Nadzab Tomodachi International Airport

Prime Minister Marape with Japan’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs
Hon. Iwao Horri, Ambassador to Papua New Guinea HE Nobuyuki
Watanabe, and JICA Representative to PNG (PM’s Office Media)

Papua New Guinea’s second international airport was opened on 2 October 2023 by Prime Minister James Marape. The redevelopment of Nadzab began in November 2019 with the assistance of a loan of 25.9 billion kina from Japan and includes not only the widening and strengthening of the runway, but also a new passenger terminal and administration buildings. It is expected that passenger numbers will increase to 600,000 per annum and freight will rise to an expected 5,000 tons annually. Economic activity in Morobe Province is expected to increase accordingly.

The project was managed by the Japan International Co-operation Agency.

The opening ceremony was attended by Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Japan’s ambass-

ador to PNG and other dignitaries. The Governor of Morobe Province, Hon. Luther Wenge, who first promoted the idea of an international airport at Nadzab, was also present at the opening.

The word Tomodachi in the airport’s name is a Japanese word indicating friends and friendship. In opening the airport Prime Minister Marape said: ‘The Nadzab Tomodachi International Airport reflects the bond of shared history, the present friendship between Japan and Papua New Guinea, as well as the collective future that lies ahead of us.’

More passengers expected at Nadzab Tomodachi

Editor’s Note: Nadzab, 41 km from Lae the Provincial capital, was the site of a major Allied airbase after its recapture from the Japanese in 1943. The base included four all-weather airstrips, some of bitumen and others of Marsden matting. Nearby Erap was the site of one of the cattle breeding stations operated by the Department of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries during Australia’s post-war administration of PNG.

Historic Military Appointment

Lt-Col Aruma

Lieutenant Colonel Boniface Aruma from Papua New Guinea will become the second-in-command of one of Australia’s combat brigades in a historic move designed to shore up military ties between the two nations.

Lt-Col Aruma will take up the position of second-in-command of Townsville’s 3rd Brigade. This is the first time in the history of the Australian Army a military officer from another country has been appointed to such a senior role. He has served in PNG’s army for 27 years. He has previously studied in Australia, earning two Master’s degrees in international relations and defence studies from Deakin and Australian National Universities.

The appointment is intended to send a strong message of solidarity to our Pacific neighbours. The 3rd Brigade has a long history of training exchanges with PNG and Lt-Col Golder expressed optimism that this will foster a ‘tangible, person-to-person’ relationship with the Australian ADF.

Lt-Col Aruma said, ‘You now have someone from the Pacific region who sits here, who has a little bit more understanding of how the dynamics work back home. We share the same values and the same idea about what we want our region to be like—safe, secure and stable’.

Lieutenant Colonel Aruma recently completed ADF training in Canberra to induct him into the local armed forces.

Editor’s Note: Abstracted from Army Nius, November 2023. Originally referenced from an article by Rachael Merritt, ABC North Qld, 30 October 2023.

Prime Minister Marape Addresses Parliament of Australia

Prime Minister Marape

History was made in Canberra on Thursday 8 February when Prime Minister James Marape of Papua New Guinea addressed the national parliament. He became the first leader of the island nations of the Pacific to do so.

Speaking for more than half an hour he referred again and again to the close association between Australia and his country and to the close bonds forged over the last 125 years. He paid a special tribute to the decision of the Whitlam Government that resulted in independence for his country in 1975.

Prime Minister Marape acknowledged the work done by Australia and Australians in preparing the road to Independence making special mention of the role of kiaps in this process. Three former kiaps, members of PNGAA, Graham Watts and Bill Sanders, and John Hocknell and Morag Hocknell were in the public gallery during the speech.

He went on to praise others—e.g. teachers, health workers, other administration people, missionaries and businesspeople—who, before and after independence, contributed to PNG’s emergence as a sovereign nation. Among the continuing and strong legacies of Australia’s occupation of PNG were the English language and a constitution which ensured a strong democracy.

Marape said he knew that much more needed to be done to change PNG’s economy  from its dependency on grants to one which was driven by its own resources and industry. He expressed an ambition for PNG to be a safe, secure and free country able to contribute to the security of our Pacific region.

‘Thank you for all you have done,’ he said. ‘Do not give up on us.’

State of Emergency Declared After Riots in Port Moresby and Lae

A 14-day state of emergency was imposed in Port Moresby on Thursday 11 January 2023 as authorities tried to restore law and order, as well as essential services, following deadly riots. Prime Minister James Marape declared that 1,000 defence personnel would be on stand-by to quell any further unrest as part of the state of emergency.

The national death toll from the riots in Papua New Guinea (PNG), which began on Wednesday, 10 January 2023, reached 22 after six bodies were found in buildings that had been looted and burnt. Fifteen of these deaths were in Port Moresby and seven in Lae.

