A former Papua New Guinea provincial governor has died in Australia from Covid-19 complications.
Malcolm 'Kela' Smith, who was governor and a member of parliament for Eastern Highlands province, was medevacced from PNG to Queensland ten days ago due to ill health.
He died in the intensive care unit at Redcliffe Hospital, north of Brisbane on Monday.
The 77-year-old was well known for his work in the aviation sector and for his efforts to help lift the fortunes of PNG's children.
In 2017 Smith started the Kela Foundation to help underprivileged children and their communities.
He also founded Pacific Helicopters which transported those in remote regional areas to essential medical appointments.
Tributes have flowed on social media for the UK-born Australian who made Papua New Guinea his home.
Eastern Highlands is grieving the loss of former Governor, Mal "Kela" Smith CMG.MBE.DFC. Mal, the founder and owner of the Pacific Helicopter Group, wore many hats, including Chair of the Goroka Hospital Board. He will be greatly missed COVID-19 doesn't discriminate. #PNG pic.twitter.com/vNejrWtH1s— Dr Pamela Toliman (@PamelaToliman) April 5, 2021
According to PNG media reports, Smith's businesses were closed on Monday in tribute to their founder.
Queensland Health said the death wouldn't be included in the state's Covid-19 statistics as the case was diagnosed in PNG.
More than 7400 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in PNG with Smith's death taking the toll to 67.