Are western democracy and the Melanesian Way the same thing?

Another stint in the police cell … it can really change a man


An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony

HE had to admit it. His aggressive nature and iron man pasin fuelled by alcohol was causing more harm than good to him and his family.

This was … it was his fifth time now to be locked in the police cells. Freedom deprived because, in a drunken stupor, he decided to beat up a man who cat-whistled his small sister.

The cat-whistler had laid a complaint straight after the incident and he’d been arrested at the Saturday weekend market. That was two days ago.

Sitting and listening to the sounds of the world outside the high brick-walled police cell made him realise for the first time that freedom to move around and socialise without being confined in an enclosed space is at the essence of human experience.

Or, as he may have put it, ‘Dispela kalabus i passim mu nogut tru’.

People are not born to be locked up in a confined space for a long period of time. Or even a short period. He had heard stories of dangerous criminals sentenced to life in prison who had lost their minds.

He wondered if the many instances of mass breakouts from police cells around the country was an indication of this feeling.

So he spent the two days with some characters who were awaiting their trials at the district court.

There was an armed robber who was shot in the left leg by police. Despite pain and blood loss, he was denied medical assistance by police for some time. The officer-in-charge said: “Em sigirap lo holim gan; larim em kisim pen na bai em pilim pastem.” It was an armed hold-up; take the pain.

Another young man had murdered a guy using a screw driver. They’d been in a group that was binge drinking and getting high on marijuana. There was a mass brawl. He didn’t intentionally kill the man.

There were two young men charged with possessing and peddling marijuana. The police got a tip off and did a random check on them at the weekend market and found some packs of marijuana and rolled joints.

When questioned, they admitted they were dealing marijuana and were on the lookout for potential clients.

They know their fates are sealed, possessing marijuana is hard evidence – no argument just a straight prison sentence.

There were also two men arrested for sex offences. One was charged for abduction and rape of a woman and the other for child molesting. Two crimes sadly prevalent in Papua New Guinea.

He observed that no one in the cell talked to them.

He thought about these people. How each one of them has broken laws and rules designed to maintain peace and good order in society.

Their actions were a threat to this. Now they were holed up together in a cramped police cell. Society’s underbelly.

It was then that an otherworldly feeling hit him and he decided immediately that this would be the last time for him in a police cell.

He wouldn’t want to go through the pain of the gunman.

“What do I gain for such pain – fame, fortune, big nem, respect … nogat? These are gained only through living a good and honest life.”

He would quit drinking, The consequences were too risky. He could not go through life knowing he was responsible for killing someone.

He did not smoke, so he made up his mind to educate his friends about the laws on drugs and the dangers of abusing marijuana and home brewed alcohol.

And when he thought about the sex offenders, he realised his wife and child needed him to be with them.

As he sat contemplating his resolutions, he heard his name called by the officer-in-charge. He was told he would be released. The complainant decided against pursuing the case.

“Wangi! Yu stap!

“Yes boss mi stap!

“OK, kisim ol samting blo yu na kam.”

He got up, bade farewell to the others and walked towards the grilled exit door of the cell block.

As he approached the door, a policeman holding it ajar, he thanked God for making him realise his shortcomings and putting in his heart the desire to make a change for the better.

A new life awaited him outside of these claustrophobic walls of indignity, misery and isolation.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)