BY GEORGINA KEKEA
A man from Shortland Islands who wants to remain anonymous has raised his disagreement over the way certain landowners are wanting to sell war relics on Balalae Island.
He claimed that the landowners are currently in Honiara and are residing in an expensive hotel in town. The local from Shortland Islands says the landowners are currently having dialogue with a foreigner who is interested in buying the relics. He said the foreign businessman is paying for the expenses and hotel bills of the landowners in town.
The man said he is surprised to see the locals who see themselves as custodians of their own history, wanting to give the foreigner access to the warplanes and other heritage sites on Balalae.
“Personally, I would like to see the warplane material document on some level before it decomposes entirely again,” he said.
He said this raises an important question about heritage and culture. What exactly is heritage? He asked.
“If the people of Shortland Islands believe WWII relics are their heritage, they should appreciate and cherish it.”
He said historical sites like the one on Balalae should be kept for the local people to utilise as a tourist destination. He says history is important and Balalae is a crucial part of the country’s history during WWII.
He said the landowners have allowed their trees for logging and now they are allowing their history to be bought by foreigners.
“What more do they need”, he said.
Balalae has a rich history in the WWII era. From Pacific Wrecks it was said that Imperial Japanese Navy 18th Construction Battalion landed on Ballale on November 3, 1942 to begin building an airstrip with a contingent of 370 people, augmented later by 517 British POWs and local laborers. The Japanese code named Ballale Island and Ballale Airfield “RXZ”.
The island was bypassed by the Allies. After the war, the Australian Army 7th Infantry Battalion, toured the island on November 10, 1945. Australians immediately located the grave of 57 POWs buried in shallow trenches. An atrocities commission was carried out on the island, that led to the discovery of a mass grave of 436 bodies were exhumed with artifacts identifying them as British artillerymen. The remains were re-interred in individual graves at Bomama War Cemetery near Port Moresby. The remainder of the 517 British POWs have never been found.
The anonymous person called on the landowners to refrain from selling their history. He said had the Famoa Council of Chiefs been in place, none of this would have happened.
He also called on the responsible authorities to quickly sort out the Famoa Council of Chiefs
Island Sun understands that 15 chiefs from the Western province will attend a workshop in Gizo next week to look at registering and restructuring of the Famoa Council of Chiefs.