PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Dec. 18, 2009) – THE bells are ringing. Yes, the bells signaling the nearing of Christmas are chiming, but there are also alarm bells ringing for the many honest residents of the capital city and other centres in Papua New Guinea.

With the season of joy and happiness and goodwill to all upon us, we should be able to celebrate in style.

But no, there are villains among us who take no break for the holiday season. These are the ones who, either from lack of opportunity in life or from sheer greed will persist in their "vocation’’ of robbing with violence.

The latest involved the technique of kidnapping a senior staff member, keeping her hostage until details of the targeted office safe were obtained and then stealing the company’s money. Shades of several major thefts that have occurred and are still grinding their way slowly through our legal system.

There is the episode from last week when Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek was targeted by several criminals with guns and narrowly averted death. Whether that was a typical robbery or a political conspiracy, only time and diligent investigation will tell.

These incidents serve to remind all of us that while it is a time for goodwill, parties and barbecues, it is also a time to keep our guard up.

Do not relax on security matters. Pay attention to strangers loitering in your street, to vehicles parking for suspiciously long times where it’s not usual and to people pretending to be workers visiting to "make repairs’’.

Insist on seeing identification in such cases.

People who are returning home in a car should adopt sound practices, such as calling ahead to warn friends or family members of the impending arrival, so that the gate can open and shut quickly.

Keep a list of emergency numbers, police, hospital and ambulance next to the phone in case of urgent need. Perhaps talk with your neighbours to try to arrange a kind of local network of help and surveillance. It is sad to have to talk in such ways about preparations for Christmas and New Year but it is being practical.

For whatever reasons, our main urban centres have become crime zones and criminals take holidays when they feel like it. If you wish to enjoy the days ahead, keep your wits about you and do not become befuddled by alcohol or the merriment of parties.

Make sure you and your loved ones will be around to usher in the New Year!

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