Madang once the Pearl, now the Town Rats reign supreme
23 September 2015
An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony
MADANG is becoming a haven for crime and violence. The once hotspot for tourism in Papua New Guinea is rotting to the core.
The loss of stability and security has left many locals, especially the Madang people, anxious about their once beautiful town.
I have been living in here since I began my studies at Divine Word University back in 2011. In my days, months and years here, I have come to observe the province as an underdog.
There is no backwards or forwards. Madang is there, just there, sitting on the brink, waiting to be swallowed by a big black hole.
The number of killings in the city is increasing. Cases of rape are on the rise. Petty crime is accelerating.
If I could describe the province from my perspective, I would say there are a million ways to die in Madang.
Last month, the Madang Students Association hosted one of its fundraisers at the Niugini Club.
I was invited by my friend and course mate, Saddam Karkar, who asked me along for moral support. I could not miss the chance.
Saddam is from the North Coast and a guy who treats his friends equally. He was generous enough to take me out to enjoy the last days of school life.
It was like a cradle of sin that night and everyone had fun like there was no tomorrow. The dance floor was packed, loud music provided by the house DJ.
I could not care less what had happened on the dance floor because my throat was so parched. The bartender happened to be a lady who gave us free beers after every round we bought ourselves.
By about four in the morning I could not keep my wits about myself.
I was so drunk I could not remember coming out of the club. But after walking for some distance, I found myself heading in the right direction back to the school premises.
On my way towards the traffic police station and the trade store with the SP branding all over it, I was bumped into by the Town Rats punks, who happened to have weapons on them.
Early that morning, there was no one on the streets but them. The police station was empty and the trade store had long since closed.
Luckily for me I had nothing valuable on me but my mobile phone, bought for K15 as a Christmas special back in Mosbi.
So the phone was taken from me when one of the boys pointed a knife at my torso and demanded money. I had none, so they frisked me, took my mobile and ran off into the shadows of the night.
The colloquial “Town Rats” is a name most suited to their nature as five toea criminals.
I don’t mind what happened to me that fateful morning because it was nothing terrible. I knew there was a chance I would be robbed. So I was cool when everything was over.
I cooperated with the hostility of the Town Rats and did not retaliate. I was too far beyond tipsy for that anyway and I could not care.
But what came of the experience was a recognition in me that crime and violence are means of survival for people in Madang, especially youths.
If the governor of Madang is reading this I hope you get anthrax and close your eyes, for good.
The Governor of Madang, Jim Kas, is the King of Spades who controls the politics around here like finessing a snooker ball at a tucker box in New Town.
Jim Kas is not like any other Governor Madang has had. If you haven’t met him yet, let me tell you he is a lavish spender and a generous man. He is Father Christmas.
While the province is burdened by its current crop of social problems, in his role he has to be conscious of issues affecting the whole province not only Madang town.
But the frustrations of the people are thinning out their patience with the Governor. Leader, yah, they say.
Many find it hard to respect him, and he is despised by many who voted for him. Others feel his behaviour is unbecoming.
It’s said he built a house in town made of Kwila timber. He’s left the Governor’s residence in Kalibobo and moved into his new home.
The Governor’s house is occupied by his wantoks. He goes there once in a while to take food and gifts for them.
It’s a sort of “Only in PNG” situation.
The people of Madang gave the Governor his office and their return has been high negative statistics on social issues. It seems no one cares about anyone anymore.
Now the prominent business man and former Madang Governor, Sir Peter Barter, is campaigning to restore the town to its previous glory.
But there is more to be done than talking about a safer and more secure Madang. It is time Jim Kas and his cohorts came to their senses and helped Peter Barter revive the spirit of this beautiful city.
For a start, they must create opportunities for youths. That would be a big step forward to help curb crime and violence in the province. And it will help the youths stop brewing yawa and selling marijuana on the streets.
If everyone worked together to combat law and order issues, Madang will again be the “Pearl of the Pacific” it once was.
Lived and worked in Madang Province from 1972 to 1986. Married to an Asaro girl in 1977 and celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary on 29th January 2017 back at Lutheran church in Madang.
The only thing that remains the same is the Lutheran Church. It still looks the same as in our wedding photos.
Absolutely appalled at how this once lovely town has deteriorated to a similar standard of some 3rd world town in outback Sudan.
