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Tuesday, 8 March 1966

Mr HAROLD HOLT (Higgins) (Prime Minister) . - Mr. Speaker, I move -

That this House records it regret at the death of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and expresses its condolences to members of his family.

Our Commonwealth of Nations sustained another heavy blow - a blow felt throughout the world - with the tragic death by massacre in January of one of Africa's foremost statesmen, Sir Abubakar Balewa, Prime Minister of Nigeria. Sir Abubakar had shown himself to be one of the outstanding figures of the new nations of the Commonwealth. I know that he enjoyed a very high regard among his fellow Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I have frequently heard Sir Robert Menzies and my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck), speak of him in the highest terms from their own contacts with him at conferences. His death came at a high point in his career, shortly after he had been personally presiding at the conference of Prime Ministers held at Lagos, the capital of his own country.

The Commonwealth looked to Sir Abubakar as a moderating influence in a troubled continent. Calm and dignified in demeanour, he was widely acknowledged as a man of integrity, fairness, courage and sound judgment. Sir Abubakar entered his country's federal politics when the Nigerian Federation was established and in 1952 he was its first Minister of Works. His reputation grew steadily, and by 1957 he was Chief Minister. He played a large part in the formation of a national government and it was as Prime Minister on Nigeria's Independence Day in 1960 that he received the constitutional instruments from Princess Alexandra. In the same year he was knighted and in 1961 he became a member of the Privy Council.

Sir Abubakarhad a firm belief in the value of the Commonwealth and the role that it can play in international affairs. He believed deeply in democratic standards, in fairness to all and in free speech. Sir Robert Menzies has described him as a respected leader, clear minded, sagacious, tolerant, and just. The world can ill afford to lose men of this quality. We deeply regret his death and extend our sympathies to his family.

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