By BARNEY PONDROS
A FIBREGLASS replica will be erected and a war museum worth K1.5 million will be set up in the place of Papua New Guinea’s most famous war relic, the B17 Flying Fortress – Swamp Ghost which is being exported to the US.
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Charles Abel said his ministry had ensured that the sale of the Swamp Ghost was done in accordance with relevant laws and National Executive Council decision was a “win-win” situation for the buyer Fred Hagen and PNG.
The NEC decision was made on Aug 28, 2008.
Landowners of the site where the bomber set for the past four decades will also receive US$100,000 that has been kept in a trust account, reportedly for a decade.
Mr Abel said any interest accrued will also be paid out to landowners, and he hopes they will put the money to good use.
He confirmed that the bomber that is currently being held at the Lae main wharf will depart on Jan 26, for its voyage to the US.
Documents disclosed by the Minister showed the decision to sell the Swamp Ghost to Mr Hagen’s firm Aero Archaeology, through its agent HARS PNG.
According to the memorandum of agreement signed between the State and Aero Archaeology last Dec 10, the firm must ensure, prior to taking the relic away, that “it provides funds for the further improvement of PNG’s National Museum and Art Gallery”.
In a late afternoon interview yesterday, Mr Abel cleared the air saying the sale was in the best interest of the State and there was nothing dubious about it.
Mr Abel had to come clear, because many thought the sale was done without due process as in 2006 the Public Accounts Committee findings said the sale, salvage, removal or export of State-owned property breached certain laws and was illegal.
A letter from the State Solicitor George Minjihau, dated last Aug 31, however, agreed that the MoA between the State and Aero Archaeology was in order.
Mr Minjihau had given his written blessing to the National Museum and Art Gallery Board of trustees.
Regarding that, Mr Abel said since he took office he had worked closely with the board to clean up the system and ensure that the sale of the Swamp Ghost set the pace and precedence for any future sale of war relics.
“In the past, things were done illegally, even before Swamp Ghost, a lot of war relics were sold out, but we have changed that and will ensure that any requests for the purchase of war relics must be channeled through the minister and the board,” Mr Abel said.
He also confirmed that plans have already been put in place and the new war museum will be erected.
“It will be a complete modern history building with artists centre, barbeque facilities and children’s playground, and there will be an exact replica of the Swamp Ghost,” he said.
The Swamp Ghost will be ferried to the US on the Steamships Shipping vessel, the Pacific Pathfinder.