The unrest began after hundreds of police officers, soldiers, prison staff and other public servants walked off their jobs over what the government described as a payroll error. This error meant 300 Kina ($120)—about half the pay of junior public service staff—was docked from the fortnightly pay packets of public servants across the country.

PNG’s taxation body blamed a payroll ‘glitch’ for the error and that the pay would be restored. However, many of those who gathered at Parliament House for a demonstration on 10 January believed a new tax had been enacted, a claim strenuously denied by PNG’s Internal Revenue Commission (IRC).

At a press conference, Mr Marape said the riots had an element of ‘organised arsonists’ and were assisted by ‘some rogue elements of our police force’. He said that a full investigation of what happened would be completed in 14 days and it would be the basis for administrative as well as criminal action.

Meanwhile, Mr Marape confirmed that he had suspended his chief of police and top bureaucrats in the finance and treasury departments.

Papua New Guinea-Australia Sign Security Agreement

Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) signed a security agreement on 7 December 2023 that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and PNG’s Prime Minister, James Marape, said showed the closeness of the two nations.

The agreement is designed to bolster PNG’s internal security through more assistance in policing, defence and the judiciary.

Australian Pacific Minister Pat Conroy told the ABC the agreement had treaty-like powers, and Australia would spend A$200 million on police training and infrastructure to help PNG double its police force to 10,000 officers.

Prime Minister Marape told a press conference with his counterpart in Canberra that the agreement with Australia showed they were ‘brother and sister nations’, but added PNG would not pick sides and had a foreign policy of ‘friends to all’.

China to Assist with Security in Papua New Guinea?

The ABC has reported that Papua New Guinea is in talks with China on a potential security and policing deal, Foreign Minister, Justin Tkatchenko, has announced, weeks after the riots in Port Moresby.

PNG has previously said Australia and the United States are its security partners, while China is its most important economic partner, Mr Tkatchenko told the Reuters news agency on 29 January 2024.

China approached PNG in September with an offer to assist its police force with training, equipment and surveillance technology.

‘We deal with China at this stage only at [the] economic and trade level. They are one of our biggest trading partners, but they have offered to assist our policing and security on the internal security side,’ Mr Tkatchenko said.

Port Moresby Gallery Opening

PNG middle school students visiting the new gallery

A new exhibition space at the National Museum and Art Gallery (NMAG), the Kokoda Gallery and World War II Exhibition, opened on 3 November 2023, in a building at Waigani specially modified to provide both storage and an exhibition space. The new gallery is a joint project of NMAG and the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) of the government of Australia. It is an initiative of the latter’s Military Heritage Action Plan and designed to commemorate the bonds forged between Australia and PNG during the Second World War, particularly around the Kokoda Track.

The major themes of the exhibition are:

  • The shared experience of Papua New Guineans and Australians during the war, and the enduring bonds forged between them, throughout the conflict and especially during the Kokoda Campaign.
  • The prominent role played by Papua New Guineans in the eventual Allied victory, with stories by and about Papua New Guineans foregrounding their experiences.
  • Legacies of the war that remain on the landscape and with the people of PNG today.

Speaking at the opening, the Prime Minister, James Marape, referred to the comradeship developed during the war between Australians and the people of Papua New Guinea. He suggested also that the battles fought in PNG were the beginning of the road to nationhood.

The Australian Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Hon. Mark Thistlethwaite, also spoke at the opening. He noted the contribution made by the people of PNG to the success of the campaigns in Kokoda and elsewhere and referred to the new gallery as a monument to their sacrifice.

Among the photographs displayed in the exhibition are several from PNGAA’s collection—photographs of the lowering and raising of the flags of Australia and PNG, respectively. These were donated to the Association by the family of the late David Marsh. 

Editor’s Note: The new Kokoda Gallery and exhibition in Port Moresby is in addition to the Herbert Kienzle Memorial Museum in Kokoda, often called the Kokoda Museum.  

Adventure Kokoda Wins Court Decision

We welcome the decision of the PNG National Court to restore our Adventure Kokoda tour operator’s licence. The judge found the cancellation of our licence by the Minister for Environment, Conservation and Climate Change was illegal and awarded costs to Adventure Kokoda.

The outcome of the hearing has lifted the scab off the insidious influence of Australian environment officials in the DFAT Kokoda Initiative who use aid to influence rogue PNG officials as their ‘useful idiots’ in hijacking the term ‘Kokoda’ in support of their socio-environmental agenda at the expense of our shared military heritage.

The court decision should now act as the catalyst for PNG to reclaim ownership of their Kokoda Trail as it will never realise its potential as a world-class pilgrimage tourism destination for the economic benefit of traditional landowner communities until they change the current management system.
Charlie Lynn OAM, OL


Worked for Burns Philp in Popondetta and Port Moresby from 1980 through 1987

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