RECOVERY OF U.S. WWII AIRCRAFT IN PNG QUESTIONED
By Isaac Nicholas
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Sept. 13) - An aircraft war wreck was salvaged and shipped out of the country, allegedly using forged documents engineered by the acting director of the National Museum and Art Gallery, Simon Poraituk.
The wreck was believed to have been removed around July despite the National Museum Board of Trustee’s "black ban" on any dealings with salvaging company 75th Squadron Museum.
[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR archives, The World War II bomber aircraft nicknamed the "Swamp Ghost" was to be sent to the United States to be reconstructed and restored to its original form. Under an agreement reached in June, the aircraft was to be returned "when Papua New Guinea finally has the capacity to house and care for all its war materials."]
Board member Andrew Abel made the allegations during the Public Accounts Committee inquiry into the National Museum and Art Gallery yesterday.
Mr. Abel said the board meeting on July 6 had banned all dealings with salvaging companies, including the 75th Squadron.
He also alleged that a lot of board documents, including memorandum of agreements, have been going out without the board’s approval or knowledge.
"Poraituk engineered a MOA and, after this was rectified by the board chairman, he concocted to fraudulent MOA," Abel claimed.
He said with the fraud document in hand, the 75th Squadron Museum went to Wewak and salvaged an aircraft at St. John in Siring.
He said this angered local landowners who signed a letter and sent it through to the National Museum Board of Trustees. He claimed that Poraituk and his management team had worked in isolation with the Board of Trustees.
Abel said the management had sidelined himself, and two other board members Peter Loko and Maria Kopkop.
The accusations brought the ire of Poraituk, who accused Mr. Abal and certain board members of collaborating to discredit him and his management.
"Andrew Abel is working against my management."
Poraituk also attacked the creation of sub-committees within the board, claiming it was illegal and should get a full 13-member board approval.
Another museum officer Mark Katakum, curator of modern history, claimed that he was threatened and forced to sign documents.
Mr. Katakum alleged that a consultant and agent of Aero Archeology Museum, Robert Greinert, had accused him of receiving bribes and forging an export permit for the 75th Squadron.
Acting PAC chairman Dr. Bob Danaya said there was a "web of influence wielded by the 75th Squadron, Greinert and Fred Hagan.
"War surplus is clearly a big business, and how these people were ever allowed to plunder State property is beyond comprehension. It’s a disgrace," Danaya said.
It also emerged that the salvaging companies involved were operating illegally, and were not registered with the Investment Promotion Authority (IPA).
IPA chief executive officer Ivan Pomaleu also gave evidence and confirmed that none of the companies involved in salvaging wartime wreckage have registered with the authority.
September 14, 2006
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