Social Concerns Notes – January 2018

Compulsory SIM card registration in Papua New Guinea
By Amanda H A Watson on Jan 24, 2018 Devpolicy
The SIM card registration deadline in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has now been extended to April 30. The deadline was to be today, but over a million mobile phones are not yet registered. If consumers do not register in time, either their SIM card will be deactivated or the operator will receive a fine from the regulator NICTA for continuing to operate unregistered SIM cards. A SIM is a Subscriber Identity Module linked to a user’s phone number and usually looks like a small computer chip.
In various countries, SIM card registration has been legislated. Governments often adopt such a policy in order “to help mitigate security concerns and to address criminal and anti-social behaviour”. In PNG, similar motivations for the policy have been expressed, including the need to have increased security in time for the APEC meeting in Port Moresby later this year. A concern though is that “to date, there has been no empirical evidence that mandatory SIM registration directly leads to a reduction in crime”. Indeed, in Mexico, the theft of handsets increased after a similar policy was introduced, likely because “criminals stole handsets to avoid the risk of being traced”. Mexico subsequently abandoned their SIM registration policy and later introduced a scheme for registering handsets. Several countries in Latin America have opted for handset registration in order to address handset theft.
Proof of identity issues are a major concern, as the majority of people in PNG live in rural areas and do not have written identification such as a drivers’ licence or passport. …
There may be a risk that vulnerable or socially marginalised people are excluded from the opportunity to own and use mobile phones. This policy could lead to an absence of two-way communication in disadvantaged communities in PNG. If the few active mobile phones in certain remote villages are cut off, this could have negative implications regarding time-critical emergency communication, such as for childbirth complications and natural disasters. Citizens in such places may need to overcome further hurdles in order to ensure that they are not left even further behind. (See for the full article)

No fees assistance program
January 12, 2018 Post Courier
The Enga provincial government’s flagship school free education sponsorship program will be hindered in 2018 due to the current economic situation in the country. The program has been a hallmark of Enga Governor Sir Peter Ipatas political leadership over the last 20 years, however, the education advocate says the current financial situation has affected this year’s rollout. On average the Enga provincial government assists around 400 of its students, annually, attending various tertiary institutions in the country. Also the onset of increase tuition fees in major universities like the University of Papua New Guinea has affected the situation. “It is a sad situation. The country doesn’t have money so when the national government doesn’t have money then it has a flow on effect where the provinces all don’t have money,” Sir Peter said. “So it will be very difficult for us to even sponsor. We normally make sacrifices from other grants to give priority to education but this time there is nothing on the table. “So I have sent word out to our province and told them that it looks like we have all got to dig deep as parents and relatives to pay for our kids.” “For my PSIP for the province we only received 1 million out of K5 million. That is how serious it is.

97 convicted of murder
January 15, 2018 The National
NINETY-SEVEN people have been convicted of murder and detained in the biggest trial in Papua New Guinea in recent years. They will appear again for a sentence hearing in the Madang National Court at a later date. All 97 were on Friday found guilty of killing seven people in Ramu Sugar in 2014 in what is believed to be one of the first convictions in a sorcery-related case. Judge David Cannings said the 97 were each arraigned on seven counts of wilful murder.
The State alleged that all were members of a group of about 189 males (120 adults and 69 juveniles) who marched together along public roads for at least 10km with faces painted warlike to Sakiko village with the intention of seeking out and killing sorcerers who were living there. “It was alleged that on their way to the village, some members of the group attacked and killed a bystander and intended to cause his death,” Cannings said. “The group then proceeded to the village and raided it, destroying properties, including houses and food gardens.” “They threatened and chased away many residents from that village, some members of the group attacked and killed six residents and intended to cause their deaths.”

