By Sasha Pei-Silovo – EM TV Online
Editor’s Note: Sasha Pei-Silovo is a web content writer for EM TV. However, the opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author.
Port Moresby is fast approaching the scheduled opening of the highly anticipated Pacific Games; and without a doubt, the eyes of the Pacific region are set on the host country.
While contractors work around the clock to complete sporting and accommodation venues, and other games infrastructure, city authorities have become all the more weary of the state of cleanliness of the city.
Despite numerous efforts to improve the overall ‘look and feel’ of Port Moresby, the irresponsible actions of residents continue to mar the image that authorities are striving to uphold in the lead-up to the biggest sporting event that PNG has ever staged.
We see the return of betel nut stained pathways, roads and pavements; betel nut litter mounting along streets of the CBD, shop fronts, markets and bus stops. The filth and the stench of betel nut waste and spittle has made its undesirable return, to the dismay of authorities and concerned citizens.
It’s easy to see how much concern the buai-selling and buai-chewing populace of the city have over the cleanliness, health and hygiene of the capital city. Or how much regard people have towards the outlook of Port Moresby and the first impression visitors will have when setting foot on our soil, come time for the Pacific Games.
We seem not to care that not only will our Pacific brothers and sisters convene in our city, but so will official dignitaries, ministers of state, international and regional media organisations; the list goes on, but the message is obvious, Port Moresby will play host to thousands of visitors.
Not only is the cleanliness of the city a grave concern, but the ongoing threat of the spread of tuberculosis (TB) and mouth cancer.
The controversial buai ban that hit the National Capital District, and surrounding Central and Gulf provinces, was as a crucial measure taken to curb the pollution and the irresponsible actions of betel nut consumers and sellers alike.
However, by prohibiting the favoured nut, authorities were faced with an influx of social and economic turmoil where vendors who survived on daily earnings from the sale of betel nut cried foul in despair over the ‘loss of income’.
Some went to the extent of smuggling betel nut past checkpoints, swam or paid hefty fees to have their buai bags ferried across rivers. Reports of sea smuggling were rife, where coastal villagers took advantage of the plight of the vendors; using their motorised dinghies to transport betel nut by sea from points of purchase, to beaches of easier access for vendors to bring into the city.
Knowing the risks involved, vendors took the leap; and tragically, some lost their lives as a result of their own actions.
This however sparked outrage at the buai ban, with vendors and others against the ban speaking out against the Governor for NCD, Powes Parkop. Still to this day, advocates for the removal of the buai ban continue to stand firm in wanting the ban lifted.
But amidst all the controversy, the complaints and the obvious social implications felt by those in the buai trade saw the granting of temporary six month licences by the governor just before the end of 2014.
The temporary buai licenses gave vendors the eligibility to sale their beloved buai, but not without conditions that restrict vendors from selling as and where they please.
While this may seem a relief for buai vendors, the governor is adamant that if attitudes do no change, the complete banning of betel nut will be inevitable.
Now, more than ever, residents of NCD must take ownership over the city; and be responsible to initiate change and contribute to making Port Moresby a cleaner, healthier and safer city, not just for the Pacific Games but for communities to benefit greatly from.
Millions of kina that could otherwise be spent on further developments, infrastructure and other projects that would greatly benefit the people of NCD and generations to come, are being used to clean the city from the filth caused by irresponsible behaviour and the ill mentality of residents.
While acknowledging the significance of the buai trade to sellers and consumers; and the weight the buai ban carries onto the lives of those who depend on the sale of betel nut for survival, we too must acknowledge the state of Papua New Guinea’s capital city and the overall benefits.
A cleaner and safer city would in turn attract tourism and spinoff businesses for the tourism and the hospitality sector, foreign investment; business opportunities would be immense, growing from what it is today.
The onus is on every individual to bring Port Moresby away from the negative perceptions imposed on it, brought about by the high rates of crime, pollution and other factors.