The Gabsongkeg community said they were taken by surprise when Saonu announced that Morobe’s airport will soon be known as the Sir Michael Thomas Somare International Airport.
There are better ways to honour Late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare then to rename Nadzab Airport, which has cultural and historical ties to the people of Wampar LLG in the Huon Gulf district.
The Gabsongkeg community, whose traditional land the airport is on, expressed frustration at what they described as a spontaneous decision by Governor Saonu, saying he could have built a new infrastructure instead to name after PNG’s founding father.
“Bifo yu mekim wanpla tok, yu mas sidaun wantem mi lo haus dua,” said Gabsongkeg Lands Association chairman, Philip Elizah. “Yu mas mekim tok klia lo mi, wanem as tingting blo yu, na wanem bel blo yu na yu mekim displa. (Before you make any decision, you need to sit down with me at my doorstep. You need to make clear your intentions.)
“Displa em i Wampar,” he said. “Tumbuna blo mi, bulut blo em i kapsait. Tumbuna blo Wampar, tumbuna blo Gabsongkeg, bulut blo em i kapsait lo graun blo em.” (This is Wampar. My ancestors’ blood spilled here. The ancestors of Wampar and Gabsongkeg, their blood spilled here on their land.)
Community leader, Ben Garry, outlined the historical ties they have with Nadzab, saying it started with their ancestors and then connected with World War II.
“Ples we Nadzab epot stap ya, em stap lo graun nem blo em Ngawampo. Nadzab epot, em i stap lo taim fes misineri em kam kamap lo Gabmazung lo 1900. Na ol establishim liklik epot lo hap sait.” (Nadzab Airport is situated on the land called Ngawampo. Nadzab Airport existed when the first missionary came to Gabmazung in 1900. And they established a small airstrip on the other side.)
Garry said the airport was used to fly German Lutheran missionaries in and also played a pivotal role in the Wau gold rush. It was named after their local banana, “adzab”. The missionaries, however, pronounced it as Nadzab.
Later in 1943, the Allied Forces of the South West Pacific Area decided to paratroop into the area, considering two small airstrips had already been established there. They named the area as the “Northern Allied Defense Zone Air Base” (NADZAB).
A petition will be presented to the Governor soon, at which he is expected to respond within seven days.
Orogwangin Clan chairman, Paul Joshua, said: “Yu kauntim sevenpla dei na yu mas kam wantem full team. Mipla luk forward lo risivim yu lo hia.” (You count until seven days and you must be here with your full team. We look forward to receiving you here.)
Joshua said they expect the Governor to be with the Huon Gulf MP as well as other provincial and district leaders, excluding the provincial government’s unpopular consultants.
The community threatens to halt redevelopment work at Nadzab if the governor does not meet with them.