50 prisoners, four wardens get TB due to overcrowding
January 15, 2018 The National
MORE than 50 prisoners and four wardens at the Buimo prison, in Lae, have contracted tuberculosis (TB) as a result of overcrowding, jail commander Supt Felix Namane says. He said the TB outbreak was affecting the main prison compound where remandees and high-risk prisoners were kept.
Namane said last Friday that about 700 prisoners were kept at the prison’s main compound. He said 52 of them have tested positive for TB. He said the group was part of a total of 986 prisoners currently held at the prison. Namane said the TB outbreak started some years back before he became jail commander. “Last year the number went up to 68 but we have managed to reduce it down to 52,” he said. “I have talked to the Morobe health people and they have agreed to come and visit the prison.
“I have been here for two years now but this sickness was here for some time. We are doing our best to manage it. “We work in a confined environment with little air and sunlight so it is quite risky when disease outbreaks such as this occur.”
He said a shortage of medicines at their clinic last August aided the spread of TB but the Catholic Church assisted the prison with drugs and they were able to contain it. Namane said that apart from TB, a dysentery outbreak last September resulted in the deaths of two inmates and the infection of 60 others who were taken to Angau Hospital for treatment. “Two died last year,” he said.

O’Neill wants churches to lead sorcery fight.
January 9, 2018The National
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has called on churches to take the lead in the fight against sorcery accusations and violence against women in villages. O’Neill said the old mentality and belief in sorcery was affecting the nation in rural and urban areas. He said the most affected were always women and girls. O’Niell called on churches to lead in driving awareness in the villages because the government could not go there. “Our churches must identify solutions and address these social issues in our villages and communities, and address it through mission and the word of God,” he said.
“The church has an important role to play among our population by influencing people’s behaviour.”
He said the government was ready to work with churches to address sorcery and gender-based violence.

State focused on church partnership, says Basil
January 15, 2018 The National
Minister for Communications Information Technology and Energy Sam Basil on Friday reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to government-church partnership in the country to address sorcery accusations and gender-based violence. Speaking at the close of the 31st synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG at Mogl village in Sinasina-Yongomugl, Chimbu, he highlighted the importance of the partnership in delivering much-needed services to the people. Opening the synod early last week, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill called on churches to take the lead in the fight against sorcery accusations and gender-based violence.
“Relatives of those who die naturally, or from illnesses, are finding ways to accuse people of sorcery.
“I am afraid they may capitalise on it to torture them.” Basil said instances of sorcery accusation and related torturing were common in both rural and urban areas. He challenged the church to take ownership of the issues and find ways to provide solutions.

Illegal gambling rife in parts of Highlands
Letters. Post Courier 16 Jan
Papua New Guinea needs a tougher law on the illegal hi-low game rife in the Highlands provinces.
This contributes to escalating law and order and illicit activities such as alcohol, homebrew, prostitution, robberies, pick-pocketing and stealing. The regulator, PNG National Gaming Control Board (NGCB) is turning a blind eye on the illicit activity that lures mostly school children, men and women to actively participate. Hard earned cash from daily sales or through savings are recklessly spent on gambling in the pretext of making huge profit for a day.
Western Highlands Yamka’s community leader Timbi Kagul said children mainly students are hi-low addicted followed by adult men and women. Mr Kagul said the illegal hi-low game is discouraging people from active agriculture and commercial farming or people are simply lazy to work in their garden. “People are playing hi-low to make quick bucks; it’s like free cash handouts but at the end of the day, they are wasting valuable time and effort associated with law and order problems where people steal from other people’s gardens and hi-low venues turn into brothels,” he said. He said illegal hi-low operators are smart people who establish strong networks and collaborated well with police to keep the game in operation. “Law enforcement agencies like police are being bribed, they are also recipients of proceeds from the hi-low game and not enforcing the law by arresting and charging the operators. “There is no control mechanism in place because police are part of the hi-low syndicate,” Mr Kagul claims. According to a research conducted recently, the illegal hi-low game is operating in the heart of Enga’s Wabag town opposite Wabag police station where Enga Provincial Police Commander’s office is followed by Porgera station, in Tari town, Kawi in the Western Highlands, Banz, Kundiawa, Goroka and Kainantu towns.

