By MICHAEL WARTOVO
TOMATARA is the traditional name of the site where the historical mission memorial Tung-Naparau is situated in the Raluana Local Level Government (LLG) in Kokopo District of East New Britain.
Tung-Naparau, in the Kuanua language meaning ‘grave of the white’, is an historical Methodist mission site. It was first discovered by an early Fijian Methodist missionaries in the early days of Methodist revival when they brought the gospel to the New Britain island on April 6, 1878 after their arrival in 1875 with Dr George Brown.
A pilgrimage and memorial service is conducted on the site annually by the United Church of New Britain Region on April 6 to commemorate the massacre of the first Fijian missionaries who came ashore here on New Britain Island on April 6, 1878.
The missionaries of the Methodist Church – which is now called the United Church – were killed and buried at the site now called Tung-Naparau.
In 1953 the Methodist Overseas Mission (Mom) desired to erect a memorial sculpture of the Fijian missionaries on the site and requested the state to acquire the land where the missionaries were buried.
On Aug 29 of the same year the Government of Papua New Guinea acquired the land for only two pounds from the native landowners and on Sept 17, 1953 the land was transferred to the state.
It was gazetted and declared Tung- Naparau Memorial Reserve, and it is also identified as an unregistered admin land (Ual No 337) meaning it is a state land.
The desire by the Mom to erect a memorial never eventuated for almost 21 years until 1974 when the first sculptural monument was erected just before Papua New Guinea gained independence in 1975, when founding Prime Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare, accompanying the two representatives from the Fijian government, officially unveiled and memorial on the site.
A second memorial was built in 2007 to commemorate the reconciliation with the relatives of the Fijian missionaries, the Fiji United Church and the United Church of New Britain Region and Papua New Guinea.
A third structural improvement on the site was a rest house funded by the ENB tourism office after the reconciliation and the site now has been recognised as a tourism product in the province.
The fourth structure is a shed built over the two memorial sculptures to protect them from possible vandalism.
In 2009 the regional synod of the United Church of New Britain Region held its first meeting at the Raluana Circuit and passed a resolution to commit five of its circuits to spearhead the start of the restoration work to begin on the Tung-Naparau Memorial Reserve site.
A fifth and a larger structure on site is a multipurpose hall erected. It is the first project set up the by the Vuna Valagar restoration committee and was opened on Dec 8, 2013. A second project was the caretaker’s house opened on April 6, 2014 during the Tung – Naparau annual day.
The circuits that were to start the restoration work on the site were Vunavatikai in the Reimber-Livuan LLG, Davaon in the Raluana LLG, Tanaka, Navunaram and Tinganagalip in the Central Gazelle LLG.
A committee was established comprising of pastors and church leaders from from the above mentioned circuits to spearhead a group called Vunavalagar Restoration Committee.
The committee was responsible for the development of the Tung-Naparau Memorial Reserve which houses the cemetery of the Fijian missionaries who were buried there. The site has attracted local and international tourists annually.
As we all know in ENB today the Tung-Naparau Memorial Reserve plays a significant part in hosting the annual George Brown Day outreach programme on Aug 15 which is run by the United Church of New Britain Region under its calendar to celebrate the first arrival of the gospel in 1875 by Dr George Brown.
The event has seen members of the United Church flocking every year on Aug 15 to celebrate the Dr George Brown with various church activities such as the main church service followed by choirs from different church congregations from the United Church in the province.
With Kokopo now the tourism hub of the NGI region the Tung-Naparau Memorial Reserve has been identified as a major attraction in the province.
The United Church is now working closely with the ENB tourism office in Kokopo to improve the various facilities on the site in preparation to market it abroad.