By Gary Hatigeva
MEMBER of Parliament for Aoke/Langalanga Matthew Wale has made a strong call for the government to take serious note of the warning given to Solomon Islands for the protection of its World War II Relics.
This comes following revelation of an open letter by the Governor of Oro Province in the Northern Region of Papua New Guinea, on a Mr Robert Greinert who is believed to be in Solomon Islands with intentions to remove world war planes from one of the country’s historical islands in the Shortlands.
In his letter, the PNG Governor revealed that the people of his province were tricked by the relic dealer, and shared how his province was a big time victim of his deals.
Governor Juffa claimed that while in Papua New Guinea, Greinert was responsible for removing dozens of planes from his country particularly, his province, where the people get very little or nothing at all.
“He removed our most famous intact plane wreck a B-17 known as “Swamp Ghost”. He paid the landowners no money – zero!”
Sadly, the Governor further stated that he had witnessed what could have make a world tourism attractions and revenue for his people, in a large museum in Hawaii, and his province particularly, the landowners who are now left with nothing.
This is something that many including Wale highlighted to be of serious concern and worrying at the same time.
He then called on law enforcement agencies and the Ministry of Culture & Tourism to collaborate and look into this matter, to ensure no permits are issued for the removal of war relics to Greinert and his team.
He further called on the Prime Minister and the Tourism Minister to follow up on the highlighted issue, ensuring Solomon Islands is not ripped off by what he described as, an unscrupulous dealers.
“And if the person violates our laws, that the police act decisively to arrest and deport the individual and any persons assisting him,” the Aoke/Langalanga MP stressed.
This issue had also got the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s attention, who confirmed the groups’ intention here in Solomon Islands.
Speaking on this, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Andrew Nihopara confirmed that the individual is here under a locally registered and reputable company, with intentions to recover and remove the Betty Bomber for refurbishment or restoration purposes overseas.
Nihopara said his ministry is fully aware of the intentions and will be working through all the issues surround such interests to ensure that the country’s interest prevails.
He revealed that ministry had placed a suspension status on the salvaging project to allow for the government to properly assess the interest by the foreign company, while at the same time, accommodate all the concerns that have been raised surrounding this issue.
On the legality aspect of this matter, the PS clarified that the locally registered company is a recognised one in this particular field, and also licensed, but the Ministry will see that whatever activities under this project, are done according to the Laws of Solomon Islands.
He said the country does have a Wreck and Relic Act (cap. 150), which governs any prospect in this area, and assured that the ministry will be using it to properly guide its decisions on this case, in collaboration with the Attorney Generals Chamber.
This legislation according to the PS is intended to protect the World War II relics in the country, and this will ensure that the protection mechanisms are applied in this particular case to ensure that what happened in PNG will not happen to the Solomon Relics.