Female victims of violence filling up morgue at Angau hospital
January 16, 2018 The National
The Angau Memorial Hospital morgue has received more female bodies than male bodies over the past two years, according to a hospital staff. Morgue attendant Naru Koria said female deaths were related to domestic violence and other related issues. He said there was also an increase in the number of infant deaths during childbirth and the bodies were left in the morgue and the parents had then failed to claim them. “Some bodies are in the morgue for far too long and more are coming in every week so the morgue cannot hold the bodies,” he said.
Koria said there were two deep freezers and one cooler which have a holding capacity of 35 bodies each. “Now it is over that number and we are piling the bodies one on top of the other and that is not good,” he said. “Those who know that they have bodies of relatives still in the morgue must make an attempt to get them and do proper burials. “It is like sending someone to prison to serve their term in jail, so we have to take them out and make a proper burial for them in order to release them.”

Medical check can clear sorcery claim, says pastor
January 18, 2018 The National
THE Body of Christ is urging people to go for medical check-ups before accusing anyone of sorcery and resorting to violence. “When you are sick, first things first, go to the hospital to find out the cause of the sickness,” BOC deputy chairman Ps Michael Wilson, who is also a medical doctor, said.
“We want to release this to the nation right now that there may be sicknesses and through illness that you are going through you are saying that I may be poisoned or some sorcery thing is happening in my life. “The first thing you should do is go to the hospital and check whether you are sick or not.
“If you are proven sick then there is no need to go around thinking somebody has made sorcery on you or has done something wrong in you. “And that is the fear that is going around in the whole country.
“We have experienced people taking off from the hospital thinking that sorcery has been done on them. Even though they are under treatment they just take off.
“They say we are going home to fix something and I say what do you want to fix? And they say you don’t know, we are going to fix something and come back and I say to them you may never come back. “So this is something I want to truly release to the nation that if you are truly sick, don’t go around thinking you have been spat on or somebody has given you buai or somebody has given you lunch. Go to the hospital and get yourself checked and treated. “Secondly, if you have a suspicious mind as well, go to a pastor and have him pray over you. “Only the power of God will set you free.”

PNG’s informal economy is dreading the Year of the APEC
|PNG Informal Economist, 23 January 2018
PORT MORESBY – 2018 looks set to be a make or break year for Papua New Guinea as the country prepares to host the APEC summit in the midst of a looming economic crisis. The summit will be by far the biggest global event that PNG has hosted. Media reports say preparations are on track and PNG is set to deliver. Like a bride getting ready for wedding day, Port Moresby is buzzing with construction activities to uplift its image. While the country’s elite is planning to dazzle more than 10,000 delegates from 21 countries and hordes of journalists; a large proportion of PNG’s population who rely on informal economic activity for their daily sustenance fear the worst. Already observations on the ground are showing that police are stepping up a campaign to rid the city of street traders. Recently, Governor Powes Parkop announced he would re-introduce the ill-fated buai (betel nut) ban to clean up the rubbish created by its consumption. The addictive nut has a huge following (an average of one person in every household chews) and significant impact on the PNG economy but there is still no adequate policy to deal with the problems it creates. Women who make up a large proportion of the urban informal economy are already feeling the pinch. Another school year is about to begin, the country’s biggest market (at Gordons) is closed and the national economy is topsy-turvy. An already tough going is certain to get tougher for most of Port Moresby’s unemployed and struggling middle to average income earners who rely on the informal economy to supplement their fortnightly wages.
‘Hiding the informals’ is a storyline synonymous with our government hosting major events in recent times. For instance, before the Pacific Games informal economic activities were flushed out from streets, walkways, byways and various odd locations in the city as they were seen to be a blight to the visitors’ eyes. A few years ago, when Prince Charles visited Port Moresby to celebrate the Queen’s golden jubilee; the famous Erima candlelight market was forced into hiding to resurface once HRH left town. And now, even though the initial buai ban claimed lives, damaged property and deprived livelihoods of unemployed and struggling Port Moresby families, it is about to be re-introduced.
The law was meant to provide a balance between regulation and development of the informal economy. Unfortunately, the government has failed to undertake this obligation. Instead it has opted to impose bans or use police to stamp out these activities. Now a revised Informal Economy Development & Control Bill is awaiting government endorsement. The bill is a wonderful opportunity for the government to show visiting leaders and the world at large of PNG’s commitment towards addressing women’s empowerment. The government should immediately endorse and certify the bill to protect and support the countless women and working in the informal economy. These are people trying to put food on the table, pay school fees, buy lunch or pay medical bills.
The least we can do is to be honest and help them.

