Monday, 19 November 2012

A Lasting Impression

Royal visit ... leaves lasting impression
By Madelyne Dusse

The blistering city of Port Moresby came alive with excitement and jubilant anticipation on a Saturday afternoon two weeks ago just as the sun was setting behind a glowing picturesque sky, a Royal Australian Air Force plane touched down at Jacksons International Airport to a rousing welcome ceremony signifying the long anticipated arrival of His Royal Highness Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne, and his wife The Duchess of Cornwall to Papua New Guinea. 

About a kilometer away in a hotel room, Governor General Grand Chief Sir Michael Ogio received word of the arrival of Prince Charles and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall.

He is delighted and looking forward to meeting Their Royal Highnesses, who will pay a Courtesy Call on him at the hotel. Naturally, Government House is where Their Royal Highnesses pay a courtesy call on the Governor General, their first port of call preceding all other engagements.

It is their home away from home and the symbol of the reign of Her Majesty the Queen and Sovereign Head of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea and where the Governor General holds fort as the Queen’s representative. On this occasion, however, and unlike past visits by the royal family, this significant ceremonial event exclusive to Government House was relegated to a less than ceremonial location.

Even so, Grand Chief Sir Michael and Lady Esmie were on hand when 20 minutes after their arrival, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall walked into the hotel room, smiling as they exchanged greetings with the Governor General and Lady Esmie. For Grand Chief Sir Michael and Lady Esmie, this would be their second time to meet Their Royal Highnesses, the first during their recent visit to England to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June this year.

Their Royal Highnesses looked at ease as they shared a few light moments with Their Excellencies and at one point, Prince Charles expressed to the Governor General how moved he was to see children lining the streets cheering and waving ecstatically as their motorcade drove past to the hotel. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Orders of Papua New Guinea medals by the Governor General to Their Royal Highnesses. Prince Charles was presented with the Insignia of the Grand Companion of The Order of Logohu (GCL), which carries the title ‘Chief’, while Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall was presented the Insignia of a Companion of the Order of the Star of Melanesia (CSM).

Following that, the Governor General also presented to Their Royal Highnesses the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Commemorative medals which both royals accepted graciously. The combined Ecumenical Service at Sir John Guise stadium the following day provided the public in Port Moresby the opportunity to glimpse their Prince and future king. Grand Chief Sir Michael, dressed in ceremonial uniform, and Lady Esmie, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his wife and Speaker of Parliament Theo Zurenuouc were on hand to receive Their Royal Highnesses at a colorful event that also included a military parade, traditional performances and a touching array of colorful choreography performed by more than 1500 school students.

It was also a proud moment for the PNG Defence Force when Prince Charles also Colonel-in-Chief of Royal Pacific Island Regiment, and dressed in their uniform, presented the Queen’s and Regimental Colours to the 2nd Royal Pacific Island Regiment amidst rousing applauses from the public who braved the sun and heat to witness this memorable event.

Another proud moment for many Papua New Guineans was hearing Prince Charles deliver the now famous Pidgin and Motu phrases during his speech and when the Prince recounted many a wonderful memories of his time spent as a schoolboy in Oro province 46 years ago and his subsequent visits to PNG thereafter. During their two day visit in the country, Their Royal Highnesses got to see and experience a little of what Papua New Guinea is, a young nation endowed with natural beauty yet at the same time overcoming negative perceptions of its development issues, a people so diverse in culture and tradition and yet united as one people one country.

Perhaps this was brought to the fore during their visit to 14-Mile Adventure Park where the Duchess of Cornwall was honoured by having a PNG hybrid orchid named after her –the Dendrobium Camilla and where the royal couple got to see native birds and orchids found only in Papua New Guinea, and furthermore, when they traveled to Boera village outside Port Moresby where they go to see the traditional lagatois and glimpse the traditional way of life of the Boera people.

The visit by Prince Charles to Hohola Youth Centre where he met many young people from underprivileged backgrounds whose commitment to strive for excellence is nothing short of inspiration. Certainly, Their Royal Highnesses’ meeting with families of World War II veterans at a wreath laying ceremony before their departure, is acknowledgement and recognition of our veterans and the powerful role they played in setting the course of what we are now, a vibrant, united democratic nation.

At a State dinner hosted by the Governor General, Prince Charles expressed how much he and the Duchess enjoyed the places they visited and the overwhelming joy and excitement that greeted them everywhere they went. The unity and welcome spirit displayed by the city residents did not go unnoticed by Their Royal Highnesses. In his own words, Prince Charles regretted that their visit was all too short, but he assured they take with them fond lasting memories of Papua New Guinea, and which he will convey to Her Majesty the Queen upon their return.

He also remarked on the wonderful family that is the Commonwealth of Nations and the opportunities that exist therein to strengthen ties among the nations so as to be a powerful force of unity in the world. At the farewell ceremony at Jackson’s International Airport ceremonial park, after the final royal guard of honour and his final Royal Salute, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall walked down the red carpet for the last time to a waiting RAAF plane bound for Australia.

And just before departing, Prince Charles spoke to the Governor General and said, “Governor General, thank you so much. Please convey to the people of Papua New Guinea our utmost thanks and appreciation for the wonderful time we had here. Thank you so much.” The residents of Port Moresby did put out a wonderful reception for Their Royal Highnesses one that they and the rest of Papua New Guinea can attest to with pride.

The Governor General Grand Chief Sir Michael Ogio is also grateful to every individual and organizations involved in the preparation of the royal visit and particularly to the city residents for demonstrating the true spirit of unity and hospitality that ultimately defined the success of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee royal visit by Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall.

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