Shame on the self seeking politicians who have allowed the Asian business people to grease their road to establishing the multi storied concrete Chinese trade stores that are filled up with the cheap rubbish spewed out in their own slave factories in their own homelands and now selling off at tremendous profit to the sad and sorry locals in Madang.
Why is it allowed for Asians to build their nasty and ugly concrete stores in amongst the residential area. The house I once rented on Modilon road near where the musmus theatre used to be has this awful copper plated front supermarket being built with houses to the left, right and behind. Who was the government official who signed off on that particular scam! How much did the Asian business man pay for that?
Looks like the second biggest business after the Asian "trade stores" is security. The place I remember didn't require guards at every single business door, guards following you around inside the stores, guards walking around the carparks watching out for muggers and thieves, guards at security gates at certain residences.
This place is more like some South African towns where residents live behind barbwire and full time security.
Why have the local council allowed the influx of highlanders down along the North coast to set up squatter settlements?
I expect before a couple of years go by, the local people of Madang will have been driven back into their own little villages and outsiders, Asians and highlanders will run the town and all businesses.
We are old friends of Sir Peter Barter and after talking with him about the decline of this once beautiful town, makes me cry.
I suspect it may be too late to do anything because the rot has already set in and the money and energy is being concentrated on Port Moresby so that regional Centers like Goroka, Madang etc are left to fend for themselves.
What happened to all the village aid posts, schools and agriculture projects that flourished under the days where Kiaps and Didimen got off their arses and patrolled, yes, that is they walked!
Truly the old days were good days for the poor folk in their remote villages, now they seem to be left to rot.
Posted by: Robert Wilson | 21 March 2017 at 04:34 PM
Obed,thank you for your comment on the "town rat" situation in Madang. Firstly though, sorry for the incident that you got caught up in.
This 'town rat' situation is an inevitable developmental issue for every urban setting. I am from Madang, living within the town precincts, but have yet to experience the kind of a situation you experienced.
But this is not to say that I do not have this experience - during my 15 years' of living in Moresby, I have encountered a lot of this. Also in Lae, I have had the experience of armed holdup, theft and stoning of car. I believe it is the same in every town in PNG, if not anywhere in the world.
The newspaper extract by silent observer entitled "Madang no longer the beautiful town" I believe is archaic relative to the currency of your posting. You posted in September 2015 when Buka Malai (as stated on the extract) was ousted as MP over three years earlier.
The 'town rat' situation can be managed, but with proper, systematic and orderly planning and doing.
I urge you to come back to Madang, if you're not now living in the town, sometime later and see how the situation has evolved.
Posted by: Nelson Kumosa | 21 May 2016 at 08:20 AM
The PNG government has sold its people's resources to the big corporations. Shame on those politicians...selling their children's wealth.
RD Tuna are Asian fishermen who are not only fishing out the once plentiful waters of Mandang but, are also polluting the coastal waters just like what they the Asians have done in their own countries.
Stand tall the people of Madang and indeed PNG. Get rid of your corrupt leaders as they have only their self interest in mind. Do it before those Asian corporations destroy your country.
Posted by: Jerry Togo | 15 March 2016 at 10:42 PM
What has happened in Madang is the same as has happened in PNG's other coastal cities - people have migrated there from elsewhere, attracted by what I'm not sure, maybe the possibility of work. Madang has the same problems as Lae, but on a smaller scale.
A lot of the people coming in are following the buai trade too.
It would be interesting to work out who the trouble-makers are and where they come from.
A burgeoning population in PNG doesn't help either.
Boost law and order. Follow Powes Parkop's lead and tidy the place up.
Posted by: Phil Fitzpatrick | 25 September 2015 at 10:00 AM
No matter what, we are taking the 2016 Crocodile Prize presentations to Madang - Divine World University. Madang was once beautiful, it still is. The only problem is that the few 'town rats' are not held at bay. Get rid of them and Madang will bounce back.
Posted by: Daniel Ipan Kumbon | 25 September 2015 at 07:03 AM
Leadership and community action can drive those culprits out of Madang.
But good people are doing nothing and good leadership is absent.
That's why Madang is going to hell in a hand-basket.
And come 2017...same shit different pile?
