There has been a lot of talks recently about the possibility of upgrading the Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island by the Australians and United States (US) or possibly building an army base. However, the Manus Provincial Government (MPG) and the Governor, Charlie Benjamin, have put a blunt ‘No’ to the project – until the details are made clear.
Many Manusians, and Papua New Guineans (PNG), will not understand this decision and are even questioning if the Governor wants to change the island province.
As a Manusian myself, I can see the need to for a boost into the province’s economy. However, as a student of history I am fully aware of how this island is strategically located and the implication it would have if an army base is built there.
Firstly, people need to understand that building an army base outside of their country (Australia and the US) is a strategic maneuver to create a barrier for their countries. I think the best example would be Hawaii.
When the Japanese entered into the war, their first place of attack was the US military base on Hawaii. The powers in Washington decided to put a base their know the implications if Japan was to join the war.
From a military perspective, it was the ideal location – on the perimeters of the United States borders – and as far as possible from the capital. Unfortunately, it was not a very good position for the natives.
Now, they are taking this a step further by establishing bases overseas and as far away from their country as possible. Their bases in Okinawa is an example.
They are now talking about doing the same on Manus island. What happens in the event that the United States or Australia is attacked? Yes, Manus automatically becomes a target.
The implications go even further if you consider what kind of base they are proposing. If it is a nuclear base then the tiny island province faces the threat of a nuclear attack. Also, the US and Australia have to have a clear plan if such a scenario arises.
An attack on the province could mean displacement of thousands of people and environmental damage. What kind of evacuation plans are in place? How fast will relief arrive and how will they provide protection from any such attacks?
But they are our allies…
It’s true that the US and Australia are our allies and ‘big brothers’ but we cannot blindly say yes to what they ask without considering the risks it involves. Consider this:
Would the US or Australia allow our military to establish a base of operations on their soil?
I am sure the answer would be a resounding NO. Mainly, because it is an insult to their sovereignty and most importantly it makes them a target for our enemies (whoever that may be).
Okay, I am going to cut the ranting short but I hope I have shed some light on what it would mean to host an army base on Manus island.
Now, just some food for thought before I end this post. During World War II (WW2), Manus hosted the largest airfield in the Southern Hemisphere. Of course back then we were governed by Australia and did not have much of a choice in the matter.
And for some light reading http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_manus.html
Please feel free to discuss and drop comments regarding this issue.