When Charles was a would-be King in 1975 was the only time our paths crossed — albeit on opposite sides of a stadium — in Port Moresby. The then-Prince of Wales, representing Queen Elizabeth II, officiated the ceremony where Australia, the administrator of the territory, lowered its flag which was replaced by the PNG’s flag. The new country transformed into a constitutional monarchy with membership of the British Commonwealth.

“Papua New Guinea was granted independence on September 16, 1975. Villagers were brought from the countryside to dance in Port Moresby, the capital. Liquor sales had been banned for the week, so celebrations were festive but mostly sober. Plastered everywhere were signs in Pidgin proclaiming “Yumi olgeta bilong Papua Niugini.” Still, native enthusiasm was low keyed. Australians and Britons seemed more excited by the occasion. For them it represented a special event, the culminating pat on the back: decolonization. Yet, many Papua New Guineans had rarely if ever seen an Anglo or an Australian and in no substantial way had they depended on those outsiders. To them, ‘independence’ has always been a reality, not a fancy foreign concept nor a patronizing gift.”

“Set to celebrate a colonially labeled ‘independence dream,’ hardly understood
By centuries of New Guineans dependent solely upon the closest stream.”

Ironically, Australia, as America centuries earlier, may be among the next to seek its own independence from the British Crown.

Whether Charles warrants a kingdom or not, I’ll always remember him as a “prince of a person.” Had President Biden’s recently planned trip to Papua New Guinea not been canceled he would have touched base where Charles and I had rendezvoused 48 years ago, but at least, now, my chance of running into Prince Harry is quite likely in our Montecito neighborhood!

Steve Manis hitchhiked around the world for five years, visiting and living in more than 160 countries, some of which he reported on. The quoted passage, couplet, and photograph are from his book “Sifted Sands: Places, People, Portraits and Passages from a Traveler’s World.”


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.