Britain’s Prince Charles delighted locals in Papua New Guinea (PNG) with a brief address in pidgin after inspecting a military parade yesterday, as he and wife Camilla conduct a jubilee tour of the Pacific.
Charles, the heir to Queen Elizabeth II who is known in PNG as nambawan pikinini bilong misis kwin — first child of Mrs Queen — was cheered by several thousand people as he made his first speech since arriving on Saturday.
“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,” the prince said in Tok Pisin, the local patois.
Charles inspected a parade of the Royal Pacific Islands Regiment, of which he is colonel-in-chief. It was first established in World War II 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 [against the Japanese],” 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,” he added, presenting the regiment with new colors.
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 [first] visit”.
“The importance of Papua New Guinean culture has remained with me ever since,” he said, adding he had been humbled to learn that “the drums [have] been beating for several days in anticipation of my arrival.”
The visit to PNG 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 to be a more respectful affair.
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 Papua New Guinean 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.
Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told yesterday’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.”