An entry in The Crocodile prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism
TONNES of marijuana (Maryjane) are waiting for a potential buyer in many of the villages in Simbu and other highlands provinces.
The marijuana bags are stored on a wood shelf or ceiling above the fire mound in the family home. Some are stored in 10kg rice bags, sewed up and used as pillows.
Many couples smoke marijuana to inflate their energy so as to make gardens for their sustenance. They smoke it every day like normal cigarettes.
Kids in grade school right through to the esteemed councillors in the villages smoke Maryjane. Yes, girls too.
Drug addicts and cultivators in Simbu are aware of the organised Asian drug syndicates and the bikies surfacing around Torres Strait and are keeping a vigil for when these narco-tycoons set foot in Simbu and shower them with guns and money for their Niugini Gold (marijuana). A bit of a neo-cargo cult, it seems.
If a clever wannabe pollie in 2017 campaigned and promised the people of Simbu that marijuana would be made legal, he/she might win. I think the nere tere plebs would vote them in at the first count.
Nowadays, anybody can say anything and win an election. There is no forum for screening and rating the promises of irrational politicians and their campaigns.
The drug addicts in Simbu have become such an integral part of the community that they freely take up their quota of everything; from feasts to games and leadership positions.
In the last 10 years some tribal groups have recognised the addicts in their community as important members. Whether you loath or admire them, it is now irrefutable that addicts have a special place in the microcosm of the clan.
For example, during a feast when the preparation of pork for guests and family units is completed, the elders will give the normal lengthy speeches whilst others will wave off the flies and dogs. Whoever controls the feast will eventually invite the senior drug addict to make a few remarks.
At the completion of the speeches, the first dish of pork is given to the catechist. The people fear the Lord, so by giving the catechist the first share of the pork they indirectly appease heaven and hope it will be kind to them.
The second important set of dishes is given to the drug addicts.
This recent recognition of the drug addicts as a legitimate group in society has a number of causes.
In traditional Simbu culture people seek to appease ancestral spirits if there is a sickness in their neighbourhood. The men will slaughter pigs to appease the spirits and amend their relationship with nature.
With the arrival of Christianity, the community now had two chances; first they pray to heaven and, if there is no sign of improvement, they turn to their ancestors to check if there is any animosity there.
And now the community has a third force to appease - and they are the drug addicts.
The drug addicts will have slaughtered the community’s domesticated animals and devoured them in the confines of river banks and caves. Their taste buds itch for chicken and pork once Maryjane gets into them.
Domestic animals, even babies, cannot roam freely any more in the village precinct. The people have to maintain a vigil to keep away the wolves who are the drug addicts.
Already infants have been snatched from their sleep and taken away for meals. Law abiding citizens have been murdered and many girls raped too.
The only way to stop these addicts from stealing or murdering is to appease them every now and then.
The community has to give the addicts offerings, just like they do to the church; money so they can buy their daily stock of Maryjane, and free food etc. to stop them taking what they want and creating carnage.
Another reason for recognising them is that, during the most turbulent times when the clan goes to war with a neighbouring clan, these drug addicts, after smoking tonnes of Maryjane, will shoulder a gun and take the frontline without any sense of self-preservation or flinching.
The police force will not be there to protect the community because, as usual, they will have run out of fuel. The safety of the community, therefore, is in the hands of these drug addicts who will keep a vigil for the enemy in the night while high on Maryjane and will thrust themselves into the frontline to face the enemy at dawn.
The society after pondering all the pros and cons of the conduct of drug addicts has decided to lean towards propping up the druggies rather than shunning them.
Any informer attempting to report on these things to the authorities takes a big risk because the state’s presence is not seen and felt in the community. In this sense the drug addicts are untouchable.
At this juncture, the drug addicts feel they have a standing in the community and wear their nicknames like fada crash, with-a-bro, no-use, or kera mal with inflated egos. They are a law unto themselves.
Some drug addicts have inhaled more than their bodies can tolerate and have lost their minds and are now walking around naked in towns and villages scavenging in the rubbish bins.
Others wander from Simbu following the Okuk Highway all the way to Lae or Madang, or they go further west, feeding on any rubbish that meets their eyes.
In one incident, a father who ran out of patience after pleading with his son to quit smoking Maryjane held a shotgun to his son’s temple and pulled the trigger. The other drug addicts ran for their lives as the son lay in the dirt shaking copiously before breathing his last. Had the father had a rifle, no doubt the whole team would have been sent to heaven.
The National Narcotics Bureau has been a political football and dispenser of patronage since 2001. The Bureau is still engaged in sporadic and pointless awareness campaigns instead of coordinating, funding and establishing regional and provincial bureaus to help support the other stakeholders trying to reduce the supply and demand of Maryjane.
The United Nations and other development partners have seen the rise of drug abuse in PNG and the presence of organised drug syndicates but reason that if the government does not care they don’t care either.
The government has to take the lead by giving the National Narcotics Bureau the resources to coordinate drug reduction and rehabilitation programs.
Customs and Immigration, Police, Navy and other duty bearers have to work as a team to patrol the many islands, atolls and long shorelines and sieve out the organised drug syndicates.
We also implore the good MPs to pull out the Substance Control Bill that surfaced in Parliament in the 1990s but has been swept under the carpet ever since by pollies who have ulterior motives.
PNG has to have strong laws to contain the drug trade and methamphetamine and ice production within PNG by the Chinese triads and other international drug syndicates. PNG is on its way to becoming a narco-state, it seems.
For the Simbus, we have to adopt the Naur-Gor United or the Domil Community Development concept of the Jiwaka Province to solve these socio-economic ills.
Naur-Gor and Domil are two success stories of community development, civilian arrest and rural rock up. These two communities both allow no room for drug addicts to flex their authority.