Push for minimum wage hike.
Post Courier, January 24, 2018
Workers in PNG will be demanding a 43 per cent increase in minimum wages from the current K3.50 per hour to K5.00 per hour.
Congress general secretary John Paska said the new rate when awarded will directly inject K500 million into the domestic economy. “That’s the economic power of wages that drives the economy,” Mr Paska said. “Alternatively if it is not awarded, businesses which are foreign dominated will siphon it out of the country – simple as that. He said despite being the biggest economy in the Pacific PNG lagged behind the smaller regional nations in minimum wages.
Mr Paska said formal sector workers comprise 10 per cent of the national population, however their value to the national economy is staggering. “Tax receipts to the national revenue is K3 billion by comparison to business tax receipts of K2 billion,” he said. He said workers’ superannuation funds in Nasfund and Nambawan Super combined net asset value was about K12 billion. In addition, bank deposits, savings and loan, insurance, micro finance and other schemes and assets are all inundated with workers money.

Justice is a right for all and everyone
Post Courier, Letters 24 Jan.
Just last week in Goroka, a female employee of an Asian shop was ordered by the owner to do a thorough body check. The body check was done by a female Asian woman. The body check was done in an inappropriate manner. The Papua New Guinea woman employed by the Asian shop was accused of stealing some cash. At first a check was done from the security cameras that revealed nothing. Then the body check followed also revealing nothing. Sadly the traumatised woman was not released she was threatened by the Asian shop owner that she would be arrested and charged after going through two different methods of search with no proof of stealling. She was detained in their custody at that Asian shop until 7.45 pm and released. After being found out that she did not take any money whatsoever, she had to walk a long distance braving incidents that might happen to her as she walked alone that night. She arrived home at 8.30pm. While all this was going on, her baby back at the house was suffering from hunger and deprived of breastfeeding.
Hence this case was promptly reported to the police to handle on Thursday 18/01/2018.
An officer on duty that day who handled this case was ordered by a senior officer who arrived in a white ten seater LandCruiser to drop the case. Our guess is the superior officer may have been in contact with the Asian shop owner concerned. This incident leaves us questioning and gives the impression that this is a common scenario throuhout the country where justice is not served when necessary. More importantly women and youth are victims of such behavior and incidently, another female employee faced the same mistreatment prior to this case.
Aponegita Mota, Goroka

Rapist taunts the law
Post Courier, January 3, 2018
A series of posts on a convicted rapist’s Facebook account have revealed a shocking truth about how wealthy criminals have been exploiting a provision in the Correctional Services Act to enjoy freedom while simultaneously serving their sentences. Paul Pisa, who was jailed for 15 years for the rape of a 14-year-old girl, was arrested by Port Moresby police last Thursday after he was sighted outside the Waigani National Court building by the primary witness in his trial. This is not the first time that convicted criminals have been sighted walking the streets and in nightclubs and hotels throughout the city in civilian clothes and without the supervision of Correctional Services warders. During the past six months, Post-Courier has also received confirmed sightings of many high-profile criminals, including disgraced former Western governor Ati Wobiro, former Laigaip-Porgera MP Philip Kikala, businessman Eremas Wartoto and death row convict Arua Maraga Hariki (the fifth person in PNG to be sentenced to death on two counts of first degree murder in 2011). After a brief interrogation, police found that Pisa had been granted a leave of absence (LOA) from Bomana jail in order to receive medical treatment at Pacific International Hospital (PIH); his LOA lasted about seven months until he was arrested. This was confirmed by a series of posts made on Pisa’s Facebook account, dating back as far as July 26, 2017, which was only 20 days after he was convicted on July 6 last year.
Mother of the victim in Pisa’s trial, told Post-Courier that she was shocked and disgusted to see the man who had been the source of so much pain and suffering for her family walking free after being convicted. “I am very upset that the court system can be manipulated by people who have money. Those who cannot afford to bribe are locked behind bars. “They don’t have the luxury to come for medical treatment and they cannot do what these people can do. Those who have the money are able to get out of Bomana under the pretext of being sick and once in hospital, they have the freedom to go wherever they want,” she said.

