Government Grounds Swamp Ghost
The National [ May 24, 2006]
RELEVANT government agencies, including the Internal Revenue Commission, have been directed by the government to prevent the shipment of a war relic, a World War II fighter aircraft, to the United States.
Acting Prime Minister Sir Moi Avei announced yesterday that the national government would review the decision by the National Museum and Art Gallary board of trustees to approve the shipment of the B-17 E Boeing bomber, dubbed the swamp ghost to the US.
In a statement released yesterday following revelations by the media about the shipment of the war relic out of Popondetta, where it had been resting in the Agaiembo Lake since 1942, Sir Moi said: “Like many Papua New Guineans, I was shocked to learn that PNG would lose this very important relic from PNG’s World War II past.”
The acting PM said his office was yesterday inundated by phone calls from concerned citizens following the media coverage on the salvage operation.
He said he was very surprised that such an important matter had not been brought to the attention of the national executive council well before the salvage operation was granted approval.
Sir Moi said he had directed the Minister for Culture and Tourism David Basua to use whatever powers available to suspend the shipment of the aircraft, until the issue had been considered in full by the government.
“I have directed the minister to prepare a detailed briefing paper on the matter, and to explain why the National Museum and Art Gallery approved the salvaging and shipment of the aircraft.”
He added that the government would also closely examine the legal basis behind the decision.
He said the aircraft was a very important historical relic for PNG and it would add to the country’s World War II memorabilia that attracts thousands of visitors to the country every year.
He said in this regard, he found it very difficult to comprehend the decision by government authorities to allow the war relic’s shipment to the United States.
The acting PM acknowledged that his decision would cause concern for the US-based salvaging group, but added that he was acting in the national interest and the public expected the decision to be reviewed by the government.
Sir Moi said in accordance with his decision, the director of the national museum had instructed relevant government authorities, such as the Internal Revenue Commission, to prevent shipment of the aircraft.