The commemoration of Anzac Day on April 25 this year will have special significance for Australia and New Zealand, and for Papua New Guinea.
This Anzac Day will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the defining battles of World War 2 in what was, then, the Australian territory of Papua and New Guinea.
The most memorable battle was for Kokoda, fought between July and November 1942, which saw many lives lost, and many more injured, on both sides. The loss of young Australian servicemen’s lives was particularly severe.
But it has been customary to commemorate all the significant battles, on land, in the air, and the seas, in the Papua and New Guinean theatre of the war on Anzac Day. The 50th anniversary in 1992 was commemorated by a visit to PNG by the then Australian prime minister, Paul Keating, which began a significant Australian Government commitment to improving the lives and facilities of the remaining war carriers, servicemen, and the community of Kokoda.
This Anzac Day will also commemorate the other significant battles of the war, including those in Milne Bay, Oro, Morobe, Madang, East and West Sepik, Manus, East New Britain and Bougainville, among others, that were all defining moments in World War 2.
Air Niugini, as the national flag carrier, will be proud to help meet the travelling needs of ex-service personnel from Australia and New Zealand, and the increasing number of sons, daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren of service men and women, who will travel to PNG for this most significant commemoration.
In acknowledgement of the significance of the Kokoda Trail, Air Niugini will this year name an aircraft ‘Kokoda’.
The descendants of the invading forces of Japan also are taking a growing interest in visiting the historic places that remind us of tragic battles won and lost 75 years ago. As with Australia and New Zealand, Papua New Guinea today enjoys close relations with Japan.
Air Niugini flies to Japan with regular services, and we have noticed a growth in Japanese tourism, much of it with links to World War 2.
Meanwhile, late April will see the formal start of the campaign for our national elections. These elections remind us of the essence of our democracy and our hard-won freedom. They will also remind our neighbours and the world that Papua New Guinea is proudly a strong and robust democracy.
Our democracy owes its origins to the successes, and sacrifices, of World War 2 and our own peaceful achievement of independence and nationhood in 1975. This year is shaping as a busy and successful one for Air Niugini. At the end of March we will start twice-weekly services to Townsville, North Queensland, a city with a substantial military and air force presence. I want to thank the Mayor of Townsville, Jenny Hill, the owners of Townsville Airport, Townsville Enterprise, the Townsville Bulletin newspaper, the YWAM medical ships program and the business community for their enthusiasm for this new service.
The service will benefit our own business community, the tourism sector, education, and family reunions. It will also enable rugby league fans to more easily attend North Queensland Cowboys matches. The PNG Hunters will especially gain through easier travel to play matches against the Townsville and Mackay teams in the Queensland Cup.
The service will also provide a new opportunity for Townsville and NQ residents to benefit from the Port Moresby international airport hub and connect with our services to the nations of South East Asia and beyond, as well as the Pacific region.
Later this year we will commence regular services between Port Moresby and Shanghai, China – the world’s fastest-growing nation and an important investment and trading partner with PNG, and an increasing source of tourism for our nation.
Enjoy your flight.