Post Courier [ June 1, 2006 ]
By Jessie Lapou
THE new board of trustees of the National Museum and Art Gallery has endorsed the decision of the former board to allow the salvaging and restoration of the American warplane dubbed Swamp Ghost. Due to much publicity about the plane after it was removed from the Agiambo swamps in the Northern Province, the new board of trustees of the museum met on Wednesday to discuss the decision made by the former board of trustees led by former board president and current Governor General Sir Paulias Matane and former deputy president and now Papua New Guinea High Commissioner to New Zealand Bernard Narakobi.
The new board was appointed in January and its president Arthur Jawodimbari said they could not review the decision because there would be legal and financial implications. Mr Jawodimbari said the plane would go to the United States of America as according to the agreement signed between the Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation and the museum in 1999. He said the agreement was valid for five years from the date of execution and if it was not terminated at the expiry date it would automatically becomes renewed for another five-year term. He said it was up to the National Executive Council to review the decision.
However, acting director of the museum Simon Poraituk said NEC was made aware of the decision in 2003. In 2001, Aero Archaeology of which Alfred Hagen is the director bought off the plane from MARC. Mr Jawodimbari said the Agiambo swamp was inaccessible but nine American tourists paid locals to guide them to the area last year. He said the landowners of Karaisa were consulted before the salvaging took place.
However, Karaisa leaders Jerry Yogoni, Gilbert Yogoni, Gutari Yogoni, Colin Tom and the chairman of the Beach Head Battlefields Tourism Committee in Popondetta Joachim Olai did not want the plane to “salvaged, removed or damaged.” They all agreed that the plane should be left where it was because it was “priceless” and that it could be used to attract tourist. Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee inquiry will be held on July 1.