The proposal by Prime Minister James Marape to change the name of the Nadzab International Airport to PNG-Japan Friendship Airport is wrong and demeans the its historical significance.
The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Belden Norman Namah said: “I mean no disrespect for our good friends, the people and Government of Japan, but they are well aware of the history of Nadzab because it is in their history books too.
“If Mr Marape is unaware let me point him to some history.
“After the Japanese imperial army occupied Lae and Salamaua in March 1943, allied forces led by the US started the liberation of Lae with a paratrooper assault landing at Nadzab and a simultaneous amphibious assault at Kamkumung. The assault liberated Lae by September 1943.
Immediately afterwards the United States army built Nadzab into the headquarters of the Fifth US Air Force, the Fifth Fighter Command and the Fifth Bomber Command. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) also based its aircrafts and operations out of there.
“This massive airbase complex was used as the forward base for operations against Japanese positions and was pivotal in the success of the campaign there.
“After the war the airfield was turned over to the civilian administration. It was resealed by Australia in 1962 and redeveloped in mid-1970 as an Independence gift from Australia to PNG.
“The O’Neill Government re-developed Nadzab as an alternate airport to Jacksons International for large aircrafts under the Airports Re-Development Program which was co-funded by the Asian Development Bank.
“O’Neill did not rename Nadzab or other airports redeveloped under the same program such as Jacksons International, Goroka, Kagamuga in Mt Hagen, Kavieng and Madang.
“So Nadzab airfield played a pivotal role in stopping the advance of the Imperial Japanese forces in PNG and it was an Independence gift from Australia to PNG. If the irony has escaped Prime Minister Marape it will not have escaped the others, including Japan.
“I advise the Prime Minister to sit down and think carefully about what he says next, or better still, to start building something he can call his own and name after whomsoever he wants to.
“That said I thank the people and government of Japan for coming to us in our time of need.
“We appreciate the ongoing construction and emergency equipment arrangement that JICA has with the Department of Works and its recent K1 Billion Covid-19 support.
I also extend the Opposition’s appreciation of Japanese’s commitment under the APEC five nation electricity rollout program which it is today honoring with a further K1 Billion support.
“Japan is a generous and important bilateral partner in our development. We shall treasure our friendship into the far future.”