Prime Minister opens Memorial Park


Pm lights candle 2Prime Minister Peter O’Neill opened a Memorial Park at the Divine Word University’s Madang campus that was built in memory of the 28 people who perished in the Airlines PNG plane crash on 13 October, 2011.
Those who died were all Papua New Guineans and they included 11 immediate relatives of students at DWU. Ten of the relatives were travelling to Madang for the 3rd Missioning Ceremony for outgoing final year undergraduate degree students while one was a brother of a continuing student on a business trip from Lae.

One student, Cecilia Bula lost both her parents while another two, John Paul Matlam and Paula Matlam lost four members of their family including their mother. Other students who suffered losses were Reginald Renagi, who lost his mother; Clara Bal lost her mother; Margaret Wata lost her mother and aunt and Grace Bid a continuing student lost her elder brother who was on a business trip.

Mr O’Neill said he was honoured to open the Park built in memory of loved ones who lost their lives in PNG’s largest airline disaster when a Dash 8-100 crash landed on wooded grassland near Marakum village in Rai Coast and burst into flames killing 28 out of 32 people on board within minutes from landing at the Madang Airport. The four survivors were the Australian pilot Bill Spenser 64, his New Zealand first officer Campbell Wagstaff, a male PNG flight attendant Kapi Eria and a Malaysian man.

O’Neill unveiled the memorial plaque, placed a lit candle on the cenotaph and also planted a tree in the park. Madang governor Jim Kas and Civil Aviation Minister Davis Steven laid wreaths and Mr Kas also planted a tree. Former student, John Paul Matlam and his sister Paula Matlam who is a final year accounting student, both lit candles and planted a tree in memory of their loved ones and other passengers who died. Apart from Paula and John Paul Matlam, 26 students also lit and placed candles on the cenotaph in memory of the other passengers.

The Prime Minister thanked the efforts of DWU president Fr Jan Czuba SVD and everyone involved.

O’Neill said: “Last year on the 13th of October 2011 I contacted Fr. Jan Czuba by phone from whom I learned about the unfortunate plane crash in Madang. 

“Many of the victims were parents or relatives of the DWU community.

“Knowing Fr. Jan for many years, I trusted him and our Government allocated half a million kina to assist the immediate families of the victims.

“I am grateful for his cooperation as indeed the University and hospital faced up to the challenge and managed the situation extremely well. 

“After the plane crash I flew to Madang, to visit the site of the crash and personally met with the relatives of those victims. 

“Last year, at that time at DWU, we had special prayers for those who perished in the crash and for those who survived to accept the challenges of life.”

“Today, on the first anniversary of the plane crash I am with the DWU community to share with you my thoughts and prayers,” said O’Neill.

Chairman of the DWU Council, Dr Father Garrette Roche SVD who led the Eucharist of the Missioning Ceremony also blessed the Park. Fr Roche in his Eucharist message said memorial of tragic events such as the Gallipoli celebrations in Turkey by Australians and Turks brings together former enemies and relatives of those who perished in peace. He said the Eucharist was another example of a memorial of a tragic event that reminds Christians of the suffering of Jesus Christ for the good of mankind and it brings peace in the hearts of believers.

Fr Czuba paid tribute to the Prime Minister for his prompt efforts during the aftermath of the disaster and presented him a certificate of appreciation. Fr Czuba also thanked and praised various people including the Modilon General Hospital staff and management for their efforts in the rescue, retrieval of the remains of the people and dealing with the aftermath of the tragic accident.

Fr Czuba also presented certificates to various people including those who assisted in putting up the Memorial Park. The memorial cenotaph is a collection of stones placed in the shape of an airplane with a life-size light plane propeller fixed on its top. The plaque is affixed to ‘front’ of the stone model airplane. Fr Czuba said the cenotaph and park were designed by Maureen and Peter Hill, two popular Madang identities who have lived in the town for over 40 years.

PM reads plaqueJohn Paul and PaulaFr Roche blessesMemorial plaque