PNG MP Challenges Constitutionality Of Betel Nut Ban In Port Moresby

Governor of National Capital District confident buai ban will stand 

By Merolyn Ten

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 9, 2016) – Member for Kairuku-Hiri, Peter Isoaimo has filed a Supreme Court reference questioning the constitutionality of the Betel Nut Ban Policy and its effect on the Central people.

However, NCD Governor Powes Parkop, who has been named as a respondent, is confident of the outcome of the proceedings.

The first hearing has been set for October 25, 2016.

Jama Lawyers who are representing the member said more than 50 affidavits have been filed basically asking the highest Court to interpret the policy and determine whether it infringes on the rights of the Central Province people.

The law firm and its client are contending that the policy was unconstitutional and that the by-law had caused deaths and brought suffering to many Papua New Guineans.

"The policy has affected not only the people of Kairuku-Hiri but every buai seller and producer in PNG who trade betelnut in NCD and Central Province.

"It is a national issue and if the National Capital District Commission is wrong , a good number of claims will be pressed forward to the commission." MP Isoaimo said although betel nut was not in the Consumer Price Index, it was a contributing factor to the country’s economy. Almost 50 per cent of PNG’s population are chewers.

He said a 10 kilogram bag is worth K50 and contains more than 300 betel nuts. The retailer than sells each betelnut for K1 and generates a profit of K250.

"If a 10-seater Toyota Land Cruiser can accommodate 50 bags or a coaster bus with 120 bags, more than K30,000 will be generated at the end of the day.

"Many have become successful businessmen and women and lives have been sustained through the betel nut money," the MP said.

"Betel nut is Kairuku-Hiri, especially Mekeo’s Gold."

He added that the recent ban has caused many deaths on land, sea and rivers, and caused injuries, financial constraints, and other difficulties.

Isoaimo said the betel nut growers and sellers have been devastated and have faced hardship fighting with NCD Police just because of a by-law imposed by the NCDC and not on the floor of Parliament.

Governor Parkop, however, told the Post-Courier yesterday that a law that is not passed on the floor of Parliament does not have to be illegal unless it is a National Law.

"The NCDC, as the city authority, has power to legislate and has the primary responsibility in respect of (Section 41(1) of NCDC Act 2001)."

Parkop stressed that the Commission has the authority to control by licensing of mobile traders, sale and distribution of alcoholic liquor, parks and gardens, physical planning, garbage and sanitation other than sewerage, taxation in certain instances, control of littering, control of unlicensed street vending, and control of the sale of betel nut.

He pointed out that the ban does not stop the rights of the Kairuku-Hiri people to supply betel nut, yet there are responsibilities which people have to be aware of.

The Governor said if the Commission is found guilty, appropriate measures will be taken afterwards.

"It is also regrettable that lives have been lost during betelnut smuggling, hence, lives have been lost before the ban too."

PNG Post-Courier
Copyright © 2016 PNG Post-Courier. All Rights Reserved

Rate this article: 
Average: 3.5 (2 votes)

Add new comment