements lie a simple-minded, humble, but quietly ambitious mind, and unwavering enthusiasm to learn and educate him-self around everything he did while at work, in his home, at church fellowships and in all engagements in and outside the country.
  • From his early childhood school days right up to the time he took reign of the Country’s first Executive Government as Prime Minister of the newly independent Solomon islands Nation, and in every single civic role he got engaged in henceforth, Sir Peter held an unrelenting belief that God was his personal Guardian, his Coach and his Life-Guide, and he constantly sought his divine mercy and guidance in everything he said and did.
  • Even when he knew God would summon him to join him in His eternal Kingdom in Heaven last Thursday, Sir Peter remained steadfast in his belief that it is God’s plan that if he should succumb to death, then it would happen without pro-longed pain and suffering. God answered Sir Peter’s prayer faithfully.  He passed away quietly and honourably in his home amongst his beloved wife Lady Margaret and close relatives.
  • Throughout his career, b he very ably combined his professional skills and personality – as senior executive administrator including roles as teacher, District Officer, District Commissioner; senior lands officer, magistrate, community educator, governance advisor and rural development advocate; project administrator, local court trainer, and as advisor on local custom to the Protectorate Governor at that time.
  • His political career was even more amazing.

To many village people whom he met and interacted with, the late Sir Peter was `the government’ and everyone held him in the highest respect and admiration, for his accessibility, honesty, generosity, and absolute loyalty to the call of duty to serve people from all walks of life in government, church circles, and in the rural villages all around the country.

He was a living example of what Trust, Loyalty and Perseverance are all about in leadership.

  • Late Sir Peter earned unreserved trust, loyalty and obedience from both the people he served and people he sought help from. An incidence at Queen’s Birthday Celebration in Kirakira in 1975 is a fine example of his popularity amongst people. Sir Peter wrote about it in his 2008 Autobiography.

Three aspects of the Queen’s Birthday celebration highlighted the highest level of trust and respect common people held towards this great man.

First, he decided and publicly announced that the occasion was to be the first dry celebration people in Kirakira were to experience. There would be not a single drop of alcohol served during the feasting.

Second, he successfully obtained agreement of Tikopian community chiefs in Kirakira, for the villagers to fish for the occasion – and got no less than 2 tons of fresh fish over two nights fishing.

Then, in his usual simple and humble way, he managed to convince the Police and the Chief Prison Warder to allow the prisoners (many whom he had sent to custody as Sitting Magistrate) to accompany him to cut leaves and firewood in the bush, for the feast. All the prisoners obliged, without any incidence whatsoever; even though they knew they won’t attend the feasting and celebrations. Such is the high regard the community held for late Sir Peter, as their District Officer then.

Time will not permit us to dwell in detail on the lessons of leadership manifested in the life of this great man. He has certainly touched many lives including this one. His exemplary public life and the values he believed in and practiced will remain a challenge to all who aspire to be leaders in this country.

He detests corruption in all of its forms and correctly argues that Solomon Islands with all of its potentials can only be successful if we take the bold step to weed out the evil scourge of corruption. According to him corruption is a manifestation of a life that is void of the character of Jesus. It is a powerful statement and a solemn reminder to all who claim to be Christians in this country.

This is an advice we must take seriously as a nation. For not to do so would be doing injustice to the man who has done so much to nurture the growth of this country from its inception and continue to be concern about it to the time of his passing on.

I am proud to have served him and the late Solomon Mamaloni during their terms as prime ministers of our country as a Tax Officer, moving through the ranks of that department to become the first Solomon Islander to localize the Commissioner of Inland Revenue through their encouragements.

When I finally became the prime minister of our country at the height of the ethnic tension in year 2000 he became one of the pillars upon which we lean on to restore peace and normalcy to the country. He worked so tirelessly with Sir Paul Tovua as co-chair of the Peace Negotiation, in collaboration with Sir Allan Kemakeza to bring the warring parties together. Despite his ill health following his retirement, he continues to engage with the government on matters as small as the welfare of public servants to national issues.

My last official correspondence with this great man is four weeks ago. He was concerned about the welfare of constitutional post holders and suggested that we amend the relevant laws to establish a pension scheme for all constitutional post holders.

I assured him that the government will pursue the course of action suggested. Such is the selfless life of this great man who even at the stage where his health would not permit him to play an active role in nation building, he still cares about our country and its people.

The country has certainly lost a great man. The least that we can do in his honour is to follow his example.

On behalf of the people of Solomon Islands from Shortlands in the west to Vanikoro in the East; from Lord Howe and Sikaiana in the North to Rennell and Bellona in the South, I take this opportunity to thank the people of East Are, Are for giving us this great man and for the great and outstanding contribution he has made to this nation. He will be greatly missed.

Of course behind a great man there is a great woman and I wish to acknowledge Lady Margaret for standing by his side all these years up to the time he was called to rest. May God continue to give you the strength you need to carry the pain of the loss and may his love fill the void created!

We are comforted by the knowledge that His soul rests in peace with the God that he continues to faithfully serve to the point when he was called to rest.

Sir, take your well – deserved rest with the assurance that “We shall meet again on that Beautiful Shore, in the sweet Bye, and Bye”.