BOMAI DOO *
PORT MORESBY – I remember that morning well. It was around eight and the streets of Four Mile were filled with people, some going to work, some coming from work, plenty looking for work.
Many of the multitude were street sellers trying to make a few bucks from the crowd, or from each other.
Our bus stopped in front of Mondo clothing with the crew shrieking ‘hurry up, hurry up, this is police stop, you want us to get caught?’
So we poured from the still moving vehicle, a norm for us passengers who travel in these parts.
As I rushed out, I quickly pushed some change into my back pocket.
I would be passing a group of beggars who sit at the junction opposite the Total Energies gas station.
They always sit in the same place – a single group of six or seven men asking for change from every human passer-by.
One of them saw me and called out the usual plea: “Big sis sompla loos coin helpim ol liklik blo yu”.
Every time I saw them I almost swallowed for a second time the breakfast I’d eaten not so long ago.
None of them look like a kid brother. One glance and you definitely knew they’re fully grown mature adults.
I never gave them even a toea because none had disabilities. They’re all fairly young, in their thirties, and strong enough to do other things than beg to survive.
But I can’t blame them because our government provides no jobs for boys and men like them.
Most of the people who toss some coins to them are scared. Later in the day, if their begging hasn’t gone well, they use the gathering dusk to grab people’s bags or cell phones and run away.
Anyway I passed them by and turned to cross the road towards the King Kakaruk kai bar to get a coffee.
Both sides of the street were packed with parked vehicles and I squeezed between two, taking a step backwards as a white cab approached, so close it scraped against a parked V8 right beside me.
It created enough noise to quickly draw a crowd of curious people and then, as I turned to get a closer look, the V8 driver jumped out of his vehicle, slamming the door behind him. Yes, he was quite annoyed.
The driver of the white cab also came out to apologize to him but, when they saw there was no visible damage to either vehicle, they nodded in agreement to each other and were about to leave.
At this very minute a police van pulled up and seven or eight police rushed into the crowds to investigate what had happened.
A bystander told them the white cab had accidently bumped into the V8.
Then, without seeking more information, two officers went to the owner of the cab and started asking all sorts of stupid questions like ‘have you been drinking, you smell of alcohol’ and then began to punch and kick him.
One of the police tried to pull the wallet and phone from the cab driver’s pocket even while punching him. The driver quickly put his hands in his pockets to prevent them.
They then grabbed the car keys from his hand and told him to get into the police van and go to the station to fix this matter.
I just stood there shocked as a police officer got into the white cab and the driver was pulled into the ten-seater police vehicle.
I went to get a coffee and when I returned on the way to my office, the cab driver was back from the police station talking to the owner of the V8.
This man was very sad about what had happened and explained to the driver that he hadn't called the police. They had ‘just come from nowhere and attacked you’. They hadn’t even investigating the problem, the V8 man said.
The owner of the white cab reassured him and said ‘it's fine, they just wanted a few bucks.
“I gave them K200 but they said it's not enough. Then they took me to the ATM and I withdrew another K200. I gave them K400 to release me, my license and my cab.
He added that this was not unusual. “They’re not content with their salary. They are worse than the thieves on the road.
“If you go to report a crime, they will even ask you to pay for the police vehicle’s fuel so they can go and detain the offender.”
This incident on my way to work triggered a lot of thinking.
We pay taxes so the police will be paid to help us but then, whenever we have a problem they should investigate, we have to bribe them to get some action.
So there are two sources of income, maybe more, for the police in Port Moresby.
* Bomai Doo is the pen name of a woman who works in Port Moresby