BY KEITH JACKSON
IN A SINGLE generous gesture this afternoon, Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill handed over a cheque for $100,000 to the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society, ensuring that work on the long-awaited memorial will begin soon.
The Society has been working for nearly three years to establish a memorial in Canberra to commemorate the sinking of the Japanese prison ship Montevideo Maru on 1 July 1942.
More than 1,000 troops and civilians, most of them Australians who had been captured by the Japanese in Rabaul, drowned when the ship was torpedoed by a US submarine.
More than 50 relatives and friends gathered at the Australian War Memorial today to meet Peter O’Neill, who inspected the site before handing over the cheque for $100,000.
Until recently, successive Australian government had ignored the plight of relatives who for nearly seven decades felt that their own country had forgotten about the huge sacrifice of Australia’s worst single tragedy in peace and war.
Now, thanks to the compassion and generosity of the new PNG government, the memorial is likely to be unveiled on 1 July next year – the seventieth anniversary of the sinking.