By ALPHONSE BARIASI
A remote community in Madang Province has renewed claims that a promise made to them by an Australian salvage team that took a war time aircraft from their area in 1994, was never fulfilled.
A village spokesman said this week in Port Moresby that the salvage team left with an undertaking to return and build new classrooms and other buildings at the Keram community school.
But the Royal Australian Air Force, through the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby, has denied there had been any promise made the Bumbera community, situated along the Keram River in the Middle Ramu District.
A response from the Australian Defence Department through the High Commission in Port Moresby stated: "The Department of Defence confirms that it successfully salvaged a 'Boston' bomber aircraft from the Bumbera Village area in 1994.
The Department of Defence remains grateful to the Bumbera villagers who assisted with locating and recovering the aircraft. The Department of Defence confirms that no promises of compensation were made at any time to the villagers or local landowners for their assistance."
Following a number of previous attempts, the Bumbera villagers raised the matter again after hearing news that an American war time aircraft, the "Swam Ghost" was recently salvaged from Oro Province and a payment of US$100,000 made for it.
The Australian aircraft, a Boston bomber crashed into a swamp within walking distance from the Bumbera village during WWII. The pilot and co-pilot escaped and were hidden by the local people and brought to the safety of their base at Annaberg on the Ramu River.
According to village spokesman Emmanuel Kenamb, who got the story from village elders, the enemy was some distance downstream on the Keram and saw the aircraft going down and went searching for it and its occupants.
During interrogation, a number of locals were killed by the Japanese because of their reluctance to provide information but more so out of frustration because of the language barrier, Mr Kenamb said.
Mr Kenamb said the Australian Air Force team, led by Wing Commander Bill Ivory took the aircraft in 1994 with the help of young men from the village.
When the aircraft was floated, its engine oils and fuel were drained into the swamp polluting the water.
"The pollution and the amount of clearing up work done destroyed the important crocodile hunting ground," Mr Kenamb said.
He noted also that the aircraft was lifted out on a Sunday when the locals were in church. It would have been a better, although sentimental send-off if the villagers were there because the aircraft had been with them and became part of their history, Mr Kenamb said.
The aircraft has since been restored and is now in the Amberlie Air Base outside Brisbane, Australia. It will be shipped back to PNG and placed in a soon-to-be built modern history museum in Port Moresby.
Mr Kenamb was adamant that there was a promise made, contrary to a denial from the RAAF.
Under the War Surplus Materials Act, all relics are the property of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.
People seeking compensation for safeguarding or salvaging surplus war materials, including aircraft, will have to register their claims to the State through the National Museum and Art Gallery.