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Guise, Sir John (1914–1991)

Papua New Guinea's first Governor-General, Sir John Guise, died suddenly yesterday afternoon at his Port Moresby home.

Sir John, aged in his late 70s, was described by leaders on both sides of politics as one of PNG's senior statesmen.

The Prime Minister, Rabbie Namaliu, described Sir John's death as "a loss to the nation", while Opposition Leader Paias Wingti said, "PNG has lost its elder statesman and a father of inspiration to many leaders".

Andrew Peacock, who was Minister for External Territories during PNG's independence push of the 1970s, described Sir John last night as "a great friend" and "a statesman in the real sense of the word".

Two former Australian administrators of PNG, Sir David Hay and Les Johnson, added their voices to the tribute last night.

Sir David described Sir John as "a great patriot" and a "deeply religious man not above kneeling down with his colleagues in prayer when difficult times were to be faced. He was eloquent, able to put into words the feelings of Papua New Guineans about the future of their country."

Mr Johnson said Sir John was "one of the men who showed that Papua New Guineans could control their destiny".

Sir John was born at Milne Bay in Papua and had a distinguished public life.

He was a member of the first House of Assembly in 1964 and was the first indigenous Speaker, wearing a Westminster wig with a Papuan tapa cloth and bird of paradise feathers.

In 1972 he was appointed Minister for the Interior, Agriculture and Livestock and was Deputy Chief Minister to Sir Michael Somare at self-government in 1973.

He was appointed PNG's first Governor-General at Independence in 1975 and held vice-regal office for two years before re-entering politics.

He survived several general elections as an independent — a rare feat in PNG politics — and retired in 1982 but kept active on a number of statutory authority boards and continued to write a weekly newspaper column on national affairs.

As a youngster growing up in Milne Bay he was a passionate cricketer and also played a significant role in helping to slow the initial advance of the Japanese in World War II.

When the Japanese landed at Milne Bay in August 1942 the young John Guise paddled more than 20km through rough seas in an open dingy to tell coastal villagers to put out their lights and fires.

The Japanese landed several kilometres off course and the mistake slowed their initial thrust across PNG.

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'Guise, Sir John (1914–1991)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 13 August 2020.

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