PM Must Intervene: Jojoga
The National [ May 24, 2006 ]
By Julia Daia Bore
LANDOWNERS from the Agaiembo Lake area have called on Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to intervene and stop the shipment of the Swamp Ghost to the United States.
The Swamp Ghost refers to the remains of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber that was shot down over the Musa area of Northern province in 1942 after carrying out a raid on a Japanese base in Rabaul, East New Britain province, as it was heading back to Townsville in Australia.
All nine crew members of the plane reportedly survived the crash and made it back to safety after crossing the Kokoda Track.
Karaisa landowners representative Willington Jojoga said the relic rightfully belonged to Papua New Guinea.
“Under no circumstances should any foreigner be allowed to have it removed and taken out of the country,” Mr Jojoga, a former UPNG academic and PNG historian, said yesterday.
He said the whole issue on the B-17 E Boeing 41-2246 bomber should not have been allowed to have advanced this far.
According to available documents and reports, Mr Jojoga said there were three different American groups interested in the Swamp Ghost, beginning in 1980.
One group was led by a Bob Gonzales from the Travis Air force Base Historical Society, who dealt with a senior officer at the war museum.
The Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation (MARC) group was the second, although its members did not clearly identify themselves and initially said all they wanted was to make a documentary movie based on the recollections of the two remaining crew members still alive today.
The documentary, they had said, would involve the local people.
This group was led by a Fred Hagen which dealt directly with a senior officer at the National Museum and Art Gallery.
From this deal came a payment of about US$100,000 (K301,000) in June 1999.
It was at this time that former PNG ambassador to the US Sir Nagora Bogan became aware of what was going on and ordered an investigation. Washington-based diplomat Graham Michael was assigned the job in 2000, which resulted in the suspension of the travel plans by the Americans to PNG.
Sir Nagora yesterday confirmed the investigation, adding that everything was put on hold because the embassy wanted to establish with local landowners and PNG authorities the claims made by the foreigners.
Mr Michael had also written to PNG authorities advising against proceeding with anything until all was properly established.
He also advised that the passports of Mr Hagen and his colleagues had been withheld by the PNG embassy in Washington DC.
On May 5 this year, 28-year-old Justin Taylan and his group from New York also came out publicly in the media expressing their interest in the Swamp Ghost.
“Now, it’s quite shocking,” Mr Jojoga said.
“Only the PM can stop this; it seemed that all other parties have an interest in the matter.”