PAC: Seize Swamp Ghost
The National [September 14, 2006 ]
By JULIA DAIA BORE
THE parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday told the National Museum and Art Gallery management that it had “no power” to sell the World War II aircraft – the B-17E Flying Fortress dubbed the Swamp Ghost, or any war surplus materials to overseas buyers.
The PAC said the war relics remained the rightful property of the PNG Government and its people; and that it could only be sold following normal Public Finance (Management) Act and/or by the financial instructions promulgated thereon.
In saying this, the PAC yesterday ordered that the Swamp Ghost be immediately seized by the State and protected and preserved until a decision can be made as to its future.
“The State (of PNG) still owns the Swamp Ghost and no effective contract of sale, salvage, removal or export has been formed nor could the museum do so,” PAC acting chairman Malcolm Smith-Kela said. The museum cannot enter into contracts to bind the State. The museum is a corporation in its own right; but it is not an agent or representative of the State, particularly in respect to the sale, salvage, removal or export of State-owned property,” he said.
He said "any purported contract between foreign buyers, the Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation (MARC) and the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery to remove the Swamp Ghost aircraft “was illegal, unenforceable and invalid”.
He told acting museum director Simon Puraituk that “as custodian of WWII aircraft, war surpluses and our artefacts, I’m dismayed that you have dealt in them in such a shabby way”.
“The museum is looking after all these heritages, and what we are seeing right now is that the war relics and indigenous artefacts are being disposed of in a most dubious manner.
“The committee has very carefully considered a large number of documents placed before it in relation to the dealing and export of the Swamp Ghost. The committee is of the view that there has been a concerted attempt to illegally obtain State property by virtually any representation, promise or undertaking.”