Prince Charles talks pidgin on Papa New Guinea tour
Agence France-Presse in Port Moresby
Britain’s Prince Charles delighted locals in Papua New Guinea with a brief address in pidgin after inspecting a military parade on Sunday, as he and wife Camilla conduct a jubilee tour of the Pacific.
Charles, the heir to Queen Elizabeth II, was cheered by several thousand people as he introduced himself in Tok Pisin, the local patois, making his first speech since arriving on Saturday.
“Ladies and gentlemen, mi nambawan pikinini bilong misis kwin,” said Charles, referencing his local title – “first child of Mrs Queen”.
“I bring you greetings from Her Majesty the Queen of Papua New Guinea and from all my family members during celebration of the diamond jubilee of the queen,” he continued.
Dressed in the forest green uniform of the Royal Pacific Islands Regiment of which he is colonel-in-chief, Charles inspected an official military parade and presented the infantrymen with new colours.
The regiment was first established in the second world war to fight the Japanese following their 1942 invasion of Papua New Guinea.
“I grew up with the stories of extraordinary courage... which made possible the successes of the hard-fought campaign along the Kokoda Trail,” Charles told the crowd in Port Moresby’s Sir John Guise stadium, where the parade and an earlier open-air church service took place.
“So it was the proudest moment when I became your colonel-in-chief in 1984.”
Charles first visited the desperately poor Pacific nation when living as a student in Australia in the 1960s, and said he had “never forgotten the profound impact of that visit”.
“The importance of Papua New Guinean culture has remained with me ever since,” he said, adding he had been humbled to learn “the drums [have] been beating for several days in anticipation of my arrival”.
Music and colour were the order of the day, with a choir of women in bright floral shirts and grass skirts welcoming the royal couple to Boera village where they were treated to a traditional hiri motu war dance.
They inspected local painting, weaving, pottery and canoe-building and toured an aid project replanting coastal mangroves, before returning to the capital for a state dinner.
The Duchess of Cornwall had earlier been presented with a rare orchid named in her honour, the Dendrobium Camilla, to mark her first visit to PNG.
It is the latest in a series of foreign tours by royals to mark 60 years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Charles’s son William and William’s new bride Catherine came to the Asia-Pacific region in September.
Media coverage of that visit was gatecrashed by a French magazine’s publication of photographs of Catherine sunbathing topless. The current tour by William’s father and stepmother promises no such distractions.
Rugged Papua New Guinea is the first stop on the two-week tour, which will also take Charles and Camilla to Australia and New Zealand.
The royal couple were met with a 21-gun salute when they touched down on Saturday evening and Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio made Charles a Grand Companion of PNG’s exclusive Order of Logohu.
The order can only consist of 50 living members, and includes former US president Bill Clinton and Sir Michael Somare, PNG’s first leader after independence in 1975 and a dominant figure in its political history.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told Sunday’s crowd that he believed the monarchy was “as relevant and vital today as it has ever been” in Papua New Guinea.
“Her Majesty contributes to our stability and harmony in many, many ways,” said O’Neill. “I affirm our allegiance to Her Majesty as our head of state.”
Britain proclaimed a protectorate over what became known as British New Guinea in the late 1800s. Australia later took over administration and Papua New Guinea proceeded to full independence in 1975.