An island community in the nation’s capital has taken measures to ban betelnut smuggling to Port Moresby through the island.
The betelnut ban on Fisherman’s Island is effective as of today and smugglers, especially Highlanders are warned to use other routes. EM TV’s Quinton Alomp travelled to the island and witnessed the smuggling activity on the island.
Twenty minutes by sea on a 40 horsepower dinghy will take you to Fisherman’s Island, north east of Port Moresby. Fisherman’s Island has a population of over 500 eligible voters. Many of the people there migrated from Hula, Hood Lagoon and parts of Central Province.
They settled many decades back and have built their life around fishing. However, it’s a different story this year.
Since the complete ban of betelnut earlier this year, the islanders’ traditions, once centred on fishing have changed. Many men are now using their dinghies to transport betelnut bags from Gabadi, Itisiu and other coastal villages in the Kairuku district.
When EM TV visited the island, many of the villagers declined to give interviews on camera, saying it is a sensitive issue and the only way they make a lot of money. Off camera, however, they said each trip they make earns them over K1,000.
Buyers, especially Highlanders and some coastal people travel to the island to purchase the bags and smuggle them into NCD. This illegal smuggling has been going on for months. However, the Fisherman Islanders have finally decided to stop and return to their normal way of living.
The villagers realised that this illegal trading has brought in unknown visitors to the community. Today, they officially ceased all their betelnut rounds.
The villagers, unwilling to give their names, said they want to return back to fishing and prepare to celebrate Christmas. Smugglers are informed not to enter the island anymore. On the other hand, betelnut sale in NCD is still common.
People sell in public streets, offices and settlements. Gordons police barracks is a haven for betelnut sellers who take comfort from the blue uniforms and sell unlawfully.
Taurama Beach still remains a hotspot landing area for buai dealers. With the Pacific Games coming up next year, the NCD Governor is determined to clean up the city but whether or not the people can be responsible is something that lies with individuals.
Meanwhile, the island’s health and education infrastructures are in a worrying state. The school is in dire need of new classrooms and staff houses and the new aid post has no medication or a health worker.
Teachers are calling on local MP Justin Tkatchenko and other aid partners for assistance. This double classroom duplex was built in 2006 with assistance from Australian Aid.
Eight years later, the state of the building is in sad condition. The walls are being infested by termites. Roofs are broken and louver frames are rusting away. In other classrooms, students are occupying old desks.
Elementary students are forced to sit on the ground. Senior Teacher, Poni Eiwiha said if help is available, they should consider building teachers housing as well.
She is requesting local MP Justin Tkatchenko and aid partners to assist with school infrastructure. Their aid post, which was completed last year with Australian Aid, remains useless on the island as there are no medical drugs or health specialists available.