The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Jan. 3, 2012) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), the decisions by some provinces to ban alcohol during the festive season are commendable.

Now the fever is catching on and others want to impose the ban in their communities, districts and provinces, after its relative success in the highlands during the past fortnight.

Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru and Western Highlands’ Tom Olga have taken the lead to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol through the festive season and leading up to the 2012 general election campaigning and, hopefully, beyond.

Even the Baimanekane clan, in the Kunabau area of Chimbu’s Kerowagi district, has passed a New Year’s resolution to ban the production and drinking of home-brew in the area. Home-brew is equally as bad as other forms of alcohol.

While it will take some time to properly gauge the effect of the ban on the maintenance of law and order in the various provinces during the past two weeks, the feedback so far is positive.

The initiative taken by the leaders to confront head-on the issue of alcohol abuse is working.

What they need now is support in terms of manpower and funding from the national and provincial governments so that they can effectively enforce the ban by increasing police visibility in the communities.

Of course the problem cannot be totally eradicated overnight. There will be those who will find a way to beat the system and smuggle in alcohol into the communities where it is banned. But at least something is being done about the problem. That’s a start.

And the police cannot be monitoring all exit and entry points in the various remote areas.

But the people, who are getting fed up with criminal activities created by the consumption of alcohol, are aware of what the police and authorities are trying to do, and are prepared to help.

Their assistance is vital for the operation to work.

There is no doubt that alcohol is the root cause of many social problems in the communities and has a significant impact on the maintenance of law and order.

Not only in Papua New Guinea but also in neighbouring Pacific island nations has alcohol abuse become a big drain on government coffers, causing loss of lives through road accidents and fights and damage to property.

The news at the start of 2012 makes depressing reading with the unnecessary loss of lives and damage to property caused by rows fuelled by alcohol.

For example, the case in the highlands where three women were hacked to death by a man allegedly under the influence of alcohol is sad. A young girl was also reportedly raped in another community.

Then there is the case of the burning of a hotel in East Sepik when a group of youths mistakenly thought the owners had been involved in a hit and run accident.

Other similar cases will probably surface later in the week when police collate all the reports from the various stations in the remote districts. The criminal activities have to be stopped.

But it is important – indeed a wise move – that the concept is being tried out during the busy festive season to see how best it could be managed in future, especially towards the election.

Assistant Police Commissioner (Highlands) Teddy Tei says it will be difficult to make it work without the proper resources and more importantly an increase in police visibility.

It will require the cooperation of all state agencies.

Tei, while commending the governors for imposing the alcohol ban, rightly says it has to be supported by effective enforcement and monitoring. He attributes the general peaceful celebration in the highlands region to the indefinite alcohol ban and active police operations.

He admits that the alcohol ban has had some impact. That’s good news. The next step is to see how further it can be enforced not only in the highlands but in all the provinces.

Alcohol abuse is rampant and has to be curtailed.

It is causing so much problems for a young vibrant nation sitting on a wealth of resources.

Then there is the general election a few months down the road which will again require the concerted effort of the police and law enforcement agencies to maintain law and order.

What is needed now is to evaluate how the ban can be enforced better to ensure a smooth and peaceful conduct of the general election.

The people of PNG deserve that much.

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