IRIAN JAYA SMUGGLING MADE EASY BY ABUSE OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA'S TRADITIONAL VISA CARD

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By James Kila

VANIMO, Papua New Guinea (January 8, 1999 - The Independent)---The continuous smuggling of firearms, liquor and other foreign goods across the Papua New Guinea/Indonesia border has been blamed on the abuse of the traditional visa card (TVC).

Provincial police commander in West Sepik, chief superintendent Eugene Manguwa, said this following the arrest of an Indonesian citizen in Vanimo on New Year's Day for illegal possession of Indonesian whiskey.

He explained that the issue of the TVC allows villagers on the PNG side of the border to visit their traditional relatives in Irian Jaya.

However, over the years it has been abused continuously with non-border villagers using the TVC to cross into Indonesia and back. Border villagers also invite other Papua New Guineans to travel with them.

"Through wantok-system anyone can lend his visa card to any Tom, Dick and Harry to cross over. This is the everyday case here." Mr. Manguwa said

Police arrested and charged Lebang Wanggai from Seru, Jayapura, on New Year's Day at Wesam camp near Vanimo airport and found thirty (30) bottles of Indonesian brand "Drum" whiskey bottles.

Wanggai appeared before the Vanimo District Court on Monday and pleaded not guilty. The case has been adjourned to February 11.

According to the District Court in Vanimo, Wanggai pleaded not guilty, stating that police did not issue any search warrant prior to gaining access to his house.

Waggai claimed he was not at home when police searched the house and found the bottles of whiskey.

Mr. Manguwa said smuggling of foreign materials into the country is a continuing issue. Police do not have the resources to prevent it.

He added that there is also no border post to prevent illegal border crossings. Even surveillance of the 200-mile sea zone is inadequate.

"Police can only arrest and lay chargers following information supplied to them. Otherwise this issue of smuggling is a continuing thing," he said.

A long-time Vanimo resident said smuggling of liquor and other goods is normal practice. Even Indonesian goods can be seen sold on the streets of Vanimo.

"Smuggling is not controlled and people taking advantage and bring stuff from across the border," he said.

He said smuggling is made easier with the road links from Wutung on the PNG side of the border to Jayapura.

"Smuggling has been there for ages. The government does not have the capacity to control it. Already popular "Drum" brand of Indonesian whiskey, which has 40 per cent alcohol contents, is in abundance in Vanimo and the border villages and it is very hard to control," he said.

For additional reports from The Independent, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Independent (Papua New Guinea).

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