Abel responds to relic issue
Post Courier [ September 22, 2008 | Read Article Online ]
A NATIONAL Executive Council (NEC) decision to endorse the submission that paves a way for the resolution of the Swamp Ghost B17 war relic controversy is a win/win solution.
Minister for Culture and Tourism Charles Abel said this on Friday, in responding to a joint statement made by Western Province and Eastern Highlands governors Dr Bob Danaya and Mal Kela Smith in the Post-Courier last Monday.
Both governors said the NEC decision to allow the Swamp Ghost wreck to be exported was an illegal decision and the NEC had participated in that conspiracy by giving an approval which it had no legal power to make.
They said the Minister had no jurisdiction over the wreck and nor did the museum as the only person with legal power to approve salvage was the Governor-General acting on advice — and even he could not approve a sale for the wreck.
Mr Abel said he had spent a lot of time working through the issue in order to come up with a workable solution given that the aircraft was deteriorating rapidly under the salty conditions in its present location.
He said he was well aware of the controversy surrounding this matter including the threat of legal action against the State.
“I met with the principal landowners of the ‘Swamp Ghost’ and have sought their views which contemplate to my submission endorsed by the NEC,” Mr Abel said.
He said many senior MPs and three private law firms were consulted after meeting Aero Archaeology officials before the submission was made to the NEC.
Mr Abel said the Government would allow the aircraft to go to America after Aero Archaeology, the interested party, constructed an aircraft museum, playground and BBQ facilities and creative arts workshop at the site of the current museum.
“This would be subject to a MoA brought back to the NEC in a separate submission by the Minister for Finance and myself after vetting by the State Solicitor to be eventually signed by the Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane,” he said.
The Swamp Ghost has been stranded at the Lae wharf since the NEC, in a previous decision, stopped its export after the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) inquiry into the affairs of the National Museum and Art Gallery in 2006.