Taylan’s Battle to Protect War Relics

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Recent Taylan Interviews

LISTEN to ABC Radio International Battle For Ballale interview (Nov 19, 08)

LISTEN to ABC Radio International Lost planes, Lost Men (Feb 3, 08)

LISTEN to NPR interview: A Travel Nightmare (Dec 14, 07)

WATCH 7 Australia News coverage (Dec 16, 07)

READ Australia Network Focus Balalai (Dec 9, 07)

READ Air&Space Wisdom on Solomon (May 08)

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Diary of captivity in the Solomons [UPDATED]

Life in captivity

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About Justin Taylan

Taylan searches out World War II plane wrecks, safeguards human remains, and returns dog tags to surprised veterans.
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Australia Network: Focus Balalai

Australia NetworkAustralia Network – Asia Pacific Focus

http://australianetwork.com/focus/

December 9, 2007 [Transcript]

 

Approaching Balalai from the sea, you can see the remains of a Japanese Betty Bomber nestled in the jungle.

 

Balalai became a major forward airstrip for the Japanese in Japanese in World War Two. It’s located near the border of Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea – just south of Bougainville in the Shortland Islands.

 

It’s quite remote and while some locals want it to be turned into a permanent museum, the Solomon Islands Government has given an Australian businessman who is exceptionally media shy exclusive rights to remove what he will. 


Ninamo Otuana – SHORTLAND ISLANDER “Well, the Solomon Islands Government through the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Tourism, have actually issued a licence to Craig Turner to have sole rights to remove any amount of wreckage, war relics that he deems fit.

 

Ninamo walking Ninamo Otuana is from a nearby island and he’s upset that some of the wrecks are being moved.

 

Ninamo: No, not happy at all. It’s a sacrilege to a grave site. Those planes belong to the Japanese people. I don’t understand what Australians are doing here trying to move these planes with a British investor. Now if Australia wants to do anything in recognition of its POWs who were held here during the war they should be building a memorial on that island.

 

More wrecks The Australian involved, Craig Turner, refused to be interviewed or even filmed. However, he is not some recently arrived entrepreneur. He’s actually been working with the Solomon Islands National Museum since 1995 on a yet to be constructed World War Two museum for Honiara. The catch is there’s no money. So selling some of the war relics to international collectors or overseas museums is how they’ll raise the funds according to the National Museum’s Director, Lawrence Foanaota.

 

Lawrence Foanaota – DIRECTOR-SOLOMON ISLANDS NATIONAL MUSUEM: “The Government hasn’t got the funds to provide any assistance towards establishing this museum here. So we have to make sure that some of these materials are taken by those who wanted to at least purchase them so that we can have the money to start the museum building here.

 

Samuel Ragosomani – SOLOMON ISLANDS CULTURE & TOURISM MINISTER: “These things cost money and because of the, ah, our associations with other overseas museums we would like to do exchanges.

 

One overseas collector has become interested. And in this exercise the National Museum and its Australian advisor who has the exclusive export permit were out to prove to him that some of the Japanese World War Two aircraft could be recovered.

 

Ninamo: Craig Turner is selling it to a fella from England by the name of Greg Spooner, I believe. And he has a hobby of restoring planes. These planes are not coming back. Craig is selling these planes to Spooner and Spooner is going to restore them in England for whatever he pleases.

 

The Minister for Culture and Tourism says he’s met with all the local chiefs in the Shorland Islands and they’ve all agreed.

 

Ragosomani: All the chiefs had agreed and they had several meetings in the past agreeing about this project too.

 

Ninamo: All the chiefs somehow support this thinking that it’s going to benefit them in the long run.

 

Foanaota grab Basically, the whole aim of the project is to try and at least preserve some of the things that are rotting away and the other area is to at least provide some financial benefit to the communities, the people who have these things left on their land.

 

Ninamo: The amount of money that is involved is about 220,000 US for every plane. That includes the eight that they’ve taken and the other eleven that they’re going back to take from inside. 100,000 goes to the Ministry of Tourism. The other 120 or so stays and I think amongst the eleven villages we’ll probably end up with eleven, or round fifteen to eleven thousand dollars each, for each village. And that’s the monetary value that everyone’s agreeing to.

 

War relics Ninamo Otuana is not opposed to the principle of selling the planes to raise money.

 

Ninama: 22 years ago, my father, Dominic Otuana, had this idea of creating a museum on the island, on Balalai itself. And he only asked to move one or two planes as a private businessman to help fund the project. And he was given a licence to do the work. Heavy opposition within our own area stopped him doing it.

 

Now, Ninamo Otuana is leading the opposition. He claims he has a fixed term lease over Balalai.

 

Ninamo: That land is alienated land. It was sold to Burns Philp many moons ago before we were all born with an axe handle. I’m trying to get them on trespassing, illegally going through the land and damaging property, cutting trees down to make rollers for these planes to come out.

 

Recovery work The National Museum says laws have been passed giving the Government ownership of war relics and the Museum’s Director says natural phenomena like the tsunami that hit the Western Solomons earlier this year are cutting their value all the time.

 

Foanaota: The recent tsunami had actually swept through, especially the salt water and has destroyed a number of things now. There’s some with fallen trees on them which were still intact when we first went in to see them.

 

Ninamo: I would like to see those planes remain there. I would like to see a walkway put through. The whole island itself is a museum. It’s the air force base. Yeah, I’d like to see some people come and try to do something there.

 

Wrecks Balalai is not surrendering its war planes without one last battle.

 

- END -

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