Fed up with atrocities related to sorcery
Letters. Post Courier, 9 Jan
I write because am fed up with atrocities like this, “Tortured –Woman accused of practicing sorcery” recently in the papers- and similar happenings across PNG.
And what about the arrest of the child abusers who attempted to burn and torture the girl whose mother was murdered, in Enga?
May I appeal to the leaders of the country (PM included) to make a public statement on where we stand on this issue that continues to make front page – whether PNG is for or against it? Parliament has a treasured Holy Bible which reiterates all citizens , including offenders, victims, witnesses, police officers or public servants do not have the power to kill but only the Courts. No one is above that law !
Death penalty must be investigated by the courts, to apply to the perpetrators who afflict death on innocent persons, and this needs to be addressed aggressively.
We need to understand also that we have gross poverty in many settings, which is a huge factor, to many avoidable diseases and medical complications, for all ages and gender, yet we keep on blaming each other. Our lifestyles are a major cause to our own demise, and that to help prevent such experiences we need to start addressing poverty. Alois Nomenda, POM

Families Hit Hard by Price Increase.
Since forming government in 2017, the National Government has organised to increase prices on 918 items. These price increases will start coming through early in the new year. A government more in touch with the high cost of living facing our people would not deliberately increase prices that mainly suited their business besties” said the Shadow Minister for Treasury and Finance, Ian Ling-Stuckey.
“The biggest negative impact will be on family food budgets. There have been a massive set of price increases facing families – 518 areas where family food budgets will face increases. The major ones are the 25% increase in milk products, the huge jump in chicken prices of K1.70 per kilo (and this the wholesale price, so the retail price may increase by even more),15% increases in a range of fish products and juice concentrates, and the 60 toea per dozen increase in egg prices. 56% of the tariff increases focus on the struggling food budgets of PNG families. PNG families deserve to be able to feed their children without these massive and widespread price increases” said the Shadow Treasurer.
“There will also be major increases in the costs facing families and businesses in their costs of travel. The increase in diesel excise by 13 toea per litre – and the government plans to increase it by a further 38 toea per litre in future budgets. On top of this is an increase in all imported petrol and diesel of 10 toea per litre. Experience indicates this will eventually be passed onto motorists as the reduced competition almost always leads to price increases.
“There are major increases in 47 types of family household products such as 15% increase in the costs of laundry detergents, plastic kitchenware, buckets and tableware, as well as 10% increases ranging from toilet paper to shampoos and tissues and tablecloths and detergents.
“The government also doesn’t understand how expensive it is to build a new house in PNG, or renovate one and there are major increases in the costs of building products. Some of these particularly concern me. For example, PNG has the poorest levels of access to safe water in the East Asia region according to the World Bank. So why does the government increase the wholesale price on imported plastic water tanks by 15%? Families on many of our island communities in kavieng & namatanai and in all other maritime provinces do not have year-round access to enough clean water. During the dry season from april to October, which is over half the year, we fetch water from holes dug into the beach shoreline many of which are not accessible during daily high tides and we regularly bath in salt water! This is how we still live today. Access to affordable short term solutions like plastic water tanks will be taken away with the 15% tariff increase. Why are my maritime people punished like this? ” asked Mr Ling-Stuckey.

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