Posted by: Michael Dom | 24 September 2015 at 10:21 AM
For a society to be truly "civil" in the sense that citizens feel safe in going about their daily affairs, it is necessary for there to be an effective state mechanism to enforce the rule of law.
Consequently, the most critical role of those responsible for the governance of a society is to ensure that the law is upheld.
This requires, at a bare minimum, effective policing backed by an equally effective judiciary.
Also, it requires that citizens be largely self disciplining in terms of their adherence to the law and, in a broader sense, in their commitment to creating and maintaining an orderly and safe society.
When the governance system of a society fails, it very soon falls into anarchy, with the ever present non-law abiding minority eager to exploit the situation.
Right now, it seems that Madang is enduring a failed governance system, with ineffective and inefficient policing being one of its manifestations.
PNG simply cannot be or even aspire to be a truly modern, "civil" society when it cannot even get the basics right.
Understanding this is not rocket science: the average citizen usually gets it pretty well straight away.
So, why is it that far too many of PNG's governing elite simply don't get it or, if they do, seem either unwilling or unable to do anything about it?
For all it faults, the former Australian colonial regime managed to enforce the rule of law with less resources than the PNG government has available to it.
PNG citizens need to ask their politicians why they cannot at least equal the efforts of a relative handful of kiaps and police, most of whom were scattered across the country in small, isolated patrol posts.
Law enforcement is not rocket science either, just a question of having an honest, reliable and committed police presence where it is needed.
Posted by: Chris Overland | 23 September 2015 at 05:33 PM
A youth problem indeed in most urban areas in the country.
To be accosted by the so called town rats can be a scary experience especially at night time at a location far from home. Had a similar experience in 2006 up at Goroka.
Four friends and I were heading to the famous Nokondi Club on foot after a few drinks when we were held up by a Genoka youth with a home-made "pop" gun.
His friends removed whatever little possession and valuables we had but then they realised that we had nothing of value and we were just like them trying to scrape out a living while studying at college.
They decided that it was not fair so they returned everything back and strangely enough invited us to partake with them in their little scheme of things on other unsuspecting people who might take the same route we had taken.
We politely declined and bade them farewell and continued on our way.
Posted by: Raymond Sigimet | 23 September 2015 at 04:46 PM
Since I am a Madang Resident I'll just add my humble opinion; I believe all social problems like this one have solutions its just that persons or authorities in responsibility have failed in identifying the problem and coming up with a solution.
The Problem with all Provincial Governments in PNG is that they do not have a competent research unit to conduct researches into indentifying problems. I believe Obed being a PNG Studies student appreciates the importance of research as a tool in identifying problems and coming up with solutions.
Researches defines an issue and gives you the statistic, scope and the scenerio to come up with most realistic policies to address the issue.
Currently it seems that the Authorities in Madang know that we have a problem but they do not know how to approach it in a holistic manner simply because they do not have any form of data to help guide them in coming up with effective solutions. Thus all they are doing now is coming up with reactive decissions and polices that instead of solving the issues will create more problems and to an extent infringe on other peoples human rights!
Posted by: Jack Klomes | 23 September 2015 at 03:11 PM
Obed like that you escaped from the edge of the blade.
How sad is to hear the small or container rats eating away the sweet juice of beauty Madang, when the big governor riding high and over looking the container rats scaping for bits and pieces around the streets of Madang to make a living.
May be the Police are also doing less when huge amount of money are adding into their department to curb law and order issues in the country.
I wish you print this article and paste it at the Notices boards he should read this before he goes hiding like a flying fox.
Good one hitting the nail on the head.
Posted by: Jimmy Awagl | 23 September 2015 at 11:51 AM
True indeed Obed.
Madang was once beautiful but now the home to illegal settlers who are currently causing many law and order problems in the communities within the town.
It's about time people speak up for the silent majority.
I pray for the good Lord's protection and guidance over the Madang residents.
Posted by: Amanda Yeou | 23 September 2015 at 11:33 AM
So true Obed. more needs to be said about Madang's situation. it is sad the way Madang is falling apart. I fear for my children's lives especially after hearing news of children being abducted and raped happening all over Madang. Every day something terrible happens to innocent lives, its scary walking around town and the market places.
Posted by: Florence Castro-Salle | 23 September 2015 at 10:43 AM