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Law & order crisis besets Madang - once the pearl of the Pacific

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Madang, once known as the pearl of the South Pacific, is experiencing a worsening crime crisis

SCOTT WAIDE | My Land, My Country | Edited

PORT MORESBY- This needs to be said. There is a break down in law and order in Madang town.

It is a crisis that needs to be addressed urgently. Unlike the Southern Highlands and Enga, it is not election related. It is a break down in the moral fibre of society. Crime is affecting the daily lives of ordinary people.

There is a general feeling of fear. Women are being harassed in public with others too afraid to act.   There is a general feeling that police will not act on the petty crimes if reported.

People are being harassed and attacked near their homes. My wife’s younger brother was attacked a on the road less than 10 meters outside the home where my family lives. He wasn’t drunk. He was just sitting on the roadside along on an early evening. He had every right to do so.

His phone was stolen. Did we report it? No. Would police have attended to the incident? Nope. We know that for a fact. There are too many incidents like this happening.

 People have lost confidence in the system and procedures that are supposed to protect them.

Every day there is a break in. Every week there is an armed robbery in full view of the public. Armed criminals are acting with relative impunity.

I have access to reports that come in via Whatsapp. Every day a message comes in. Armed robbery… hold up… armed robbery… hold up…

It is a crisis.

In 2011, when Anthony Wagambie was provincial police commander, we made a documentary on the problem of police housing. The crime problem was still developing. Police families told of their hardship and that of their husbands and wives who were serving members of the RPNGC.

One policeman I found living in a storeroom beside the town police station. He still lives there with his family. There is no accommodation for him.

In 2015, I went back and found another – a young constable with the CID – living on the MV Mamose while it was being refurbished. His wife left him because of the accommodation problem. Another was living in his office until they ordered him out.

Every year, I send a television crew to Madang to cover the housing problem. In 2016, the wives of policemen, frustrated by the lack of action, confronted my crew. We understood where they were coming from. They told us that they didn’t want to talk to the media because it was a waste of time. Nothing was being done about their housing woes.

Madang is a beautiful town. For those of us who went to Divine Word University, it holds a great deal of sentimental value for us. It is where we made lifelong friendships and where we found a sense of community and purpose.

Today, it is as if nobody cares anymore.  Street vendors dominate the streets. Opportunists roam looking for victims. You can’t walk from Kalibobo to Gavtsto like we used to.

The solution lies in a community approach to the whole crime problem. People have to take ownership and force the police to act on the cases reported. The approach has to be coordinated and consistent so that it makes the criminals afraid of hiding in the community.

Comments

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Robert Wilson

I and my wife went back to Madang in January this year to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary at the same church we were married in.

Needless to say, our friends and old work colleagues we were lucky to catch up with did not allow us to roam around at night and the obvious barbed wire mentality evident around most houses, the swarms of security guards inside all business houses and in shopping centre car parks, the guards controlling entrance gates was a stark warning that all is not well in the state of paradise.

I can see the town council of which my to be wife was the deputy town clerk back in the 70's have lost total control over policing the town with respect to where people set up their little businesses.

How frustrating it must be to have the ubiquitous Digicel umbrella on the roadside verge in front of your house.

Enough said about the condition of roads in the town itself, Madang is fast regressing into a coastal village with bush roads akin to what we were used to seeing in remote villages where there was 4WD access during the dry season.

The one remaining grace was that the grubby developers, greedy business men and corrupt politicians have not got their hands on the golf course. I did enjoy my rounds of golf.

Still love the place, its people and continue to call it my home away from home.

Daniel Doyle

Very, very sad. During my sixteen years living in Madang, on and off between 1971 and 2003, I never once felt insecure.

Max Phin

Thanks Scott, we just need to be steadfast and keep raising this issue until someone in authority stands up and does something about it.

This has been going on far enough!

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