An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism
THE buildings swallowed by the flames were 40 to 50 years old.
A friend working with the Goroka fire brigade, responding to my question of what they did to save the buildings, replied “it happened at the weekend when most of us were not at work”.
He added that, even if the incident occurred on a weekday, the brigade might have saved only a small part of the building.
It seems that the authorities’ responsible for building safety and fire prevention are not working properly. Investigations take too long and results are not made available to the public, a syndrome of PNG’s inadequate public investigations and inquiries.
The lack of planning by authorities is shown in the developing symptoms of decay in our urban areas, environments which also serve the interest of thugs and illegal practices.
Not to mention street preaching. Street preachers invade public places reserved for other purposes and, over time, claim the area as their own.
Then there are the betel nut vendors who clutter the entrances of shopping centres and take over bus stops.
The sight of rubbish from betel nut skins and red sputum is an affront. Some police who confiscate betel nut keep it for themselves. An irony this: executing duty to prevent betel nut sales and chewing the proceeds in public.
At the highlands PMV stops, a growing number of young men force their way on to buses, adopt the role of crew and make a quick 4 or 5 kina for themselves from passengers while the permanent crew stands by helpless.
Permanent crew: Husait tokim yu long kam boskru? Kisim money mi givim yu na go! (Who asked you to come and assist me? Take the money I am giving you and go away)
Invading crew: Mi hat wok ya, noken tok olsem, maus blo yu bai bruk. (I have worked hard, don’t say that to me. I’ll break your mouth)
Permanent crew: Yu laik hat wok go olim spade na wok gaden? (If you want to work hard, go take a spade and make a garden)
The argument goes on as long as the bus doesn’t move. The passengers sometimes take sides and join the argument This practice has now become a norm at the Kundiawa and Goroka Okuk highway PMV stops.
Another group of young men carry betel nut, cigarettes and other store goods around the PMV stops and force people to buy from them. Some young men hang around to look for opportunities to steal mobile phones, money or anything of value from the passengers and they have their own way of getting away with it.
The Simbu and Goroka PMV stops deserve immediate attention. There is no place for passengers to sit comfortably and wait for the bus, especially those travelling with families. It is absurd that urban authorities seem to think that nothing is wrong.
There are many informal markets emerging in urban centres where thugs rule. As well as the main Goroka market, there are two informal markets a kilometer away to the east and west at Seigu and near Genoka.
The dismal state of these market places indicates that the money collected from vendors has not been used to improve the wellbeing of the market. Urban authorities need to step up.
A group of wheelbarrow boys emerged recently at Goroka main market. They fill a transport gap between the carpark and the market by carrying kaukau bags and other heavy produce for a price.
These wheelbarrow boys have grown in numbers over the last five years, sometimes blocking the paths of vendors and buyers. They rush to the next vehicle to claim clients unworried about shoving children and old folks.
This all happens in front of the gatekeepers whose only interest is collecting money from arriving vendors.
Waste management, drainage systems and other problems at the markets and elsewhere in town also deserve the immediate attention of urban authorities.
Part of the problem is that land owners at the peripheries of urban centres refuse to allow additional land for expansion.
We are hearing that while Port Moresby is developing at a fast rate, other urban centres stagnate.
It’s time urban authorities stepped up and learned from the National Capital District.